Featured Article : How Can Musk Add Revenue To Twitter?

In this article, we look at the immediate challenges ahead for Twitter with Elon Musk now at the helm, plus we look at some of the likely ways that he could start adding more revenue.

What Happened? 

Billionaire Elon Musk recently became Twitter’s largest shareholder after acquiring a 9.2 per cent stake in the social media company. Twitter then invited Musk to join its Board. Musk, however, announced that he would not be joining Twitter’s Board. Instead, Musk launched a hostile takeover bid, offering to make Twitter Inc private in an unsolicited deal valued at $43 billion. Musk offered to pay $54.20 per share in cash, 38 per cent above the price in the hope of winning-over shareholders. Twitter looked set to resist by adopting a ‘poison pill’ strategy (where the target company dilutes an acquirer’s voting shares). After threatening to cut Board members’ salaries to $0 if he was able to acquire the company, on April 25 Twitter’s Board accepted an offer from Musk to buy Twitter for $44 billion. Musk now intends to take the company into private ownership and has indicated that he plans to make many changes, which is one of the reasons why Musk buying Twitter was met with a mixed response as those within the company feared cultural change and job losses.

On successfully buying Twitter, Musk said that “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.”

Musk also commented “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential – I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”  Concern has been expressed by many about what too much ‘free speech’ could mean for the company.

However, former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey thanked Musk and current Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal for “getting the company out of an impossible situation” and said that taking the company back from Wall Street (public ownership) and the ad model (mostly funded by advertising) was a good move.

Challenges 

Although Musk is optimistic about Twitter’s future, many are wondering how he can add more revenue. To achieve this, Musk’s Twitter must tackle many other challenges. These include:

– Musk’s view that Twitter has done too much to control its platform, and that there needs to be more free speech could make advertisers nervous. Twitter currently relies upon advertising for 90 per cent of its revenues. If more free speech means less restrictive moderation and potentially toxic content, advertisers may fear that their brands may be tarnished by association and stop ad spends with Twitter.

– Some brand managers have criticised Twitter as becoming a less engaging and interesting platform over the last year where a high expectation customer-service perception can easily lead to complaints and trolling.

– Even though Twitter has a daily user base of 229 million people, the company hasn’t generated significant profits in nearly nine years as a public company and share values have lagged behind those of rivals.

– Ongoing, stiff competition from other social media platforms (e.g. TikTok) and their visions for the future, e.g. Meta providing new potential advertising ideas for companies.

– The unusual nature of the deal to buy Twitter, i.e. more cash than the typical buyout and more debt than Twitter may be able to cope with. This, combined with the underwhelming profits, and the dangers of free speech and its deterrent effect on advertisers could threaten the company’s ability to pay off the high debt and interest payments.

– No other current meaningful source of revenue other than advertising, meaning that the company may have to continue with its current model for longer. No real revenue source changes coupled with nervous advertisers could create huge risk.

– Fears for Tesla. For example, some people have expressed concern that Musk’s Twitter deal and the work needed to make changes and create more revenue could take his attention away from Tesla. Also, Musk selling Tesla shares and putting them up as collateral for personal loans to raise cash means that Tesla’s value may now be linked to Twitter’s. This could mean that any problems with Twitter, e.g. caused by the wrong kind of “free speech” or trouble paying back debt could mean Musk drawing even more on Tesla stock, thereby creating more risk for Tesla.

Adding Revenue To Twitter

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. It’s worth remembering some of the things that the deal has going for it. For example:

– An established global platform with huge user numbers and influence.

– Elon Musk’s track record at launching successful companies (PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX), and his positive personal brand values, e.g. adding some excitement and interest and a focus on innovative ideas and the future.

– A better than expected number of monetisable daily active users / mDAU figure (despite the error), good projected growth figures, and a recent jump in net income (due to $1bn coming from the sale of Twitter’s mobile advertising unit MoPub to AppLovin).

With this in mind (plus Musk’s dislike for traditional advertising models) and his intention to make changes, there are several ways that Twitter’s revenue could be improved. These include:

– The enhanced product features, open-source algorithms, spam-beating and authentication changes building trust among advertisers (and attracting new ones) while creating new revenue opportunities.

– Crypto advertisers, knowing about Musk’s liking for cryptocurrencies, buying more advertising with Twitter.

– A focus on subscription concepts like Blue. This subscription service, launched in June 2021 in Australia and Canada (Twitter’s first subscription service), offering a set of special features and perks to subscribers. Musk’s Tweets have also signalled a possible offering of the Twitter verified blue checkmark, and ad-free interface and additional edit capabilities bundled with the Blue subscription fee.

