Here’s your Last Week in Digital Media.
- Apple is rumored to be close to launching a Netflix-style magazine subscription service (off the back of the Texture acquisition last year). Reports put it at being announced this March. The WSJ reports (paywall) that Apple will be seeking to take a 50/50 split on the subscriptions which publishers are resisting. There is no word on what the ad experience will be like for users paying for a subscription.
- There’s an interesting article on Axios that reports alcohol sales are declining with Millennials and Gen Z based on an increasing health conscious focus. It’s also interesting to consider based on an older article by Vice, which notes how behaviors are changing due fear as to how it may lead to embarrassment on social media.
- A new anonymous messaging app “Telonym“, an amalgam of “tell on him” and anonymous is reportedly causing concern for parents. Given the popularity of the app with teens, expect rapid copying of the less-controversial features by the major platforms.
- twitter is working on integrating a Snapchat-style camera into the app that will be opened when you swipe left from the home screen. The offering is codenamed News Camera but the consumer-facing name will be moments.
- Amazon acquired mesh WiFi router maker Eero for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition is a further step towards Amazon’s move to own everything that makes a smart-home smart. Subject to any new Terms of Services (ToS), the acquisition would also help provide Amazon insights into internet use in a home across everything outside of the Amazon universe.
- During the week, notable tech journalist Kara Swisher did a live tweet interview with twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. The interview was very hard to follow in real time and didn’t reveal anything meaningful (Dorsey was very evasive) but it did demonstrate twitter isn’t really a good place to do a live interview. If you want to read the full transcript, recode has it on their website.
- reddit is positioning itself as a challenger in the social media advertising space, with reddit raising US$300MM to invest in their website and taking ad share from Google and Facebook. An interesting highlight of the capital raising is that reddit’s Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) at US$0.30, the lowest of any social media platform based on a reported 330MM users.
- Facebook Watch is looking to fund content produced by influencers around US$200,000 for an 8 episode series. The programs would not be Facebook watch originals, they would be content where Facebook has an exclusive distribution window. Facebook seems to be doubling down on creators, with a major presence at Vidcon UK during the week.
- Music app TikTok has been testing native video ads in the US. The experience seems buggy, so this is very much an early-beta and not something broadly available. You can see the TikTok ad experience here.
- Linked In has started rolling out a beta of a live streaming video product called Linked In Live (US-only). The service is invite-only for now and is intended to stay in the same tone as the overall platform e.g. event streaming, product launches, entrepreneur Q&As. To help ensure the videos look professional, Linked In has struck deals with live streaming tool providers like Wirecast and Switcher.
- This is an unusual one and it’s hard to know where it sits legally, but there’s a new online streaming service called locast that streams local TV stations for free. Currently available in 9 US cities, the service claims to have legitimacy as a not-for-profit public digital translator (aka relay) service.
- There’s a new competitor to Fortnite, it’s called Apex Legends. The game hit 25MM users in the first week and 2MM concurrent users. For context, it took Fortnite 2 weeks to hit half as many users. It seems like Fortnite is feeling some competitive pressure as a result, announcing that the Season 8 battle pass will be free to users who complete a certain number of challenges by Feb 27.
- Interesting news in the world of AI. A little talked of fact is eCommerce websites typically price match using bots and AI (that’s why so many sites have you add to cart before you can see the price to try and game the bot-system). Research out of Italy shows that unconnected price matching AI can learn to collude and increase prices. That is, ask what checks and balances exist in the system to ensure that the best interests of consumers and clients are protected.
- the UK Parliamentary inquiry into Disinformation and “Fake News” has published their final report. Among key findings, it calls for a mandatory Code of Ethics for tech. companies and states that it believes “Facebook intentionally and knowingly violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws“. The report highlights some harsh truths for everyone in the industry, including that UK electoral laws are not fit for purpose when it comes to social media. A fact that holds true everywhere in the world.
- there are multiple reports that Facebook is about to enter into a multi-billion dollar settlement with the FTC around Cambridge-Analytica and other data privacy incidents from 2018. This will be something to watch. It would give a preview of how the FTC views privacy, if there is a new consent-decree it would change how Facebook goes to market in advertising, and it will set the direction for how the industry uses data.Editorial Observation: The previously cited UK Parliamentary report notes on pp26, paragraph 76 “If (Facebook) had fully complied with the FTC settlement, (Cambridge Analytica) would not have happened“. If the UK Parliamentary report reached this conclusion, it’s difficult to imagine the FTC arriving at a different position.
- the UK has published the results of a study into the future of journalism and news industry titled “the Cairncross Review“. The full report is 157pp (pdf link) and is relevant to the ad industry as it calls out the reduction of supply in public-interest journalism as a “market failure” and questions whether the rise and power of Google and Facebook will require government intervention. While a UK-based report, the themes, and findings do resonate across countries given the challenges are common to news organizations everywhere.
PRIVACY, TRUST, and SAFETY
- there’s a disturbing read in the New Yorker about the rise of private security companies offering disinformation services (PsyOps). This includes creating fake accounts, content and running targeted digital media in unethical ways to change public opinion. The article demonstrates that the challenge facing the industry is not just the weaponization of data, but the weaponization of advertising.
Before I wrap this week, a brief housekeeping update. Due to weekend client travel, I may not be able to publish an update next week. I will try my best to find time to write an update and send a newsletter but ask for your patience if I miss a week.
Thanks for reading, I appreciate it and have a great week.