After testing, Instagram launches ads in the Instagram Shop tab globally

Last year, Instagram unveiled Shops as part of Facebook’s larger pivot toward e-commerce. Shops is front-and-almost-center on the app’s bottom navigation bar, even more readily accessible than the button to upload a new photo. Now, after testing in the U.S. earlier this month, Instagram will introduce ads on the Instagram Shop tab globally, rolling them out in all countries where the Instagram Shop tab is available.

This marks Instagram’s latest update in evolving its e-commerce platform. It’s previously implemented shopping in Reels to compete with TikTok, organized exclusive product Drops into their own Shop category and added affiliate features for creators to earn a commission on sales of sponsored products.

Currently, items on Shops appear in a two-column grid of square tiles. Ads will appear as a tile within this structure, but they’ll be marked “Sponsored” in the bottom left corner of the image. When the ad is clicked, it will open the Product Details page, which shows more information about the item, additional images, and other products from the brand. Users can save a product from an ad to their wishlist or send it to a friend — if the ad is inappropriate, they can press and hold its tile to see options to hide or report the ad.

Image Credits: Instagram

Instagram tested Shops ads with U.S. advertisers like Away, Donny Davy, Boo Oh, Clare paint, JNJ Gifts, DEUX and Fenty Beauty. As TechCrunch previously reported, these ads will launch with an auction-based model and only appear on mobile, since Shops isn’t available on desktop. A user’s experience with these ads will depend on how they use Instagram and how many people are shopping in the Instagram tab.

#advertising, #apps, #e-commerce, #facebook, #instagram, #instagram-ads, #shops

MOLOCO raises $150M Series C led by Tiger Global at a $1.5B valuation

MOLOCO, an adtech startup that uses machine learning to build mobile campaigns, announced today it has raised $150 million in new Series C funding led by Tiger Global Management, taking its valuation to $1.5 billion. This is separate from the $20 million Series C round MOLOCO announced three months ago, which brought it to unicorn status. Co-founder and chief executive officer Ikkjin Ahn told TechCrunch that MOLOCO raised again so soon because “as we gear up for a potential IPO, we wanted more funding to help us grow faster.”

Founded in 2013 and based in Redwood City, California, MOLOCO has now raised $200 million in total. The company claims it has “consistently grown in excess of 100% annually,” and has an annual net revenue run rate of more than $100 million.

Its clients range in size from mobile developers who have less than 100,000 users to more than a billion, Ahn said in an email, with some spending more than $1 million a month through MOLOCO Cloud, its demand side platform (DSP). MOLOCO’s customers include King Digital, Playrix and Netmarble.

MOLOCO already serves mobile app developers in a wide range of industries, like gaming, social networking, e-commerce, ride-sharing, food delivery and fintech, helping them turn their first-party user data into marketing, monetization and user acquisition campaigns. The new funding will be used to expand MOLOCO’s machine learning engine to more use cases by focusing on research and development, product and engineering. Part of the raise is earmarked for hiring, adding to MOLOCO’s 200 employees, who are spread across the world in eight offices: San Francisco, Seattle, London, Beijing, Seoul, Singapore and Tokyo.

MOLOCO is getting ready to launch its Retail Media Platform, currently in beta, which helps e-commerce companies create revenue streams like sponsored ads.

Before launching MOLOCO, Ahn was a machine learning engineer at YouTube from 2008 to 2010, then Android from 2010 to 2013. Back then, MOLOCO’s founding team “noticed that a lot of mobile businesses struggled to generate sustainable growth and monetization,” Ahn said. “A big reason for that was that they offered very unique services and therefore generated very unique data—data that traditional tools were incapable of helping make use of.” MOLOCO’s machine learning engine was created to help companies turn their first-party data into growth campaigns and monetization strategies.

Eight years later, mobile developers now view machine learning “as an essential part of their tech stack in order to advertise and monetize their apps effectively,” Ahn said.

Some try to build their own machine learning algorithms, but this can be a drain on their resources. Others outsource the work, but that means losing transparency and control of their data. Ahn said MOLOCO’s goal is to help app developers maintain control of data while giving them access to the same quality of algorithms as tech giants like Facebook and Google, which he describes as the startup’s main competitors.

Beyond walled gardens

“Let’s face it, most ad spend today is going to Facebook and Google, because they have excellent machine learning and they make it easy for advertisers to scale their campaigns,” Ahn said.

But a major drawback for businesses is that first-party data generated on Facebook or Google Ads for targeting and optimization can’t be used on other platforms, creating walled gardens. On the other hand, MOLOCO allows businesses to retain full access to their data. “We believe they should own it and do with it what they want,” Ahn said.

This also helps businesses adapt to new consumer privacy laws. Stricter regulations make it important for companies to gather as much of their own data as possible, since they will get less of it from other sources, and make sure that they keep that data secure. Ahn said MOLOCO’s platform and cloud service “are built with security and privacy in mind, so our partners can simply plug in their data and trust that we handle all compliance matters.”

Part of MOLOCO’s new funding will be used to expand MOLOCO Cloud, which programmatically bids on ad exchanges like Google AdX and Twitter Mopub, into new verticals and geographic markets.

To make the most efficient use of ad budgets, MOLOCO Cloud analyzes signals like in-app purchases or in-app activities that allow businesses to gauge the effectiveness of a campaign.

“For mobile games, those activities often include level completions or friend invites; for ride sharing apps, it’s likely to be a ride order; for e-commerce apps, it’s likely to be a purchase,” Ahn said, adding “the strength of our machine learning is that it is flexible enough to automatically adjust to an advertiser’s unique KPIs and embrace different, diverse data sets.”

MOLOCO’s Retail Media Platform was created to help e-commerce companies make more money off their sites through features like Recommended Products and Sponsored Ads. “For example, our machine learning can tell them, in real time, which products a visitor is most likely to purchase next, so that they can make intelligent recommendations that drive incremental revenue,” Ahn said. The massive growth of Amazon’s ad platform also demonstrates how sponsored ads can be a significant source of revenue for e-commerce businesses, he added.

In a statement about Tiger Global’s investment in MOLOCO, partner John Curtius said, “The volume of digital data produced is growing exponentially yet the tools available for taking action on that data remain relatively limited. We invested in MOLOCO because its machine learning algorithms have proven to be among the best available and the level of transparency and sophistication the company brings to data-driven businesses is paramount in today’s world.”

