Good morning

The headlines:

  1. Judge rejects a Facebook settlement proposal.

    Link: “Are some class actions simply too big to settle?” says the judge.

    Facebook has been being sued for its “Sponsored Stories” segments that have featured facebook users without their consent. Under Californian law, that carries a penalty of $750 per affected users in penalties.

    The current estimate is around 70 million affected users. Which is practically apocalyptic: making for a $52.5 billion settlement. And given last week’s abysmal share performance, the current market cap of the FB is only $40.8 billion.

    Oh yes – did I mention that “Facebook hit a new record low“? That headline is now a permanent copy+paste line on my clipboard.

    But back to the Sponsored Stories story. Facebook argued that distributing a settlement between 70 million users would be impracticable. They therefore suggested a $20 million settlement* to be paid to advocacy groups to act as watchdogs to make sure that Facebook never does that again.

    The judge had two issues. One was that giving the money only to advocacy groups seems unfair**. The second was that $10 million of the $20 million was being set aside to pay the plaintiff lawyers***.

    Hang on. BRIBE. Okay, I’m just kidding – that didn’t need pointing out.

    But that did get me thinking: what exactly are social stories and what is all the fuss about?

    So you know when you log onto your facebook homepage and there’s the righthand sidebar with the anniversaries and events? And below that there’s the sponsored advertising? Well those are the sponsored stories. If you’ve “liked” a product, or you’ve mentioned a product in a status, Facebook sells the product owners the right to advertise by using your like and your status to target advertise to your facebook friends. So, they’ll “sponsor” the story of you liking their product.

    Which is actually really clever. Because what’s the very best advertising? Word of mouth. And this looks a lot like it.

    For more info, check out this link, which is ironically on a facebook page. Love it.

    *Does anyone else make that about 28 cents per affected user? Seems a bit far off the $750…

    **This blogger rushes off to register himself as an advocacy group.

    ***Down to 14 cents…

  2. The price of gold is expected to go up.

    Link: do what the billionaires do.

    DISCLAIMER: gold charts linked from All mistakes are entirely theirs.

    The Gold spot price since a year ago…

    …has been volatile.

    And in the last 10 years:

    Well that’s looking a little better.

    Anyway – despite the gold price volatility of the last year, the recent movements in gold bullion stocks show that George Soros and John Paulson have been busy buying it up (even if it’s just in buying more shares in gold ETFs****). Which makes everyone stand up and take notice.

    As is the general consensus, gold is the “safe” commodity that everyone returns to in a crisis. Personally, I have questions around this consensus (wrote about it here), but I can see how supply and demand are probably going to result in higher prices over the next few weeks. Investors be sheep: and Paulson and Soros be shepherds.

    But if I can just make a small point. Mr Soros and Mr Paulson are not young men. Mr Soros in particular. That moves their investment objectives from “long-term growth” to “capital preservation”.

    Agreed – they have made some awesome bets in the past (Mr Soros did the currency breaking thing; Mr Paulson bet on the Subprime Mortgage Bubble bursting, making “the greatest trade ever”).

    But we should probably consider context before we leap to copy them.

    ****ETF = Exchange-Traded Fund. Basically, rather than going out and buying gold for yourself (not within the realm of possibility for most of us), you pool your money with a lot of other people’s, put it into a fund (or unit trust), and organise a fund manager to go out and buy gold on all of your behalfs. At least, that’s the original idea. Today, you’re more likely to find a fund that fits your investment plan, and then buy into it. Some of these funds are privately managed unit trusts. Some of these funds list themselves on an exchange as ETFs.

  3. No new aid plan for Greece, according to the German Finance Minister.

    Link: “there are limits”.

    It’s all a constant really. The Greek politicians want more time and more aid. The Germans are worried that Greece will become a “bottomless pit” of financing requirement.

    Somewhere in all of this, someone is going to have to make the difficult decision. If only so that everyone can move on.

That’s all for now.

Have a good day.