It’s impossible to start this edition of Last Week in Digital Media without acknowledging the riots in Washington DC, and the part digital and social media played in the lead-up, during, and after the event. If you want a summary of the actions taken by the various social platforms, I recommend this article from Axios. If you’re interested in understanding the potential regulatory response, this Washington Post article is worth reading.
In more personal news, this year is the 5th-year anniversary of Last Week in Digital Media. Thank you for reading and indulging in this hobby since before newsletters were cool. This week, I’ll cover the major news since the newsletter went on break, plus the news of the week, so it’s a bumper anniversary edition. Here’s all the news you may have missed:
- Amazon acquired podcast publisher Wondery with Wondery to be rolled into Amazon Music. The deal values Wondery at around US$300MM.
- twitter also moved on podcasting, buying Breaker. It’s expected that the acquisition forms part of twitter’s overall strategy to offer an alternative to the audio chat service Clubhouse via twitter spaces.
- if you wondered what the Walmart-TikTok partnership might look like, the companies piloted a shoppable live-stream hosted by TikTok creators. The pilot was tested pre-holidays on Dec 18th.
- as part of the Snapchat LensFest, the company announced a US$3.5MM fund to support Lens and AR creators. During the event, Snap shared that 180MM people interact with Snapchat Lenses every day.
- Google is doing a very limited experiment within the Google mobile app, where it shows Instagram and TikTok content in search results. It’s not on every query and seems somewhat random, but worth knowing from an SEO perspective.
- spotted by a Chrome enthusiast, there is a Shopping Cart feature in the Chromium code. The Chrome Cart code also references several retailers include Best Buy, Walmart, Home Depot, and H&M.
- Facebook’s NPE team released Collab, an experimental app for creating music. iOS only (for now). Collab is interesting as it’s not trying to be a Snap or TikTok clone, and while it feels niche, it’s worth a look.
- LG has taken a majority stake in connected TV measurement firm Alphonso. The investment has been made as LG ramps up plans to build its advertising business through a unit called “LG Ads.”
- twitter has made it easier to share tweets to Snapchat stories; the company is also doing a limited test of making it easier to share tweets to Instagram.
- twitter acquired the social screen-sharing app Squad. Squad lets people share their screens and video chat. What this means for twitter is not clear other than the standalone Squad app is being shut down.
- in another twitter acquisition, twitter acquired the creative agency, Ueno. Ueno clients included the likes Alphabet, Facebook, and Uber. Ueno will cease serving other clients and be rolled into twitter.
- rumors are that Facebook’s smart glasses will be coming soon. What “soon” actually means is unknown, other than sometime this year. It is reported that the smart glasses won’t include AR capability and will focus more on the ability to take photos and video. If you’re interested in what might be planned, here’s a Facebook patent from 2018 about smart glasses (PDF link) that also has some images. If you’re wondering, Apple’s own smart glasses are expected to be announced this year but released in 2022.
- TikTok has rolled out its first Lidar powered AR effect. In simple terms, it’s using the unique capability of the iPhone 12 to offer enhanced effects and better spatial awareness (see it in action here).
- Amazon’s advertising ambitions continue, with it now being called Amazon Marketing Cloud, Amazon is also offering a data clean room, and the service is in beta across the US, Australia, and Japan.
- Charter Communications, Quarate Retail, and Cerberus capital have invested in ComScore. The investment will be used to retire ComScore’s debt and invest in the business.
- Roku has acquired the worldwide rights to the Quibi content library. The content will all live on the ad-supported Roku Channel. It’s a big move for Roku, who have stayed away from having their own original content. It’s rumored that Roku paid “significantly” under US$100MM for the content.
- Discovery+ launched, starting at US$4.99 per month with ads or US$6.99 ad-free. Discovery+ is available across all streaming devices (Roku, Amazon, Apple, etc.).
- the FTC sued Facebook for Illegal Monopolization. The announcement was greeted with criticism from Facebook. I recommend watching the video announcing the action on the FTC website.
- the Texas Attorney General is leading a lawsuit against Google, alleging Google of “Anticompetitive Practices and Deceptive Misrepresentations.” You can read the full document here (PDF link), with one of the more significant claims being that Google and Facebook entered into an “unlawful agreement” (read the from pp8 of the PDF to understand more, although parts are redacted).
- as antitrust actions against the tech platforms build momentum, the New York Times has a good profile of some of the “tech exiles” who are helping inform regulators.
- the FTC issued orders to 9 social media companies, seeking data on how they collect, use, and present information. The information request specifically covers advertising and topics such as privacy, protection of children and teens, and decisions made to drive engagement.
- S230 of the Communications Decency Act (along with antitrust and privacy regulations) will dominate the conversation in 2021. 60 minutes opened the year with a story about S230, which is worth a watch. Two parts, what you need to know about S230, and the perspectives of those who have been victims of online harassment.
- the UK’s Competition and Market Authority (CMA) are investigating Google’s proposed Chrome cookie changes for the potential to distort competition. The investigation specifically looks at the ‘Privacy Sandbox’ changes.
PRIVACY, TRUST, and SAFETY
- Facebook and Apple are in a public feud about changes to iOS, with Facebook attempting to mount a campaign claiming the changes are bad for small business. At the same time, stories have emerged on how small businesses are either frustrated or hurt by Facebook’s advertising policies.
- in a set of proposed changes to CCPA, the California AG has proposed a standardized opt-out button. (see page 3 of the PDF). There are also guidelines on sizing – which would prevent companies from hiding privacy controls in the fine print.
- Google is rolling out changes to YouTube in the US (and broader Google products over the course of 2021) that would let users opt-out of alcohol and gambling ads. Google is framing this as controls for “sensitive ad topics,” but between the lines, it might be more of a signal about future controls for other heavily regulated categories of goods and services.
- an FYI that WhatsApp updated its T&Cs during the week that gives WhatsApp to share data with the Facebook family of companies. The only way to opt-out is to cease using WhatsApp.
Please take care, stay safe, and have a good week.
PS. It’s a new year, and we all need a distraction. Check out Dall-E, which uses AI and Machine Learning images using text input – such as an illustration of a baby daikon radish in a tutu walking a dog. You can also make your own images based on a pre-determined list of inputs (Penguin in a suit wearing ice cream…). Enjoy.