Here’s your Last week in Digital Media. Enjoy!
ZUCKERBERG CONGRESSIONAL HEARING
Mark Zuckerberg appeared at a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee. The 6-hour hearing (you can re-watch here) didn’t start well for Facebook, with the Chair of the Committee openly stating “you have opened up a serious discussion about whether Facebook should be broken up”. Zuckerberg’s opening statement (PDF link) tried to keep the focus on Libra but did touch on discrimination in advertising and diversity. The overall debate though went wide and beyond Libra covering topics such as China, censorship, election protection, misinformation, encryption, to Cambridge-Analytica.
The FT has a good summary of the 5 things to come out of the hearing; the Guardian has a good play-by-play breakdown and key highlights, or see the Washington Post for an overall analysis. Overall, it’s best summarized as there’s increasing political frustration with Facebook, no new information was really disclosed about anything, and both sides were probably disappointed with the outcome.
- Snapchat beat analyst expectations for Q3, adding 7MM Daily Active Users (DAUs) (PDF link). The earnings release slides break down all the key metrics. Of the more interesting stats, most of the growth looks to come from “Rest of World” i.e. not the US/Europe and the Snap Original “Dead of Night” reached over 14 million unique viewers.
- during the Snapchat earnings call, in response to an analyst question, Evan Spiegel identified TikTok as a friend rather than foe. This seems to be a high-risk call by Snapchat but one they are probably forced into after calling out Facebook’s alleged anti-competitive behavior and not wanting to look hypocritical.
- Facebook announced its journalism-based news tab i.e. Facebook News. It’s US-only for now and rolling out to a subset of users (so you may not see it). The news tab is curated by humans, using publicly available guidelines, and news publishers are being paid for their material.
- Twitter Q3 results (PDF link) failed to impress the market despite monetizable Daily Active Users (mDAU) increasing to 145MM. The challenge for Twitter is that it missed earnings forecasts, coming in at US$824MM, blaming the shortfall on “revenue product issues” (in English – bugs) “impacting (the) ability to target ads and share data with measurement and ad partners”.
- Inmar has acquired ad tech and data company ownerIQ. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed. Owner IQ has strength in 1st and 2nd party data and is used by retail websites to help monetize their audiences.
- Amazon’s Q3 2019 earnings were released (PDF link) which gives a glimpse into what their ad business looks like. Amazon’s “Other Revenue” which “primarily includes advertising” (PDF Link pp14) was up 44% to US$3.6B. There’s no breakdown on what ad products make up the “other”.
- Roku acquired dataXU, a DSP with strength in the video category, for US$150MM. A firm signal that Roku is planning to grow and strengthen its advertising offering.
- Disney+ has inked a deal with Verizon, where new Verizon subscribers (mobile and internet) will get 12 months of Disney+ for free.
- Meanwhile, streaming service Quibi has struck a deal with T-Mobile. Details are light other than it’s “exclusive rights to distribute the content”. As a reminder, Quibi’s streaming will cost $5 per month with ads and $8 without them.
- Given the above recent deals, worth a refresher on all the ways people can get free access to streaming offerings. Hulu is free on Sprint, Prime Video free with Prime, Peacock will be free to Comcast subscribers, Netflix free on T-Mobile, and Apple TV+ free with a new iOS device – which kind of suggests that for all the talk of cord-cutting, the cable is being substituted for a mobile connection.
- Nielsen claims it can measure (some) Amazon Prime Video content through Nielsen’s Subscription Video on Demand Content Ratings product. The “some” disclaimer is because it’s only in the US and on connected TVs and related devices. That is, it excludes mobile and PC consumption. As a proof point, Nielsen stated that the Amazon Prime Video show “The Boys” averaged 4.1 million viewers per episode.
- YouTube released the trailer for their first interactive film “A Heist with Markiplier” interactive film. The series will be available for free and launch on October 30.
- the AppleTV+ App is coming to Amazon FireTV devices. This comes off the back of AppleTV+ coming to Roku last week.
- Netflix is introducing a mobile-only subscription offering in Malaysia priced at RM17 (~US$4) per month. This is the second time Netflix has done this, having tested mobile-only pricing in India earlier in the year.
- a bipartisan group of US Senators introduced a data portability bill called “Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act”. The proposal would require platforms, products or services with more than 100MM US users to make the service interoperable with other platforms, enable easy porting of data, and streamlined management of permissions. For what it’s worth, the industry has been kicking around a data portability proposal since last year.
- TikTok is being flagged as a national security concern with members of the US Congress sending a letter to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence requesting an assessment of the risks. TikTok responded to the concerns in a blog post and asserted that it has independence from foreign government interference (aka China). If the concerns about TikTok sound familiar, this is the second time a US politician has asked for an investigation, the last occasion involved a letter to the US Dept. of Treasury (PDF link).
- 47 Attorney Generals are now investigating Facebook according to the latest update from the NY Attorney General. It’s worth reading the news release, as it has quotes from all the new participating States and you get a sense of the underlying concerns e.g. privacy, competition, and accountability.
PRIVACY, TRUST, and SAFETY
- the crackdown on fake followers and influencers picked up pace during the week with the FTC imposing a $2.5MM settlement against Devumi, a firm found to be selling fake followers. In a separate FTC action, Sunday Riley Modern Skincare is alleged to have encouraged employees to post fake positive reviews of products. In the case of Sunday Riley, the proposed FTC settlement does not include a penalty but does require communication to all employees to not post fake reviews.
- twitter is looking for public feedback as it reviews its policy around fake content or as twitter describes it “synthetic and manipulated media”. More details on how to provide feedback will be available in the coming weeks.
- the Washington Post published a story about the privacy challenges of credit cards. Expect more stories informing consumers of what happens with data to be written as consumer privacy concerns mount and privacy legislation comes into effect (the footer of the story has a lot more privacy-related links framed as “Secret Life of Your Data”)
- The IAB released its CCPA framework for public comment and discussion. The comment period ends on November 5th.
Thanks for reading and have a great week!
PS. The distraction of the week is this ~8min YouTube video which shows the most popular websites from 1996 to today as an animated graph. The playlist also includes the most popular instant message clients, social networks, and mobile phone brands. Enjoy!