#adtech, #advertising, #machine-learning, #mobile-advertising, #moloco, #programmatic-advertising, #tc

Forget “App Tracking Transparency”: Facebook is enjoying more ad revenue than ever

Faebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Faebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (credit: Facebook)

For months, Apple and Facebook waged a PR war (with threats of a legal one) over App Tracking Transparency, a change in recent versions of the iPhone’s iOS software that will often limit how advertising-focused apps and companies can monetize iPhone users.

Facebook’s original public predictions about App Tracking Transparency’s effect were apocalyptic. But even though App Tracking Transparency took effect during Facebook’s most recent quarter (Q2 of 2021), the company still posted huge ad revenue growth.

Facebook’s revenue, which is largely driven by the kinds of advertising that Apple’s iOS change undermines, grew 56 percent year-over-year in Q2, beating investor expectations. The company had 1.9 billion daily active users and 2.9 billion monthly active users. It earned $10.12 of revenue per user, on average.

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#advertising, #app-tracking-transparency, #apple, #earnings, #facebook, #ios, #q2-2021, #tech

Outbrain raises $200 million ahead of its IPO

Outbrain, an adtech company that provides clickbait ads below news articles, has raised $200 million in funding — Outbrain didn’t disclose the valuation of the company for this deal. The Baupost Group is investing in the company — it’s a Boston-based hedge fund. Outbrain filed for an initial public offering just last week. Today’s funding round should be the last traditional private investment round before going public.

If you’re not familiar with Outbrain, you may have seen its content recommendation widgets on popular news websites, such as CNN, Le Monde and The Washington Post. They mostly feature sponsored links that lead to third-party websites.

“We are excited to announce this investment from The Baupost Group, who share our vision and commitment for our business, our team and our future prospects” co-CEO David Kostman said in a statement.

Outbrain is often compared with its rival Taboola. While both startups planned to merge at some point, they had to cancel their merger. Taboola already went public after merging with a SPAC — a special purpose acquisition company. Taboola shares started trading last week.

In its IPO filing, Outbrain reported $767 million in revenue for 2020 and $228 million in revenue for the first quarter of 2021 alone. In 2020, Outbrain managed to generate $4.4 million in net income. During Q1 2021, the company reported $10.7 million in net income.

“We proudly lead the recommendation space we created. We have bold plans for the future to continue delivering critical innovation to our premium media partners worldwide and expanding our powerful open web global advertising platform” Outbrain co-CEO Yaron Galai said in a statement.

The advertising market has recovered from the global health pandemic and there has been plenty of initial public offerings during the first half of 2021. Everything seems to be lining up for Taboola and Outbrain, which means it’s time to reach the next level and become public companies.

#ad, #adtech, #advertising, #advertising-tech, #clickbait, #fundings-exits, #outbrain, #startups

Demand Curve: 7 ad types that increase click-through rates

We’ve spent millions of dollars running ads for brands like Outschool, Imperfect Produce and Microsoft. At Demand Curve, we’ve worked with over 500 startups, meticulously documenting growth tactics for all growth channels. This post also incorporates what we’ve learned from our agency, Bell Curve.

Here are seven ad types that have proven to increase click-through rates (CTR), with examples of each. Clone them to test in your own social ad campaigns.

Address common complaints and questions directly in your ads, as they will help eliminate objections upfront and encourage clicking to learn more.

Customer reactions

If you’re selling a consumer product, it’s likely that some of your customers have posted product reviews, unboxings or recommendation videos on their social media accounts. You can use your customers’ user-generated videos in your social ads — with permission.

Search through Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for posts that mention your product. Reach out to the customer and ask them if you can use their content in an ad campaign, and subsequently, compile the most positive reactions into a video ad.

This works well because dramatic faces are attention magnets. Make sure the thumbnail photo shows a strong emotional image. People will click because they can’t help but want to see what provoked the emotion. User-generated reaction videos also highlight your products’ “Moment of Wow.” If users care enough about your product to make a positive reaction video, their energy is contagious. Your ad audience will connect your product with a strong positive emotion.

Customer reactions make for great ads

Customer reactions make for great ads. Image Credits: Demand Curve

You versus the competition

Comparison ads anchor your product against something your audience already knows. This works well for both ads and the landing page your ad will lead to when clicked on. Try positioning your strongest value proposition — the most valuable promise you’re making to your customer — against your generic competitors.

#advertising, #column, #digital-marketing, #ec-column, #ec-how-to, #ecommerce, #facebook, #growth-marketing, #marketing, #online-advertising, #startups, #targeted-advertising, #user-generated-content

Google and Microsoft agree to start suing each other again

Google and Microsoft agree to start suing each other again

Enlarge (credit: Halil Sagirkaya / Anadolu Agency)

After years of relative calm, Google and Microsoft are tossing out their ceasefire, a move that—perhaps ironically—could bring each company additional antitrust scrutiny.

The non-aggression pact, signed five years ago, let the two companies set aside their numerous lawsuits. It also created a process by which they could resolve conflicts behind closed doors, requiring Microsoft and Google to follow that process before asking regulators to step in. During this time, the two companies have tussled over a number of issues, including whether search engines should pay news publishers. But Microsoft reached the end of its rope when it felt that Google wasn’t playing fair in ad tech.

Both companies attempted to solve the impasse through a series of escalating negotiations as laid out in the agreement. The matter ultimately reached the corner office, with CEOs Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai holding a series of talks that didn’t reach a solution. That lack of a resolution is what apparently led to the agreement’s unraveling, according to a new Bloomberg report.

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#advertising, #antitrust, #google, #lawsuits, #microsoft, #policy, #search-engines

Instagram’s TikTok rival, Reels, rolls out ads worldwide

Instagram Reels are getting ads. The company announced today it’s launching ads in its short-form video platform and TikTok rival, Reels, to businesses and advertisers worldwide. The ads will be up to 30 seconds in length, like Reels themselves, and vertical in format, similar to ads found in Instagram Stories. Also like Reels, the new ads will loop, and people will be able to like, comment, and save them, the same as other Reels videos.

The company had previously tested Reels ads in select markets earlier this year, including India, Brazil, Germany, and Australia, then expanded those tests to Canada, France, the U.K. and the U.S. more recently. Early adopters of the new format have included brands like BMW, Nestlé (Nespresso), Louis Vuitton, Netflix, Uber, and others.

Instagram tells us the ads will appear in most places users view Reels content, including on the Reels tab, Reels in Stories, Reels in Explore, and Reels in your Instagram Feed, and will appear in between individual Reels posted by users. However, in order to be served a Reels ad, the user first needs to be in the immersive, full-screen Reels viewer.

