Google Shopping, Industry Mergers, Instagram Threads, Nevada Privacy Regulation, Fake Likes
Here’s your Last Week in Digital Media.
with holiday season approaching, Google is ramping up Google Shopping. The experience is been redesigned with changes that include a new personalized home page layout and the ability to track prices and be alerted to price drops. Also, Google is leveraging Google Lens to give “style ideas” - upload a photo or share a screenshot of an item of clothing and Google will surface results from across the web showing how other people have styled their look with the item.
Instagram too has new shopping-related offerings including AR effects to try-on products (MAC and Ray-Ban are early partners). Users can also share the AR experience in their own stories. Another shopping feature being tested by Instagram is product drop notifications. Useful in the beauty and fashion category, you can now advertise an item in advance and people can then buy it on launch day. It’s possible to see how this could also be of interest in other categories e.g. movies.
content recommendation companies Taboola and Outbrain are merging (subject to regulatory approval). The deal is rumored to be valued at $850MM and they claim as a result of the merger they can bring competition to Google and Facebook. Not everyone shares that enthusiasm though, with both (often) accused of promoting mostly clickbait.
Vice Media reached a deal to acquire Refinery 29. The deal is rumored to be valued at under US$500MM. The deal strengthens Vice’s female audience while giving Refinery 29 access to a more global audience (Vice has a strong brand and audience outside the US).
there’s an update coming to Google Chrome where it will block HTTP requests where the main URL is HTTPS. In English… most clients would have sites that are secured with https but they “may” have some legacy content or tags on their site that is not secure (HTTP). This makes it a good time to start checking that there are no legacy tags you might be using to track performance, conversions, etc. on a client site being served with HTTP only because they could stop working when Chrome 79 drops in December.
Instagram introduced a new app called “Instagram Threads” a “camera first messaging app for connecting to close friends”. Yes, this sounds very similar to how Snapchat markets itself (and there’s also some logo similarity). If you’re interested in having a play, download Instagram Threads for iOS or Instagram Threads for Android.
further evidence that the podcast space is growing, Spotify will now let you add podcasts to your music playlists.
you might not know, but Facebook holds regular town hall meetings for all staff where Mark Zuckerberg shares his visions and hosts a Q&A. These meetings have remained private confidential until this week when 2 hours of Facebook town hall audio leaked. Zuckerberg is more open and candid in the leaked audio, even though the topics are weighty e.g. break up of Facebook, Libra, a TikTok a Facebook test in Mexico of a competitor called Lasso. The media seized on some of the comments in the meeting and response, Facebook did something unexpected - live streaming the next town hall (you can watch the replay). The Q&A live streams won’t be a regular thing, but both the leak and the live stream are a good way to get a better insight into Facebook’s thinking and culture.
in other CEO/founder public appearances, Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel did an on-stage interview (begins at about the 2h 3m mark) at the Techcrunch Disrupt conference. In the interview, Spiegel confirms the existence of a file documenting Facebook’s behavior towards Snap and speculates on mass consumer-ready AR glasses (10 years away).
there’s an interesting battle starting in the OTT streaming space, with reports that Amazon Fire TV will not carry Disney+. At the heart of the dispute is advertising, with Amazon wanting access rights to sell advertising on Disney’s other apps. If anything, the argument highlights the growing power of connected device operating systems such as Roku, FireTV, Android, etc.
Roku OS 9.2 update is out and it brings with it a new ad format that integrates with broadcast TV. Only available you’re watching using an antenna, advertisers can trigger a pop-up ad during their own ad-spots with a call to action to watch other programming brought to you by that advertiser on Roku.
App Annie’s2019 State of Mobile report is now available (registration required). The 160 page PDF report is a great resource if you want to learn more about growth in app usage across various categories (streaming, gaming, banking, etc) and top apps overall (ByteDance maker of TikTok makes a breakout appearance). There are also mobile predictions for 2019, one of which is that 10minutes out of every hour of streaming media consumption will occur on mobile devices. It’s worth downloading the full report.
as competition regulators circle around the platforms, Comcast’s Freewheel unit has reportedly complained to regulators investigating Google about antitrust / competition concerns on YouTube. There are also reports that Google’s competitors are warning regulators that privacy regulations could help Google extend its dominance.
Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency is not just facing regulatory pressure. There are reports that Visa and Mastercard are reconsidering their involvement (paywall). Late on Friday, PayPal confirmed it was withdrawing from Libra.
just on the topic of cryptocurrency, Apple’s Tim Cook has come out against cryptocurrencies like Libra (the link is in French) saying that “currency should stay in the hands of countries”.
with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) getting closer each day, it’s easy to overlook that other states are also passing CCPA-like laws. Nevada just passed privacy legislation this week (Senate Bill 220). The Nevada legislation follows a similar path to CCPA.
major news out of Europe, where the Court of Justice of the EU ruled (PDF link) Facebook must delete content globally if it is found defamatory in Europe. Facebook doesn’t have to monitor the content/pre-emptively act, just delete it if the content is found to be defamatory. This is a tough one for Facebook, as there’s no avenue for appeal as the highest EU judicial body is the Court of Justice.
PRIVACY, TRUST, and SAFETY
Political Advertising policy is becoming an important topic across the platforms. TikTok declared this week that it would not allow political advertising on the platform. That includes candidates or political issues. You can read more about TikTok’s advertising policies here.
Facebook made a subtle (but significant) change to Facebook's political ads policy. Item #13 in their policy prohibits ads that have “Misinformation” which includes “ads that include claims debunked by third-party fact-checkers” but in a statement to Popular Information, Political Advertising is exempt from this rule. Also, Facebook has said that politicians will not be subject to fact-checking and content from them will be allowed on the platform even if it would breach content rules. So put simply, politicians can make false claims in Facebook advertisements or knowingly false claims or statements in posts.
Expect the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal to hit the headlines again next week. Christopher Wylie, the key Cambridge Analytica whistleblower has a book coming out on October 8th promising to give a behind the scenes account on how the company worked and what it did for both the Trump campaign and Brexit.
not getting any real media coverage, Federal prosecutors have filed criminal charges against 4 employees of Adconian Direct (Adconian was acquired by Amobee) alleging the employees engaged in a spam operation. There is no allegation that Amobee acted inappropriately and it seems the concerns are isolated to the 4 employees.
in positive news for Facebook, the company successfully settled with a New Zealand company that was selling fake Instagram likes. Subject to judicial approval, the defendants settled for $500,000 and will be banned from the platform.
Thanks for reading and have a great week.