Apr 30, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🍿📺 Good Tuesday morning. When I woke up in the wee hours, the top trending N.Y. Times story was an interview with "Avengers: Endgame" screenwriters, and four of the next five stories were about "Game of Thrones."

  • The only break in the screen streak: "Trump Sues Banks to Stop Them From Complying With House Subpoenas."
1 big thing: Facebook takes a licking, but we keep on clicking
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Data: Facebook, Twitter, Snap earnings. (Twitter did not report daily active users prior to Q2 2018.) Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Facebook continues to make mountains of money, serve more users than ever before, and plan bold new moves, Axios' Scott Rosenberg (who wrote that headline), Sara Fischer and Ina Fried report.

  • Facebook is still the most powerful digital marketing platform on the planet. Advertisers would love to diversify the digital ecosystem and rely less on Facebook, but no one has come up with a better alternative.
  • Why it matters: That's all after the company's two-year cascade of controversy, criticism by lawmakers, and negative coverage over privacy lapses, allegations of bias, failures to rein in hate speech, charges of monopolistic behavior, and fears of Facebook-fueled digital addiction.

The big picture: Facebook is summoning developers worldwide this week to its annual F8 developers' conference in San Jose after reporting strong quarterly results last week — even with the announcement of a $3 billion set-aside to cover an anticipated record federal penalty over user privacy violations.

  • Facebook is so effective as a marketing platform because it is able to curate an unprecedented amount of social data about users across its apps (Facebook, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp). That data lets it sell relatively inexpensive ads to nearly any type of customer.
  • The company has announced plans to unite its three currently separate messaging platforms and move ahead, via its Oculus subsidiary, with its bet on VR as the future of social technology.

Reality check: The onslaught of bad press has taken a toll on Facebook's reputation, according to a recent Axios Harris poll. But it hasn't sparked any kind of mass exodus from the social network.

  • To the extent that some U.S. users may have reduced their Facebook time, many have moved over to Instagram — which Facebook has owned since 2012.
  • WhatsApp, the encrypted messaging platform that Facebook acquired in 2014, is the equivalent of the dial tone in many countries, especially emerging markets where other internet services are less mature.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has never been more fully in control of the company:

  • As one response to Facebook's many privacy-related problems, he is steering the platform toward a new emphasis on WhatsApp-style private messages.
  • The move is right out of the Steve Jobs playbook: Cannibalize your own products before your competitors can.
2. One word that defines our era
A couple embrace near a growing memorial across the street from the Chabad synagogue in Poway, Calif. Photo: Greg Bull/AP

N.Y. Times' David Brooks:

I wonder if we’ve fully grasped how fear pervades our society and sets the emotional tone for our politics. When historians define this era they may well see it above all else as a time defined by fear.
The era began on Sept. 11, 2001, a moment when a nation that had once seemed invulnerable suddenly felt tremendously unsafe. In the years since, the shootings have been a series of bloody strikes out of the blue.
It's been an era when politicians rise by stoking fear.

Go deeper.

3. ⚡ Breaking

What's new: "The Trump administration is pushing to issue an order that would designate the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization," the N.Y. Times reports.

  • Why it matters: The move would bring "the weight of American sanctions against a storied and influential Islamist political movement with millions of members across the Middle East."
Bonus ... 🎬 Sneak peek: What the stars make

Hollywood stars owe Netflix a big thank-you, Variety reports in The Money Issue, out later today:

  • "The streaming service is bolstering pay packages for the most famous actors ... at a time when studios are getting downright stingy."
  • "Will Smith will likely score $35 million from Netflix in exchange for reprising his role as a wisecracking cop in 'Bright 2.'"

Variety's leaders:

  • Ryan Reynolds ("Six Underground," Netflix release TBD), $27 million
  • Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson ("Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw," August), $20 million
  • Robert Downey Jr. ("The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle," Jan. 2020), $20 million
  • Will Smith ("Bad Boys for Life," Jan. 2020), $17 million
  • Jason Statham ("Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw"), $13 million
  • Tom Cruise ("Top Gun: Maverick," June 2020), $12-14 million
  • Emily Blunt ("A Quiet Place 2," May 2020), $12-13 million

Full package posts later today.

4. 🎧 What we're listening to: The Web's "dark period"

Joi Ito, director of MIT Media Lab and one of the world's experts on the internet, talks with the legendary Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and partner at Greylock, on today's Masters of Scale podcast.

  • The big picture: Democratic and authoritarian nations, while their style and language differ, are both recoiling at hate groups, terrorists, pedophiles and others. Frightened by violence and political turmoil, they are creating "a balkanized and not-so-open internet everywhere."