Image Credits: Instagram

The company couldn’t say how often a user might see a Reels ad, noting that the number of ads a viewer may encounter will vary based on how they use Instagram. But the company is monitoring user sentiment around ads themselves, and the overall commercially of Reels, it says.

Like Instagram’s other advertising products, Reels ads will launch with an auction-based model. But so far, Instagram is declining to share any sort of performance metrics around how those ads are doing, based on tests. Nor is it yet offering advertisers any creator tools or templates that could help them get started with Reels ads. Instead, Instagram likey assumes advertisers already have creative assets on hand or know how to make them, because of Reels ads’ similarities to other vertical video ads found elsewhere, including on Instagram’s competitors.

While vertical video has already shown the potential for driving consumers to e-commerce shopping sites, Instagram hasn’t yet taken advantage of Reels ads to drive users to its built-in Instagram Shops, though that seems like a natural next step as it attempts to tie the different parts of its app together.

But perhaps ahead of that step, Instagram needs to make Reels a more compelling destination — something other TikTok rivals, which now include both Snap and YouTube — have done by funding creator content directly. Instagram, meanwhile, had made offers to select TikTok stars directly.

The launch of Instagram Reels ads follows news of TikTok’s climbing ad prices. Bloomberg reported this month that TikTok is now asking for more than $1.4 million for a home page takeover ad in the U.S., as of the third quarter, which will jump to $1.8 million by Q4 and more than $2 million on a holiday. Though the company is still building its ads team and advertisers haven’t yet allocated large portions of their video budget to the app, that tends to follow user growth — and TikTok now has over 100 million monthly active users in the U.S.

Both apps, Instagram and TikTok, now have over a billion monthly active users on a global basis, though Reels is only a part of the larger Instagram platform. For comparison, Instagram Stories is used by some 500 million users, which demonstrates Instagram’s ability to drive traffic to different areas of its app. Instagram declined to share how many users Reels has as of today.

#advertising, #advertising-tech, #apps, #digital-marketing, #instagram, #instagram-reels, #mobile, #mobile-software, #online-advertising, #reels, #short-form-video, #social, #social-media-marketing, #tiktok, #vertical-video, #video, #video-hosting

Antitrust settlement forces Google to revamp ad platform

Antitrust settlement forces Google to revamp ad platform

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto / Getty Images)

Google is paying a $268 million fine and, in a first, has agreed to overhaul its advertising platform to settle an antitrust probe in France.

After a two-year investigation, the French Competition Authority found that Google had used its ad-management platform for publishers to bolster its ad marketplace, where publishers sell inventory in real time. “Google took advantage of its vertical integration to skew the process,” said Isabelle de Silva, the authority’s president, at a press conference on Monday.

When publishers display ads on a site, they have two options. One is to run ads they’ve sold directly to advertisers. The other is to sell space to an exchange, where multiple advertisers bid to run their ads. In the latter case, known as programmatic advertising, publishers will often put ad space up for auction on multiple exchanges, but they’ll typically use only one ad server to coordinate the auctions and award-winning bids.

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#advertising, #antitrust, #doubleclick, #france, #google, #policy

Sensor Tower makes its first acquisition with deal for market intelligence company, Pathmatics

Mobile app market intelligence firm Sensor Tower has made its first acquisition. The company this morning announced it’s acquiring Pathmatics, a market intelligence company which will now combine its paid digital and social media platform with Sensor Tower’s business. Deal terms were not detailed but include an undisclosed growth investment from Riverwood Capital into Pathmatics.

The acquisition will allow the companies to offer an expanded set of digital and mobile advertising insights to their respective customers, including new social insights for TikTok, YouTube mobile, and Snap this year, powered by Sensor Tower.

They companies will also introduce digital TV (over-the-top) insights, expanded coverage for mobile apps and ad insights, and will extend Pathmatics’ social and digital coverage globally.

The deal follows Sensor Tower’s first significant fundraising last year, with $45 million also from Riverwood Capital. Though Sensor Tower had been profitable since its launch, now serving more than 350 enterprise-level customers for its app and ad intelligence products, it chose to raise the additional capital in order to further grow its business, with investments in hiring, marketing, infrastructure and other expansions.

With Pathmatics, it’s buying a company that’s also been on its way up. The company had seen over 100% year-over-year growth for its own market intelligence business since launching in 2011. It now has over 250 brands, media and advertising agencies as customers, as well as over 7,000 users of its platform, representing over 200% software-as-a-service growth since 2018.

The two businesses are teaming up at a time when digital advertising is also on the rise, in part due to the shifts in the market attributed to the pandemic. As more businesses began operating online last year, advertisers increased their digital ad spending by 12.7% to $368 billion, per eMarketer. And digital advertising will account for 58% of media spending in 2021.

We understand Sensor Tower acquired both the IP and its over 60-person team from Pathmatics as a result of the acquisition. The entire team will join Sensor Tower with the executive suite now being a combination of both of the company’s leaders. Sensor Tower co-founder Alexey Malafeev will remain as CEO while Gabe Gottlieb, CEO and co-founder of Pathmatics, will become Chief Strategy Officer.

Historically, Pathmatics had provided brands and agencies with all creative used by advertisers, spend and impression, and path to publisher and viewer, to help them reduce waste from their budgets, improve their own marketing, and predict their competitors’ next move.

Going forward, both sets of customers will be able to opt into the other company’s solutions, including mobile, social media, and digital insights. Longer-term, the two companies will work together to bring more products to the market for their over 600 combined customers across 50 countries. Among these is a plan to add Pathmatics’ Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other digital ad intelligence capture into Sensor Tower, as well as an effort to augment Sensor Tower’s dataset with ad insights beyond app installs.

These features will make the product a better fit for larger brands looking into all aspects of the competitors’ campaigns, ranging from how they’re advertising for app installs to how they’re building brand awareness.

The deal officially closed on May 17, 2021, Sensor Tower says.

Santa Monica-based Pathmatics had raised $7.7 million to date from Upfront Ventures, BDMI and Baroda Ventures.

“As the global economy increasingly shifts to digital, it’s imperative that companies can understand and
navigate the entire digital landscape — from mobile to web and desktop — using accurate and insightful data,” noted Ramesh Venugopal, Principal at Riverwood Capital, in a statement about the acquisition. “The combination of Sensor Tower and Pathmatics presents a unique and valuable offering to customers allowing them to take advantage of a broad range of datasets with increased focus on consumer privacy and deep digital insights that leaders in every industry will need,” he added.


