Welcome to another Last Week in Digital Media, here’s all the news you may have missed and it’s a big news week so this is an extra-long newsletter.
- Google’s Chrome browser announced a plan to stop supporting 3rd party cookies within 2 years. This news had an impact across the industry. AdTech share prices fell, the ANA/4A’s released a joint statement calling out the risks and asking for the change to be delayed and further consultation and until there’s a workable alternative to cookies. CNBC has a good perspective from analysts on what it means both for the businesses and share prices of some of the publicly listed adtech companies. Numerous other articles were written about the possible implications (benefits to user privacy vs this is will be the death of advertising).Google responded to all the coverage, pointing back to the announcement blog post that states it is working actively to test and align on Google’s “Privacy Sandbox” alternative to cookies. Digiday has a good write-up that explains Google’s Privacy Sandbox if you need more information.Despite all the fear-mongering, Google’s announcement was not unexpected. It also brings Chrome in line with other browsers that have already or are moving in the same direction. The reaction is more because no-one likes a deadline for when things will change, Privacy Sandbox isn’t broadly adopted, and Google has the least to lose from the death of the Cookie (given Google has user login data for Chrome, Android, and Google Services like Gmail, YouTube, etc).
The best course of action from the announcement, is, as Google recommends, for agencies, advertisers, and publishers to work with their trade associations to ensure the changes do not adversely impact their business. As an aside, given all the regulatory environment around cookies from GDPR to the CCPA – the industry moving away from 3rd party cookies is something that will have to happen regardless.
- there’s a rumor that TikTok is considering a Snapchat-style curated feed, as a path to offer a more brand safe environment for advertisers and secure better CPMs. There’s no indication of a timeline on when this change may come to fruition.
- in other TikTok news, the app is looking to secure publisher partner deals. A move that has the potential to open up more brand safe inventory on the platform.
- Microsoft’s new version of the Edge browser built on open-source Chromium is now out of beta and publicly available (as of Jan 15). Enterprise IT departments can restrict access to the update but everyone else will receive it over the coming weeks (if you’re in a rush, download it here). A reminder, the Chromium version of Edge could be exactly what Microsoft needs to increase usage of Bing and capture browser market share. FYI, Edge blocks tracking by default and having beta tested the browser for several months I can vouch that it offers a good experience.
- in other browser news, privacy-focused browser Brave announced a new ad unit called “Sponsored Images” that features in a blank new browser tab and offers a branded/sponsored experience on an image.
- Instagram has dropped the Instagram TV (IGTV) button from the main app. It’s also reported the standalone IGTV app is not doing well, struggling with downloads and creator support. Facebook’s position is that most people get video in the main Instagram feed but as the article from Techrunch points out, in an era where there’s increased competition from Snap, TikTok, and soon-to-be-launched Quibi IGTV feels like a missed opportunity to gain traction. This doesn’t mean Facebook is giving up on the space, they do have the TikTok like Reels app in Brazil.
- Facebook has killed off plans to bring advertising to WhatsApp reportedly disbanding the team and removing the related code from the app.
- Verizon has launched a privacy-focused search engine called “OneSearch” (powered by Bing). It’s an interesting move by Verizon and there’s a good write up on Vice about Verizon’s complicated history with privacy.
- Google is making changes to the way products/items are listed in Google search results, surfacing product results visually in the main search result instead of needing to move to the shopping tab and letting users refine the search by style, color, etc. The result is a very eCommerce focused experience. The update is US English only, for now, focused on the fashion category, and requires retailers to provide Google a product feed.
STREAMING and VIDEO
- NBC had the unveiled details for its streaming service Peacock. Key highlights: the service launches April 15th to Comcast subscribers, July 15 to everyone else; there will be a completely free tier, as a $4.99 per month ad-supported tier with additional content vs the free tier; and a $9.99 per month ad-free tier; NBC expects 30-35MM subscribers by 2024; there will be new original content created for Peacock; at the launch, NBC hinted that in 2 years in may take its content off Hulu. From an advertising perspective, NBC also revealed plans to enable the integrated planning and buying of linear and digital (including Peacock) through NBC’s One Platform and the ad-supported offering will have no more than 5minutes of ads per hour.
