Best columns: Business
Moving where the jobs are
The Washington Post
President Trump is right about one thing: “Americans aren’t packing up and moving as they used to,” said Heather Long. In a recent interview, Trump bemoaned the fact that so many people live in places where jobs are scarce, yet refuse to pull up stakes in search of plentiful jobs elsewhere. Mobility is indeed at “an all-time low.” About 10 percent of Americans changed addresses in the past year, “way down from the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, and early ’80s, when more than 20 percent of the nation was on the go.” That’s a big concern for Trump, because he needs to deliver jobs for his base of struggling blue-collar workers. But even if he can persuade manufacturers to go on hiring sprees, “the jobs might not come back to the same towns.” A recent LinkedIn study found that demand for manufacturing skills is currently booming along the coasts, but not in the heartland. Getting people to move won’t be easy, either. Manufacturing skills don’t always translate from one industry to another, and many professional licenses are tied to individual states. “There are also cultural differences between parts of the country and ties to families and friends that keep people in place.” The economy might need “a 21st-century migration” to truly thrive, but “it will take a lot more than job postings to make it happen.”
How Facebook beats rivals
It turns out you don’t have to be hip to dominate social media, said Will Oremus. Four years ago, a decline in teenage users led to predictions that Facebook was destined to become the next Myspace—a defunct relic of an earlier tech era. But today, “Facebook’s grip on social media is stronger than ever.” About 2 billion people now use the social network every month, almost twice as many users as it had in 2013, when the doomsaying began. Facebook has deployed a “simple yet devastatingly effective strategy” to neutralize its competition: “If you can’t beat them, buy them. And if you can’t buy them, copy them.” The social network starts paying attention to a would-be rival only when it begins to “attract large numbers of youngsters.” If that startup also offers a social experience substantially different from Facebook’s, Mark Zuckerberg swoops in with a handsome offer. To wit: In 2012, the company acquired Instagram for the then outrageous sum of $1 billion, and bought messaging service WhatsApp in 2014 for $19 billion. The companies that Facebook can’t buy, “it blatantly copies instead.” After Snapchat rebuffed a $3 billion offer, Facebook simply duplicated its best features. Instagram Stories and WhatsApp Status, both riffs on Snapchat ideas, now have more active users than Snapchat itself, leaving investors wondering whether Snapchat can survive the “Facebook onslaught.” So much for the power of cool.