Want to Know How to Build a Better Democracy? Ask Wikipedia

Pity the poor public-relations specialist hired to influence what is said about his clients on Wikipedia. The sprawling, chaotic storehouse of knowledge is governed by thousands of independent-minded volunteers committed to being neutral and allergic to self-serving manipulators.

The barriers are formidable, but so is the temptation to do some reputational polishing there. What appears on Wikipedia matters. Daily traffic to the English site has barely grown in years, but that is because Wikipedia articles are so reputable that they are baked into the Internet—particularly Google’s results pages. A biographical capsule Google publishes on me, for example, has all its facts taken straight from Wikipedia, except for my age being 20, which Google came up with on its own. When YouTube tried to contain proliferating conspiracies, it turned to Wikipedia. Of course men landed on the moon, it says so right here on Wikipedia!

Attempts to influence the site are, as the recent college admissions scandal shows, sadly inevitable; there are few areas immune to power of wealth and status. How long can Wikipedia resist?

Noam Cohen

author photo


Noam Cohen is a journalist and author of The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball, which uses the history of computer science and Stanford University to understand the libertarian ideas promoted by tech leaders. While working for The New York Times, Cohen wrote some of the earliest articles about Wikipedia, bitcoin, Wikileaks, and Twitter. He lives with his family in Brooklyn.

Throughout Wikipedia’s history people have tried to nudge the content in their favor. There have been elaborate nonprofessional campaigns to promote nationalistic causes, such as what to call the Sea of Japan/East Sea. Likewise, there have been examples of stealth editing, presumably by the subjects of Wikipedia articles, as well as contributors secretly paid to polish the reputations of certain clients. These actions are considered conflicts of interest, prohibited along with a bunch of other sketchy practices as a threat to the Wikipedia’s ideal of a neutral point of view.

A recent account in The Huffington Post highlighted a novel approach by one marketing executive hired to influence what appears on Wikipedia: Instead of paid editing, Ed Sussman provides paid advocacy. Sussman, who is CEO of the marketing firm Buzzr.com, represents a range of clients, including the Axios news website, NBC, and the Facebook PR team. For NBC, he has focused on minimizing controversies, such as the question of whether NBC News handled allegations against Matt Lauer properly. In the case of one Facebook executive, Sussman’s goal was to get an article about her published.

For his fee, Sussman does not personally publish or edit the articles his clients care about; he won’t do that, he explains, because he has an obvious conflict of interest. As he writes on his Wikipedia user page: “If you ever think any of my work doesn’t conform to Wikipedia policy, please let me know and I’ll do my best to fix it!”

Instead, Sussman, who is a lawyer by training, prepares drafts of revised articles, or in the case of the Facebook executive, the entire article, which he posts on the pages used to discuss how to improve Wikipedia. His work is well written and well sourced. He then tries to persuade editors to make those changes themselves. After all, a frequent concern of Wikipedia editors is that articles are too short and too thinly sourced, and Sussman is doing his part to reduce that problem.

Indeed, for many dedicated volunteers, Sussman poses few problems, because he is so transparent about his motives. On reading the HuffPo headline, one Wikipedia administrator, Swarm, wrote that the news seemed “extremely alarming, and I was ready to crucify this guy.” Digging deeper, Swarm came to the opposite conclusion: “Most of the supposed ‘whitewashing’ seems to be mundane matters that don’t harm articles at all, if not actual improvements.”

The flip side of this embrace of transparency by Sussman, however, is that Wikipedia editors have tried, and in at least one case, succeeded, in transparently informing readers that the articles have been advocated for by a paid Wikipedia editor. The Axios article was edited to mention the news site had hired an advocate to “beef up its Wikipedia page (mostly with benign—if largely flattering—stats about Axios’ accomplishments).” Including such a sentence, of course, somewhat defeats the purpose of hiring an advocate; the best lobbyists blend into the background.

When Wikipedia editors complain about Sussman they, in essence, say he is behaving like an overly excited, and legally trained, flack. His arguments are long and have oodles of sources. One editor, kashmiri, a non-native-English speaker, pleaded for mercy: “May I kindly ask you to be more concise? I agree English is a beautiful language, but requiring other editors to read walls of text from you on every single issue is tad daunting, sorry.” While a good advocate tries to make every argument they can think of, in case one of them sticks, among Wikipedians the tactic is called bludgeoning and is frowned on.

Taking a step back, what could be wrong with making a case for a client with rigor and a broad range of sources, hoping that it gets adopted by the community? It’s not the careful attention that is the problem, but that the careful attention only goes to those who can pay. When different standards apply based on status and wealth, in areas as important as education and criminal justice, as well as relatively trivial ones like Wikipedia, poof, there goes the fairness crucial to a functioning democracy.

Wikipedia’s approach is collective, not individualistic. To come up with a solution, the community deliberates and seeks a consensus. Those deliberations, ideally, are driven by people far removed from the issues and parties involved. There is a belief in a type of karmic justice for those who try to game the system, which played out in the Axios article. It’s called the Streisand effect, so named in the wake of Barbra Streisand’s attempt to suppress photos of her Malibu home. Her efforts to deny access to those images only created more interest. Imagine a world where the more you try to manipulate the system, the more you are exposed!

By contrast, we know that large social networks respond to manipulations by those who have power and ignore those who don’t. Facebook, for example, fails to hire translators as genocide rages in Myanmar, yet personally apologizes in front of Congress when called out by conservatives for determining that the extreme rhetoric from a pair of Trump supporters, Diamond and Silk, was not safe for its community. Likewise, Twitter’s decision to allow President Trump to break its community standards for harassment and bullying, because as president what he says is newsworthy, is the ultimate example of a two-tiered system.

