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The era of paid social media has begun
Mar 17, 2023
Episode 883

The era of paid social media has begun

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Plus, what the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank knew about SVB.

For years, using social media has been mostly free. But that’s slowly changing. Following in Twitter’s footsteps, Meta has launched a subscription service for its platforms. We’ll discuss what paying for social media might mean for our online culture. And, the latest news about SVB (of course) and the regulators that may have dropped the ball. Plus, a round of Half Full/Half Empty.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

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Jasper “The Cat Burglar” Adams

Make Me Smart March 17, 2023 Transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kimberly Adams

He keeps us on time at least. Maybe not honest but at least on time.

Kai Ryssdal

That’s right. Hey everybody, I’m Kai Ryssdal. Welcome back to make me smart where we make the day makes sense.

Kimberly Adams 

And hello, I am Kimberly Adams. We made it to Friday y’all and so thank you for taking a little bit of your Friday to join us for our weekly show, economics on tap, where we have some drinks, some news fixes and then we’re going to take a break. We’re going to do some half full half empty. Thank you to everyone who’s joining us on the YouTube live stream.

Kai Ryssdal 

Which is which is active and going. What what are you drinking Ms. Adams?

Kimberly Adams 

Oh my gosh, I was trying really hard to lean into the St. Patrick’s Day theme. But I randomly don’t have any Irish whiskey right now, which I’ll get to later. But what I did have is the final dregs of that Midori leftover from the Stockdale experiment of yonder. And so I decided to make a cocktail with that because it’s green. And so my cocktail today is Midori, tequila and then I have some shrubs that are.. what is it? It’s honeydew jalapeno because Midori is like melon liqueur. And then I’m garnishing it with alfalfa sprouts because they are green and I wanted to add some freshness to it. So this is my cocktail today.

Kai Ryssdal 

Like actual, that’s a lot of sprouts. Easy, easy. Oh man. That’s a lot of sprouts.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, it is, but it makes it look really cool. And I didn’t… I wanted to like garnish it with clovers, but like, I don’t have any clover. So alfalfa sprouts was what I had in my house. So..

Kai Ryssdal 

Alright, so how does it taste?

Kimberly Adams 

Sprouty (gets an alfalfa sprout in her mouth and Kai laughs)

Kai Ryssdal 

Told you there are too many sprouts. Nobody listens to me around here, man. Nobody listens to me. Sprouty

Kimberly Adams 

The drink is good. I actually sampled it a little bit earlier. I have a very good friend of mine who’s visiting me from Egypt. We used to work there together. And she’s in town and we’re going to do all the DC stuff. So we were sampling to make sure it was good beforehand. So this is actually good.

Kai Ryssdal 

All right. Okay, my… Fair, fair enough. I’m just having a cup of coffee in my Pewabic mug just because I don’t have it today. I’ll have one. I know right? Ryan Coleman. Here’s the deal. I need to explain myself. I’m having coffee with the third week in a row. Number one, I slept like garba-ash last night. And so I just don’t have it this afternoon. Number two, I have to go to a high school choir concert that starts at 7:30 this evening. If I start drinking now it is all over. I will not make it to the opening downbeat of that concert. And number three I already forgot. So that’s what’s going on. That’s what’s going on. I’ll have a beer later.

Kimberly Adams 

Over in the Discord we’ve got Galactic Cowboy Nitro Imperial Stout. Let’s see. I don’t know. Somebody’s saying I made Romulan Ale, which I appreciate. Yeah.

Kai Ryssdal 

All right. Should we should we do the news? Yeah, we’re actively and we’re engaging with all the comments and we’re not going to do any actualy podcast. Should we do something? You go first this nime.

Kimberly Adams 

All right, let’s do this. Well, sure. Mine is twofold. One of it because I was looking for Irish whiskey and recognized I didn’t have any but I have a bunch of like craft American whiskies. And so that made me notice the CNN story about why headline “Why American whiskey is the real winner of St. Patrick’s Day.” And American made whiskey is one of the fastest growing spirits in the United States, with sales soaring nearly 11% last year to $5.1 billion. And apparently they’re doing really well on exports. And one of the other things that’s drawing a lot of people to more American whiskies is because they do a lot of distillery tours. And there are a couple of distilleries here in DC and I have 100% been on distillery tours. It is like an activity and then to sample the whiskies and bottles research.

