An earlier edition of Last Week in Digital Media in an attempt to get your attention before the Super Bowl (or Superb Owl, as Google might have you believe). Here’s the news you may have missed:
- Hulu is working on a new pause-based advertising unit available in Q2 of this year. The ad unit appears more like a banner, on the right side of the screen with Hulu taking steps to address concerns around viewability, user-experience, and brand safety. Charmin and Coca-Cola are early adopters of the ad unit.
- After Buzzfeed’s round of layoffs it emerged that one of the top performing content areas on the site were quizzes made by an unpaid teen. While being critical of a site not paying a top traffic driver is fair, it neglects a broader issue which is the companies making the most money on the internet (Google and Facebook) are doing so by monetizing content contributed for free by others.
- H&M has hired Cambridge Analytica whistle blower Chris Wylie. Wylie has been working for H&M since December, with his focus being on using data and AI to identify products consumers want. This may seem incongruous, but Wylie has been working on a PhD in predicting fashion trends.
- Spotify is reported to be in talks to buy podcasting company Gimlet Media for US$200MM in an all-cash deal. This would be big news for podcasting. Gimlet Media stands out as it is a producer of original podcasts, this would give Spotify access to unique content that could be used to better acquire paid subscribers (early access to content) as well as new advertising opportunities.
- Reminder. Google+ shuts down on April 2 and all content will be deleted. If you or clients are using (or used) Google+ and want to save the data, then you need to download it before April 2.
- An advertising pitch deck from TikTok has been leaked. Digiday has published a copy of the TikTok pitch (paywall). The deck only has numbers for European users. Showing that Germany and France are the top markets with ~4MM active monthly users respectively. Overall, the user ratio is 54:46 (female:male). Ad products are: Brand takeover; in-feed native video; hashtag challenge; and Snapchat-style 2D lens filters for photos
PRIVACY / APPLE-GOOGLE-FACEBOOK AT WAR
There was a brief all-out war between Apple, Google, and Facebook during the week. While it didn’t impact advertisers or consumers, it has far reaching implications across everyone the industry when it comes to data, market research, and developing apps for Apple’s ecosystem. The following attempts to track and summarize the timeline of events, but to be clear there was no client or advertiser impact.
- TechCrunch reported on Tuesday, that Facebook was paying teens to install a VPN-based market research app that effectively tracked everything. All of the users had consented, with signed parental consent forms and were opted-in but it did result in a questions being raised about Facebook’s behavior and Facebook announcing it was closing the research program.
- Facebook was making the app available via an Apple Enterprise Certificate a developer program for companies to make available apps to their staff only. Apple stated Facebook’s research app violated Apple’s terms.
- It then emerged that Google also had a similar research-based app. Like Facebook, Apple said the way it was being deployed was in breach of Apple’s terms.This is where it all gets interesting and evolved into a hot war on Privacy.
- Apple then suspended both Facebook and Google’s Enterprise App Certificates. While no consumer was impacted, the result was any app being tested by either company, including all internal employee workplace apps at Facebook and Google stopped working (Wednesday). It also meant that apps that developers might have be testing prior to consumer release stopped working.
- After talks between all parties, on Thursday Apple restored the Enterprise Certificates for Facebook and Google.Editorial: What are the implications of all of this? On one hand, it shows that Apple’s position as a protector of consumer privacy is something they were prepared to act on (although many have pointed out Apple makes US$12B by making Google the default on Safari). There’s another counter point which is Apple over-stepped the mark, because these were opt-in consent-based market research programs not publicly available apps so all participants knew what they were doing vs other privacy scandals. It might also be an own-goal by Apple as a current class action lawsuit that alleges the AppStore is a monopoly is not as easy to defend when you start shutting down apps from competitors that the CEO has openly criticized (and where there is an active feud) . For advertisers and marketers, the lesson is that Apple has set a precedent where it will make decisions to take action where it sees a privacy issue against Apple’s own rules, adding not just the need to be regulatory compliant but ensuring you don’t cross-the-line with Apple.
MEDIA & ADTECH Q4 RESULTS
- Facebook’s Q4 results were surprisingly good despite a year filled with controversy. The decline in Monthly and Daily Active Users in the US has stopped and revenues were up. The full Facebook investor presentation (PDF link) has useful slides with all of the key metrics (2.7B people now use Facebook, WhatsApp, or Instagram). In the earnings call (PDF transcript) Facebook did warn of “headwinds that (Facebook) might face on targeting given the overall privacy landscape in 2019“.
- Amazon’s Advertising business, reported in an “Other Revenue” category grew 95% to US$3.39B according to Amazon’s Q4 numbers.
- Verizon’s Q4 results, on the Verizon Media Group side, saw revenue down 5.8% (pdf link) and that the content/media focus would be “super channels” namely Yahoo! Sports, News, Finance, and Entertainment.
RESEARCH & MEASUREMENT
- MAGNA, the IPG Media Lab, and ViralGains published research on optimizing sequenced messaging based on sentiment. You can read the full report here (PDF) with the key takeaway being that optimizing sequencing based on sentiment provides better results than standard retargeting.
- If you’re after some digital stats for various markets around the world, Hootsuite has published a detailed (221 page) report that should have nearly everything you need. TheNextWeb also has an analysis of the report.
- YouTube has partnered with Nielsen-Catalina to provide in-store sales measurement for CPGs. This is in addition to IRI that was announced back in 2018.
- StreamLabs (a company that offers apps and services to streamers) published a report called “State of the Stream” focused on game streaming. The free report shows that twitch continues to dominate eSports streaming (just over 3x YouTube Gaming) and Fortnite while still the most popular has declined slightly.
PRIVACY AND BRAND SAFETY
- Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner revealed that there at 16 ongoing investigations into GDPR-related issues across the major tech. companies. The interview with the Commissioner in the Irish Times is a good read to get insights into how regulators are thinking and the types of issues surfacing, many of which seem to be bugs exposing user data.
- Snopes.com announced it is ending their fact-checking partnership with Facebook. Snopes published a post saying while there were financial implications, it was balancing multiple factors and wouldn’t rule out working with Facebook in the future.
- Multiple US States are reported to be investigating Facebook’s privacy practices (Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and North Carolina). Bloomberg also reports that some of the States are looking to cooperate in their investigation.
- Over the holiday period, there was a great article in the Economist about the importance of identity and a case of someone’s identity being deleted and stolen in 1409 (and the wide ranging impacts). You can read the article here (paywall).
- Integral Ad Science (IAS) released a study that showed data privacy is the top priority for the industry (56% of respondents). The survey sampled 900 advertising professionals. You can download the report for free (registration required).
- Facebook published a draft charter (PDF) an Oversight Board for content moderation. There will be a series of workshops, globally, over the next 6 months, and in the coming weeks Facebook will release details on how the public and industry can submit comment and suggestions on the review process.
Have a great rest of your week.