Spam? No.

Kerry Knudsen

During the week of October 8, we saw a drastic sell-off in North American and worldwide stock markets. It scared almost everybody.

All the TV pundits I saw blamed U.S. President Trump’s trade dealings, especially with China. Trump blamed the U.S. Federal Reserve and its raising of interest rates.

But something else was going on.

First, on October 4, Bloomberg and others reported that China had been successful in installing a tiny microchip in the data centres of several western companies, to include Amazon and Apple, as well as in the Department of Defence and the Central Intelligence Agency. For the purpose of this discussion, it doesn’t really even matter if it’s true. It was reported. Also, that was the same day eBay alleged that Amazon was engaging in shady, anti-competitive attempts to scalp sellers.

On October 8, tech giant Google announced it was dropping out of a $10 billion contract race to supply the U.S. Department of Defence with “cloud” services. Google also admitted it had been concealing a bug that put the personal data of “hundreds of thousands”of its users at risk.

On Friday, Oct. 12, Facebook reported an estimated 30 million (down from 50 million) users’ accounts were hacked.

Such ideas as 30 million, $10 billion, Apple, Google, Amazon, DoD, eBay and CIA are big words. They are among the biggest names in culture today, and they all hit, along with others, right on the cusp of the market sell-off.

Coincidence? I suppose. But it’s a hell of a coincidence that the sell-off was led by tech stocks this time, and not manufacturing.

Again, it is not relevant what the exact numbers or dates are, or even whether the claims are true. What’s relevant is that some major bombs went off in the tech sector, worldwide markets crashed and all the pundits and presidents blamed each other, fingers pointing in a circle.

Those of you that read these pages regularly have long heard our concerns about the lemming-like investment stampede toward “digital.” As always, we disclaim that we are against the internet, per se, but we still need to note that the cost:benefit ratio of doing business there continues to show red.

By now, the bad news outpaces the good news in “digital.” On October 22, Google got an adverse anti-trust ruling out of the EU. I see that Toyota has paired up with a tech firm to help it defeat the rampant ad fraud inherent in the much-vaunted “programmatic” mode of ad purchasing. Programmatic means the software gets to choose where you spend your money and how much, and you get to memorize the spelling of the word algorithm.

We saw the surge of digital “junk mail” in the late ’80s when it was still called junk mail. Today, it’s spam, and we still get it. Those of you that have not opted out of what should be industry-specific notices of special importance are hit daily with “news” that has no news. Only a “message” that somebody is willing to shell out cash to a publisher for. Or, in the case of publishers that can’t get somebody to shell out, they pump the stuff through for free, just to appear to the public that they are somehow relevant. Then they do it some more with a Week in Review. Then they do it again with Editor’s Picks. And so on….

We survey our readers regularly on the issue of spam, and, guess what? You don’t like it. Not even a little bit. So we are driven to wonder what on earth our publishers are doing. Are these the same guys that are still telling the same, tired jokes about a preacher, a rabbi and a priest on the same plane?

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