BEST OF THE WEB: How a Facebook tweak killed a billion dollar market

A large company like Facebook is always making little tweaks here and there – that’s how tech companies work. But one of its most recent changes had a huge effect, even though in the scheme of things, it was a small tweak most people wouldn’t have noticed.

For instance, the introduction of the Timeline format for Facebook Pages: This eliminated the use of “tabs” as landing pages, with various brands used for showing off a particular sale or picture. Businesses could decide what went on those pages, and how to draw customers in.

But now, businesses can’t set a default page, and tabs have been minimised. And according to a new article on Fortune, use engagement with tabs is down 53% since Timeline launched.

So what, right? Well, imagine you’re a company that actually depends on these tabs. That’s exactly what companies like Vitrue and Context Optional do. They customise these tabs for corporate clients, and together with another firm, Buddy Media, they’re valued at a whopping $US1 billion.

The article goes into more detail about how exactly this market works but, to be sure, it shows that having a model that depends on Facebook can be a perilous and dangerous exercise.

The two sides of Marissa Mayer 

Google executive Marissa Mayer is now the head of Yahoo!. The announcement, made earlier this week, is a great step forward for Mayer, women in technology, and Yahoo! as a company, now that it has an experienced product professional at the helm.

And, by all accounts, it seems Mayer is the right person for the job. After all, she’s well-liked, very smart, and has overseen some of Google’s biggest products. Plenty of entrepreneurs wrote opinion pieces or blogs earlier this week suggesting Yahoo! now actually has some hope of succeeding.

But according to this profile in Business Insider, there’s another side to Mayer – the side that many don’t see.

It’s well known Mayer is a bit of a character. The story about her creating spreadsheets with cupcake recipes is infamous, and she doesn’t shy away from the fact she lives in a hotel penthouse.

But this profile suggests that, according to former Google workers, employees at Yahoo! might be in for a tough time.

“This is a great day for Google, and a nail in the coffin for Yahoo!,” the unnamed source tells the publication.

While Mayer is obviously “smarter than 99% of the people” and “will work harder than anyone”, the source argues that Mayer doesn’t “understand managing any other way than intimidation or humiliation”.

The source then goes on to describe how Mayer enforced strict control over her team at Google, including hiring her own publicist, forcing employees to sign NDAs, and even hiring a shadow recruiting staff only for her division.

“She used to make people line up outside of her office, sit on couches and sign up with office hours with her. Then everybody had to publicly sit outside her office and she would see people in five minute increments. She would make VPs at Google wait for her. It’s like; you’ve got to be kidding.”

In fact, the source even says Mayer attended coaching sessions, but that Bill Campbell refused to teach her because she was unreceptive to feedback.

It’s certainly well known that Mayer is a confronting personality, with a brain working a million miles a minute, and reports that she can get frustrated with people who can’t keep up. After all, she’s been known to work regular 130-hour weeks and can run on four hours of sleep a night.

But at the same time, the piece also quotes sources suggesting Mayer has been able to temper that brash part of her personality as she’s grown into her roles at Google.

“She is 37 now, and she was in her late 20s less than a decade ago. Like all people, she matured and learned. It’s not fair to cast her in the mould of when she was 28 or 29. She is a different person and leader now.”

“One of her flaws at Google is that she was too tough with her colleagues in the early years, and these people have memories like elephants.”

The source suggests Mayer can tend to alienate workers who don’t keep up with her impressive schedule, and the publication notes she “has not always known how to deal with this disparity in a productive way”.

Some sources questioned are gentle about the matter, suggesting Mayer has matured. But at least one went so far as to call her “a nightmare of a human being”.

However, this person goes on to say that’s not necessarily contradictory to success. “If being a good person were necessary to be a CEO, we wouldn’t have Apple … and lots of other CEO roles would be empty”.

The piece draws a parallel to Apple chief Steve Jobs – who also had a huge job ahead of him to turn around a failed company. The two may just have more in common than it first appears.

Amazon’s same-day shipping takeover plan

The success of Amazon depends on same-day delivery, at least in the United States. If the retailer can’t offer that type of service, then it may as well forget being in business.

And it’s this same-day delivery that has become the company’s focus, according to this new Slate article, and has seen it abandon fights to stop states from charging sales tax to online retailers. In fact, several states have started collecting the tax already.

And why? It’s simple – now the company collects sales tax, it can set up warehouses in the most populated areas of the country. That means even faster delivery.

And that’s why local retailers are worried.

“It’s hard to overstate how thoroughly this move will shake up the retail industry. Same-day delivery has long been the holy grail of internet retailers, something that dozens of start-ups have tried and failed to accomplish.”

“But Amazon is investing billions to make next-day delivery standard, and same-day delivery an option for lots of customers. If it can pull that off, the company will permanently alter how we shop. To put it more bluntly: Physical retailers will be hosed.”


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