Hoffman says to Ito: "You had one of the early celebrity blogs, by which you would report who you were meeting, and what you were doing, and what you were saying. It's a little like what today’s Instagram or YouTube could be like."

  • As for today, Ito says: "I think the amateurs are where the passion and the creativity are."

Take a listen.

  • Go deeper: Ito talks with Axios' Steve LeVine about the less-open, "dark period" of the internet that's unfolding around the world.
5. Inside Mayor Pete's house
Photo: Ethan James Green for Vogue (By kind permission of Vogue)

Nathan Heller visits Indiana for Vogue:

In person, Buttigieg’s style is amiable and controlled. He speaks, like a newscaster, in lucid paragraphs, with a solid baritone and boxed-in decorum. He seems to live in white shirts and pressed slacks — it's his dress even now, around the house — and wears his hair in the same tame coif as Mike Pence ...
Showing me into a living room where books on display range from Thomas Piketty’s 'Capital in the Twenty-First Century' to 'Peanuts: A Golden Celebration,' he takes a seat in front of a huge resource-and-mineral map of Afghanistan.
A burl-wood chessboard sits beside a folded-over copy of The New Yorker; most other surfaces, including the dining-room table in the other room, are piled with work papers and the castoffs of a busy life.
The home is one of the nicest in the city and serves as a reminder of South Bend's distance from the coasts: The mortgage payment, according to Buttigieg, is about $450 a month.

Go deeper.

6. 2020 gets colorful

2020 campaign websites, color palettes and logos are more colorful and dynamic than ever before — a reflection of the digital era, and the pressure on candidates to stand out in a massive field, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

  • Candidates with climate priorities, like Jay Inslee and Amy Klobuchar, are using greens.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand, emphasizing women's issues, includes bright pinks.

Younger candidates are going bold:

  • Beto O'Rourke has chosen to avoid all colors, opting solely for an authoritative black and white logo.
  • Pete Buttigieg's color scheme is much more modern, featuring yellow, blue, orange and tan hues.
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Data: Axios research. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Why it matters: "In the past, ... red, white and blue have always been safe," says acclaimed graphic designer Michael Bierut, who created the infamous "H" logo for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

  • "This cycle’s candidates must sense that to fit in with a field of 20+ contenders is to be invisible. So the campaigns are taking risks."

Sign up for Sara Fischer's weekly Media Trends newsletter here (out later this a.m.).

7. Stat du jour
President Trump welcomes the women's national basketball champions, Baylor's Lady Bears, to the White House yesterday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump crossed the 10,000 mark for false and misleading claims during his presidency, according to the Washington Post Fact Checker.

The velocity is escalating, per The Post:

  • It took Trump 601 days to top 5,000 false and misleading claims — an average of eight a day.
  • It took just 226 days to double that — nearly 23 a day.

"In the first 100 days, Trump averaged less than five [false] claims a day."

8. Protesters occupy frat house
Photo: AP

Student protesters occupied the Phi Psi fraternity house at Swarthmore College (in suburban Philly), demanding that the school permanently ban the group, which is not affiliated with a national organization.

  • "The protests ... came a week after two campus publications released a trove of redacted, internal fraternity documents from 2012 to 2016," the Philadelphia Inquirer's Anna Orso reports.
  • "The X-rated 'meeting minutes' described members' derogatory comments about women, minorities, and LGBTQ people, and included crude jokes about parties, illegal drugs, and sexual assault."
9. Remembering John Singleton, 51
John Singleton in L.A., 1991. Photo: Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty Images

"The streets of South L.A. were marked and divided by gang warfare when 'Boyz n the Hood' arrived in America’s movie houses," the L.A. Times' Sonaiya Kelley writes.

  • "The 1991 film ... pulled [24-year-old] John Singleton into the company of emerging black moviemakers such as Spike Lee, Mario Van Peebles and Matty Rich."
  • "[I]t was his story, his neighborhood."

Yesterday, "13 days after suffering a stroke, Singleton died after being removed from life support."

  • "In a statement, his family said Singleton ... suffered from hypertension."
  • Go deeper.
10. 1 prank thing
A drone shot of the prank. Photo: Raymond Huffman/AP

MIT pranksters transformed the school's signature Great Dome on Saturday night with a giant cloth version of Captain America’s shield, in celebration of "Avengers: Endgame," the Boston Globe's Alejandro Serrano reports:

  • One of the "hackers" said that dozens of people worked for months on the secretive project, "which they started planning about a year ago after learning a new Marvel movie was going to be released."
A drone shot of the prank. Photo: Raymond Huffman/AP
Mike Allen

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