– New types of experiential and immersive advertising which command higher rates from advertisers (again, remembering Musk’s dislike of traditional advertising).

– Changes to executive pay and layoffs, thereby decreasing costs.

– New ways of monetising Tweets. For example, charging companies fees for embedding or quote-tweeting verified users.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Although Elon Musk has succeeded in buying Twitter, there are many challenges and risks to overcome to start producing more revenue and relying less on traditional advertising. In the meantime, Musk needs to keep advertisers on-board and convince them that Twitter will be the home of the right kind of ‘free speech,’ keep Twitter competitive, and start rolling out some fresh ideas, fast. In essence, it’s going to be a case of innovating, segmentation (for subscription-based services like ‘Blue’), adding value, and augmenting Twitter’s product in a way that prolongs its product life cycle. If a shake-up and some new vision is needed, Elon Musk may certainly be capable of providing that, and the hope is that advertisers like Musk’s ideas (as the ex-CEO of Twitter does) and the kind of direction that he thinks Twitter should go in. For Twitter employees and Board members, it looks like being a time of uncertainty and possible bad news employment-wise, although competitors may see Twitter having the world’s richest man with plenty of big business success behind him, a strong personal brand, and a sometimes-unpredictable style as a threat. Twitter’s advertisers will be watching closely for any possible negative ‘free speech’ that could rub-off on their brand and may be preparing possible alternative advertising strategies. Some business advertisers may welcome Musk and new advertising opportunities. With Tesla’s fate now tied-in with that of Twitter, the near future is likely to be worrying. However, as always with Elon Musk, his many different tweets and comments mean that it is hard to say exactly what happens next, and even though the challenge is substantial, it probably wouldn’t be prudent to bet against him succeeding.

Tech News : More Control To Remove Personal Data From Google Searches

Google has announced that it is changing its policies to allow more types of personally identifiable information removal requests.

Personal Information Showing Up In Google Search 

Google acknowledges that personally identifiable information of some users can and does show up in Google search queries. This can make users concerned, e.g. about how it could be used against them in harmful ways such as scams, hacking and fraud, unwanted direct contact, or even physical harm. This is why Google’s users can submit a request to Google that certain personally identifiable information is removed from Search.

Removal Requests Limited To Certain Situations Before 

Although, for many years, users have been able to request the removal of certain sensitive, personally identifiable information from Google’s Search, it has only been allowed in certain cases, e.g. doxxing or where information like bank account or credit card numbers are visible that could be used for financial fraud.

New Policy Expansion 

This new policy expansion by Google means that users can now request the removal of additional types of information when they find it in Search results. For example, users can now request the removal of personal contact information like a phone number, email address, or physical address. The policy also allows for the removal of additional information that may pose a risk for identity theft, such as confidential log-in credentials when it appears in Search results.

Why The Change? 

Google says that this change in policy is in response to the fact that the internet is always evolving and with information popping up in unexpected places and being used in new ways, its policies and protections now need to evolve too.

The policy change may also reflect the fact that GDPR, which is now well established, gives users the ‘right to be forgotten’, the UK’s Online Safety Bill is on the way to becoming law, and the tech industry in the U.S. has also come under increased regulatory scrutiny. For example, following a hearing by the US Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security last October about kids and online safety, Google started allowing people under 18 or their parents request to the deletion of their photos from search results. Google also now allows requests from users for the removal from Google Search of non-consensual explicit or intimate personal images and involuntary fake pornography.

The new policy changes will, therefore, bring Google further in line with these new laws designed to protect users and their privacy, and help it to avoid more regulatory scrutiny.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

An increased amount of scrutiny, the tightening of existing policy and the introduction of new regulations around privacy (and particularly the protection of children online) appear to be the drivers of Google’s new policy changes. Businesses and organisations in the UK, for example, have had a legal responsibility for many years under GDPR (now UK GDPR) to give people the ‘right to be forgotten’. It may, therefore, seem only fair that Google, which has the power to cause great upset and harm (through what’s displayed in its search engine results) is now making it easier for people to request that certain information and images which could be used against them be removed. Many users may have found it frustrating in the past to have to make requests that may not have been granted, with Google having the final say over certain information or images that a UK company would have been legally obliged to quickly remove. It is, of course, good news also that these recent policy changes could offer children and young people more protection. There is still, however, some way to go with more effort and investment and changes needed from the social media companies to make the Internet a much safer place for all.