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has witnessed firsthand how Facebook bends in the face of a powerful critic—herself. Facebook took down a Warren ad for supposed technical violations and then quickly restored it after an uproar. The experience left a bad taste: “You shouldn’t have to contact Facebook’s publicists in order for them to decide to ‘allow robust debate’ about Facebook,” she wrote on Twitter. “They shouldn’t have that much power.”

Perhaps the just-the-facts folks at Wikipedia can teach us all something.

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Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos Each Wrote Exactly 93 Words About Their Divorce. Here's a Truly Stunning Theory About Why They Did It

Jeff and MacKenzie announced the terms of their divorce on Twitter this week in two simultaneous statements. When I wrote about it yesterday, I now think I may have missed something intriguing.

First, the background. It’s fascinating and admirable that the Bezoses worked through their agreement so quickly:

  • MacKenzie keeps 25 percent of their Amazon stock (which works out to something like $35 billion). 
  • Jeff keeps the remaining 75 percent of the Amazon stock, plus the voting power of MacKenzie’s shares, plus their interests in The Washington Post and Blue Origin.

When I wrote yesterday, I pointed out three things that I found unusual — but endearing — in the statements:

  1. They posted the statements almost simultaneously. 
  2. They used the same word, “grateful” twice each, which set the tone of the whole thing in a very positive way.
  3. They each wrote the exact same length: 93 words.

That last detail caught me. Why would they write 93 words each. Could it possibly be a coincidence? Hmmm. 

93 words

I’d only noticed this because I had to retype the statements into a text document. Being a word nerd, I also noticed that MacKenzie Bezos’s statement (embedded at the end of this article) doesn’t include many first person pronouns. 

For example, she writes: “Grateful to have finished the process of dissolving my marriage with Jeff…” instead of “I’m grateful to have finished….”

Actually every sentence is like that. 

I know people sometimes skip first person pronouns, and Twitter is informal, etc. But if she had included all the “I am” clauses, the statements would be uneven. She’d have more than 93 words.

Okay, this was really weird. I didn’t want to be known as a “Bezos Divorce Tweet Truther.” But was there something going on here? Did they agree on 93 words exactly?

And if so, why that number?

September 4, 1993

Then, a reader emailed me with an observation: “the obvious symbolism of the 93 words is they were married in ’93.”

Oh wow. The reader, who didn’t want to be identified, is right at least about the date. The Bezoses were married on September 4, 1993.

I haven’t heard back. I tried [email protected] as well, because why not? But it bounced back.

So I can’t confirm this “93-words-for-1993” theory, obviously. All I can do is put these intriguing facts in front of you, and share what I think of them.

My response is that if it’s true, it’s poignant and beautiful. The writer in me likes to think it’s a communication in a shared voice, going beyond the text itself.

It leaves me thinking about what was, what might have been, and what their relationship will be going forward.

Suspend your disbelief

Suspend your disbelief for just a second. Accept that it’s probably just a coincidence but then allow yourself to imagine what it means if it wasn’t.

Imagine if during the chaos of what could have been one of the most contentious and costliest divorces in history, Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos quickly reached an agreement — not just on the big things, but on the little things, down to the length of their joint statement.

Suspend that disbelief just a bit longer, and ask yourself if it’s possible they chose 93 words for this special, sentimental reason.

Put that with their repeated symmetrical use of the word, “grateful,” and of the repeated phrases in each statement: “friends and co-parents,” and “co-parents an friends.”

Add to it how they both agreed with the language in MacKenzie’s post, where she says she’s “[h]appy to be giving Jeff all of my interests in The Washington Post and Blue Origin and 75% of our Amazon stock.”

Emphasis added there, since this phrasing is instead of Jeff saying he’s giving something to MacKenie, or them both saying they were splitting the assets. It’s MacKenzie giving what she owns to Jeff. That’s powerful.

I’m impressed. I’m a filled with a bit of awe. And, I find myself offering them both condolences and congratulations on the whole situation. 

South Korean, U.S. telcos roll out 5G services early as race heats up

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s three mobile carriers and top U.S. telco Verizon Communications commercially launched 5G services on Wednesday, ahead of their initial schedules, as they rushed for first spot in the race to roll out the latest wireless technology.

People take photographs during a launching ceremony for SK Telecom’s 5G service, in Seoul, South Korea, April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

SK Telecom and two smaller carriers had planned to initially launch 5G in South Korea on Friday with Samsung Electronics’ new 5G-enabled smartphone Galaxy S10.

Verizon was due to roll out the technology in Chicago and Minneapolis on April 11, and said last month customers could use 5G on Motorola’s Z3 and a “Moto Mod”, a physical magnet-like attachment for the phone.

Countries including South Korea, United States, China and Japan are racing to market 5G, hoping the technology will spur breakthrough in fields such as smart cities and autonomous cars.

The technology can offer 20-times faster data speeds than 4G long-term evolution (LTE) networks and better support for artificial intelligence and virtual reality with low latency.

Sometimes it can offer 100-times faster speeds.

South Korea claimed to be the first country to launch 5G, but that was disputed by U.S. carriers who say they rolled out 5G in limited areas as early as last year.

U.S. telco AT&T Inc said it was the first to launch a “commercial and standards-based” 5G network in December 2018. The service, however, was made available to mobile hotspot devices but is not yet on phones.

SK Telecom spokeswoman Irene Kim told Reuters the company had internal discussions and decided to launch the 5G service early as the company had networks and customers ready.

South Korean carriers started offering 5G services at 11 p.m. local time (1400 GMT) on Wednesday.


