Good morning, Quartz readers!
Mark Zuckerberg thinks Facebook has plenty of competition. “The space of connecting with other people is a very large space,” Zuckerberg said during Wednesday’s hearing before the US House of Representatives Antitrust subcommittee.
Sure, Facebook is a big deal in social media, this thinking goes, but what about video conferencing, telephones, birthday cards, backyard barbecues, kickball leagues, and friends who insist on playing matchmaker? They all connect people, too, and if you add up all that activity, surely Facebook makes up a more reasonable share of the market.
Thankfully, antitrust authorities don’t see it that way.
Antitrust cases often depend in part on the “hypothetical monopolist test,” which helps define the relevant market to analyze. The test imagines a hypothetical company with 100% market share, and asks if it could make more money by raising its prices by 5% for a year. If the answer is no, the market is probably too narrow to consider. For example, the market for white bread would not pass the test if an increase in its price caused consumers to switch to wheat bread and therefore didn’t earn the hypothetical monopolist more money. In antitrust cases, companies try to define their markets as broadly as possible to make their market shares look smaller, but the relevant market is usually the smallest one that passes this test.
The question, then, is whether a hypothetical company that controlled 100% of the social media market could make more money by raising prices for advertisers by 5%—or, on the consumer side, perhaps by extracting 5% more data from users. The answer seems pretty clearly to be yes, which means that social media, not all manners of human connection, is a relevant market to consider when analyzing Facebook’s dominance.
Zuckerberg is not the only tech titan who sees competition in such grandiose terms. Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information” and Netflix’s Reed Hastings has quipped that his company’s biggest competitor is sleep. Amazon’s obsession with “customer obsession” seemingly places no bounds on its activities.
Customers benefit from this sort of thinking when it leads to better products. Zuckerberg’s insistence on being in the business of connections isn’t that different from all the meetings you’ve been in where someone asks, “What’s the user need we’re trying to solve here?” But the wider the tech giants set their aims, the more important it is that lawmakers and regulators enforce competition. If a monopolist tries to use its market power to take over another industry, no amount of customer focus will make that OK. —Walter Frick, membership editor
Five things on Quartz we especially liked
Fixing rural healthcare. Of all the frustrations with the US’s dysfunctional healthcare system, possibly the most exasperating is its imperviousness to improvement. Despite so much evidence there is a better way, the country keeps overpaying for inferior care. That’s why Annalisa Merelli’s deep dive into a pilot program to reform how healthcare is paid for in rural Pennsylvania is so satisfying: It shows that the US can actually fix what is broken if there is a will to do so. —Oliver Staley, culture and lifestyle editor
Livestock livelihoods. The Hajj is the world’s biggest annual religious gathering as well as a bonanza for the Somali livestock industry. The cancellation of this year’s Hajj due to the coronavirus pandemic will endanger the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Somalis, explains Abdullahi Yussuf. Saudi Arabia usually imports millions of goats, sheep, and cattle to feed Hajj pilgrims. This year they won’t be importing any. It’s another important example of how travel restrictions are devastating much of the world’s economy. —Dan Kopf, data editor
Taxing tech in Africa. Over the last decade, some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names have been offering their digital services across Africa and have become immensely popular as internet usage grows exponentially. But governments in Kenya and Nigeria are some of the first to put in place laws and regulations to help generate more meaningful local taxes from these global giants, as Yomi Kazeem reports from Lagos. —Yinka Adegoke, Africa editor
Between a Block and a hard place. Future of finance reporter John Detrixhe scored a fascinating interview with the world’s pre-eminent shorter of stocks, Carson Block. Go to the story for his takes on Wirecard fraud and Tesla traders’ testosterone-fueled decisions, but stick around to hear how he describes his work as not too different from journalism. —Max Lockie, deputy news editor
❤️📰👍. That means “I love this great piece by Anne Quito” about the tiny pictures that do so much heavy lifting in a text-based conversation. Now that so many of us are working remotely, it’s crucial to set the right tone—and, perhaps more important these days, to make an emotional connection with our coworkers. According to Slack’s data, humans are stepping up to the challenge, liberally using the tools bestowed upon them by the Unicode Consortium. —Susan Howson, news editor, whose favorite emoji is 💅
J.S. Bach, coffee comedian
Our latest Weekly Obsession, on coffee makers, was a steaming potful of interesting facts, but this one might be our favorite.
