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Anonymous App Yik Yak On A Decline: What Went Wrong

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What Is Yik Yak?

If you were in college in 2014-2015, the students at your school were more than likely hooked on a little app called Yik Yak. The app connects members to a location based social network where they can chat with each other about various subjects, crack jokes, and interact freely, but anonymously. Created in 2013, Yik Yak was built on the premise that (ideally) if someone’s identity is masked, they’re more likely to freely engage in more transparent conversation. According to Yik Yak’s website:

“By letting you share news, ask questions, offer support, and interact freely with others who are in the same place at the same time, Yik Yak acts as a springboard for discovering, meeting, and connecting with people in your local community”.

The app’s creators, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, noticed that the only people getting the most Twitter views around the school were high profile students like athletes. They created Yik Yak as a way for the “common man” to have their voices heard without having to be super popular. Brooks Buffington stated that the app was made for the “disenfranchised”. Now everyone could feel like their opinions mattered.

Founders Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington (Image Credit: NY Times)

Yik Yak is specifically geared towards college students and uses geofencing to intentionally block out middle and high schools. In fact, you must submit the name of the college you attend in order to gain access to the Yik Yak members within that area. You cannot put in names of cities, restaurants, sporting locations, or tourist attractions. There are no user profiles in Yik Yak and does not have a concept of “friends” or “followers”. It’s more like a virtual bulletin board allowing students to post whatever they want. Because Yik Yak caters to college students, it became an ideal place for college students to vent frustrations with teachers, help each other with homework, or encourage others going through tough midterms or finals. At the height of its popularity, Yik Yak was the #2 most downloaded social media app and #3 most downloaded iOS app in the United States according to App Annie. In November 2014, Yik Yak secured about $62 million in capital from Sequoia Capital. Unfortunately, the anonymous aspect of Yik Yak became much more than venting and has led to a plummeting subscriber base and high level executive departures.

What Happened?

Due to users being anonymous, it allowed anyone to say what they wanted without fear of reprisal. The social network became a breeding ground for demeaning, insensitive speech, often including hate speech and sexually explicit images and language. Many students have complained of bullying and verbal abuse. An excellent 2015 article in the New York Times details many of these incidents. Per the article:

“Since the app was introduced a little more than a year ago, it has been used to issue threats of mass violence on more than a dozen college campuses, including the University of North Carolina, Michigan State University and Penn State. Racist, homophobic and misogynist “yaks” have generated controversy at many more, among them Clemson, Emory, Colgate and the University of Texas. At Kenyon College, a ‘yakker’ proposed a gang rape at the school’s women’s center.”

In May 2015, an outspoken feminist at the University of Mary Washington was killed. Months before, she and others complained of sexual harassment on Yik Yak and alleged that the university did nothing to curb the toxic environment of the app.

yik yak alert

What Can Be Done?

Unfortunately, little can be done to correctly identify purveyors of abusive and hateful speech on the app specifically because of the anonymity. According to the app’s privacy policy, Yik Yak will not reveal users without a valid subpoena, court order, or search warrant that specifically states imminent harm. While some schools such as the College of Idaho have outright banned it, other schools have asked Yik Yak to place a geofence around the school to prevent students from using the app. Technically, Yik Yak can be banned from being used on the school’s Wi-Fi network, students can simply use their cellular provider. However, even with banning the app on the school’s Wi-Fi, many civil liberties advocates have spoken out against potential First Amendment violations…even if that speech is offensive. Regarding actual threats, Yik Yak does cooperate with local authorities in emergency cases. Per the NY Times article:

“In cases involving threats of mass violence, Yik Yak has cooperated with authorities. Most recently, in November, local police traced the source of a yak — ’I’m gonna [gun emoji] the school at 12:15 p.m. today’ — to a dorm room at Michigan State University. The author, Matthew Mullen, a freshman, was arrested within two hours and pleaded guilty to making a false report or terrorist threat. He was spared jail time but sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to pay $800 to cover costs connected to the investigation”.

Back in March, Yik Yak tried to force users to add “handles” to their posts and although the handles don’t have to correspond to the users’ real name, caused a spike in one star reviews in the Apple App Store. Yik Yak removed the requirement in November and kept it as optional. Yik Yak’s philosophy in policing speech within the social network is actually more libertarian. The app’s creators believe in a more “democratic” approach to policing the network. Users are allowed to upvote or downvote a post. If a post receives 5 downvotes, it is automatically deleted. Yik Yak founder Tyler Droll said, “Really, what it comes down to is that we try to empower the communities as much as we can”. In addition, certain keywords are flagged automatically and prompt the user to confirm that they want to post the yak.

Yik Yak isn’t the only social network to come under fire for allowing offensive speech on their networks. Websites such as Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter have all been criticized for not policing hate speech effectively, particularly during a very contentious U.S. presidential election. Unfortunately, this puts a lot of pressure on social networks to strike a delicate balance between free speech and hateful speech. One could argue that although one person’s speech may be offensive, unless it’s inciting violence, it should be allowed. Although Yik Yak still has millions in the bank, time will tell if Yik Yak will regain its former glory.