Kai Ryssdal 

Research, research.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, absolutely. It’s for research for research purposes. Absolutely. It’s not like you know dates or anything. But anyway.

Kai Ryssdal 

That’s a whole, different podcast.

Kimberly Adams 

Whole different podcast. No, but it’s really a fun activity to do. And apparently, lots of distilleries are doing it. And there are a lot more sort of craft distilleries, which is helping whiskey sales pickup in addition to rise in exports. So I thought that was a fun little story. The other story I noticed was that Meta has launched its subscription service in the US, which would allow Facebook and Instagram users to pay for verification, just like Twitter did. And, you know, it’s another example of sort of what we were talking about the other day with the insulin prices, where once one company does it, all the companies do it to, you know, maintain competitive advantage, or to follow the pack or whatever. And we’re sort of in this space. So Twitter, I saw a tweet earlier today about how Twitter has become kind of useless for following breaking news now, because the, you know, it’s so much of the promoted tweets and the, you know, trending tweets as opposed to people you follow. And I mean, I have struggled, like… usually, I used to be able to go to Twitter and see like a flood of information of what was happening right now. And now I feel like I can’t do that anymore. And I think that a lot of people are having that experience. And so are you going to pay for that. And then when you get to something like Facebook, which has become what Facebook is, and has been for the longest. Are you going to pay for that? And for so long social media has been ubiquitous, because it was free. And there was zero, like opportunity cost to engaging on these platforms, which not only made people say, like terrible things all the time, but also kept people on there and using them more. And I wonder that as these services start to require more payment to deeply engage. what that’s going to do to sort of our social media culture.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, I look, I totally agree. Twitter has become way, way less useful for breaking news, the engagements way down, it’s just I’m not using it as much. And and, and that’s saying something for me, because I used to really enjoy it. And now it’s just, it’s just not that. And I don’t know how Elon Musk is gonna turn that business around. But to the larger point on the whole Facebook, you know, monetizing thing. I think it’s really interesting that the thing you get out of subscribing to Meta, or you know, whatever, is increased access to customer service. And I sort of thought that was a business 101, that that customer service kind of came with using using the product, but what do I know?

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, but this has been one of the things that’s notorious about some of these big platforms is that you can never access customer service. I ordered something from Amazon that arrived broken a while back, and I, you know, tried to return it. And Amazon was like, you have to contact the company. And I contacted the company. The company wrote me back and they’re like, :Amazon is responsible for this return. Here’s a phone number where you can reach the Amazon, the Amazon, people who can help you.” And it was a number to Amazon that actually got me to a real human being within a couple of minutes. And I was like, I am saving this number forever. Because who ever gets a real human?

Kai Ryssdal 

No, no, you never do. You never do. That’s great.

Kimberly Adams 

So I thought, yeah, so increased access to customer service on a platform you use a lot. Yeah, I actually think that is probably a pretty good selling point.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, that’s fair. That’s fair, especially like for business or something where revenue depends on you being able to service your customers. Yeah, totally. Totally. Yeah. Okay. So mine are… Well, I have two. They are the same basic story, but it’s about the banking situation and and I think what is going to emerge as a big part of this story in the next week or 10 days, which is regulatory failure. There was a piece in Bloomberg today and also there was a piece in The New York Times last night, the gist of which is that the Federal Reserve blew it specifically. Jeanna Smialek who is one of our Friday regulars on Marketplace, but also in her day job covered the Fed for the New York Times. She broke a story last night that Jay Powell, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, had maybe yeah, it was last night sorry, had a line about regulatory failure or lack of regulatory oversight removed from the statement that Yellen and Powell and the head of the FDIC put out on the Sunday night after SVB went under. That is to say Jay Powell said no, no, no, we’re not going to talk about regulatory failure. Which is really, really interesting because Powell is known for being a pretty savvy political guy. He’s up on Capitol Hill a lot, he schmoozes with senators and members of the House and he tries to, you know, do the whole politicking thing. And this is a rare misstep, I think for him. Number two, the Bloomberg story. So the Bloomberg story, which is out was out this morning, says that regulators at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, within which SVB lay before it went under, those regulators started looking at SVB more than a year ago, did not sufficiently quickly raised the alarms about what was going on specifically with their interest rate spread until earlier this year. And I think that looks bad for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. It looks bad for its president Mary Daly, who we’ve had on Marketplace. And I think the story that’s going to start coming out a lot besides the management failures of SVB and the wider contagion issue with Signature and Credit Suisse and all that, the phrase you’re gonna start hearing a lot is “regulatory failure.” A lot.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, it’s, it’s interesting, and I need to do some more reporting on this. I keep hearing people that I talked to about this, trying to differentiate, for the laymen among us, the the difference between a regulatory failure and a supervisory failure. And I think that we haven’t quite teased those apart enough. And I’m still learning about it as well. And maybe maybe I’ll do that next week. I think I’m doing spots on Monday. So maybe I’ll do it, then.