Not only does coffee help people get to work—it has inspired many works of art. Among the most unique is Johann Sebastian Bach’s Coffee Cantata, a 1735 comic opera about a young woman who wants to drink coffee and her mean dad who won’t let her.
Some of its poignant lyrics:
Father sir, but do not be so harsh!
If I couldn’t, three times a day,
be allowed to drink my little cup of coffee,
in my anguish I will turn into
a shriveled-up roast goat.
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✦ For members: A new generation of carers
Some purpose-driven millennials and Gen Zers are turning to careers advocating for and serving elders. Quartz spoke to five young adults about why senior care is the fulfilling, ethical job they were looking for. Here are some of their thoughts:
Ocean Le, 25: “I wanted to help the communities that represent my family and me.”
Nihal Satyadev, 25: “We have so many people who are getting older and not enough young people who are being born in this country. We need to get people to take care of our older adults, and to understand their needs.”
Sasha Syahirah Rouse, 29: “I want to see what successful aging means for older adults who aren’t the norm.”
Antonio Torres, 24: “We just talk. I help them with what they need and then we can just have a conversation, just about life and how things are going, and how they grew up.”
From studying the outcome of pairing younger adults to socially isolated older adults, to creating a youth movement against Alzheimer’s, these young people’s contributions to reshaping elder care are the subject of our latest field guide.
✦ That summer sale we mentioned? It ends tomorrow—now’s your chance to get 50% off an annual subscription that gives you full access to our award-winning journalism, field guides, presentations, and more.
Five things from elsewhere that made us smarter
“Just see if it can be done.” I’m always comforted by tales of extreme competence and ingenuity, and Paige Williams’ New Yorker profile of Todd Semonite, the commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers, is a classic in the genre. Semonite oversaw the transformation of New York’s Javits convention center into a field hospital in just four days, and the conversion of a portable storage container into a fully functional negative-pressure ICU room in just 10 hours. I wish more of our leaders, facing the disastrous consequences of Covid-19, thought like engineers. —Katherine Bell, editor in chief
The high-rollin’, $100,000-bar tab economy is carefully orchestrated. That includes the women who surround the global millionaires in those upscale nightclubs in every party town. Writing in The Economist, sociologist and former model Ashley Mears vividly describes a scene in which everyone’s hustling, but it’s not clear what they want. —Hasit Shah, deputy editor, global finance and economics
Suffer the little children. For a moment in the 1970s and 1980s, some in wealthy countries saw adopting poor children from around the world as a key way to give back. One middle-class Canadian family took this to the extreme, adopting dozens of children from Vietnam, India, and other countries, and raising them together in a donated Toronto mansion. Journalist Nicholas-Hune Brown dives into this radical experiment in family philanthropy and explores the legacy left by the innumerable Simpsons and their one-of-a-kind matriarch. —Tim Fernholz, senior reporter
Hoodwinked by soap companies. A timely read during a moment when we’re compulsively washing our hands. Brooke Jarvis’s illuminating book review for the New Yorker depicts how clueless we are about our skin, and reveals just how much our hygiene habits have been largely designed by soap companies. —Anne Quito, design reporter
Is it still magic under all those masks? I’ve enjoyed 13 trips to Walt Disney World, but it is filled with high-touch areas, enclosed spaces, and notoriously large crowds, especially during the hot summer months. Carlye Wisel’s comprehensive feature for The Goods at Vox gave a great view into what the park’s reopening has been like for employees, attendees, and hardcore fans. No lines, but no hugs from Mickey, either. -Karen Ho, global finance and economics reporter
One thing from elsewhere that made us cry
“Democracy is not a state. It is an act.” American hero John Lewis left his country the most loving parting gift: hope—in the form of a kind, wise, inspiring essay that is an instant addition to the canon of great American patriotic writing. As the ancestor he already is, Lewis passes the Civil Rights Movement’s baton to Black Lives Matter, and his words exude both the magnitude of the injustice faced by Blacks in the US, and the brave belief that it can be overcome—that it will be. Lewis’s call to get in good trouble, to walk with the wind, is too warm, too noble to ignore. And it is so boundlessly generous, for in trusting white people, too, with his mission to save the nation’s soul, he once again gives us the chance to save our own. —Annalisa Merelli, geopolitics reporter
Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, inspiring words, and mouse ears to email@example.com. Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our app and becoming a member. Today’s Weekend Brief was brought to you by Walter Frick and Susan Howson.