In South Korea, telcos and smartphone makers are pulling out all stops to market 5G services and devices.

On Wednesday, SK Telecom showed off K-pop stars and an Olympic gold medalist as its first 5G customers.

The company said it was working with its memory-chip making affiliate SK Hynix to build a highly digitized and connected factory powered by 5G technology.

Smaller rival KT Corp said it will offer cheaper 5G plans than its LTE service, with unlimited data and four-year installments to buy 5G devices.

Samsung was the first to unwrap a 5G phone in February when it unveiled the Galaxy S10 5G and a nearly $2,000 folding smartphone, putting the world’s top smartphone maker by volume in pole position in the 5G race, some analysts say.

LG Electronics Inc plans to release its 5G smartphone in South Korea later this month.


While security concerns over 5G networks using telecom equipment made by China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd have marred the buildup to the release of these services, South Korean telcos have tried to shrug them off.

“I don’t think we have a security issue in South Korea,” Park Jin-hyo, head of SK Telecom’s information and communication tech research center, told reporters.

Slideshow (2 Images)

He added the company uses advanced technology to block eavesdropping or hacking into 5G networks.

Among South Korea’s three operators, SK Telecom and KT Corp do not use Huawei equipment for 5G. Smaller carrier LG Uplus Corp uses Huawei gear.

But SK Telecom officials said it was likely there will be an open auction for network equipment makers including Huawei if South Korea needs more base stations for higher frequencies. The country has one of the world’s top smartphone penetration rates.

Reporting by Ju-min Park in Seoul and Kenneth Li in New York; Editing by Diane Craft, Sayantani Ghosh and Himani Sarkar

How Artificial Intelligence Could Humanize Health Care

Using artificial intelligence in health care could actually make medicine more human by giving doctors more time to interact with their patients.

The technology promises to improve health care by making it more effective and speedy by eliminating some of the mundane functions that eat up doctors’ time, said Eric Topol, founder and director of the nonprofit Scripps Research Translational Institute, at Fortune’s Brainstorm Health conference on Tuesday in San Diego. Machine learning could free doctors from having to type medical information into patient files while also helping give patients better access to their personal data.

“All that effort can then get us to what we’ve been missing for decades now, which is the true care in health care,” Topol said.

Topol’s vision is the topic of his new book, Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again. To achieve this optimistic future, he said the health care industry must aggressively adopt artificial intelligence.

Beyond humanizing health care, deep learning, a type of artificial intelligence, can also reduce human error and help doctors make better decisions, Topol said.

Radiologists falsely clear patients of disease 32% of the time, Topol said. Meanwhile, gastroenterologists regularly miss small polyps that are just as pre-cancerous as larger ones.

“We have to fess up to how bad things are now,” Topol said. “All these things can be improved by deep learning and machine vision.”

Artificial intelligence also opens the door to new discoveries, crunching massive amounts of data both from patients and medical literature that would have been too onerous for a human to review. This would allow doctors to provide more individualized care for patients such as a diet that is more likely to succeed based on a patient’s body type. It also could lead to improved wearable technology and innovations like virtual medical coaches that give patients health advice.

Combining all of these things, artificial intelligence could improve an industry burdened by doctor burnout, early retirement, and a growing feeling that enrolling in medical school is a bad idea.

“What we need is some hope,” Topol said. “It’s reassuring that we have a path, that if we work on it hard, we might get there.”

For more coverage of Fortune’s Brainstorm Health conference, click here. For news delivered daily to your inbox, subscribe to Fortune’s Brainstorm Health Daily newsletter.

AT&T's Cash Cow Is Changing

AT&T (T), as one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, is a large and complicated enterprise. It has multiple operating segments, some of which have multiple sub-segments, which make up the enterprise, and each of these are important to the firm, its future prospects, and its shareholders. When you really drill down deep into the business though, while it really is an aggregation of smaller (but still very large) firms, the core of what makes AT&T the behemoth it is today is also its largest cash cow: Mobility. In recent years, growth there has been essentially non-existent, but that’s only at face value. When you consider the paradigm shift taking place in the industry, it becomes clear that growth for the business should resume, but it will take a little time.

Mobility is significant

Mobility is, in the simplest terms I can conjure, AT&T’s sub-segment listed under its Communications segment that offers customers across the US with wireless services and related equipment. If you envision AT&T as primarily a cellphone and cellphone services provider, then Mobility is precisely what you’re thinking of and your thought process would be correct. While Communications as a whole would make for an interesting discussion, though, my primary emphasis in this piece is to discuss Mobility specifically.

Over the past few years, anybody looking at Mobility’s revenue would be certainly underwhelmed. Sales back in 2016 came in at $72.59 billion. They dropped modestly to $71.09 billion in 2017 before ticking up to $71.34 billion last year. Though technically down over this three-year period, the extent of the decline is such that it’s about the same as saying sales are essentially flat.

Created by Author

What’s really interesting about these revenue figures is how they break down on a service vs. equipment basis. Service sales have dropped materially since 2016, declining from $59.15 billion then to $54.93 billion today. Equipment sales have mostly made up for this, soaring from $13.44 billion to $16.41 billion. Though this may seem odd, I’ll explain later in this article why this likely is.

On the bottom line, things are going quite well for AT&T’s Mobility operations. Segment profits have actually ticked up, rising from $20.74 billion in 2016 to $21.72 billion last year. On a margin basis, this translates to improvement over time, with the segment profit margin climbing from 28.6% in 2016 to 30.4% as of last year. What’s really remarkable about Mobility is the fact that, despite it accounting for just 41.2% of the company’s overall revenue during 2018, it accounted for an impressive 56.3% of the business’s segment profits and for 67.3% of AT&T’s Communications segment’s profits. Given how integral this is to the business, there’s no doubt in my mind that you can consider Mobility to be a cash cow.