#advertising, #app-intelligence, #app-stores, #apps, #competitive-intelligence, #digital-advertising, #digital-marketing, #marketing, #media, #mobile, #mobile-advertising, #online-advertising, #pathmatics, #riverwood-capital, #sensor-tower, #social-media

Vizio TV buyers are becoming the product Vizio sells, not just its customers

Promotional image for widescreen television set.

Enlarge / Vizio’s 65-inch 4K OLED TV. (credit: Vizio)

Over the past several years, TV-maker Vizio has achieved a reputation among home theater enthusiasts as the company that makes TVs that provide superior picture quality relative to their cost. While the most expensive TVs from Samsung and LG beat Vizio’s in quality assessment by reviewers, Vizio is widely regarded as one of the best bang-for-buck brands.

But for consumers, those competitive prices may come with a downside: becoming subject to targeted advertising and monetized personal data collection. As reported previously on Engadget, Vizio just posted its first public earnings report, wherein it revealed that profits from the part of its business that is built around collecting and selling user data as well as targeting advertising at users totaled $38.4 million in the quarter.

That’s less than the $48.2 million of profit generated by device sales in the same quarter, but data and advertising profits grew significantly year-over-year while actual device sales grew comparatively slowly. These digital products are still nowhere close to device sales in total revenue, however; the data and ad-related business unit (dubbed Platform+) added up to only 7.2 percent of global revenue.

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#advertising, #data, #earnings, #tech, #tv, #vizio

96% of US users opt out of app tracking in iOS 14.5, analytics find

The Facebook iPhone app asks for permission to track the user in this early mock-up of the prompt made by Apple.

Enlarge / The Facebook iPhone app asks for permission to track the user in this early mock-up of the prompt made by Apple. (credit: Apple)

It seems that in the United States, at least, app developers and advertisers who rely on targeted mobile advertising for revenue are seeing their worst fears realized: Analytics data published this week suggests that US users choose to opt out of tracking 96 percent of the time in the wake of iOS 14.5.

When Apple released iOS 14.5 late last month, it began enforcing a policy called App Tracking Transparency. iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV apps are now required to request users’ permission to use techniques like IDFA (ID for Advertisers) to track those users’ activity across multiple apps for data collection and ad targeting purposes.

The change met fierce resistance from companies like Facebook, whose market advantages and revenue streams are built on leveraging users’ data to target the most effective ads at those users. Facebook went so far as to take out full-page newspaper ads claiming that the change would not just hurt Facebook but would destroy small businesses around the world. Shortly after, Apple CEO Tim Cook attended a data privacy conference and delivered a speech that harshly criticized Facebook’s business model.

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#advertising, #app-tracking-transparency, #apple, #apple-tv, #facebook, #furry-analytics, #idfa, #ios, #ios-14, #ios-14-5, #ipad, #iphone, #privacy, #tech

Snap to launch a new Creator Marketplace this month, initially focused on Lens Creators

Snap on Wednesday announced its plan to soon launch a Creator Marketplace, which will make it easier for businesses to find and partner with Snapchat creators, including lens creators, AR creators and later, prominent Snapchat creators known as Snap Stars. At launch, the marketplace will focus on connecting brands and AR creators for AR ads. It will then expand to support all Snap Creators by 2022.

The company had previously helped connect its creator community with advertisers through its Snapchat Storytellers program, which first launched into pilot testing in 2018 — already a late arrival to the space. However, that program’s focus was similar to Facebook’s Brand Collabs Manager, as it focused on helping businesses find Snap creators who could produce video content.

Snap’s new marketplace, meanwhile, has a broader focus in terms of connecting all sorts of creators with the Snap advertising ecosystem. This includes Lens Creators, Developers and Partners, and then later, Snap’s popular creators with public profiles.

Snap says the Creator Marketplace will open to businesses later this month to help them partner with a select group of AR Creators in Snap’s Lens Network. These creators can help businesses build AR experiences without the need for extensive creative resources, which makes access to Snap’s AR ads more accessible to businesses, including smaller businesses without in-house developer talent.

Lens creators have already found opportunity working for businesses that want to grow their Snapchat presence — even allowing some creators to quit their day jobs and just build lens for a living. Snap has been further investing in this area of its business, having announced in December a $3.5 million fund directed towards AR Lens creation. The company said at the time there were tens of thousands of Lens creators who had collectively made over 1.5 million Lenses to date.

Using Lenses has grown more popular, too, the company had noted, saying that over 180 million people interact with a Snapchat Lens every day — up from 70 million daily active users of Lenses when the Lens Explorer section first launched in the app in 2018.

Now, Snap says that over 200 million Snapchat users interact with augmented reality on a daily basis, on average, out of its 280 million daily users. The majority (over 90%) of these users are 13-25 year olds. In total, users are posting over 5 billion Snaps per day.

Snap says the Creator Marketplace will remain focused on connecting businesses with AR Lens Creators throughout 2021.

The following year, it will expand to include the community of professional creators and storytellers who understand the current trends and interests of the Snap user base and can help businesses with their ad campaigns. The company will not take a cut of the deals facilitated through the Marketplace, it says.

This would include the creators making content for Snap’s new TikTok rival, Spotlight, which launched in November 2020. Snap encouraged adoption of the feature by shelling out $1 million per day to creators of top videos. In March 2021, over 125 million Snapchat users watched Spotlight, it says.

Image Credits: Snapchat

Spotlight isn’t the only way Snap is challenging TikTok.

The company also on Wednesday announced it’s snagging two of TikTok’s biggest stars for its upcoming Snap Originals lineup: Charli and Dixie D’Amelio. The siblings, who have gained over 20 million follows on Snapchat this past year, will star in the series “Charli vs. Dixie.” Other new Originals will feature names like artist Megan Thee Stallion, actor Ryan Reynolds, twins and influencers Niki and Gabi DeMartino, and YouTube beauty vlogger Manny Mua, among others.

Snap’s shows were watched by over 400 million people in 2020, including 93% of the Gen Z population in the U.S., it noted.



#advertising, #advertising-tech, #apps, #ar-ads, #augmented-reality, #brands, #creators, #lenses, #marketplace, #media, #mobile, #mobile-applications, #snap, #snap-inc, #snapchat, #social, #spotlight

Google illegally tracking Android users, according to new complaint

Google illegally tracking Android users, according to new complaint

Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems has filed a complaint against Google in France alleging that the US tech giant is illegally tracking users on Android phones without their consent.