Tech News : Pernicious Pegasus Plagues (Another) Prime-Minister

With many governments (including the UK Government) being targeted with Pegasus phone-spying software, there’s now news that Spain’s PM’s has also been hit.

What Is Pegasus? 

Pegasus spyware is sold by Israeli-based NSO Group to governments to carry out surveillance by infecting phones with surveillance software. The software is sold to nation states, for millions of (US) dollars as a complete surveillance toolkit.

What Can It Do? 

Pegasus can extract the contents of a phone, give the operator access to any texts, photographs, the camera, and the microphone. This gives the Pegasus operator the ability to conduct real-time surveillance and extract sensitive data. Pegasus is typically used by law enforcement for tracking criminals, or for authoritarians / governments listening-in on people of interest such as journalists and activists as a way of quashing dissent.

What Happened In Spain? 

Spain’s minister for the presidency, Félix Bolaños, recently announced at a press conference that the mobile phones of both Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez, and defence minister Margarita Robles had been infected by Pegasus in May and June 2021.

Data Extracted 

It was announced that the phones belonging to Spain’s PM Pedro Sánchez phone had been infected twice, resulting in a large amount of data being extracted.

Who Was Responsible? 

No country has been specifically identified but, based on that claim that the data extraction couldn’t be traced to any Spanish state agency, the perpetrators have been described as an “external” force.

Previous Infections – Catalan’s Politicians & More 

Earlier this month, the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab revealed that at least 65 Catalan politicians and activists had been targeted by Pegasus and Candiru spyware. These included the president of the Catalan government, Pere Aragonès, European Parliament members, Catalan legislators, jurists, activists, and some of their family members. It has been reported that suspicion over these hacks have been focused on the Spanish government in Madrid given its opposition to and the crushing of Catalonia’s attempt at independence.

Inquiry To Meet 

Following the spyware attack and the potentially serious consequences, the European Parliament’s Pegasus inquiry will meet this week in Strasbourg to find a way to stop spyware being used in Europe.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Many countries are reported to be using Pegasus and similar solutions, mostly as a constructive way to fight crime and get the heads-up on any possible national security threats. It was perhaps not a surprise that the finger was pointed at Madrid over the use of spyware on Catalan politicians but the discoveries of spying on the heart of the UK and Spain’s government has caused real concern. Although European governments probably recognise the importance of their own use of perhaps Pegasus or similar, these recent incidents could galvanize efforts in the EU to provide better protection and find a way to stop spyware being used across Europe. Ways to avoid phone infection by Pegasus includes rebooting the device daily (to clean it), disabling iMessage and Facetime (exploitation vectors), keeping the device up to date with the latest patches, and never clicking on unsolicited links in SMS or email messages.

Tech Tip – A Neat Way To Remove The Background From A Photo

If you need a really fast and simple way to remove the background from any photo, you may wish to try using ‘removebg’. Here’s how it works:

– Go to www.remove.bg.

– Click on ‘Upload An Image’ to upload the photo from your device that you would like to remove the background from.

– The website tool automatically and instantly removes the background.

– Click on the ‘Download Image’ button to download a .png file of the photo with the background removed.

Please note, we have no affiliation to this app or website and are simply suggesting it as a fast problem-solver that we have noticed and tried. Other options and programs for removing photo backgrounds are, of course, available.

Sustainability : Key ESG and Sustainability Business Trends

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria and particularly sustainability are now key to many business spending decisions. Here we look at some of the current key trends.

Ten Trends 

1. Putting sustainability at the heart of the business. This is now much more than just an attractive concept. The need to tackle global warming, meet net-zero targets, appeal to environmentally aware customers, and compete successfully means that sustainability is now a highly valued feature of products and services has made sustainability an important trend. Businesses and organisations that can be proactive and successfully manage sustainability transformation have a brighter future. As part of a company’s broader ESG efforts, measuring, assessing, and monitoring a company’s sustainability impacts can help it to pinpoint priority areas to change to improve sustainability.

2. Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG) frameworks. These are the global standardised frameworks for measuring and managing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from both private and public sector companies, organistions, operations and value chains. By understanding what Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions are, companies are finding that they are better able to make the realistic goals and targets required to address them. For example, Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions e.g., from the factory or vehicles, and Scope 2 emissions are indirect greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere e.g., from HVAC systems. Scope 3 emissions make up the majority and include those generated from upstream sources (raw materials production) and downstream sources (distribution and recycling).

3. Extending product life cycles through the circular economy. In technology, for example, this could include the recycling of precious metals in phone handsets and other e-waste and increasing ‘fix your own device’ possibilities, information, and help.

