Welcome back after the Thanksgiving break, this week Last Week in Digital Media includes two weeks of news, here’s what you may have missed:
Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, announced in a tweet that he plans to spend 3-6 months of 2020 in Africa. The news received mixed reaction mainly given concerns about what this means for twitter actively policing the 2020 US Election. Separately, over at Alphabet (aka Google) founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin announced they were stepping back from the company (still majority shareholders) and that Sundar Pichai will take over Alphabet.
There’s a lot of speculation as to what is really motivating these CEOs to step away or out. What’s not in doubt is that as 2019 comes to an end the industry is under more scrutiny than ever and 2020 will be the “Year of Reckoning” for data and tech across everything from antitrust to privacy. Whether this is what motivated the decisions is open to debate, what is less open to discussion is to expect the “Year of Reckoning” to put leaders of every ad tech company under as much scrutiny as the companies they lead.
- with Disney controlling Hulu, a recent analysis of a financial filing by Disney reveals some details on Hulu’s performance. It’s reported that Hulu brought in US$670MM in ad revenue and US$1.27B in subscription revenue for 2019. All of this is based on a subscriber base of 18.4MM.
- if you have a twitter account and haven’t logged in for a while (and want to keep the username) it’s important that you login. Twitter is making plans to delete inactive accounts (EU markets will be first) once twitter works out how to manage for properly memorializing accounts of deceased persons.
- some more rumors from Facebook’s NPE (New Product Experimentation) team. Including that the team has kicked around ideas such as podcast discovery, a stories-like Powerpoint offering, and travel products.
- reddit is ending the year with 430MM monthly active users. reddit’s year-end summary has some interesting data including most discussed brands, beauty trends, and more. Worth reading through the press release as there is some great consumer intelligence.
- Facebook has released a tool that lets users download their Facebook photos and transfer them to Google Photos (available in Ireland only for now). Roll out to the rest of the world is expected in the first half of 2020. The move is the first as part of Facebook’s participation in the cross-industry Data Transfer Project.
- YouTube is cleaning-house, deleting closed accounts from subscriber accounts. The change came into effect Dec 3rd. Channel owners and clients may see subscriber accounts drop as a result of the cleanup.
- another entrant into the ad-supported streaming space is Plex. Plex will offer movies, TV series, and more.
- streaming aggregator, Reelgood, raised US$6.75MM. Reelgood provides a central dashboard to discover streaming content. What makes Reelgood different from other services is it licenses its data to Roku, SmartTV manufacturers, and others (there is also a consumer app on iOS).
- TikTok is being sued over allegations it collected and tracked the data of children. You can read the complaint here. TikTok settled the complaint within 24 hours of it being filed.
- separately, a lawsuit has been filed in California claiming TikTok is sending data to China. The lawsuit claims TikTok collected and sent data to China even though the user had never created an account.
- Facebook is facing regulatory investigations in the EU over data collection practices. Google too is facing EU investigations into data collection practices. In both instances, data collection for advertising is one of the areas under review.
- the FTC is reportedly investigating Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS has about 48% market share of the cloud hosting market and is used by a lot of media, data, and tech. companies so this could have broad implications across the industry.
- Singapore has issued an enforcement order under the “Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act” with Facebook ordered to correct a post from a user. It is the first time a platform has been asked to make a correction, on a previous occasion it was the actual poster who was asked to make amends. Facebook has acted on the request and placed a corrective notice on the post.
- US Senate Democrats have proposed a Federal Privacy Law called the “Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act” aka COPRA (PDF link). Introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell, the bill would enable people to see the personal information that collected about them and block it from being sold, as well as introduce penalties for data misuse, with the regulatory environment overseen by the FTC.
- China passed a law banning the publishing and distribution of “fake news” and any use of AI/Virtual Reality to be marked in a prominent manner. The laws are overseen by China’s Cyberspace Affairs Commission. The laws are effective on Jan 1, 2020.
PRIVACY, TRUST, and SAFETY
- Buzzfeed has a report on what Facebook is sharing with political advertisers in the lead up to the 2020 US election. Facebook’s core message to political advertisers is that it’s focused on protecting the election and to increase voter turnout.
- a possible sign that little has been learned since Cambridge Analytica and rogue apps, both Facebook and Twitter confirmed that users may have had their data inappropriately accessed due to certain the way certain apps used their respective SDKs. Twitter published details on its website, while Facebook shared a statement with CNBC. The “rogue” apps were from One Audience and Mobiburn. OneAudience published an update and Mobiburn issued a statement each separately claiming that they didn’t collect any data.
- remember the FaceApp (the focus of a lot of coverage back in July)? The FBI has come out and said it is a potential counterintelligence threat. In broad terms, the FBI appears to consider any application or service developed or hosted in Russia a threat based on the data it collects.
- TikTok co-CEO Alex Zhu plans to meet with US lawmakers in DC next week in an attempt to calm concern about the company.
- Instagram will start capturing the date of birth of new users (the service is intended for those aged over 13 years of age). Instagram claims the data will be private but is silent on if/how it will be used for advertising purposes.
- YouTube published an update on what it is doing to stop the spread of misinformation on the platform. Including downranking and reducing the spread of borderline content. YouTube is also working to better surface authoritative resources.
- the FTC has found that Cambridge Analytica deceived Facebook users (in a 5-0 finding) in regards to data collection and compliance with the EU-US Privacy Shield. There are no monetary penalties and it’s unclear what the finding really means given Cambridge Analytica is no longer in business.
Outside of a major breaking news event that, this is the last Last Week in Digital Media for 2019. Thank you for reading, for your feedback, and have a great holiday season. Stay safe and you will hear from me post-CES (mid-January) 2020.