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Incentivizing Russian Investment Instead of Economic Sanctions

Sanctions limiting international business with Russia are an economic stick. But how about considering economic carrots, too?

The West – US, a couple of major Western European countries – could consider creating a economic incentive plan for very large Russian investments in the countries. Multi-billion plus. This could include tax incentives, match funding, or similar preferential special treatment. What exactly, I have no idea.

But why on earth should the West do this? To diversify Russian business interests. If the Russian big money had stronger interests in success in the US and Western Europe, both in trade to and fro, but also within the markets, would not this affect the political decisionmaking?

And of course, foreign investment is always welcome. It would also bring Russian money into operations governed by countries with stronger democracies and laws.

Look at US-China relationship. High political incompatibility and conflicts of interest, but also high economic interdepedency. Russia has much less economic interdependency with the US. Could this work?

In percentage terms, of Russian exports 5% went to the US. Of China’s exports, 20% went to the US.

Is the US on a better footing with China than with Russia? I would argue in the affirmative. There are numerous geopolitical and economic issues with China, of course, but a conflict that would lead to sanctions is much harder to imagine with China. Economic sanctions are the first extension of diplomacy, before military action is considered. With more interdependence, even economic sanctions would become unfeasible.

Indeed, not encouraging Russian investment could even lead to increasing economic interdependence of Russia and China. In the long term, global economic interdepence is good for global political balance. In the shorter term, it could cause a stronger alignment of Russian and Chinese interests against those of the West.

For an overview of sanctions, incentives and war as realpolitik extensions of diplomacy, read Global Policy Forum’s article Bombs, Carrots and Sticks, which includes an incentive success story from Ukraine, 20 years ago:

Ukraine: A Success Story
In one of the less-noticed success stories of U.S. policy, the Clinton administration was able to achieve the denuclearization of Ukraine with positive incentives. The newly independent, former Soviet republic inherited approximately 1,800 Soviet warheads on its territory in the early 1990s, leading the United States and other countries to launch an intensive effort to persuade Kiev to give them up. In July 1993, the United States offered the fledgling nation a substantial economic aid package in return for Kiev’s agreement to dismantle some of the former Soviet nuclear missiles and ship the warheads to Russia. When members of the Ukrainian Rada began to argue later that year for retaining the weapons, the United States joined with Russia to negotiate a comprehensive agreement providing economic assistance and security assurances to Ukraine in exchange for a complete removal of all remaining nuclear weapons.

I don’t yet know if we should engage in something like this. But I’m surprised that I haven’t even seen it discussed despite following the situation with keen interest.

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A watershed article. So many thoughts to quote, this is just one distilling the urgency and the moral imperative:

To ignore the fact that one of the oldest republics in the world was erected on a foundation of white supremacy, to pretend that the problems of a dual society are the same as the problems of unregulated capitalism, is to cover the sin of national plunder with the sin of national lying.

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Want to save 75% on Facebook Ads? Don’t take their advice.

For the same money, I got 4x higher return for some recent Facebook ad campaigns by not listening to their recommendations. Here are the details on what I did. Whether this is because Facebook is dishonest towards their advertisers, or just incompetent in building the ad engine, I don’t know.

Facebook Ads are built around the idea of optimizing for certain objectives. When you start a campaign, in the first step you choose what you want to get out of it: page likes, post likes, clicks to a website, etc.

You can change the settings later, so it doesn’t matter which one you pick. Let’s assume you want more page likes. Go ahead and pick that.

In the next step, you will make your ad. I will use my test-page of internet funniness called Everything (I named it Everything because if you like it, your timeline update says “Mikko likes Everything”, which I thought to be sufficiently funny to go through the trouble).

Then you have a plethora of targeting options. Facebook changes these often, I think, so you just have to poke around and pick the targeting you think is close. And of course, we can’t know how fuzzy Facebook’s targeting algorithm is. If you target people who like “bunnies”, it may likely also show it to people who like “rabbits”, but will it be shown to people whi like other kinds of lagomorphs, or cute animals? We won’t know, but Facebook will likely experiment with your money.

On to money: next you get to set your daily budget and your campaign times. The default is running an ad continuosly starting now, which is great if you know your ad is going to work for you (caveat: you can’t know, see above), or just want to keep spending money with Facebook.

But the interesting thing comes next. Facebook recommends you to “Optimize for Page likes”, because that’s what you have picked as your objective (and if you can’t see this, click “Show advanced options”. Always look at the advanced options).

If you “Optimize for Page likes”, Facebook does not tell you how much you’re paying. Bit of a red flag, no? Open the “Bidding” dropdown and pick “Optimize for impressions”:

Now you see what you are paying. Great. Notice you can also get some pretty cheap impressions there (this, of course, varies massively depending on targeting (also, remember caveats on targeting: we are entirely at Facebook’s mercy here)).

