2017.07.21 Last Week in Digital Media

There is a lot of news this weeks. Here’s what you might have missed across the digital, media, marketing and tech landscape.

  • News from Amazon during the week was the launch of a social network-like (think Pinterest/Instagram) like experience called Spark within the main Amazon main app. Only available to Prime subscribers, Spark curates posts around your interests and everything can be tagged for shoppable items. Spark solves a problem on Amazon (it’s hard to discover products) and positions Amazon as a media environment for influencers. If your clients sell on Amazon, you need to play with and understand Spark.
  • Around the same time as Spark was announced, rumors are circulating that Amazon is about to launch a messaging app (hybrid Snapchat/WhatsApp/Skype). Allegedly called Anytime, go here to see summary of the rumored features. In context of the Spark announcement, it feels Amazon is doubling down on owning it’s own social environments. Perhaps they see Instagram and Pinterest as a threat, as these sites open consumers eyes to other retailers.
  • Staying with messaging, WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) is building out a monetization team and exploring ways for businesses to start using the platform. It will be interesting to see if and how Facebook tries to unify the customer-business experience across FB, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. It’s also interesting given WhatsApp has historically been anti-ad monetization.
  • Netflix quarterly results (PDF link) came through and US subscribers are up 1.07M beating expectations. The interesting tipping point is Netflix now has more international subscribers (52M) than US domestic subscribers (51.9M). While the margin is slim, what’s important to note is that US growth is slowing relative to global numbers.
  • The AdTech sector continues to consolidate. Sizmek (ad serving provider) acquired Rocketfuel (programmatic platform) for $145M. It is a good outcome for Rocketfuel, given their quarterly financial statement (and I quote) “expects its second half 2017 financial results will be materially below current analysts’ expectations and last year’s performance”.
  • Google made an interesting move during the week. Launching Google Hire. No, it’s not a tool for getting a job with Google. It sits somewhere between Linked In, a Recruitment Workflow Tool, and G-Suite (their cloud-based office subscription platform). It’s not yet a consumer facing tool, it’s US and it’s in a limited release – if you think it’s relevant to your clients, you can request a demo here.
  • In Snapchat news. Snapchat and NBC are partnering on a daily news show called “Stay Tuned”. Launched during the week, the stories are published twice a day on weekdays and once on weekends. You can find and subscribe (free) to it via the main Discover page. A dedicated news service should help Snap drive more daily active use of Snapchat.
  • Other Snap news was the launch of another filter for re-coloring images (learn more here). This feels like something fun for brands in the fashion and automotive space (make clothes and cars any color you want). On the physical product front, Snapchat Spectacles are now available from Amazon.
  • YouTube TV continues to roll out and is now live in 10 more metros. Washington, D.C., Houston, Atlanta, Phoenix, Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, Charlotte, and Dallas-Fort Worth. Google has not revealed any details on subscriber numbers, growth or demand for the service.
  • As news organizations continue to move to a paywall/subscription model. Facebook will start testing a paywall offering in October. Integrated with Facebook instant articles, details are still a bit vague. This move may also fit into an overall strategy of Facebook trying to limit the spread of fake news.

Finally, in the most unsettling and disturbing research of the week. Google has been doing some quiet tests of fraudulent inventory in the adtech ecosystem. Short story, Google found inventory misrepresented as coming from NBCU, CBS, and the New York times. Inventory hygiene is a real problem and this is why standards like ads.txt are important. You can read about Google’s tests here.

Have a great week

Joshua