There’s some big news in regulation this week, so need to address this upfront. The EU ruled that companies using the Facebook Like button on their site will be liable for collecting user data and passing it Facebook (PDF link), full ruling text here. This is major news as the network of sites using the Like button provides Facebook with a lot of intelligence on user behavior and interests (Forbes has a good write up). What is significant is the ruling isn’t necessarily restricted to Facebook, a lot of platforms offer something similar (twitter, Linked In, Pinterest) to website owners. Client or brand operating in the EU and using social buttons should get independent legal advice to fully understand the implications.
- details have emerged on the sale of the last Sizmek asset, Peer 39, which was acquired by a private equity firm for US$18MM. The Trade Desk and Zefr are rumored to have also bid for the assets.
- there has been a flurry of advertising activity by twitter and Snapchat promoting their platforms but also directly comparing the experience on their platforms to Facebook and Instagram. Snapchat has been rather clever, getting influencers on Instagram to post content and hijacking hashtags (the campaign is also supported with OOH ads). Twitter is going for the angle of me on Instagram vs me on twitter via OOH ads.
- Spotify released their Q2 2019 financials. Total Monthly Active Users (MAUs) grew 29% YoY to 232 million. Premium subscribers up 31% YoY (108MM) but short of forecasts. Ad-Supported revenue was €165 million and grew 34% YoY. Notably, the podcast audience grew 50%. If you’re interested, here’s a handy chart that compares Spotify vs Apple Music subscriber numbers.
- Pinterest had a great Q2, with revenue growing 62% YoY to US$261MM and MAU’s hitting 300MM (28% US, 72% Global). Pinterest also announced some new ad products, including browsable catalogs as part of a focus on becoming a fully shoppable platform.
- Facebook’s Portal never feels like it has resonated, but there are multiple reports that Facebook is working on a Portal device that could connect to televisions and also support streaming services.
- TikTok has confirmed it is working on a smartphone although it won’t be for the US-market. Some of you may vaguely remember the Facebook phone (which flopped) and it’s tempting to be skeptical about the success (or otherwise) of the TikTok phone. However, I wouldn’t underestimate TikTok as the Chinese-market has proven that low-cost and subsidized phones can have high demand as the ASUS ROG II gaming phone has shown with 2million pre-orders. TikTok may also be able to subsidize the phone via their rumored subscription-based music streaming service and move into mobile search.
- A 2015 Facebook patent application has surfaced, which suggests Facebook has considered surfacing ads in Facebook messenger chats. Facebook has come out in response to the patent becoming public with the statement “We don’t have any plans to place ads in conversations between people” (not surprising given both the privacy concerns and Facebook’s promised move to encryption and privacy).
- Spotify’s self-service ad platform (Spotify Ad Studio) now provides interest-targeting and real-time context targeting. Interest targeting and real-time context targeting are available in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Australia.
VIDEO & OTT
- the Direct TV name is set to disappear, with AT&T changing the name to AT&T TV Now. The rebrand will occur later this summer.
- the four major US broadcasters (CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox) have come together to sue Locast, a service that streams local TV broadcasts for free. The basis for the complaint is that Locast is eroding licensing fees the broadcasters earn from cable companies.
- There’s a lengthy but interesting article on Vice that highlights how phone-farming (banks of phones to perpetrate mobile ad fraud) occurs within the US. Incentivized behavior/viewing is the primary target of fraudsters, with a focus on the Perk app and video content. As of writing, Perk has not yet responded to the Vice story.
- Senator Josh Hawley has introduced the Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology (SMART) Act (PDF link) in a proposed bid to combat social media addiction. The bill would ban things such as infinite scrolling, badges that reward behavior, auto-playing content (except for ads), as well as requiring in-app tools to track and limit usage.
- According to the WSJ, as part of the antitrust investigation, the FTC is examining whether Facebook acquired rivals to reduce competitive threats.
PRIVACY, TRUST, and SAFETY
- in some positive and pro-active trust and safety news from Facebook, the company is making the software used to detect harmful content open source. If you’re interested in using the code, you can find it on Github.
- voice assistant recordings are under the spotlight, with Germany opening proceedings against Google for enabling staff and contractors to listen to voice recordings (PDF-link) and legal action by a group of people in California. Apple too has come under scrutiny, with reports contractors are listening to Siri commands. Apple has now suspended access to Siri voice recordings.
Have a great week.
PS. The use of stereotypes can be a dangerous thing and in the world of digital, the hacker-in-the-hoodie is a very common image used in cybersecurity. The design firm IDEO has invited people to come up with a new image for cybersecurity. If you’re feeling creative, there is a prize to be won!