HuffPost, AOL & Yahoo are Now Verizon’s Propaganda & Monetization Media Outlets.
Here are four really, really, hard hitting, ground-breaking stories presented by HuffPost about Verizon, found by using the basic search term “Verizon” on their site.
1) A video “Love Calls Back”, produced by Verizon for LGBTQ Pride Month, and the partnership with “PPLAG” (funded by Verizon)
2) “Verizon Celebrates Women’s History Month” with Emmy Award winning filmmaker that founded “MAKERS”, (which is now owned by Verizon)
3) An Academy award winner’s video “Verizon Digital Divide: America’s Future”,
4) And the really exciting: “Verizon announces phone plans for kids”, by Engadget, now owned by Verizon.
I’ll come back to these stories in a moment. But, almost on cue, during the final edit of this story, there was a job offer on LinkedIn from Verizon Media for a “Project Manager, HuffPost Monetization”. (Edited).
I’ll address this momentarily, as well.
When I was informed by Huffington Post that it was abruptly closing down the “contributors program”, (which I had been writing for since 2012) I asked to stay on and I received — nothing. Not even a return email. And I wasn’t even being paid.
Variety wrote on January 18th, 2018:
“The Huffington Post announced that it will immediately cease its unpaid contributors program — which led to its rise as a media brand — to improve the editorial quality of the news site and cut down on un-vetted reporting.
“HuffPost’s blogger network has ballooned to some 100,000 contributors. The decision to end the program by the Verizon-owned site comes under editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen, who joined in December 2016.”
“Open platforms that once seemed radically democratizing now threaten, with the tsunami of false information we all face daily, to undermine democracy…When everyone has a megaphone, no one can be heard.”
(I particularly like the references to ‘undermine democracy’ and the act of removing ‘everyone who has a megaphone’; i.e.; in the future, only Verizon has the megaphone.)
While my stories are still available (I have no access to the account), I decided to visit and read all of the exciting new articles being put up dealing with telecommunications. There weren’t any. This is what I found.
I, of course, was considered one of the more outspoken contributors about the communications companies and Verizon, in particular.
For example, in 2012, Verizon’s Bob Varettoni wrote: “It’s Not the Same Old Song at Verizon”.
“Pianist Glenn Gould notably recorded Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’ early in his career in 1955. He then recorded the same music in a more soulful way as a mature artist in 1981.
“What brings this to mind is the recent three-part rant against the telecommunications industry by Huffington Post blogger Bruce Kushnick. The content was not surprising. The author, after all, has been writing variations on this same theme for nearly 30 years — and many of the sentences written in 2012 read as if they had been written in 1983.”
(I note that Bob didn’t mention that I was one of the senior telecom analyst consultants for the companies which merged and are now Verizon, AT&T and CenturyLink — from 1982 through 1993.) He continued:
“(Kushnick)…faults Verizon for getting a state income tax break in New York because the company does not make a profit on wireline services there, when, in fact, Verizon pays taxes in New York on gross receipts rather than income; misrepresents Verizon on New Jersey property taxes; makes baseless assertions about Verizon shifting assets and changing the way we report wireline access lines; and — perhaps most absurdly, given financial realities — suggests that Verizon wireline revenues subsidize Verizon Wireless.”
In fact, I challenged Verizon to a public debate and detailed that Verizon didn’t pay “gross receipts tax” as it is a ‘pass-through’; i.e.; one of many line-item taxes Verizon is required to pay, which is then charged to customers on their Verizon bills.
Moreover, history would prove me correct. The report that Mr. Varettoni mentioned started a chain reaction that ended up with an investigation in 2015 of Verizon NY’s financials and business practices, which resulted in a settlement in July 2018. Estimated at $300–500 million, it requires Verizon NY to maintain the deteriorating networks and bring fiber optics to some unserved areas.
To top it off, in April 2019, we filed a challenge against the FCC, IRREGULATORS v FCC, and we are now in court. The case details how Verizon artificially made their wireline, state utility infrastructure in New York appear unprofitable. This was caused by the state-based financials being manipulated by the FCC’s rules, which are still in use, which put the majority of expenses into the state-based utility; at the same time, this illegally subsidizes the other lines of business–including wireless. This is not specific to Verizon or to New York because what we uncovered shows that Verizon and AT&T et al. were responsible for this financial shell game nationwide as these rules are ‘federal’, and these corporations had ‘captured’ the FCC. This was all discussed in our previous Huff Post articles as well as our state and federal filings and research reports.
(Truly ironic, here is a link to some of my new, more mature piano albums and tunes.)