- the eSports battle for creators continues, with YouTube securing 3 creators from twitch LazarBeam, Muselk, and Valkyrae. All 3 will now be exclusive to YouTube and it’s reasonable to expect more talent poaching across the platforms throughout the year. If you’re wondering if the talent poaching makes a difference, similar to last week, another streaming measurement company (Streamlabs) reports twitch is seeing its share decline
- Hulu plans to introduce new ad formats this year, including what sounds like an ad-selector style product (chose the ad you want) and a way to interact with an ad via your mobile phone. This continues Hulu’s ad product innovation, originally started with pause ads – FYI, digiday has published the pause ads pitch deck (paywall).
- Facebook has canceled 2 of its Facebook Watch shows “Limetown” and “Sorry For Your Loss”. This doesn’t mark the end of scripted programming on Facebook Watch, with the service still offering other scripted originals.
- Spotify announced playlists for pets. Intended for co-listening, the offering is based on Spotify’s research that people listen to music with their pets. You can get started with the playlists here.
STATS / RESEARCH
- according to eMarketer, Pinterest is now the 3rd biggest social network in the US – surpassing Snapchat. US Pinterest users have reportedly grown by 9.1% to 82.4 million and is expected to hit 86MM by the end of the year.
- mobile app measurement company, Sensor Tower, released their 4th Quarter App Store Report (free registration required) reports that Disney+ was the most downloaded app in the US (30MM Q4 downloads). It’s worth downloading and reading the full report as it has stats by market, country, platform (iOS/Android), and publisher.
- another mobile app measurement company (App Annie) released a state of mobile report (free registration required). AppAnnie too has mobile app stats detailed by several countries. One of App Annie’s State of Mobile reports (there’s 3 with the same name, worth reading them all) claims people spent more time on TikTok than Amazon Prime Video. You can grab the 3 reports from these links 1. key stats, 2. top apps, 3. how to win.
- as part of NBC’s Peacock announcement, the WSJ published a great graphic the neatly summarizes all the prices of the various video streaming services.
- it’s reported that the US Department of Justice is meeting with publishers to understand how Google operates in the advertising market.
- US Senator Ron Wyden has written to the FTC requesting it investigate the Ad Blocking industry (PDF link) calling out “unfair, deceptive, and anti-competitive practices” specifically because of the payments they take from companies to have them white-listed. The request is not designed to end adblocking but to introduce more transparency into how ad blocking works and makes money.
- Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden has proposed revoking S230 of the Communications Decency Act. S230 “provides immunity from liability for providers and users of an “interactive computer service” who publish information provided by third-party users” so it’s relied upon by a lot of companies (Facebook, YouTube, twitter, Snap, TikTok, etc) and would have wide-ranging impacts on the industry from innovation, creators, content, to brand safety.
- Sonos, Tile, and PopSockets testified before a congressional antitrust hearing claiming that Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google threaten their businesses. It’s worth reading the Washington Post article for the multiple perspectives across a range of industries and challenges from the way search results work to operating system location permissions.
PRIVACY, TRUST, and SAFETY
- during the week I published an OpEd on MediaPost that further details my thoughts on the next decade in digital and the 3 R’s Rights, Responsibility and Regulation we need to get right for the good of everyone.
- Norway’s Consumer Council conducted research into several apps, some of which operate in categories with personal sensitive information and discovered that these apps are sharing sensitive data.
- YouTube was discovered to be promoting and monetizing climate disinformation videos by online activist group Avaaz. Avaaz published details of their analysis.
- Facebook is rolling out login notifications, that will alert you when you log in to 3rd party services with Facebook and reminds remind you of what data you have made available to other services (as well as control over sharing that data).
Have a great week and thanks for subscribing.