Fake News: Social Media’s Jump The Shark Moment

For those not familiar with the term, it’s just a different way to say: “Stick a fork in it – it’s done!”

It comes from a scene during a once heralded television series called Happy Days (1974-84 on ABC™.) In this episode one of the main characters (Fonzie) literally water-skis and jumps over a pen containing a shark. So ridiculous was the scene along with its premise. As soon as it was over the collective viewing audience instinctively knew the same: This show is sooo over. Hence its now near immortal moniker to mark that moment in time when you know – “It’s over.” Much like when you watch any recent Madonna performance.

I believe social media has just had its “moment.” And “fake news” was it. Again, let’s use the description one would find doing any internet search for the definition of the phrase “jump the shark.” To wit:

“Reach a point at which far-fetched events are included merely for the sake of novelty, indicative of a decline in quality.”

Welcome to social media’s moment. Only this time – I think the shark wins.

Over and over we hear about social’s “impact,” what it can do better than any mere mortal when it comes to customer interaction, engagement, blah, blah, blah. Yet, when it comes to proof where that claim should be able to put any naysayers such as myself to rest? Not only does it not. It shows more vividly the claims, “We can deliver X better than Y!” are nothing more than smoke-and-mirrors.

If they weren’t? Do you believe the largest ad buyer in the world would pull ad dollars from what social has professed as social media’s raison d’être? i.e., They can supply metrics that know your customer better than they know themselves, which you can then use and make money with. Especially from the company everyone states does this better than anyone else? (e.g., Facebook™.)

Companies don’t pull money from ad buys that are working. Especially in this current economic climate. Yet – that’s precisely what the largest in the world had done. And what was worse? It increased its total ad budget, just not with them. Let that sink in, for there’s just as much to ponder between-the-lines, as there is to ponder about many a social’s already feeble bottom-line will be in the future.

Let’s consider another conundrum that the social-media-space has yet to fully comprehend. And it is this:

If “fake news” had the power to not only reach millions upon millions, but also had the power and effectiveness to alter their viewpoints to the extent that it swayed an election from the all but assured candidate to the other? How can any company, let alone any social media site openly state that its desire in both policy, as well as enforcement will now be to alienate such a massive portion of its users, and argue (or better yet, allow the obvious to remain unsaid or ignored) that it won’t effect the bottom line? Unless…

To paraphrase the “jump the shark” reference: Far fetched ideas or events are now the only ploy left available to keep the storyline alive and “investors” invested in it. Both figuratively, as well as literally. And speaking of staying “invested…”

I watch, read, and hear one Silicon Valley aficionado after another make statements when it comes to “everything social” that this space, as well as the current players in it, “Have the potential to do nothing but grow.”

When asked about the current valuations of a company like Facebook™(FB) for example? All you’ll hear are accolades such as “How the stock price has so much more room to run.” This is only made ever-the-louder when the next-in-rotation fund manager echoes the same. Sounds great. However…

If that is so true: Then why was Mr. Zuckerberg over the summer willing to jettison mostly all of his shares in the company and move into politics? You know, as is screamed at me all the time – if social has so much more “upside?”

Can you imagine such a revelation from let’s say, a Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison etc., etc? Hint: Hardly.

For many of you, welcome to what may be your first “Wait…what?” moment when it comes to “everything social.” I’ll just add this: Trust me – it won’t be your last.

I found it laughable that while all the perfunctory statements came blazing across the media in response to the latest boogeyman now known as “fake news” within social media. The very real story that earlier this year Mark Zuckerberg was looking for a way to basically cash-out, and move onto something different fell upon many a deaf ear. Especially the ears of Silicon Valley itself.

Say it isn’t so? Fair enough – don’t take my word for it. Here’s how it was reported via Bloomberg™. To wit:

“Bowles, former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and past president of the University of North Carolina system, was especially skeptical of Zuckerberg’s proposition, as depicted in the suit. Many of Andreessen’s texts focused on persuading him. Among other things, Bowles worried that one of the concessions Zuckerberg wanted — to allow the billionaire to serve two years in government without losing control of Facebook — would look particularly irresponsible, according to court filings.”

And just a tad more, you know, “for context.” Once again, to wit:

“Andreessen texted Zuckerberg in early March ahead of a call with the committee, telling him he would have to figure out “how to define the gov’t service thing without freaking out shareholders that you are losing commitment.””

“Andreessen sought to persuade Bowles that if Zuckerberg went into politics, the government would likely require him to give up control of Facebook anyway, so the point was moot, according to the documents. A couple of weeks later, Andreessen prevailed, and the vote was brought to shareholders. (The stock reclassification is on hold pending the results of the lawsuit, though.)”

So, what is “real” and what is “fake?” Mark Zuckerberg’s now newly found commitment (or better said: commitment because he’s now stuck?) to rid FB of “fake news” since it seems pretty obvious by my reading (and opinion) he was looking for ways to get-out himself?

Or, FB (and the entire social media complex) is going to forcibly be made to come to grips with the almost undeniable conclusion: It’s going the way of AOL sooner, rather than later? And “fake news” was its “jump the shark” moment in history.

If you want further clues? Hint: Look to the stock price movements of not only Twitter™, but also, the IPO to save the IPO world Twillio™, and the IPO shopping not heard round the world because it was felt needed to be kept as “confidential” e.g., SnapChat™.

Yep – it sure is different this time, yes?

Again, don’t take my word for it. As I always say to paraphrase one of my figurative mentors Andrew Carnegie: “The older I get, the less I pay attention to what people say, and the more I watch what they do.”

What can a person reasonably infer as demonstrated by Mr. Zuckerberg’s own actions? As I like to say – think about it.

Just to remind you, from the above quote: “Andreessen sought to persuade Bowles that if Zuckerberg went into politics, the government would likely require him to give up control of Facebook anyway, so the point was moot, according to the documents.”

Seems pretty clear that Mr. Andreessen understood the implications, for he is reported to make precisely that a point. i.e., Would have to give up FB control. And here we’re suppose to believe FB has, was, and still is Mark’s first and only concern? Is that “real?” Or “fake?” I believe that’s a far more important (and far better) question.

I wonder how the Swiss National Bank feels about such a revelation? i.e., Not only owning more shares of FB than Mark (e.g., $129 BILLION worth by last reports,) but that Mark was looking for ways into leaving them possibly holding the entire “bag?” Is that a very “real” possibility? Or, Is that just “fake news?” As I iterated earlier: Read the above article for yourself and draw your own conclusions. And about those “conclusions…”

Let’s not leave out all those still waiting on their own “IPO cash-out-to-riches moment.” You know, since 2016 didn’t work out as it was all but assured. Even as the “markets” print ever-increasing “all time highs.” Yet, I guess there’s always “hope.” After all, Microsoft™ is always looking for bargains, right?

But I digress.

© 2016 Mark St.Cyr