While I was one of the more vocal critics about the telcos’ business practices because of our data and research, we weren’t the only ones critical of Verizon writing at Huffington Post before the purge. From outing the fact that a Verizon attorney had become chairman of the FCC and was visiting Verizon’s headquarters, to a discussion of why ISPs, including Verizon, shouldn’t be trusted about Net Neutrality issues, HuffPost represented a voice to protect the public interest from the harms being concocted by the corporate communications companies that have been attempting to dismantle our democracy to let them, the companies we love to hate, be in control.
Killing Off AOL, HuffPost & Yahoo Media Outlets for Corporate PR & “Monetization”.
According to the LA Times: Feb 7, 2011, Huffington Post was started in 2005 as a ‘liberal’ answer to the Drudge Report, which was getting a lot of press as a conservative news outlet.
“How did Huffington Post start? In May 2005, the Huffington Post was co-founded by Arianna Huffington and former AOL executive Kenneth Lerer. The founders aimed to position it as the liberal answer to Matt Drudge’s Drudge Report, the popular conservative news site that gathers headlines from around the Web.”
But, in writing this article we learned that not only has Verizon lost billions on these properties — which historically happens when telcos attempt to be media moguls, but worse, no one has bothered to look behind the curtain at HuffPost with the subplot being — much of these articles are about Verizon’s partners-purchased groups and they are far from ‘news’.
Worse, as we just found out, Verizon Media is now actively hiring a ‘Huff Post Monetization Product Manager’ to: “Collaborate with our partners in the newsroom to build a clear monetization strategy”, “drive innovative revenue campaigns”, “ensure the right metrics are being tracked”, “provide highlights into reader behavior that impact monetization”.
Throw Money, Lose Money, Cut Staff, Crap on Your Audience
According to the Wrap, HuffPost was owned by AOL and was handed over as part of the package to Verizon for $4.4 billion; this was followed by Verizon paying $4.7 billion for Yahoo in 2017.
“Verizon acquired the Huffington Post when it purchased AOL in 2015 for $4.4 billion; after buying Yahoo for $4.7 billion in 2017, it merged the two into a new media division, which also included other Verizon-owned properties like Tumblr.”
But, over the last two years, Verizon has had a massive series of losses, staff cuts, and write offs. The Wrap added:
“It’s been a tough year for employees of Verizon’s media division. In January, the company laid off 800 employees in its media division, including an unspecified number of Huffington Post employees. And in August, Verizon sold Tumblr to Automattic Inc. for under $20 million. That price was pennies on the dollar for Verizon; Yahoo purchased the blogging platform in 2013 for $1.1 billion.”
According to Wikipedia, Verizon ended with a $4.6 billion dollar devaluation of their media division, known as “Oaf”, I mean “Oath”, which was then renamed “Verizon Media” in 2019.
“In December 2018 Verizon announced that it was cutting 10% of Oath’s workforce and would write down the value of the business by $4.6B. Verizon management blamed competitive pressures and that the business never achieved the anticipated benefits. The move wiped out all of the goodwill on the balance sheets that accompanied the acquisitions….Oath was renamed Verizon Media on January 8, 2019.”
There are a host of very bad things.
- Less media voices to keep the ISPs et al. in check: This story is not about an overall news embargo of anything controversial — it’s about the shift of content and accountability of Verizon, the parent company, and turning out stories that are mainly puffery or PR for Verizon. At the same time, there are also fewer voices in the media to deal with the companies that are offering us communications services, or the policies that are being created.
- Failure to spend this money on infrastructure and broadband commitments. Verizon should have been spending money on the infrastructure it has left to deteriorate throughout its territories. $9+ billion would have gone a long way to solving the Digital Divide in areas it failed to properly upgrade and maintain.
- Cross-Subsidies: As we will discuss, these HuffPost stories are by or about Verizon and the projects, partners and donations being made. However, it also appears that some/much of this is being funded via foundation grant money that may be coming out the Corporate Operations expenses and charged to local phone customers and wireline users — i.e.; these could be more corporate-pass-throughs than shareholder expenses.
Let’s Quickly Cover the Four Recent Articles about Verizon on HuffPost.
1) Verizon is concerned about LGBTQ Pride Month and it is a sponsor of a group called PFLAG.
Newsweek reports Verizon donated at least $250,000 to PFLAG and has most likely paid for other perks, such as a video and joining in on state events.
“Verizon is donating $250,000 to PFLAG National and has released a video, “Love Calls Back,” directed by Bully director Lee Hirsch.
“It’s also participating in Pride events nationwide, including L.A. Pride, D.C. Black Pride and the NYC Pride March.”
Regardless of whether you care about issue, this is more a press release about the company’s foundation grants and their need to show that they ‘care’.