Android phones generate unique advertising codes, similar to Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), that allow Google and third parties to track users’ browsing behavior in order to better target them with advertising.

In a complaint filed on Wednesday, Schrems’ campaign group Noyb argued that in creating and storing these codes without first obtaining explicit permission from users, Google was engaging in “illegal operations” that violate EU privacy laws.

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#advertising, #eu, #google, #idfa, #policy, #privacy, #tech, #tracking

Spotify opens a second personalized playlist to sponsors, after ‘Discover Weekly’ in 2019

Spotify is opening up its personalized playlist, “On Repeat,” to advertising sponsorship. This playlist, launched in 2019 and featuring users’ favorite songs, is only the second personalized playlist on the music streaming service that’s being made available for sponsorship. Spotify’s flagship playlist, “Discover Weekly,” became the first in 2019.

The sponsorship is made possible through the company’s Sponsored Playlist ad product, which gives brands the ability to market to Spotify’s free users with audio, video and display ad messages across breaks, allowing the advertiser to own the experience “end-to-end,” the company says.

It also gives brands an opportunity to reach Spotify’s most engaged users.

When Spotify opened up “Discover Weekly” to sponsorship, for example, it noted that users who listened to this playlist streamed more than double those who didn’t. Similarly, “On Repeat” caters to Spotify’s more frequent users because of its focus on tracks users have played most often.

Since the launch of “On Repeat” in September 2019, Spotify says the playlist has reached 12 billion streams globally. Fans have also spent over 750 million hours listening to the playlist, where artists like Bad Bunny, The Weeknd, and Ariana Grande have topped the list for “most repeated” listens.

Though Spotify today offers its numerous owned and operated playlists for sponsorship, its personalized playlists have largely been off-limits — except for “Discover Weekly.” These are highly-valued properties, as Spotify directs users to stream collections powered by its algorithms, which Spotify organizes in its ever-expanding “Made for You” hub in its app. Here, users can jump in between “Discover Weekly,” and other collections organized by genre, artist, decade, and more — like new releases, favorites, suggestions, and more.

With the launch of sponsorship for “On Repeat,” brands across 30 global markets, including North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific will be able to own another of Spotify’s largest personalized properties for a time.

The first U.S. advertiser to take advantage of the sponsorship is TurboTax, which cited the personalization elements and user engagement with the playlist among the reasons why the ad product made sense for them.

“Like music, taxes are not one size fits all. Every tax situation is unique and every individual’s needs are different,” said Cathleen Ryan, VP of Marketing for TurboTax, in a statement about the launch. “We’re using Spotify’s deep connection to its engaged listeners to get in front of consumers and show them that with TurboTax you can get the expertise you need on your terms. With Spotify, we’re able to get both reach and unique targeting that ensures the right audiences know about the tools, guidance and expertise that TurboTax offers,” she added.

#ad-technology, #adtech, #advertising, #advertising-tech, #brands, #media, #personalization, #playlist, #spotify, #streaming-music, #turbotax

After similar moves for Shopping and Flights, Google makes hotel listings free

Last year, Google made a significant change to its Google Shopping destination by making it free for e-commerce retailers to sell on Google, when before the Shopping tab had been dominated by paid product listings. It also made it free for partners to participate in Google Flights. Today, the company announced it’s now doing the same thing for hotel booking links on the vertical.

Beginning this week, Google will make it free for hotels and travel companies around the world to appear in hotel booking links on — a change that will give users a more comprehensive look into hotel room availability as they research and plan their trips.

The company is positioning this change as a way it can better help meet consumers’ needs, ahead of the expected return of travel as the pandemic comes to an end.

“When travel does resume in earnest, it’s crucial that people can find the information they’re looking for and easily connect with travel companies online,” writes Richard Holden, VP of Product Management for Google’s Travel efforts, in today’s announcement.

In reality, the adoption of free listings is part of a larger effort underway at Google to shift many of its destinations that were previously powered by paid ads to become free listings. On the e-commerce front, this shift was meant to strategically counteract the growing threat from Amazon in e-commerce, which has steadily grown its ad business over the years. Amazon is also now often the first place users go to search for products, bypassing Google entirely — a worrying threat to Google’s core ad business.

Image Credits: Google

Shortly after the launch of free e-commerce listings, Google said it saw increases in clicks to its Shopping tab (70% lift as of last June) and an increase of impressions on the Shopping tab (130% lift). The idea is that, over time, Google will be able to pull in more brands to its e-commerce platform, increasing competition. As the market becomes more crowded, some brands that were previously benefitting from the free listings will turn to ads in order to increase their visibility.

Travel, including flights and hotels, are other areas where Google is positioned to grow in terms of post-COVID web traffic. For the past several years, however, hotel booking links were offered on Google through paid Hotel Ads, which would display the real-time pricing and availability for specific travel dates.

With these listings now becoming free, consumers will have an expanded set of options. And that will make Google a more reliable place to search for bookings. It could help Google compete with an array of travel booking apps and services, which are also expected to boom in the post-COVID months to come. And though the pandemic is not over yet, there are already signals that some are treating it as such in the U.S., with states lifting mask mandates and Spring Breakers planning their annual trips to Florida beaches, for example. The full effect of the pandemic’s end hasn’t yet to be seen in travel, but consumer appetite is surely there after a year of locking down and staying at home.

Google today argues that the addition of the free listings will generate increased booking traffic and user engagement on its platform. And this will, in turn, expand the reach of advertisers’ Hotel Ads campaigns.

Meanwhile, the shift to free listing will help bring potential new advertisers into the pipeline, too, as hotel and travel companies will be able to list for free by establishing a Hotel Center account. Over time, Google says the onboarding process will be made even easier and it will reduce the complexity of its tools to provide the hotel listings. It notes that its existing hotel partners who already participate in the Hotel Prices API and Hotel Ads don’t have to take any action to appear in free booking links.


#ad-tech, #advertising, #advertising-tech, #google, #hotels, #search, #travel

Taipei-based Influenxio gets $2M from DCM Ventures for its “microinfluencer” marketing platform

Influencer marketing startup Influenxio's team, with founder and CEO Allan Ko in the center

Influenxio’s team, with founder and chief executive officer Allan Ko in the center

“Microinfluencers” are gaining clout among marketers. Though they may have as little as a thousand followers, microinfluencers tend to focus on specific content and be seen as more engaging and trustworthy by their audience, said Allan Ko, founder and chief executive officer of Influenxio. The Taipei-based startup, which connects brands with Instagram microinfluencers through its online platform, announced today that it has closed $2 million in pre-Series A funding led by DCM Ventures, and is launching a new subscription plan.