Kai Ryssdal 

If you you are actually we should do that. The difference between regulatory failure and supervisory failure. That’s a great idea.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah. And my understanding of it, you know, which I’ll share right now is that, yes, there are regulations about it. But the regulations require certain agencies to keep an eye on these banks and give the reg and give the supervisory agencies some discretion about how much supervision they’re going to put, especially on banks in the category that Silicon Valley Bank was in, you had some discretion about how much oversight you wanted to give them. And so the regulation gave the toolkit to spot this, but the supervisors didn’t necessarily keep close enough eye on them and do anything about it, to actually stop it in the process. So yeah, that’s interesting.

Kai Ryssdal 

That’s very important distinction. That’ll be a good spot. We should we should do that for sure.

Kimberly Adams 

Well I guess we’re gonna do that on Monday.

Kai Ryssdal 

Consider yourself asigned. All right. So that’s the news. We’re gonna take quick break coming back, half full/half empty. I guess Drew’s back, but what do I know?

Kimberly Adams 

All right, welcome back. And now it is time for us to play our game Half full/half empty where we go through some events and news of the week and decide how we’re feeling about it. Are we feeling mostly positive, mostly negative, half full, half empty as it goes. And it is hosted by the amazing the wonderful Drew Jostad. And Drew, let’s go.

Drew Jostad 

All right. Are you half full or half empty on the chances of TikTok being sold?

Kimberly Adams 

That’s a tough one. So…

Kai Ryssdal 

So the story, of course, is that… The story of course, is that Biden administration, much like the Trump administration, has decided that TikTok, because it is owned by a Chinese affiliated company, in fact very close to the government in Beijing. They’ve concluded that Tiktok represents a national security threat for a lot of reasons. And there is talk in the White House about forcing a sale of Tiktok away from its Chinese parent company, or figuring out some way to ban it in the United States. And we obviously if you’re listening to the Tuesday version of this, did a whole episode on that with Emily, what was her name? Baker-White.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah I think that’s right. She worked at Forbes

Kai Ryssdal 

She was great. And she was she was she was actually, at Forbes. She was actually one of the journalists that Tiktok spied on

Kimberly Adams 

Yes, Baker-White.

Kai Ryssdal 

Baker-White. Thank you. Tiktok was spying on her to figure out who her source was. So this… it was it was really an interesting conversation actually. So Drew hit me with it one more time. Am I half full half empty on what? Tiktok being banned or forced to sell?

Drew Jostad 

Forced to sell.

Kai Ryssdal 

Oh, yeah, I’m full on that.

Kimberly Adams 

I think I’m going to go half full also, because there’s such a tide of resistance. And as I mentioned, if you can judge anything from the advertising campaign here in Washington, they’re pretty worried about it too.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yep, for sure. For sure.

Kimberly Adams 

All right, what’s next?

Drew Jostad 

Okay, a lawsuit has been filed accusing Buffalo Wild Wings of false and deceptive marketing over calling their boneless chicken wings, boneless chicken wings. Are you half or half empty?

Kimberly Adams 

I love this story so much. This story brought me such joy this week. Um, okay, so basically a customer of Buffalo Wild Wings, filed an actual, real life lawsuit against Buffalo Wild Wings, because they found out and were sorely disappointed that those boneless chicken wings were actually gasp pearl clutch, chicken breasts.

Kai Ryssdal 

They’re basically chicken nuggets.

Kimberly Adams 

Chicken Nuggets, basically. And so Buffalo Wild Wings in its response was like: Yeah, it is. We also don’t have actual buffalo.

Kai Ryssdal 

That’s great. I hadn’t heard that. I love that part.