But, we also find that Verizon and the other carriers may be giving this social warm-and-fuzzy caring to both sides of the fence on this issue.
Forbes writes that Verizon gave over a million dollars to anti-gay politicians, June 24, 2019; AT&T and Comcast also donated to various anti-gay politicians.
“Don’t Let That Rainbow Logo Fool You: These 9 Corporations Donated Millions to Anti-Gay Politicians.
§ AT&T donated $2,755,000 to 193 anti-gay politicians.
§ Comcast donated $2,116,500 to 154 anti-gay politicians.
§ Verizon donated $1,022,803 to 74 anti-gay politicians.
Now, the subplot should be — follow the money. Are these millions being paid via an expense line item called Corporate Operations expenses and are these companies improperly charging these costs to the communications services, like Local Service, state after state? Worse, on top of this, these actions caused losses in these states, where the company also got tax benefits, which we documented using the Verizon NY Annual Reports over the last decade and even in our articles; i.e.; the losses we pointed to in 2012 were artificial and had nothing to do with local service and the state utility networks.
These facts are never mentioned in any of the Verizon-HuffPost, AOL or Yahoo stories we could find posted after the Verizon takeover.
2) “Verizon Celebrates Women’s History Month” with Emmy Award winning filmmaker that founded “MAKERS” (now owned by Verizon).
We did not know when we started that Verizon had taken over a group called Makers.
“MAKERS@ is our partnership program that aims to help women advance in the workplace by shining a light on the game changing women within organizations, sharing diversity and inclusion best practices between companies, and using the MAKERS network to promote the visionary work companies are doing to create internal change.”
Nowhere on the Makers site did we find a specific reference to Verizon being in control so we clicked on the ‘Terms of Service’ and voila:
Again, we have the making of an infomercial for Verizon showing how it really cares, this time about Woman in the workplace, even if it had to buy the organization.
The last two stories are just insulting.
3) Academy award winner’s video “Verizon Digital Divide: America’s Future”,
4) “Verizon announces phone plans for kids”, by Engadget, now owned by Verizon.
Verizon Et Al. Created the Digital Divide.
In every state and jurisdiction, Verizon never properly upgraded their entire territories based on commitments, even though it got paid to do so. In a previous article we laid out details about Verizon Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey’s broadband commitments and funding. All of the Verizon state utilities collected billions per state to do upgrades to fiber optics starting in the 1990’s, and here we are, decades later, with an artificially created Digital Divide, caused, in large part, by Verizon and AT&T’s broadband failures– promise them anything, get paid, then pocket the money.
This glossy documentary on how Verizon ‘cares’ about the Digital Divide never mentions how it was really created.
One has to laugh at Verizon’s service targeting kids.
The Engadget story does supply a few downsides.
“While you’re not about to run into overage fees thanks to an on-by-default Safety Mode (which allows unlimited low-speed data once the 5GB runs out), your child will be stuck with 480p video streaming. Other perks like tethered data aren’t included, either. On top of this, you can’t get away with a low-cost subscription for yourself ― at least one line has to use an Unlimited plan.”
Where is the HuffPost expose on the costs of wireless, especially when America’s pricing, compared to the price for wireless GB overseas, is 6–10 times higher. Also, “unlimited” offerings in many countries overseas means totally unlimited data; worse, these overseas plans usually range from $20–40 bucks.
I now write at Medium. This is the story that would have been on HuffPost:
- “Really Unlimited 4G Wireless for $30 Dollars? Triple Play for $45? How Much are You being Overcharged…”
All of the Verizon Media Properties are Singing the Same Song.
While doing the research for this article, it was clear that AOL and Yahoo were also catering to the corporate message. This appeared on my search of AOL, where Verizon discusses giving 4G and 5G unlimited wireless customers Disney’s streaming service. (Notice the “waiting for analytics.yahoo.com” below.) Parts of this article/interview appears in AOL Entertainment, AOL Business, Yahoo Lifestyle, Yahoo News, Yahoo Entertainment, Yahoo Sports, and Yahoo Finance, as well as Verizon corporate press releases, etc. (among others).
In short, Verizon Media is killing off examining Verizon.
Now the plan is to make as much money as they can from removing our privacy, tracking us, monetizing us, while screwing Net Neutrality and the Digital Divide. This now continues into 2020 with the claim that their deployment of 5G is the ‘future’.
Killing off the Huffington Post ‘contributor program’ can now be seen as an assault on our democracy — by Verizon.
Verizon’s old tag line was “Can you hear me now?” This is as if the Glenn Gould version of the Bach Goldberg variations was being played — but with the sound shut off.