The picture is distorted

Sometimes when you look at a company’s financials, the first glance gives a great view of how things really are going, while other times the picture is distorted. AT&T is a case of the latter. If you looked solely at sales, and even segment profits, you would think the business has stagnated and that, perhaps, the future will be worse (or at least no better) than the past. This thought might be strengthened, even, for investors who look at AT&T’s wireless subscriber count and see that from 2016 to 2018 it fell from 77.37 million accounts to 76.89 million.

Created by Author

When you really dig deep, though, you see that the composition of these wireless subscribers is looking favorable for the company long-term. Between 2016 and 2017, for instance, the business saw the number of postpaid smartphone subscribers rise 2.7% from 59.10 million to 60.71 million. Its postpaid feature phone subscribers, meanwhile, were responsible for the decline, falling 11.5% from 18.28 million to 16.18 million. The difference between smartphone and feature phone subscribers is that the latter are those customers who own a cheaper phone, one with limited functionality but that comes at a budget price point. What this trend indicates is that more and more consumers are shifting toward the premium smartphone market and away from cheaper alternatives.

In the past, I have written about the Connected Devices operations within the Mobility sub-segment and those too are undeniably helpful for the firm’s operations, both now and for the future. Because I have dug into that area before, though, I will not rehash those details here, but will refer you to my latest article on the topic. Outside of Connected Devices and postpaid smartphones, however, another hot market for AT&T is the prepaid side. The company’s subscriber count there grew much higher between 2016 and 2018, climbing 25.6% from 13.54 million to 17 million. Should this trend continue as well, it will help to offset the decline in prepaid feature phone subscribers.

This brings me back now to the company’s service revenue vs. its equipment revenue. Equipment revenue is rising for two reasons. The first, according to management, was a change in accounting principles that affected how it recognizes sales from bundled contracts, and the second was due to the sale of higher prices. As fewer featured phone subscribers exist and shift more toward smartphones, a trend that is simply inevitable, this should continue. On the service side, the firm benefited from higher prepaid service revenues, but what more than offset these sales increases were shifts toward more unlimited plans by customers, combined with an accounting policy change that affected the picture in a negative way for Mobility to the tune of $1.74 billion in 2018 compared to 2017.


Right now, the picture facing AT&T’s Mobility operations is complex and multi-faceted, but contrary to potential concerns that the company’s core business, its cash cow if you will, is doing poorly, we have data that suggests that the issues in recent years can be chalked up largely to one-time changes and a shift of consumers to unlimited plans and away from low-priced phones and toward higher-priced ones. As postpaid feature customers wind down, negative pressure on Mobility’s sales will ease and the sub-segment should benefit not only from its higher-margin activities, but also from the new sales mix that will lead it into the future. For long-term investors, this looks set to create a bullish scenario for the firm, but it will require a great deal of patience and a true long-term mindset.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Facebook Had a Busy Weekend, From News Feed to Livestream Changes

While millions of Americans were enjoying a warm spring weekend, Facebook employees were hard at work responding to an avalanche of news about their company. After an already busy week for the social media platform—including a lawsuit from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as a policy change regarding white nationalist and separationist content—five major Facebook stories broke over the last few days, including a Washington Post op-ed in which CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls for the social network to be regulated. Here’s what you need to know to get caught up.

Facebook Explores Restricting Who Can Livestream

The torrent of Facebook news began Friday, when COO Sheryl Sandberg said the company was “exploring restrictions on who can go Live depending on factors such as prior Community Standard violations.” The decision came less than three weeks after a terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed 50 people was livestreamed on Facebook. The social network, as well as other companies like YouTube, struggled to stop the shooter’s video from being reuploaded and redistributed on their platforms.

In 2016, Zuckerberg said that live video would “create new opportunities for people to come together.” Around the same time, the company invested millions of dollars to encourage publishers like Buzzfeed to experiment with Facebook Live. The feature provided an unedited, real-time window into events like police shootings, but it was also repeatedly used to broadcast disturbing events. After the Christchurch attack, Facebook is now reexamining who should have the ability to share live video, which has proven difficult for the company to moderate effectively.

Sandberg also said Facebook will research building better technology to “quickly identify edited versions of violent videos and images and prevent people from re-sharing these versions.” She added that Facebook had identified over 900 different variations of the Christchurch shooter’s original livestream. Sandberg made her announcement in a blog post published not to the Facebook Newsroom but to Instagram’s Info Center, indicating Facebook wants its subsidiaries to appear more unified.

Old Zuckerberg Blog Posts Disappear

Also on Friday, Business Insider reported that years of Zuckerberg’s public writings had mysteriously disappeared, “obscuring details about core moments in Facebook’s history.” The missing trove included everything the CEO wrote in 2007 and 2008, as well as more recent announcements, like the blog post Zuckerberg penned in 2012 when Facebook acquired Instagram.

Facebook said that the posts were mistakenly deleted as the result of technical errors. “The work required to restore them would have been extensive and not guaranteed, so we didn’t do it,” a spokesperson for the company told Business Insider. They added that they didn’t know exactly how many posts were lost in total.

This isn’t the first time Zuckerberg’s content has gone missing from Facebook. Last April, TechCrunch reported that some of the CEO’s messages were erased from people’s private inboxes. (Facebook later extended an “unsend” feature to all Facebook Messenger users.) And in 2016, “around 10” Zuckerberg blog posts also disappeared from the social network. The deletion was similarly blamed on a technical error, but in that case the blogs were later restored.