Founded in 2018, Influenxio has now raised over $3 million in total, including from seed investor SparkLabs Taipei. It currently operates in Taiwan and Japan, where it has databases of 100,000 and 250,000 Instagram creators, respectively. So far, over 6,000 brands have registered on Influenxio’s platform, and it has been used to run over 1,000 campaigns.

Influenxio plans to use its new funding for hiring and product development. Influenxio’s new subscription plan is a relatively novel model for the field, so one of the startup’s goals is to prove that it works, Ko told TechCrunch. The company also plans to build out its Japanese platform and expand into more countries.

A screenshot of Influenxio's platform

A screenshot of Influenxio’s platform

Influenxio analyzes past campaigns, performance data and client reviews to improve its algorithms. Since the entire campaign creation process–from finding influencers to paying them–is performed through Influenxio, this allows it to gather a wide range of data to refine its technology, Ko told TechCrunch.

Influencers typically make about $35 to $40 USD for each campaign they participate in, and most of the brands the company works with focus on food (like restaurants), fashion, beauty or lifestyle services.

Before launching Influenxio, Ko spent 15 years working in the digital marketing field, serving as an account manager at Yahoo! and Microsoft, and then head of Hong Kong and Taiwan for Google’s online partnerships group. He wanted to create a startup that would combine what he had learned about digital marketing and make accessible to more businesses.

Large brands have used Influenxio to quickly generate marketing campaigns for special occasions like Mother’s Day or Christmas. For example, one advertiser in Taiwan used Influenxio to hire almost 200 influencers in one week, who were asked to test and post about their products, and some of Influenxio’s highest profile clients include Shiseido, Shopee, iHerb and KKBox.

But the majority of Influenxio’s clients (about 80% to 90%) are small- to medium-sized businesses, and Ko said they usually create multiple campaigns to build brand awareness over time, working with a few influencers a month.

Influenxio’s new subscription plan, which costs less than $100 USD a month and is launching first in Taiwan before rolling out to other markets, was created for them. “The first year we launched the platform, we found small businesses want experts and advice,” said Ko. Many don’t have marketing managers, so Influenxio’s subscription plan automatically matches them with new influencers each month and provides them with analytics so they can see how well campaigns are performing.

Influenxio is among a growing number of startups that are tapping into the “microinfluencer economy,” with others including AspireIQ, Upfluence and Grin.

Ko said Influenxio’s biggest difference is its focus on small businesses, and serving as a one-stop marketplace for influencer campaigns. “The important thing for our platform is that it needs to be very easy and simple,” he added. “We spent a lot of time on the execution and details to make it smoother on the advertiser side. For the influencer side, we try to make it more convenient. For example, the way they receive money, our goal is to also make it easy.”

#advertising, #asia, #fundings-exits, #influencer, #influenxio, #microinfluencer, #startups, #taiwan, #tc

How to successfully dance the creator-brand tango

I have been thinking about creators.

I am one: I put out an e-book on Gumroad about cold emailing. That is actually the low point of creativity in my whole life, considering I think I have it in me to be a scriptwriter, a stand-up artist or at least a mediocre YouTuber. I created a piece of art about spamming. What a fall!

There are successful creators, unlike me. But what makes them succeed, and how should brands work with them? Let’s get the definitions in place first.

Creators create and hence have an influence over their fans. Influencers exist. That’s the working definition we’ll go with.

Where brands go astray is when they expect creators to obtain products for their brands in the way that influencers do.

Brands work with influencers all the time. It doesn’t take a special skill to have a rotund posterior on which a wine glass can be balanced. Most of us don’t try such things. Yet some do, post it on Instagram and build multibillion-dollar fashion brands.

It’s art if an influencer does it. You and I have no business here, but brands embrace such influencers. Influencers monetize eyeballs directly (through brand partnerships) or through platform ad revenue.

Creators are morally superior — they earnestly create good, mediocre or bad content/art/internet moments through their good, bad or mediocre skills. That builds a niche fan following. 

They monetize through ads, brand partnerships or subscriptions 

Where brands go astray is when they expect creators to obtain products for their brands in the way that influencers do. Influencers influence. Creators endear themselves to their audience. Creators evolve and their audience base evolves along with them.

I have a framework for how brands can think about creator relationships and how to set goals for such relationships. 

Let’s call it FFS (Fan Follower Strength 🤦‍♂️) Framework.

Fans of a creator manifest their liking for the creator in one of these ways:

  • Appreciate
  • Advocate
  • Adulate

Depending on the scale of the audience base and their fan following strength, creators’ alternative revenue streams could be anywhere between that of a guy who does the opening act at an obscure club’s stand-up night to that of a cult founder.

fan following strength the fan following framework

Image Credits: Ashwin Ramasamy

How much influence a creator has depends on the distribution of fans they have in these stages.

The more adulation they get, the more they are ready to carry a brand or monetize on their own. While the number of fans decides the scale of an outcome (exposure, sales, etc.), at any scale a creator can monetize if they have more fans in the advocate or adulate stages.

A brand has to choose its creators both on the scale and the goals they have for the relationship.

A creator with millions of merely appreciative followers could be good for brand exposure but not immediate sales, whereas a niche creator who receives great adulation from their audience could not just move products but move their audience to visit your store to buy a product they promote.

Such creators — if they are able to maintain a high proportion of advocates and adulatory followers as they hit scale — could launch their own brands.

The relationship becomes troublesome when brands simply look at influencer marketing metrics (engagement, clicks, etc.) and ignore the FFS metrics (intensity of fan following as measured from comments, organic shares and engagement for those shares; the shelf life of the content measured by the longevity of comment interaction; fanfic creations around the creator’s content or about the creator, etc.)

Without the understanding of FFS metrics, brands end up partnering with creators at a life stage that could be incompatible with brand goals. A creator with a huge following does not automatically translate to sales if their fan following strength is skewed more toward appreciation than advocacy or adulation.

#advertising, #branding, #column, #influencer-marketing, #marketing, #tc

Spotify to launch Spotify Audience Network, an audio ad marketplace

Spotify provided more details today about how it plans to monetize its investments in podcasts. The company said it’s launching a new audio advertising marketplace, the Spotify Audience Network, which will allow advertisers to reach listeners across Spotify’s own Originals and Exclusives, as well as podcasts via Megaphone and creation tool Anchor, and its ad-supported music, all in one place. The company also said it plans to offer podcasts on its self-serve ad platform, Spotify Ad Studio, starting with Spotify Originals and Exclusives in the U.S., in a beta test phase.