This is what I do if I advertise for page likes. I write a copy text that includes a call to action to like a page (the earlier example copy is tongue-in-cheek, btw, don’t try it at work). Then I pick the targeting I want, and optimize for impressions, not likes.

For a recent ecommerce related campaign, optimizing for page likes resulted in likes costing $3.87 each. Using the same ad, optimizing for impressions, the likes cost $1.04 each. That is nearly a 4x better performance.

Notice the little text there under the bidding menu: "For most advertisers, optimising for your objective usually performs better. Switch back." In my experience, that is a lie. And that little UI message is why I’m writing this post. I feel Facebook is either blatantly dishonest or utterly incompetent in recommending spending options for their customers. How badly do they need to make more money from their audience? Maybe they decided bleeding them dry quickly would result in the best ROI.

I’d love to include a screenshot of a report that shows this performance change in a report, but alas, Facebook’s reporting is not granular enough. I’ve experimented with a few ads for the same page, turning them on and off, and doing new campaigns for them to see if things change, and here’s a recent report screenshot detail. The $1.11 like cost is the current performance for the above example, after I slowed it down somewhat. I paused it to try out a new one just now (the top one), which only just started running when I wrote this.

Twitter yesterday announced that they too would start objective-based campaigns. Will they go the same way?

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Infogr.am has a new Chief Operating Office – me. Here’s a blog post about it with a Q&A, in which I was proud to be able to discuss both Sheryl Sandberg’s and the epic fantasy metal band Battlelore’s relevance to my past for COO’ing. Read more there.

infogram:

We are happy to announce growing our team with the addition of a new Chief Operating Officer, Mikko Jarvenpaa.

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Previously in his career Mikko was a Product Marketing Manager at Google, and has worked with technology startups in Silicon Valley and in Europe alike, recently as the Chief…

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AirBnb’s brand refresh is nice, but the homepage is unaesthetic. 

AirBnb’s brand refresh is nice, but the homepage is unaesthetic. 

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"It was a day and age that saw no reason why one could not learn whatever was required - learn virtually anything - by the close study of books…"

On General Nathanael Greene.

"It was a day and age that saw no reason why one could not learn whatever was required - learn virtually anything - by the close study of books…"

On General Nathanael Greene.

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In Syria, a 3-D Printer Is Making Dozens of Cheap, Efficient Artificial Limbs

johnmbeck:

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NEWSWEEK - Most people think carefully before entering Syria, where one of the world’s deadliest conflicts rages. Many will not enter at all; some war correspondents refuse to work there because of the risk of kidnapping.

Richard van As was unconcerned. “I was excited to come,” he says. “I guess I was bored.” read more…

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Seal of Saimaa-documentary on Indieflix

Two years ago this time us brothers were getting ready to shoot our indie nature documentary Seal of Saimaa. A year later it premiered at SINFF. Now it’s great to see it at Indieflix with 95% rating. And of course, it was first funded on Indiegogo in 2011.

Ever thought of making a movie and haven’t yet? Go do it.

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kunjulam:

brooklynmutt:

"News on the Internet now more trusted than TV, according to Gallup.” - @AntDeRosa

Let’s have a moment of silence for the fact that thenewspaper is still the most trusted news medium

kunjulam:

brooklynmutt:

"News on the Internet now more trusted than TV, according to Gallup.” - @AntDeRosa

Let’s have a moment of silence for the fact that thenewspaper is still the most trusted news medium

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Against Shit News Headlines

It is everywhere in the news now. The curiosity-gap

I saw this dreadful example on BGR.com today, and I decided to help them figure out how their headlines could be less shit; how they could be informative, instead of catering to our lowest instincts. Here’s a screenshot of their trending articles, with my suggestions (yes, I’m a zero-talent headline writer, but at least I’m pitching in).

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Of course, a business that needs to make a profit – and that just happens to be in the news business – can’t be faulted for employing all tactics it can to get those users to click, click, click. I recently read the New York Times leaked digital strategy document (ironically, first covered by Buzzfeed and Mashable). They idolize Buzzfeed’s success. There is internal shaming in thinking the newsroom knows better what the audiences should be served. Whereas, like the report makes clear, it of course should be the audience demand driving content decisions if they are to survive.

Tough business: you either lose your soul, or your money, but if you don’t make up your mind quickly which one it is, you lose both.

What sinks my spirits is seeing this same behavior even in news organizations that do not need to make a profit. The two I follow closely are the BBC and YLE (Finland’s equivalent of BBC). The clickbaiting copywriting has been rampant especially in the latter – utterly pointless as they don’t even monetize pageviews. In the former, I’ve been confused to see them use Outbrain for content recommendations, which algorithmically decides what people should see. This is purely audience demand-driven content, not content served by journalistic insight, expertise and experience. I even took this up on Twitter with Outbrain. Nothing against Outbrain per se – to be honest, where I see Taboola it’s usually even worse.

I’ll miss journalism when it’s gone.