4. Addressing climate adaptation as part of a risk mitigation strategy. Climate change adaption refers to making alterations that can accommodate the current and future effects of climate change, thereby attempting to avoid disruption to operations, supply chains, and customers.

5. Creating a more sustainable supply chain by making greater efforts to connect data gaps and help achieve sustainability goals across the whole supply chain.

6. Being more honest in disclosing carbon footprint information. For example, because of this need, some large banks are now exploring ways to move investment from more carbon-intensive industries to industries that are actively reducing emissions.

7. Creating ‘Green IT’ services and structures. Tech heavy industries are now looking at ways to reduce carbon emissions across their IT functions and supply chains. Also, big technology companies e.g., Microsoft and Google are currently working on minimising the carbon footprint of their data centres.

8. Impact sourcing. Many companies and organisations are trying to prioritise a focus on employing marginalised and disadvantaged populations, reducing workplace bias, and increasing diversity.

9. Turning to more responsible and transparent AI and using a more holistic approach to minimise the chance for algorithms (which are now widely used) to cause harm.

10. Improving ESG analytics and reporting to help stay ahead of developments and keep stakeholders informed.

What Does This Mean For Your Organisation? 

These trends indicate the value that is now placed upon sustainability and the investment and efforts that businesses and organisations are putting into the many strands needed to achieve goals and hit targets. Businesses and organisations are now not just focused on their own operations, but on the genuine sustainability credentials of all those along the supply chain and across their value chains.

Tech News : Pegasus Spyware Discovered In Downing Street

The University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab has reported finding evidence that Pegasus spyware was being used to listen-in on UK government networks for 10 Downing Street and the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices (FCO) in 2020 and 2021.

Pegasus 

Pegasus spyware is sold by Israeli-based NSO Group to governments to carry out surveillance by infecting phones with malicious surveillance software. Pegasus is essentially a complete surveillance toolkit that’s generally sold to nation states at prices that could be millions of US dollars. The software can extract the contents of a phone, give the operator access to any texts, photographs, the camera, and the microphone. This gives the Pegasus operator the ability to conduct real-time surveillance, e.g. of private meetings. Pegasus is used for several surveillance purposes, e.g. by law enforcement tracking criminals, or for authoritarians / governments listening-in on people of interest such as journalists and activists as a way of quashing dissent. For example, Spain has recently been reported as being implicated in the use of Pegasus (and Candiru) to spy on 65 individuals related to Catalonia’s government.

Who Was Listening? 

The Citizen Lab has reported that the suspected infections related to the FCO were associated with Pegasus operators linked to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), India, Cyprus, and Jordan. Also, the suspected infection at the UK Prime Minister’s Office has been linked to the UAE.

How Did They Get Infected With Spyware? 

According to The Citizen Lab, it is because the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and its successor office, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development office (FCDO), have personnel in many countries. The suspected FCO infections may, therefore, have related to FCO devices located abroad and using foreign SIM cards. This is a similar situation to the hacking of foreign phone numbers used by US State Department employees in Uganda in 2021. Citizen Lab has also concluded that Pegasus was used to infect a device connected to 10 Downing Street’s network and the office of Prime Minister Boris Johnson on July 26 and 27, 2020. It was the servers to which the data was transmitted which led The Citizen Lab suspects to suspect that the UAE was most likely behind the hack.

In addition to the Downing Street infection, Citizen Lab reports that phones connected to the Foreign Office were hacked using Pegasus on at least five occasions, from July, 2020, through June, 2021.

NSO Says.. 

NSO Group, the makers of the surveillance software are reported to have said that the recent allegations about the use of its software are false and that organisations like The Citizens Lab are politically motivated, and their reports may be inaccurate.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Pegasus is known to be widely used by governments and agencies around the world and has legitimate uses e.g., tracking criminals. However, its ability to provide real-time surveillance and the difficulty in detecting it are likely reasons why it appears to have been used for many less savoury purposes and surveillance linked to repression. It is, of course, worrying that it could be so easy for (allegedly) other states to listen-in on Downing Street and the UK Prime Minister, the implications of which we don’t yet fully know.  Research fromfrom Amnesty International and Citizen Lab suggest that ways individuals can avoid infection by Pegasus includes rebooting the device daily (to clean it), disabling iMessage and Facetime (exploitation vectors), keeping the device up to date with the latest patches, and never clicking on unsolicited links in SMS or email messages.

Each week we bring you the latest tech news and tips that may relate to your business, re-written in an techy free style. 

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