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Live on Facebook

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Right now, as I write in early July, Facebook Live is hot — but probably not in the way Facebook wanted it to be. Being used to live stream the shooting death of a motorist in Minnesota is not a prized publicity coup.

But I’m not here to talk about that. There’s plenty of people to do that, including my daughter the minister, who is busy closing highways in St. Paul in protest. Anyway, let’s talk about the Facebook Live phenomenon.

I have to admit that I haven’t tried it. Perhaps my phone is too old (after all, it’s been more than two years) but it doesn’t show up in my “What’s on your mind?” box. Maybe Facebook really doesn’t want to know.

C’mon, Smile

Facebook doesn’t seem to be happy merely being a dominant advertising giant (along with almighty Google) at 20% of mobile ad revenue; it wants to be your news source, as well. Although Live was rolled out as a way to share things with your friends, it looked like more than that, even before the controversy over the above video.

Faced with a recurrent foe in Twitter in the “what’s NOW” category, last March Facebook decided to pay creators for content for Live. Its infinitely deep pockets made it possible for it to pay BuzzFeed more than $3 million for what, in my opinion, is a habitual reminder of the dumbing down of America. Excuse me, but looking at it now (the things I do for you, dear readers) produced polls about when you lost your virginity, which Kardashian are you?, countless stories on Pokemon Go and “21 photos that are way too real for anyone slightly obsessed with their eyebrows.”

Seriously, that is a real item on BuzzFeed. Do you really know anyone who is obsessed with their eyebrows? Do you worry about them (a lot)?

The Wall Street Journal collected information on who Facebook was paying for such “content.” After BuzzFeed were The New York Times, CNN, The Huffington Post, Now This Media (another massive contributor to brain rot) and Hearst News. The top 10 received more than $17 million.

What Else?

Yes, you also can find feeds from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Tastemade, a cooking specialist — but a Live feed showing two people putting rubber bands around a watermelon until it exploded got 10.8 million views. It was eventually beaten out by a video of a woman wearing a Chewbacca mask laughing hysterically, with 156.7 million views. That sort of shows you where its audience lies.

Facebook, even before this recent boost, was streaming more than 100 million hours of video daily to its users. The promotion of news, celebrity and lifestyle videos is designed to make users come more often and stay longer — thus exposing them to more ads.

As always in this politically-polarized era, some have complained that Facebook is pushing an agenda by paying the Huffington Post, but not Fox News. But Facebook’s real agenda is the aforementioned exposing people to ads.

Any source that helps boost that will be paid accordingly. It will be interesting to see how real news fares against trivial crap.

Don’t Phone Home

So, know anyone who owns a Windows phone? Nope, I don’t either. Sales of the Microsoft (MS) phone have fallen to less than 1% of the market, making it pretty well invisible to anyone shopping for one.

In a rather dizzying dance, MS has announced it will sell its phone hardware business, including its factory in Vietnam, to a Finnish firm called HMD. It will (supposedly) continue to develop Windows phone software for other vendors, such as Acer and HP.

Meanwhile, Nokia, which sold its phone business to MS in 2014, has signed with HMD for it to develop Nokia-branded phones, having bought back the rights to the brand name. The new Nokia phones will run on (wait for it) Android software. The new HMD is to be run by two ex-MS employees.

And I used to think the banking business was incestuous.

In one of the continuing series of “explain to me exactly how they stay in business” moments, this means that MS sold, for $350 million, a division it bought in 2014 for $7.9 billion. Note the change from an “m” to a “b” (or really, vice-versa); MS had already written off most of the loss in 2015, taking a write-down of $7.6 billion and laying off 7,800 employees. The remaining 4,800 employees will “have the opportunity to join” the Finnish firm or its other partner, Foxconn. Foxconn, you may remember, makes Apple phones.

While researching this piece, I came across an MS ad from 2010 showing people looking at their phones, oblivious, while people fell down, bicycles crashed and a car hit a lamppost. It was intended to show how their new phone would eliminate this by being so much more organized.

I’m not sure how they intended to make that connection; it certainly wasn’t obvious. Anyway, you can find it by Googling “Microsoft season of the witch ad.” Funny.

Cliff Feldwick is owner of Riverside Computing and does PC troubleshooting, office computer moving and network setups — when not avoiding car crashes caused by people using Facebook Live. He can be reached at cliff@feldwick.com. Older columns are online at http://feldwick.com.