Kimberly Adams 

They’re like, Yeah… I thought it was so funny. I mean, so in all seriousness, I’m obviously half empty on the lawsuit because you have to prove actual damages if you’re trying to sue someone. And you can also get countersued and penalized for frivolous lawsuits. And I would not be surprised if this person gets, and their lawyer, gets hit with a frivolous lawsuit claim. Because this is standard practice as Buffalo Wild Wings said in its response. It’s a standard industry practice. And I it entertains me a lot but I’m half empty on that lawsuit going anywhere. Other than you know…

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah same. Half empty on the lawsuit and half full on a countersuit, because holy cow cut it out. We also don’t have buffalo. That’s great. I love that. Oh my lord.

Kimberly Adams 

All right. What’s next? And I will say just as early heads up, our last question, because I didn’t mention this at the top, our last question, we will be asking for our audience input in. So Drew, what do we have now?

Drew Jostad 

Are you half full or half empty on banks future risk taking, given the Feds new emergency lending program?

Kimberly Adams 

The moral hazard question.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yep. Super interesting. So the Fed set up and made available bazoodles of dollars for banks who figure that they might need it just in case which is really good. The problem is that a lot of banks took advantage of that money because they worry they might really need it. The challenge, of course, is now with the feds lending windows open and with last Sunday’s announcement of the backstop of all those uninsured deposits being now insured because the troika of the FDIC, the Fed and Treasury have said they’re systemically important, have they de facto guaranteed all bank accounts in the United States? I think the moral hazard thing is is huge qctually. We’re nowhere near done with that part of this conversation.

Kimberly Adams 

So I’m actually gonna go I’m gonna divvy it up. I’m gonna go half full on banks kind of going forward in the short term and half empty in the long term. Because I think that regulators and supervisors are going to nip this in the bud. I think I saw was it that Yellen earlier said today? That hold on, let me look this up so I don’t get it wrong. I believe she said something today about, you know, don’t get too excited about this because… Yeah here’s CNBC… Yeah, it was yesterday. Yeah “Treasury Secretary Yellen says not all uninsured deposits will be protected in future bank failures.” So I think that while they’re trying to calm the crisis right now, they are going to start making abundantly clear and probably put some sort of regulatory guardrails around this to stop banks from milking it to the full extent. So I’m gonna go half full for now, they’re probably going to take advantage while they can, you know, just like they bailed out First Republic. I wouldn’t be surprised if they sort of leaned on some of that safety net to feel comfortable bailing out First Republic. Because think about it, they all made deposits into First Republic, which are now infinitely insured to save that bank. So they felt comfortable in the short term for sure. But in the long term, I don’t think so. I’m gonna go half empty in the long term.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, I agree with everything Kimberly said. I think I think Yellen it was, it was testimony on on yesterday on Thursday. She tried to walk it back. So I think you’re actually you’re absolutely right. We’re gonna start seeing that now be sort of crafted into a “not so fast.” I think that’s exactly right.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, I love all the comments in the YouTube chat about Jasper the cat burglar because of what I shared the other day about him stealing my wallet, which he truly did. He truly did. You saw the photo.

Kai Ryssdal 

I did see it. I did see it. They are totally paying attention by the way. Okay, so this next one is the last one. Those of you on the live stream. We’re gonna take a little poll on this the last topic as we always do, Kimberly and I will dance around for about a minute while y’all vote. And then and then we will give you our thoughts and we will see what what y’all think. Drew, what do you got?

Drew Jostad 

Okay, I’m gonna start with a number, which is the February Beer Producers Index of 54, reflecting a more positive outlook for the industry. Given that it’s St. Patrick’s Day, are you half full or half empty on using the beer purchasers index as an economic indicator?

Kimberly Adams 

You’re going to have to explain this because of your series Kai.

Kai Ryssdal 

I will so so.. We did a series this week on unsung economic indicators. And we did the cardboard box index, we did a raw materials index and today for St. Patty’s Day and because it’s Friday, we did the national wholesalers, beer purchasers index and one of the things… so beer sales in February were up especially in the category of what are called “below premium beers.” Think Miller Highlife, think all the yellow fizzy stuff, right? That I being a beer snob would not actually consider beer. That category was especially up. And I think the reason it’s a valid economic indicator is because a lot of people who might like good beer, but maybe are feeling a little bit squeezed or a little tentative are now shopping down a little bit. And that is I think, a little bit troubling. So that’s why I think that that indicator is kind of valid. And I guess I just kind of gave it away. Sorry.

