Welcome back to Last Week in Digital Media and the first one for 2019. Lot’s of news this week!
The best download from CES innovation comes from the IPG Media Lab and I recommend you read their blog posts highlighting each day. During my walks of the floor, what stood out was “assistant everywhere”. Whether it was Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, the ability to connect, support, or have them integrated into devices was prevalent across so many devices. There were smart toilets, smart closets, smart Set Top Boxes, and smart plug-ins for your car. There’s clearly a belief across hardware and device makers that consumers value integrated assistant features. The lesson from CES is that brands and marketers in 2019 would be well placed to think about how smart assistants and voice can form part of both product and marketing strategies in the year ahead (and what device makers they may consider as partners).
- Amazon rarely discloses any specific numbers for Amazon Prime or other services, but in an interview with the Verge, Amazon’s SVP of services said that more than 100MM devices with Alexa on board have been sold. Amazon is also sold out of Echo dots until February 2019.
- Google Chrome’s built-in capability to adblock unacceptable (aka highly disruptive) ads will go global as of July 9, 2019. A reminder, if you want to know what sort of ads are at risk of being blocked, visit the BetterAds.org standards page.
- Nielsen’s Total Ad Ratings measurement offering will start to include OTT, mobile audiences, as well as YouTube. This is part of Nielsen’s overall move to provide better cross-platform measurement.
- twitter is developing new analytics tools for publishers and events. The latter is the most interesting, as it also feeds into a product that will make it easier for users to tune in to events and what’s trending at said events without having to follow specific users or accounts (and unlock more event-based ad opportunities on the platform).
- A reminder, Oath: is now rebranded as Verizon Media. This is not really a surprise, given Verizon took a write-down on the Oath: assets in the final weeks of 2018.
- The are reports Amazon is working on a game streaming service. This is not to be confused with eSports / watching people play games (remember Amazon owns twitch in that category), it’s the delivery/ability to play games on any almost any device by streaming them from a central server. This is an important an emerging content area, with nVidia (GeForce Now), Google (Project Stream) and Microsoft (Project X Cloud) all experimenting with game streaming.
- Amazon is working on a revised influencer strategy according to leaked documents. The influencer program would share a commission back with influencers who promote products, with higher commission rates for Amazon’s owned and operated brands. Influencers would also be incentivized to promote other Amazon offerings like Fresh, Music, etc.
OTT and VIDEO
- OTT hardware and service provider, Roku provided a Q4 update with active accounts of 27MM (up 40%) and 7.3B hours streamed (up 68%). Expect details on Roku’s ad business in February, when Roku will release full-year financials.
- At CES, Amazon claimed to have “well over” 30MM active Fire TV devices. This places it ahead of Roku, although Amazon does have a global footprint advantage, being available in 80 markets vs Roku’s 23.
- Staying with OTT, at CES Samsung and Apple announced that iTunes would come to Samsung TVs. It’s a major shift for Apple who has not had the best relationship with Samsung.
- NBC Universal is planning to reduce the ad load in prime time TV by 20% by 2020. The reduced ad load is linked to increased targeting capabilities, using on NBC’s AI-based targeting solution.
- A company called Tablo has a beta of DVR that will automatically skip ads in recorded content by leveraging AI and the cloud infrastructure. To automatically skip ads in DVR’d content. To access the capability, users will need to pay a monthly US$5 subscription.
- Connected TV adtech company, Innovid, received a US$30MM investment from Goldman Sachs. Part of the funds will be used to expand Innovid’s global footprint.
- twitter has struck a deal with Turner, that will see twitter live stream the second-half of select NBA games, from a camera angle of a single player. twitter users will get to vote on which player will be featured and it’s designed to be a second screen experience. The service will debut Feb 17th during the 2019 NBA All-Star game.
- Amazon’s free ad-supported streaming service is now official, it’s called IMDB Freedive and operates via the IMDB brand. The service includes movies, TV and IMDB originals (not to be confused with Amazon originals).
- Mark Zuckerberg always posts a year-end review and a new-year personal challenge. Here’s what you need to know:
- In the year-end review, Zuckerberg acknowledged many of Facebook’s 2018 (many) challenges although ended optimistically on how Facebook has contributed to communities. The long-promised Clear History tool was mentioned but no launch timeline proposed. The most interesting statement was Facebook is “working to establish an independent body that people can appeal decisions to and that will help decide our policies“. Hopefully, this will help Facebook make better decisions in 2019.
- In Zuckerberg’s personal challenge is “is to host a series of public discussions about the future of technology in society“. This is somewhat a continuation of his 2018 listening tour.
PRIVACY, TRUST, and SAFETY
- Location-based data and privacy continue to be in the spotlight. Vice’s Motherboard looked at 3rd party weather apps and recommended users stop using them because of the way these apps track and share data. In a separate but related story, Motherboard also spoke of how carrier location data of individual users could be bought investigators, bounty hunters, and the like. The latter has resulted in US Senators calling for the FCC to investigate the allegations. AT&T and T-Mobile have since severed their agreements with the companies named in the Motherboard article.
- In a study by both NYU and Princeton published in Science Advances, it is reported that it is users age 65+ who are 7x more likely to share fake news. The study included 3,500 people across both Facebook and non-Facebook users. If you’re interested, the full study PDF is here.
- DNA testing company, 23andme, has taken a US$300MM investment from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Sparking debate about data privacy in the DNA testing category and articles on how to delete your 23andme data. It’s reasonable to expect that the GSK investment will fuel more calls for Federal data regulation in the US.
- A Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) study in Europe revealed that using TAG certified inventory ad fraud rates dropped from 9% to 0.53%. The full TAG European Benchmark study is here (PDF) and underscores why you should ensure you always ask partners if their inventory is TAG certified.
Have a great week.
PS. The double tip of the week is a reminder, that almost a year ago Google Lens (integrated into the free Google mobile app) lets you scan business cards and add them straight to your contacts. It comes in really hand at events like CES where cards are passed out like confetti. The extra tip is image-related, this free online tool that uses AI to automatically remove the background from images.