Zuckerberg Calls for Regulation in Four Areas

In an interview with WIRED last month, Zuckerberg said, “There are some really nuanced questions … about how to regulate, which I think are extremely interesting intellectually.” On Saturday, the Facebook CEO expanded on that idea in an opinion piece published in The Washington Post. “I believe we need a more active role for governments and regulators,” Zuckerberg wrote, calling for new regulation in four particular areas: harmful content, election integrity, privacy, and data portability.

In the piece, Zuckerberg acknowledged that he believes his company has too much power when it comes to regulating speech on the internet. He also mentioned Facebook’s new independent oversight board, which will decide on cases where users have appealed the content decisions made by Facebook’s moderators. (On Monday, Facebook announced it was soliciting public feedback about the new process.)

Zuckerberg also said the rest of the world should adopt comprehensive privacy legislation similar to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation that went into effect last year. There’s currently no modern privacy law in the United States, though California passed a strong privacy bill last summer, which Facebook originally opposed. Now a number of lawmakers, and lobbyists, are jockeying to get a federal privacy law in place before the state-level rules take effect next year.

The op-ed arrives as Facebook faces a looming Federal Trade Commission investigation over alleged privacy violations. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have also recently expressed an interest in regulating or even breaking up the social media giant. Zuckerberg’s op-ed provides a sketch of the kind of regulation that his company would be comfortable adopting. Some critics have also argued that legislation like GDPR can strengthen the dominant position of companies like Facebook and Google.

Facebook Opens Up About How News Feed Works

How Facebook chooses what content to feature in the News Feed has consistently remained mostly a mystery. As Will Oremus wrote last week in Slate, “For all of Facebook’s efforts to improve its news feed over the years, the social network remains as capricious and opaque an information source as ever.”

But on Sunday evening, Facebook quietly announced that it will begin revealing more about why users see one post over another when they scroll through their feeds. The company will soon launch a “Why am I seeing this post?” button, similar to the one it launched in 2014 for advertisements. It will begin rolling out this week and will be available for all Facebook users by the middle of May, according to Buzzfeed.

“This is the first time that we’ve built information on how ranking works directly into the app,” Ramya Sethuraman, a product manager at Facebook, wrote in a blog post. The new feature might tell users, for example, that they’re seeing a post because they are friends with someone on Facebook or because they joined a specific group. But the button will also provide more granular information, such as telling users they’re seeing a specific photo because they’ve “commented on posts with photos more than other media types.”

Facebook is also making updates to its preexisting “Why am I seeing this ad?” button. It will now tell users when an advertiser has uploaded their contact information to Facebook. In addition, it will show users when advertisers work with third-party marketing firms. For example, an ad for a shoe company might reveal the name of the marketing agency it hired to sell its new sandals.

Pivot to Paying Publishers?

On Monday morning, Zuckerberg suggested he might create a new section of Facebook dedicated to “high-quality news.” Details are scarce, but it may feature content Facebook pays publishers directly to share. The remarks were made during an interview Zuckerberg did with European media executive Mathias Döpfner, which the CEO posted to his personal Facebook page. The announcement comes a year after Facebook said it would begin deprioritizing news stories in its News Feed in favor of content from friends and family.

Last week, Apple announced it was launching a $10 per month paid news aggregation service called News+ (it features content from WIRED). But unlike Apple, Facebook doesn’t appear to be getting into the subscription business. “We’re coming to this from a very different perspective than I think some of the other players in the space who view news as a way that they want to maximize their revenue. That’s not necessarily the way that we’re thinking about this,” Zuckerberg said in the interview.

Facebook’s earlier attempts to partner with media organizations have been a mixed bag. The social network also previously explored creating a dedicated feed for publishers but abandoned the project. Without knowing more, it remains to be seen what, if anything, is going be different this time.

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South Korea's burned out millennials chose YouTube over Samsung

SEOUL (Reuters) – Yoon Chang-hyun’s parents told him to get his sanity checked when he quit his secure job as a researcher at Samsung Electronics Co in 2015 to start his own YouTube channel.

Yoon Chang-hyun works on his Youtube clip in Seongnam, South Korea, February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

The 65 million won ($57,619) a year salary – triple South Korea’s average entry level wage – plus top-notch healthcare and other benefits offered by the world’s biggest smartphone and memory chip maker was the envy of many college graduates.

But burned out and disillusioned by repeated night shifts, narrowing opportunities for promotion and skyrocketing property prices that have pushed home ownership out of reach, the then 32-year old Yoon gave it all up in favor of an uncertain career as an internet content provider.

Yoon is among a growing wave of South Korean millennials ditching stable white collar jobs, even as unemployment spikes and millions of others still fight to get into the powerful, family-controlled conglomerates known as chaebol.

Some young Koreans are also moving out of city for farming or taking blue collar jobs abroad, shunning their society’s traditional measures of success – well-paid office work, raising a family and buying an apartment.

“I got asked a lot if I had gone crazy,” Yoon said. “But I’d quit again if I go back. My bosses didn’t look happy. They were overworked, lonely…”

Yoon now runs a YouTube channel about pursuing dream jobs and is supporting himself from his savings.

Samsung Electronics declined to comment for this article.

Chaebols such as Samsung and Hyundai powered South Korea’s dramatic rise from the ashes of the 1950-53 war into Asia’s fourth-largest economy in less than a generation. Well-paid, secure jobs provided a gateway to the middle-class for many baby boomers.

But with economic growth stagnating and competition from lower cost producers weighing on wages, even milliennials who graduated from top universities and secured chaebol jobs say they are less inclined to try to fulfill society’s expectations.