Kimberly Adams 

So it’s like a box wine indicator, basically.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, kinda. Yeah. Yeah. Well, it’s so so below premium beers are one category, right? So if you’ve got the whole wine category you got you got the ground cru, and then you got the good California stuff, and then you got the box stuff. Right? Is that Is that a fair summation of the global wine industry?

Kimberly Adams 

I mean, I guess it depends on how you feel about California wines.

Kai Ryssdal 

I like a lot of California wines. I’m not a wine guy. So you know whatever.

Kimberly Adams 

I like Oregon wines actually.

Kai Ryssdal 

Oh is that right?

Kimberly Adams 

Mhm Oregon and South American wines are usually my favorites.

Kai Ryssdal 

What you and I were the ones having the conversation about God, the Chilean wine.

Kimberly Adams 

Oh, yeah, Carmenere.

Kai Ryssdal 

Carmenere right. I was gonna say Carneros but that’s not it. Yeah. Okay, good. So I am, I’m half full on the index. Miss Adams, do you have thoughts?

Kimberly Adams 

I’m gonna go half full for a different reason, though. Not necessarily because of, you know, people sort of downgrading their drinking experience, because I think these sort of small luxuries are actually places that people will preserve, even when they are feeling a little pinched. Because at the end of the day, even your higher priced beers aren’t all that expensive. And I think people will cut back other things before these small pleasures. And so I think I might judge the increase in drinking of sort of the lower tiered beers more associated with sort of depression, and sort of the the winter blues, and what is it? Seasonal affective disorder. And also, you know, just maybe the mental health crisis we’re having in this country a little bit? I know it’s a little bit of a downer. But I don’t necessarily know that I would attribute it to people pulling back because you had stories on the show this week about how, despite everything, consumers are still spending, and they’re especially spending on experiential things. So it’s hard for me to reconcile that people are continuing to spend on experiential things, but are going to downgrade their experience of their sort of everyday pleasures. But who knows, I could be wrong. I’m not an economist. So I’m gonna go half half full but a different reason

Kai Ryssdal 

For a different reason. That’s fair. Somebody needs to hit me with a poll in the slack because I don’t know how to manipulate this thing to show me the poll. It’s all I’m saying. That’s all I’m saying.

Kimberly Adams 

We don’t know how GPT either.

Kai Ryssdal 

Well, that’s true. Okay.

Kimberly Adams 

All right. Oh, people are half full also. 74%, half full, 25% half empty with 147 votes. We don’t, as America.. Maxwell says. “We don’t know as Americans how to give a straight answer or to hold on to our wallet.” That’s very funny, because Jasper. I think I think we have to share this photo if we haven’t already, because I don’t think people will really believe that Jasper stole my wallet until you can see the photo of him sitting there looking very guilty with the wallet. So we’ll put it on the show page. I took a picture at the time. And I sent it to a couple of my friends and they were like “you’ve been looking for this for weeks. Your cat stole your wallet.” And I was like yes, he did. This is photo evidence. Anyway. Oh, all righty then.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, so we’re not on a Friday. We’re back on… We did make it on a St. Patty’s day after the end of a long week and a weekend hopefully where there will be no news.

Kimberly Adams 

It was a long week. We had so much SVB stuff.

Kai Ryssdal 

So much so much. But look, it’s a huge story. It’s a huge store. Huge story. Speaking of which, I like to think that that’s part of why all y’all are here because we do the huge stories and we do the lesser huge stories and then we do stuff that just makes us look at it and go “huh,” or be interested or smile sometimes. And we can’t do any of this without you. This is the end of our March fundraiser. We are not as close as we want to be to our $150,000 goal but we got like nine more hours or something LA time. Marketplace.org/giftsmart. We can’t do this without you. It’s all I’m gonna say. We cannot do without you. We are grateful you’re here. And we want to keep being here. marketplace.org/giftsmart.

Kimberly Adams 

Yes. Please and thank you.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yes. Make Me Smart is produced by Courtney Bergsieker. Today’s episode was engineered by Charlton Throp. Drew Jostad wrote the theme music to Half-Full/Half-Empty. Antonio Barreras is our intern.

Kimberly Adams 

The team behind our Friday game, Half-Full/Half-Empty is Mel Rosenberg, Emily Macune and Antoinette Brock. Marissa Cabrera is our acting senior producer. Bridget Bodnar is the director of podcasts. And Francesca Levy is our director, executive director of Digital. Executive Director.

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