This will expand to include third-party podcasts in the future, the company noted today during its live online event, “Stream On.”

Currently, Spotify Ad Studio is being used by advertisers across 22 markets following its 2017 launch, to reach Spotify music listeners with both audio and video advertisements. Spotify said the service is its fastest-growing buying channel, but didn’t provide specific figures to detail that growth.

Image Credits: Spotify

However, the larger news on the advertising side was the launch of the new audio ad marketplace, Spotify Audience Network. Similar to some of its other forward-looking announcements today, Spotify was light on details about how exactly Spotify Audience Network would work — saying only that it’s in the “early stages of developing the offering,” and it expects to be able to share more at a later date.

However, the company positioned the marketplace as a “game changer,” particularly for podcasters looking to make money from ads, as well as for advertisers who want to reach Spotify’s audience of hundreds and millions, both on and off Spotify.

This news follows an investigative report by The Verge earlier this year which found Spotify was the main sponsor for Anchor advertising to date — despite its promises to find sponsors for smaller podcasters. It now appears Spotify has been in the process of building out its ad marketplace and tooling to make good on those promises, and may not have prioritized advertiser outreach in the meantime.

Image Credits: Spotify

Spotify today also spoke about how its recent acquisition of Megaphone would allow it to scale its Streaming Ad Insertion (SAI) technology, launched in early 2020, to publishers beyond its own Originals and Exclusives audio programs. Today, SAI is available in the U.S., Canada, Germany, and the U.K., and will expand to other new markets in 2021.

Since its debut, SAI has been rolling out new features like audience-based buying, native ad placements, and reporting on creative performance. Later this year, Spotify says it will make SAI available to Megaphone podcast publishers and “leading” Anchor creators.

But Anchor creators won’t be limited to advertising to grow revenues.

Spotify also briefly noted it will, in a few months, begin beta testing a new feature that will allow Anchor creators to publish paid podcast content to Spotify aimed at their most dedicated fans, as TechCrunch previously reported.


#ad-tech, #advertising, #advertising-tech, #anchor, #media, #megaphone, #music, #podcast, #podcasts, #spotify, #streaming, #streaming-service

State lawmakers override veto, become first in nation to tax online ads

None of these companies are keen to hand over a slice of their revenue to Maryland.

Enlarge / None of these companies are keen to hand over a slice of their revenue to Maryland. (credit: Malik Evren | Getty Images)

Maryland today became the first state in the nation to impose a tax on digital advertising revenue, overriding an earlier veto from the governor and incurring the wrath of piles of Big Tech businesses that are all but guaranteed to sue.

The bill (PDF) levies a state tax of up to 10 percent on the annual gross revenues of all digital advertising aimed at users inside Maryland state. Proceeds from the new tax are explicitly earmarked to go into an education fund dedicated to improving Maryland public schools.

“Right now, they don’t contribute,” the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Bill Ferguson (D) said of the bill. “These platforms that have grown fast, and so enormously, should also have to contribute to the civic infrastructure that helped them become so successful.”

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#advertising, #amazon, #digital-advertising, #digital-advertising-gross-revenues-tax, #facebook, #google, #maryland, #policy, #taxation, #taxes

Facebook makes the case for activity tracking to iOS 14 users in new pop-ups

The two messages Facebook users will see in this test. On the left, Facebook's prompt, and on the right, the one required by Apple.

Enlarge / The two messages Facebook users will see in this test. On the left, Facebook’s prompt, and on the right, the one required by Apple. (credit: CNBC)

Today, Facebook began testing prompts to iPhone and iPad users championing the importance of being tracked by the social network for the benefit of small businesses that use its advertising tools.

The test is in response to Apple’s plan to require user opt-in to IDFA (ID for advertisers) tracking across all iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS apps starting with new software updates expected in the spring.

According to CNBC, Facebook will pre-empt Apple’s required pop-up with its own on affected devices. Facebook’s message is meant to persuade users not to opt out of tracking.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#advertising, #apple, #facebook, #idfa, #ios-14, #ios-14-5, #iphone, #privacy, #tech

This Week in Apps: GameStop madness hits trading apps, Apple privacy changes, Clubhouse becomes a unicorn

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone.

And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This week, we’re taking a look at the biggest news in the world of apps, including how the GameStop frenzy impacted trading apps, as well as how Apple’s privacy changes are taking shape in 2021, and more.

Top Stories

The internet comes for the stock market, via trading apps

illustration of robinhood feather logo spraypainted on a brick wall

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Was there really any other app news story this week, beside the GameStop short squeeze? That a group of Reddit users took on the hedge funds was the stuff of legends, even if the reality was that Wall Street likely got in on both sides of the trade. Whether you found yourself in the camp of admiring the spectacle or watching the train wreck in horror (or both), what we witnessed — at long last, I suppose — was the internet coming for the stock market. The GameStop frenzy upended the status quo; it rattled the traditional ways of doing things — much like what the internet has done to almost everything else it touches — whether that’s publishing, media, creation, politics, and more.

“This is community,” explained Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, in an interview on AOC’s Twitch channel on Thursday.

“This is something that spans platforms and the internet, especially in the last 10 years — in particular social media and smartphone ubiquity. All these things have connected us in real-time ways to organize around ideas, around concepts,” he continued. “We seek out those communities. We seek out that sense of identity. We seek out that sense of connection. And the internet supercharges it because of scale,” he said. “I think one of the byproducts of where I think it continues to go is more of a push towards decentralization and more of a push toward individuals being able to take ownership — even individuals being able to get access — to do the same things that institutions, historically, had a monopoly on,” Ohanian noted.

Trading app Robinhood and social app Reddit, home to the WallStreetBets forum driving the GameStop push, immediately benefitted from the community-driven effort to squeeze the hedge funds — and jumped to the top of the App Store.

But Robinhood’s subsequent failure to be transparent as to why it was forced to stop customers from buying the “meme” stocks, like GameStop and others (it needed more cash), quickly damaged its reputation. Some investors have now sued for their losses. Others started petitions. And even more began downranking the app with one-star reviews, which Google then removed.

Other trading apps have gained not only during the frenzy itself, but also after, as Robinhood users looked for alternative platforms after being burned by the free trading app.

