Welcome back to Last Week in Digital Media. This week, I’ll include some of the major stories that broke during my the newsletter hiatus. This will also be the second last update of the year given the Holiday season is just around the corner.
The last issue covered revelations about Facebook’s alleged behavior toward competitors. During the week, the UK parliament released a 250pp document (PDF) with Facebook correspondence that was seized from a company called Six4Three. Here’s what you need to know:
- the documents seized from Six4Three reveal details on Facebook’s decisions about data, privacy, and who should have access to that data (API partners, advertisers, etc). There is no positive news for Facebook in the information that has been released.
- The first page of the PDF document has 6 takeaways, NY Times has published their 4 key takeaways, and Insider has published a list of seven. All of them show Zuckerberg being personally involved in decisions to cut-off competitor access; the company is focused on what’s good for Facebook even if it’s not good for the world; and Facebook being open to circumventing privacy and data controls if it served Facebook’s interests.
- Facebook has published a response and Zuckerberg has also posted a response, claiming the documents tell part of the story. Both responses gloss over privacy and business practices raised on topics like data collection of Android call/SMS logs and Onavo data.
- the general consensus is that the documents paint a picture of Facebook as being on a mission to “Make money and crush competitors” (NY Times) to “Zuckerberg is ruthless” (Entrepreneur.com) and that “Facebook uses data as a competitive weapon” (The Australian). Neither of which look positive to Government and regulators.
- UK MP Damian Collins (who released the report due to Facebook’s refusal to provide straight answers) is calling for more public debate on the issues raised and used the phrase “dominant position” in a possible reference to the UK viewing Facebook being a monopoly. In the US, Senator Richard Blumenthal has called for the FTC to act and claimed Facebook has failed to comply with their 2011 Consent Decree.
Editorial: Facebook comes across as somewhat tone deaf and blind to concerns about the matters that have come to light in the documents. There is also very little being said proactively by Facebook about privacy or data protection. Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer has been notably silent as of writing this. With data and privacy regulation firmly on the horizon for 2019, Facebook is doing neither themselves or the industry favors right now. This headline (and article) on Forbes sums it up best “Facebook still doesn’t understand what privacy means“.
- the Stories format, pioneered by Snapchat, is now coming to Linked In. The format will be tested first in an offering aimed at students called “Student Voices”. If you want to see what it looks like within the app and you’re a) reading this on your phone and b) have the Linked In app installed – click this link. Otherwise, check out the Linked In stories sizzle reel here.
- YouTube is expanding the availability of their stories format (called Reels). Creators with more than 10,000 subscribers will now have the ability to create reels and there is some skepticism from YouTube creators on whether the offering has merit.
- Chrome 71 was released during the week. A reminder, this version of Chrome will block abusive advertising experiences. These are mostly unscrupulous behavior (malware, phishing, etc) but keep in mind this is part of Google’s broader overall move to encourage acceptable advertising
- it’s reported that Instagram is testing a more cards-based UI, bringing an end to the scrolling feed. If the test proves successful and becomes the default UI, it would enable richer, better viewable, full-screen mobile ads on the platform.
- the IAB has published a guide on “Opt-In Value Exchange” advertising i.e. those ads that invite you to watch for an ad light experience or 30minutes of ad-free content. The IAB has also published some useful case studies on the campaign/brand benefits of value exchange ads.
OTT and VIDEO
- Hulu is on track to have 23MM subscribers by the end of 2018. The details were revealed by Hulu’s CEO (Randy Freer) at the Business Insider Ignition conference. Freer did hint that international expansion is coming, ad revenue remains a key part of the model, but did not reveal details or speculate on Disney might do given it is/will be a major shareholder.
- AT&T has signaled it might sell it’s 10% stake in Hulu. This could potentially give Disney even greater control should it decide to take up AT&T’s share (Comcast is the other likely party). The news comes as WarnerMedia (a subsidiary of AT&T) continues to hint at more details of its own subscription-based streaming service which will include three (3) content tiers and is expected to include advertising.
- A reminder, Google will turn off annotations in YouTube on January 15th. This has been expected for over a year now, with the ability to annotate new videos being discontinued back in May of 2017 but worth reminding clients in case they have legacy videos using the feature.
AD FRAUD, TRUST, PRIVACY, BRAND SAFETY
- An industry coalition aided by industry the Trustworthy and Accountability Group (TAG) have worked with the FBI to take down a multi-million, 1.7million bot-net, 31 domain, ad fraud network “methbot” and “3ve”. BuzzFeed has a detailed write up of everything that led to the takedown and the 8 people that are facing charges. The US DoJ has issued a release with specifics on the types of fraud, the defendants, and acknowledging the private sector companies who helped bring about the result. Major industry fraud-detection players like IAS and DoubleVerify have stated that their Sophisticated Invalid Traffic (SIVT) algorithms protected clients from 3ve. It’s worth noting that WhiteOps was a significant contributor to the takedown of 3ve and published specific recommendations for advertisers.
- the IAB has released a draft ads.txt spec for mobile apps called app-ads.txt. It’s important that the industry encourages partners to adopt this standard, which would provide more transparency and safety in the mobile ecosystem, particularly helping to eliminate fraudulent inventory.
- from the UK and as reported by The Drum, “the UK government’s intelligence and security committee has called on parliament to apply pressure on brands in an effort to “force” the removal of terrorist and extremist material by withdrawing ad spend from platforms like YouTube and Facebook.” This is something to take note of, as it makes brand safety broader than just ad adjacency and more about the entire platform.
- Ever wondered if your personal data has been exposed in a hack or data leak? There’s a survey on NY Times that asks you about your history with some major companies, which by the end shows how many times your data has been exposed and what kind of data. The survey comes off the back of Amazon admitting to a customer email data leak and a massive 500MM people data breach by Marriott.
Have a great week.