Similar issues among younger workers are being seen globally. However, South Korea’s strict hierarchical corporate culture and oversupply of college graduates with homogeneous skills make the problem worse, says Ban Ga-woon, a labor market researcher at state-run Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education & Training.

South Koreans had the shortest job tenure among member countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as of 2012, just 6.6 years compared to the average of 9.4 years and 11.5 years in neighboring Japan.

The same survey also showed barely 55 percent of South Koreans were satisfied with their jobs, the lowest rate in the OECD.

This January, ‘quitting jobs’ appeared on the nation’s top 10 new year resolution list on major social media sites.


Some workers are even going back to school to learn how to do just that.

A small three-classroom campus in southern Seoul, named “School of Quitting Jobs”, has attracted over 7,000 attendees since opening in 2016, founder Jang Su-han told Reuters.

The 34-year-old Jang, who himself quit Samsung Electronics in 2015 to launch the school, said it now offers about 50 courses, including classes on how-to-YouTube, manage an identity crisis, and how to brainstorm a Plan B.

The school’s rules are displayed at its entrance: “Don’t tell your bosses, say nothing even if you run into a colleague, and never get caught until your graduation.”

“There is strong demand for identity-related courses, as so many of us were too busy with cram schools to seriously think about what we want to do when were teenagers,” he said.

To be sure, the lure of a prestigious chaebol job remains strong, especially with the country mired in its worst job slump since 2009 and youth joblessness near a record high.

Samsung Electronics is still the most desired workplace for graduates as of 2019, a survey of 1,040 job seekers by Saramin, a job portal, showed in February.

However, many entering the workforce are much less willing to accept the long hours or mandatory drinking sessions synonymous with the country’s hierarchical, cutthroat corporate life, says Duncan Harrison, country head of London-based recruitment agency Robert Walters Plc.

“The mindset of people entering the workforce is very different from past generations,” Harrison said.


Among elementary school students, YouTube creator is now the fifth-ranked dream job, behind being a sports star, school teacher, doctor or a chef, a 2018 government poll showed.

Some are choosing a simpler life in the country.

Between 2013 and 2017, South Korea saw a 24 percent increase in the number of households who ditched city life for farming – more than 12,000 in total.

And in the face of dwindling opportunities at home, nearly 5,800 people also went abroad for jobs last year using government-subsidized programs, more than tripling from 2013, according to government data.

Others left without support or new jobs lined up.

Slideshow (7 Images)

Plant engineer Cho Seung-duk bought one-way tickets to Australia in December with his wife and two kids.

“I don’t think my son could get jobs like mine in South Korea,” said 37 year-old Cho, who moved from Hyundai Engineering & Construction to another top construction firm in 2015 before he emigrated.

“I will probably clean offices in Brisbane, but that’s ok.”

Reporting by Cynthia Kim; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Lincoln Feast

Alphabet: 3 Reasons Why You Should Still Buy The Stock

We are currently in the process of moving into a larger office space and finding furniture that will give the new office the look and feel we are going for. Naturally, I searched for different design options by googling office furniture using my Chrome Browser. Now, I can’t get rid of all of the office furniture ads that pop up regardless of what website I am visiting. That’s Google at work.

The fact that I now use the word Google as a noun, and that I personally rely on it like I rely on my eyes to see, is a testament to how embedded in our lives Google and googling has become. (I’m not even getting a spelling correction suggestion on the word ‘googling’)

We know the company changed its name to Alphabet (GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) a few years ago, but Google still makes up the majority of its revenues and profits, despite its alphabet soup of different products and services. Most of the ‘Other Bets’ are long shot investments with lots of idealistic upside potential but most of which will fail or fail to make much of an impact to the overall business. Luckily for Google, they have $100 billion in cash that allows them a few more than three strikeouts per inning as they swing for the fences. Investors that got in early have profited handsomely from its dominance of the search and ad business, but is it too late for anyone that missed the boat the first time?

If you haven’t invested in Alphabet yet and think it might be too late, think again. Here are several reasons why we think the company is still a Buy.


The company has $100 billion in cash and that can go a long way to finding the ‘next big thing’. It is focusing its efforts on the following:

  • Research and Development spending alone is more than the market cap of the largest mid-cap company. Last year, the company spent $21 billion in R&D, primarily to capitalize on new trends like virtual reality, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, machine learning, 5G and quantum computing. With $100 billion in cash currently on the balance sheet, it could afford to invest aggressively even if many of the investments fall short of expectations. One home run puts the company on track for another long run.
  • Hardware – The company is increasing its presence in hardware to manufacture its devices end-to-end, in response to preempt the threat of rising costs from 3rd party hardware manufacturers and ensure a seamless integration between its hardware and software. The Pixel, which is built on a lean, strong, non-bloated, version of Android, is a good machine and could lead to more direct competition with Samsung (OTC:SSNLF), potentially creating an Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)-like opportunity for Alphabet. Do not discount the possibility that Alphabet gets heavier into hardware and potentially spins out such a company.
  • Cloud – Google’s huge presence in the cloud industry lets it to tap into the growing markets within the cloud space. The cloud computing market is estimated to be worth $623.3 billion by 2023 and the cloud storage market to be worth $88.91 billion by 2022. It has the opportunity to expand the Google Cloud business in the enterprise market over the next 3 to 5 years. There is an opportunity to capture market share and the market will likely continue to grow to accommodate IoT, edge computing and the “smart everything” world.