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These Are All of the Industries Experiencing The Amazon Takeover

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Amazon’s continuous growth is prompting the company to expand into a variety of industries well beyond their initial scope of electronic commerce. Beginning as an online bookstore, Amazon now represents the most valuable United States retailer regarding market capitalization. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is presently the world’s richest personA combination of success and drive for constant expansion is resulting in an Amazon takeover of several important industries. Amazon still reigns supreme as an online retailer, though clearly that title alone is not enough to satisfy Bezos. His areas of interest are vast, including the following.

Brick-and-Mortar Retail

Just last year, the Amazon takeover included Whole Foods, where they were acquired for $13.7 billion. The move continues Amazon’s battle with Walmart to reign supreme in the retail space. On the other side, Walmart is continuing to refine their online space, while remaining America’s top employer. The battle between these two giants will continue to wage on, with Amazon’s interest in the brick-and-mortar space being no secret.

Even before the Whole Foods acquisition, Amazon’s plans to build convenience stores and curbside pickup locations shows a deep infatuation with becoming a strong brick-and-mortar presence. Beyond a mere presence, Amazon is confident that consumers will continue embracing a model that allows them to order online and pick up in person.

Amazon’s opening of the Amazon Go Store in Seattle in January marks an exciting time for these interests. Customers enter the store and scan their Amazon Go app as they do. Cameras and other sensors track customers’ activity as their browse, registering an item into their virtual cart when they take it off the shelf. Customers are charged when they leave the store with their goods. Amazon terms the idea “Just Walk Out” shopping and hopes to attract customers who despise waiting in lines, as many do.

Amazon’s reshaping of the typical brick-and-mortar presence is introducing consumers to new ideas like “Just Walk Out” shopping. Combined with the acquisition of Whole Foods, the company will without a doubt continue to redefine the brick-and-mortar shopping experience.

Delivery

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Amazon has been shaping the delivery industry for many years now, especially since Amazon Prime’s introduction in 2005. The company’s vow to deliver items to Prime customers in two days or less still presents a challenge to online retail competition, who are well aware that they must match these shipping expectations or compensate in some other way, like offering lower prices. Meeting Amazon’s delivery promises and their costs is a major challenge, especially to new eCommerce businesses.

Beyond Amazon Prime’s major influence on shipping expectations among online retailers, Amazon is redefining what the delivery space means through their utilization of drone technology. Specifically, Amazon Prime Air is introducing a new delivery system, where unmanned aerial vehicles can safely get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less.

Amazon, already familiar with quick parcel delivery, is upping the ante even more in the delivery industry with such lofty ambition. Still, with a private trial already underway in the UK, Amazon Prime Air and the use of drones in delivery is a very real aspect of the future. Upon receiving the regulatory support, we can anticipate Amazon Prime Air to be an option for many.

Technology

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It makes sense that Amazon is continuing to make significant moves in the tech sphere. There’s no doubt regarding the company’s technical expertise and how technology can accommodate access to their variety of products.

Among their technological products is Amazon Fire TV, which streams live TV and enables users to watch hundreds of shows and movies. There’s also the Amazon Kindle Fire, which capitalizes on Amazon’s vast digital library in the form of a tablet computer with a seven-inch multi-touch display. Many still view Kindle Fire as a strong competitor to Apple’s iPad.

Amazon’s Dash buttons, while simple, are also an exciting addition to their array of tech. The Dash Button is a single-function controller that consumers can place around their house near items that need replenishing. Need a new order of Tide paper towels? Order a specific Dash button for Tide, put it near the towels and press the button when you notice them running low. They will then arrive on your doorstep in a couple of days.

Entertainment

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Amazon Prime offers much more than free two-day shipping. One of Prime’s most notable benefits is the increasingly impressive Amazon Video platform. The Amazon Prime Video show Transparent won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy in 2005, while 2017 Oscar Best Picture nominee Manchester by the Sea is also developed by Amazon Studios.

Amazon is increasing their influence in both TV and film by producing excellent content, including many notable releases in development. They’re emerging as a viable competitor to cable, Netflix and Hulu.

Whether a consumer prefers reading a book or watching a movie, Amazon is seeking to have the entertainment niche covered.

Is This Amazon’s Peak?

Amazon’s firm grasp across multiple industries begs the question: Is this Amazon’s peak? While it’s impossible to tell definitively, stockholders should monitor the situation closely. Amazon has been a model of consistent growth since 2000. Presently, Amazon’s stock trades for approximately 130 times the business’s projected earnings for 2018 and almost four times its projected sales for 2018.

These growth prospects rely on revenue per customer growth. Although there will certainly be customers who increase their spending on Amazon, it’s difficult to think of any huge breakthroughs or offerings that will prompt more revenue per customer, especially upon Prime’s increase to $119 per year. Many customers may opt to spend that on a Costco membership instead.

Additionally, it’s important to note that Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods plays a significant role in the stock increases the past year for Amazon. The market seems to be operating under an assumption that Amazon will make a similarly buzzworthy acquisition this year, which is far from a given.

