2019.08.09 Last Week in Digital Media

Welcome to another Last Week in Digital Media here’s all the news you may have missed:


  • Facebook is embracing Instagram and WhatsApp in a very direct way, with the company putting its name on Instagram and WhatsApp apps. This is a significant change because currently the apps are branded as being from Instagram Inc and WhatsApp Inc respectively. The move comes as Facebook moves to more tightly integrate the apps but it will also be interesting to see how this plays out when there is a negative issue on one platform.
  • Snapchat is raising US$1B in a short-term debt offering, with the money earmarked for investment in product features, content, and potential acquisitions. The debt will mature in 2026.
  • PromoteIQ, a company specializing in advertising in online store environments (aka vendor marketing) has been acquired by Microsoft. Microsoft has not detailed how it plans to use or integrate the acquisition.
  • Twitter is removing integrated in-platform access to 3rd party data by January 2020. This brings twitter into light with other platforms that require advertisers to license, upload and certify any 3rd party data they use for advertising.
  • Unrelated to the above twitter news, but worth sharing here, twitter did admit to a bug in their platform that may have accidentally resulted in limited sets of data being shared with advertisers and/or targeting based on inferences about your device even if you had not given explicit permission. In fairness to twitter, at least they owned up to the issue where problems like these normally surface from whistle-blowers or 3rd party investigations/reports.
  • Google has made some changes to Google image search, making it more Pinterest-esque. The changes include when you click on an image it appears on the right rail, so you can scroll and look at other images while anchoring on something for comparison and if the item is a product then it will show the price and availability at a retailer. The latter is interesting because it shows Google focusing more on eCommerce offerings integrated directly into search results.
  • Facebook is planning to have a dedicated News tab, that involves Facebook paying to license content from publishers. Facebook has confirmed that the News tab will launch in the US Fall and the tab will cover trustworthy “topical stories”.
  • Something I am personally excited about, long-promised Google Maps AR feature for walking directions is now rolling out more broadly. The feature lets you hold see AR markers on your phone telling you which way to walk.


  • Disney’s upcoming streaming service Disney+ now has a price, with a Disney+, ESPN, Hulu bundle coming in at US$12.99 per month, see pp11 of the Disney earnings call transcript (PDF link). Standalone Disney+ will be US$6.99 per month or US$69 annually. The service will be available on November 12th. Also in the earnings transcript, Disney revealed that Hulu has 28MM paid subscribers (see pp 7).
  • Facebook is making moves into the subscription streaming space, selling ad-free subscriptions to 3rd party services such as College Humor, BritBox, and TasteMade+. Subscriptions will be ad-free and range from $2.99 to $6.99 per month.
  • Google will start surfacing individual podcast episodes in search results (click here for a results example) this is being achieved through Google automatically doing speech to text conversion on episodes as well as Google pulling in podcast feeds. This is not surprising when a MAGNA study shows that 30% of Americans listen to a podcast every month (approaching 50% by 2023).
  • Roku has an impressive 2019 Q2 result, reaching 30.5MM actives (up 39% YoY) and ad revenues growing 59% YoY to US$250MM. In Roku’s shareholder letter (PDF link) it claims to be the #1 streaming platform in the US by hour hours streamed (according to 3rd party research). The company also shared it would no longer be working on an audio service and instead has struck a deal with Walmart who will retail them under Walmart’s private label “onn” electronics brand.



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