  • Asia Pacific – According to analyst estimates, the Indian and Southeast Asian e-commerce market is expected to reach $150 billion by 2022 and $240 billion by 2025, respectively. And growth in Indian digital commerce is a huge opportunity for payment processing and the industry is expected to reach $1+ trillion by 2025. Google launched mobile payments platform Tez in India in September 2017. The payments industry is also expected to reach $200 billion in Southeast Asia. With Google having established a presence in these nascent markets, it is well positioned to take advantage of a significant revenue opportunity.
  • Shared Mobility – Shared mobility market is estimated to be worth $619.51 billion by 2025 with a CAGR of 25.1% (of which Autonomous driving is estimated to be reach $556.67 billion by 2026 with a CAGR of 39.47%). Alphabet is considered to be the market leader with its offerings for autonomous driving and can establish itself as a major player in this space.

Online Search

Online Search and Advertising – Last but not least, Alphabet is still the leader in online advertising, deriving 87% of its revenue from online advertising. This revenue has been growing at a strong double-digit pace, which is driving double-digit earnings growth and is expected to continue to do so for at least five more years. The word Google is now commonly used as a verb when people have a question about something or are debating the facts about a topic. “Let me google it” is the de facto solution – the judge, the correct answer. The company’s 92.2% market share for internet search, including video content through YouTube, mobile OS, and internet search engines, is almost insulting to competitors considering how hard they are trying to steal market share. It has also launched Shopping Actions in an attempt to regain some of its control over product searches that have migrated to platforms like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). Shopping Actions is a tool that integrates the retail experience across Google’s platforms (including mobile, desktop, and voice-powered devices). Early tests suggest that the project is increasing online shopping cart sizes by as much as 30%.

Google search technology is also contracted out to major online services and communications companies, giving it a massive moat that no competitor is close to challenging short term.

YouTube is a popular video viewing site with one billion hours viewed daily. That equates to 115,000 years of videos viewed daily. That large amount of viewership attracts advertisers to the site. And YouTube has entered the pay space which is directed at “cord cutters” and is now generating subscription revenue.

And let’s not forget the company’s database of information on all of us. It is overwhelming and would cost tens or hundreds of billions to replicate and could take years if not decades.

Return on Equity

But wait, there’s more. Many readers are familiar with Warren Buffett and his focus on Return of Equity. After all, if you’re buying the stock, you’re interested in the return you’re getting for investing in the equity of that company, right?

What strikes me as remarkable about the ROE for Alphabet is both it’s sustained level in the mid-teens and the remarkable consistency it has maintained over the last 5-6 years – especially for a mature Technology company. The analysis below indicates that ROE has fluctuated between 13% and 17% over the last 7 years with a only a brief dip into the high single digits in 2017.

The consistency has been pervasive throughout its business, and using the DuPont analysis, we see that all three drivers of ROE have been steady as well. Only profit margin decreased in 2017, which is why the ROE dropped to just over 8%. But other than that, financial leverage has remained in a tight range between 1.2 and 1.31. Asset Turnover has ranged from 0.49 to 0.59. And profit margins are consistently in the low 20s – except for 2017.


After a 16% annualized return over the last 5 years, you might think the stock is due for a pause. But EPS is expected to grow by 6% in 2019 and then 17% in 2020. At a normalized PE ratio of 29, the stock would be trading at a price of over $1,325, a 13% gain at the time of this writing. If EPS growth of 17% in 2020 comes to fruition, the price is likely to break through $1,500 – and that is a conservative estimate based on no new home runs playing out in the short term.

According to 43 analysts providing price targets, Google is trading below even the most conservative target of $1,250 and well below the high estimate of $1,435. We rate the stock a strong buy.

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Disclosure: I am/we are long GOOG. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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3 Monthly Dividend Stocks Beating The Market In 2019, 7% To 9% Yields, Insiders Buying, No K-1s

Last week we covered 3 high yield stocks which had been left behind by the market in 2019. This week we’re checking out 3 high yielders which have outperformed the market in 2019.

All 3 of them are vehicles from Gladstone Corp: Gladstone Investment Corp., (GAIN), and Gladstone Capital Corp., (GLAD), are business development companies, while Gladstone Commercial Corp., (GOOD), is a REIT.

GAIN focuses on acquiring mature, lower middle market companies with $20 to $100 million in revenue, whereas GLAD was one of the earliest BDCs and focuses on investing in loans to lower middle market businesses.

GOOD invests in and owns net leased industrial, commercial and retail real property and selectively makes long-term industrial and commercial mortgage loans.

All 3 have benefited from an increasingly dovish Fed, with very good price performance so far in 2019, with GAIN leading the pack, at 25.75%, followed by GLAD, at 23.29%, and GOOD, at 15.46%, vs. 12.05% for the S&P 500.

GAIN and GOOD have also outperformed over the past half-year and 1-year periods, while GLAD has underperformed:

Dividends/ Distributions:

All 3 companies distribute monthly dividends, and go ex-dividend ~ the middle of the month, with pay dates near the end of the month.

The dividend payout ratios are based upon net investment income – NII – for GAIN and GLAD, and Funds From Operations – FFO – for GOOD, since it’s a REIT.

GLAD currently has the highest yield, at 9.32%, followed by GOOD, at 7.16%, and GAIN, at 6.97%.

GAIN has a much lower payout ratio than the other 2, at ~29%, and the best 5-year dividend growth rate, at 6.55%.


GAIN’s 2018 payouts were classified as 75.42% ordinary dividends, with the balance being capital gain dividends and qualified dividend income.

GLAD’s 2018 payouts were classified as 97.8% ordinary dividends, with the balance being classified as qualified dividends.

GOOD’s 2018 payouts were classified as 75.52% Return of Capital, with the balance characterized as an ordinary dividend.