Still, even if market projections seem a bit optimistic at the moment for Amazon, there’s no doubting that the company will continue playing a significant role in shifting expectations within several industries, from delivery and entertainment to the brick-and-mortar experience.

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Why Amazon’s Second Headquarters Should Choose Northern Virginia

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Among the top 20 shortlist for Amazon’s second headquarters, Northern, Virginia is not a stranger to the massive tech company. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos have frequently conducted business in the region. Bezos is known to own The Washington Post and Amazon’s cloud service AWS is situated in a huge data center in the northern Virginia region. It is no surprise that Northern, VA is listed on the list. This region proved to be a safe home for Bezos’ businesses, it would only make sense that Northern, VA is the next home for HQ2.

While the nation waits for the announcements of Amazon’s second headquarters, speculations rise as Amazon employees crowd ARLnow.com. The local news-source for Arlington Virginia have reported major traffic from an internal Amazon site. The article reporting the county’s green building council had received over 6,000 page views and 3,500 visitors from an Amazon web page that is only visible to Amazon employees. Amazon’s interest in the community’s dedication to sustainability is predicted to help the company’s future development of a sustainable building of their own.

The area is surrounded by copious international airports including Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, and Richmond International Airport for Amazon’s consideration  of transportation. The bid for Amazon had reports of the Hub property as a potential site for Amazon’s second headquarters. This 85-acre undeveloped location is near the Dulles Airport, perfect for Amazon’s demands.

Amazon’s second headquarters

Amazon announced that they are developing a second headquarter of up to 8 million square feet in order to accommodate 50,000 workers. The plan to bring in 50,000 lucrative jobs to the new location will create billions of dollars in investment for the community. This opportunity for economic expansion does not come often, but neither does a perfect business location in Northern Virginia that is close to Bezos’ other businesses.

A possible site for Amazon’s second headquarters is on the border of Fairfax and Loudoun counties along Metro’s Silver Line. “We are very excited that Northern Virginia is included on the short list as a potential location for Amazon’s second headquarters,” spoke the chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Sharon Bulova. “Fairfax and Loudoun counties are able to offer a great quality of life coupled with an innovative and business friendly culture for future Amazon corporate neighbors and employees. With our highly educated and talented workforce and a location close to Dulles International Airport and a new Silver Line train station, we hope we will have the opportunity to welcome Amazon HQ2 to Virginia.”

Small businesses and agencies within Virginia are able share their professional insight to Amazon now as well. This is why Amazon HQ2 Should Choose Virginia.

If you are an agency from Virginia, and wish to contribute, please fill out this form here: https://ownersmagazine.com/need-talk-marketing-pr-agencies-amazon/

*Sponsored by Penji

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Why Amazon HQ2 Should Choose Chicago

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Most of the cities on the top 20 shortlist for Amazon HQ2 had given some extreme proposals. The majority of the pick is located on the East Coast with an important city that is Chicago, Illinois. The city of Chicago is an important business hub that is currently attracting millennial entrepreneurs and corporate talents. The region offers a broad selection of professionals that are specialized in tech, logistics, advertising, and more. This is a huge bonus for Amazon if the tech company picks Chicago as the rightful city for HQ2.

Chicago ranks high in tech, affordability, and infrastructure. These benefits will fulfill Amazon in their search for employment, land, and logistics. The city offers the O’Hare International Airport and Chicago Midway International Airport to the company for traveling affairs. This is just one of the city’s proposal, the entire bid for Chicago was put together by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner. There is a promising bid that if Amazon chooses Chicago, then the massive tech company will collect at least $2 billion in incentives and $1.3 billion in tax revenue back. Employees are still expected to pay the taxes, however, it would be Amazon who is receiving that money back and not Illinois.

HQ2

Image From PBS

There are 10 total potential sites to situate HQ2. One includes the Sterling Bay’s 70-acre Lincoln Yards, and many more sites including the Illinois Medical District. The forefront for a new location is The River District, Riverside Investment and Development in River West. This 37-acre site connects to Chicago’s downtown, River North, Fulton Market, and more. The best deal for any other location. 

Amazon will be able to create a substantial amount of benefits from Chicago’s bid for Hq2. Illinois has given over $1.4 billion of tax money to companies like Amazon ever since 2001 when EDGE was created. The EDGE Tax Credit Program provides tax credits for businesses that make capital investments in Illinois and more. The massive tech company is more than qualified for this program and this will be deemed beneficial to Amazon if they participate. 

The Chicago metro area grew by 0.6% and it will only get better from here. The region is populated by a big number of young and educated students from the notable schools of University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Loyola University Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. The work force in Chicago are tech driven and strives for professional support, which is an attractive atmosphere for all companies. Amazon  should be using up that advantage as well. 

HQ2

Proposals are still being presented to Amazon by representatives. Small businesses and agencies within Chicago are now able share their professional insight to Amazon. This is why Amazon HQ2 Should Choose Chicago.

If you are an agency from Chicago, and wish to contribute, please fill out this form here: https://ownersmagazine.com/need-talk-marketing-pr-agencies-amazon/

*Sponsored by Penji

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