GAIN had 6.6% growth in total investment income, but its net investment income dove -77.82%, due to higher expenses, including ~$13M in higher incentive fees, $2.5M in higher interest expenses, and ~$1.4M in added G&A expenses. Its NAV/share rose by 20.83% in calendar year 2018, to $12.53.

GAIN’s most recent fiscal year ended on 3/30/18, so we assembled calendar years 2018 vs. 2017 figures.

Note: All of the figures in the following 3 tables are in $ millions, excepting NAV/Share.)

GLAD, whose fiscal year ended on 9/30/19, had better growth figures for total and net investment income, with 16.19% and 7.75% respectively. For the calendar year of 2018, its NAV/share declined by -5.9%, to $7.98, vs. $8.48 at 12/31/17:

GOOD, the REIT in this group, reports on a calendar year basis, had revenue growth of 12.66%, and big net income growth of 119.78%. FFO also had a healthy gain of 12.21%:


All 3 companies have a fairly recent history of insider buying. These 3 insider buying tables are sourced from Finviz.

GAIN’s management took advantage of the general market pullback in Q4 ’18, and bought 8500 shares:

GLAD’s management made similar moves in Q4 ’18, and bought over 32,000 shares:

Meanwhile, GOOD’s management has kept the buying spree going into March ’19, but at a more modest pace than the other 2 companies’ 2018 purchases. GOOD’s president Robert Cutlip has amassed over 48,000 shares. Nice to see management with skin in the game.


BDC’s GAIN and GLAD are both selling at valuations slightly higher than Book Value, at 1.08X and 1.13X respectively. GAIN shows a much lower Price/Net Investment Income – NII – of 4.66, while GLAD comes in at 8.55, nearly twice as high. Their trailing P/Es vary widely, with GLAD showing 29.10, vs. 3.79 for GAIN.

GOOD shows a trailing Price/FFO of 13.25, with a higher Price/Book of 2.5X, and a similar Price/Sales of 6.04X.

Analysts’ Price Targets:

GAIN also has the biggest upside spread vs. analysts’ average price targets, at 5.21%, vs. 3.63% for GOOD and -8.1% for GLAD.


GAIN wins the race over GLAD in the Financials category also, with a higher ROA, ROE, and Operating Margin, and slightly lower debt leverage.

GOOD’s ROA of 2.39%, ROE of 3.57%, and 33.50% Operating Margin compares well vs. broad diversified REIT averages of 1.18%, 2.82%, and 23.75% respectively. Its Debt/Equity of 1.67 is also lower than industry averages of 2.77.


All 3 of these vehicles have options available, with GOOD’s cash secured put options being the most interesting.

We added this September trade to our free Cash Secured Puts Table, where you can see more details for it, and over 35 other put-selling trades, all of which are updated throughout each trading day.

GOOD’s September $20.00 put pays a bid of $.65, which is $.10 below its total monthly dividends during this 6-month period. It has a breakeven of $19.35.

If you’re new to options selling, we have an Options Investing Glossary which defines the terms you’ll encounter in this type of trading.


We rate GAIN a Buy, based upon its lower valuations, better payout ratio, and bigger upside variance to the average price target. There are also preferred shares and exchange-traded notes for GLAD and GOOD.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, but may initiate a long position in GAIN over the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: CLARIFICATION: Our legacy website, www.DoubleDividendStocks.com, has focused on options-selling for high dividend stocks, for the past 10 years.

Will Robots Take Over Your Job? Take This 1-Question Quiz to Find Out

The robots are coming! What once seemed like a dystopian novel is seeming more like reality by the day.

A quarter of jobs in the U.S. stand to be disrupted by artificial intelligence, a recent report from the Brookings Institution found. Kai-Fu Lee, a leading A.I. researcher, investor, and computer scientist estimates that in the next 15 years, up to 40 percent of jobs could be replaced by algorithms, robots, and other types of artificial intelligence.

Lee offers a multi-question quiz on his website to determine if your job might be at risk. But really, it can all be boiled down into one simple question.

How repetitive is your day-to-day work?

In A.I. in 60 Seconds, Lee explains that A.I. is limited to doing the same things over and over again. “Within a single domain, A.I. is able to take tasks from our everyday jobs that are routine and repetitive and do them in a better way than we humans can do.”

The more repetitive and routine your work, the more likely it will be taken over by A.I. Here’s another way to look at it, from a New Yorker piece titled Are Robots Competing For Your Job?: “If your job can be easily explained, it can be automated,” Anders Sandberg, of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, tells Oppenheimer. “If it can’t, it won’t.”

What can you do that A.I. can’t?

While A.I. can do many things well, Lee reminds us that there are many things it can’t do so well. Your human brain give you a competitive advantage.

A.I. isn’t creative. It can’t think strategically. It doesn’t plan. And above all, it can’t have compassion or emotional intelligence. If you’re worried about your job being taken over by robots, Lee encourages you to zero in on how you can enhance and improve the skills that A.I. will never be able to gain. Try to figure out how to stop doing low value work or automate that work yourself.

Economist Richard Baldwin agrees. He advises that instead of trying to compete with A.I., let the robots do their thing. Focus your attention on building your in-person human skills, such as improving communication, developing insights, and effectively collaborating with other people at work. “Realize that humanity is an edge not a handicap,” he told the New Yorker.

Creativity is one of the most in-demand soft skills.

LinkedIn recently analyzed 50,000 professional skills that appear in its job postings. It used the data to determine the most in-demand job skills employers are looking for.

Creativity was the top soft skill that appeared again and again in job postings. Across hard skills and soft skills, it was still number two overall.

“It’s no stretch to say creativity is the single-most important skill in the world for all business professionals today to master,” LinkedIn concluded.