As of Friday, Robinhood remained at No. 1 on the App Store, but is now being closely trailed on the Top Free iPhone apps chart by No. 2 Webull, No. 6 Fidelity, No. 7 Cash App, No. 12 TD Ameritrade and No. 15 E*TRADE, among others.

Crypto apps are also topping the charts, as users realize the potential of collective action in markets not yet dominated by the billionaires. Coinbase popped to No. 4, while Binance-run apps were at No. 9 and No. 19, Voyager was No. 23 and Kraken No. 24.

In addition, forums where traders can join communities are also continuing to do well, with Reddit at No. 3, Discord at No. 14 and Telegram at No. 28, as of the time of writing.

Google says it will add those Apple privacy labels…sometime!

Image Credits: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google failed to meet its earlier promised deadline of rolling out privacy labels to its nearly 100-some iOS apps. Its initial estimate followed suggestions (aided by Apple’s typical quiet confirmations to press), that Google had been struggling over how to handle the privacy issues the updates would reveal. This week, Google again said its labels were on the way. But now, it’s not making any specific promises about when those labels would arrive. Instead, the company just said the labels would roll out as Google updated its iOS apps with new features and bug fixes, rather than rolling out the labels to all its apps at once.

However, some Google apps have been updated, including Play Movies & TV, Google Translate, Fiber TV, Fiber, Google Stadia, Google Authenticator, Google Classroom, Smart Lock, Motion Stills, Onduo for Diabetes, Wear OS by Google and Project Baseline — but not Google’s main apps like Search, YouTube, Maps, Gmail or its other productivity apps.

Apple’s IDFA changes to begin this spring

Image Credits: Apple (livestream)

Apple announced this week its tracking restrictions for iOS apps are nearing arrival. The changes had initially been pushed back to give developers more time to make updates, but will now arrive in “early spring.”

Once live, the previous opt-out model for sharing your Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) will change to an opt-in model, meaning developers will have to ask users’ permission to track them. Most users will likely say “no,” and be annoyed by the request. Users will also be able to adjust IDFA sharing in Settings on a per-app basis, or on all apps at once.

Facebook has already been warning investors of the ad revenue hit that will result from these changes, which it expects to see in the first quarter earnings. It may also be preparing a lawsuit. Google, meanwhile, said it would be adopting Apple’s SKAdNetwork framework and providing feedback to Apple about its potential improvements.

For years, Apple has been laying the groundwork to establish itself as the company that cares about consumer privacy. And it’s certainly true that no other large tech company has yet to give users this much power to fight back against being tracked around the web and inside apps.

But this is not a case of Apple being the “good guy” while everyone else is “bad” —  because the multi-billion-dollar ad industry is not that simple. With a change to its software, Apple has effectively carved out a seat at the table for its own benefit.

What many don’t realize is that Apple watches what its users do across its own platform, inside a number of its first-party apps — including in Apple Music, Apple TV, Apple Books, Apple News and the App Store. It then uses that first-party data to personalize the ads it displays in Apple News, Stocks and the App Store.

So while other businesses are tracking users around the web and apps to gain data that lets them better personalize ads at scale, Apple only tracks users inside its own apps and services. (But there sure are a lot of them! And Apple keeps launching new ones, too.)

With the new limits that impact the effectiveness of ads outside of Apple’s ecosystem, advertisers who need to reach a potential customer — say, with an app recommendation — will need to throw more money into Apple-delivered advertising instead. This is because Apple’s ads will be capable of making those more targeted, personalized and, therefore, more effective recommendations.

Apple says it will play by the same rules that it’s asking other developers to abide by. Meaning, if its apps want to track you, they’ll ask. But most of its apps do not “track” using IDFA. Meanwhile, if users want to turn off personalized ads using Apple’s first-party data, that’s a different setting. (Settings –> Privacy –> scroll to bottom –> Apple Advertising –> toggle off Personalized Ads). And no, you won’t be shown a pop-up asking you if that’s a setting you want on or off.

Apple, having masterfully made its case as the privacy-focused company — because wow, isn’t adtech gross? —  is now just laying it on. Apple CEO Tim Cook this week blamed the adtech industry for the growth in online extremism, violent incitement (e.g. at the U.S. Capitol) and growing belief in conspiracies, saying companies (cough, Facebook) optimized for engagement and data collection, no matter the damage to society.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

  • Apple releases iOS 14.4 to iPhone and iPad users. The update patches three critical security vulnerabilities, adds Bluetooth audio monitoring to protect users from levels that could damage hearing, improves the ability for the camera to recognize smaller QR codes, adds a warning if the iPhone 12 has been repaired with non-Apple parts and fixes other bugs.
  • Apple reports record-breaking Q1 2021 with $111.4 billion in revenue. The company beat investor expectations on both earnings per share and revenues, with more than the expected $103.3 billion in revenues and $1.68 EPS versus the $1.41 EPS expected. Earnings were driven by new 5G iPhones and a 57% rise in China sales.
  • Apple dominates tablet market with 19.2 million iPads shipped in Q4 2020.
  • Separately, from the IDFA news, Apple announced this week that Private Click Measurement (PCM) will roll out at the same time as the IDFA changes. PCM measures app-to-web conversions, while SKAdNetwork focuses only on app-to-app conversions. This gives advertisers a way to track the performance of apps that run inside ads that send users to websites.
  • A researcher discovered a new iOS security system in iOS 14, BlastDoor, which offers a new sandbox system for processing iMessages data.
  • The Washington Post checks in on Apple’s App Store privacy labels and finds many of them were wrong.

Platforms: Google

  • Google Play Store updates its policies on gamified loyalty programs following confusion in India. Real gambling apps are still not permitted in India, but developers now will have better clarity on rules.
  • Google Play Store opened to Android Auto apps in December, but only for closed testing. This week, it expanded to open testing, meaning there’s no limit to the number of users who can download the app — the next step toward launching to all users in production.


Image Credits: Sensor Tower

  • U.S. consumer spend in mobile simulation games up 61.8% in 2020, reports Sensor Tower. Top titles included Roblox and Township by Playrix.

Entertainment & Streaming

  • Netflix can now stream studio-quality audio on Android 9 and newer devices, specifically Extended HE-AAC with MPEG-D DRC (xHE-AAC). This codec improves sound in noisy conditions and adapts to variable cellular connections.
  • Spotify tests audiobooks. The company released a small selection of nine exclusive audiobook recordings from books in the public domain. The narrators included big names like David Dobrik, Forest Whitaker, Hilary Swank and Cynthia Erivo, to determine if there’s consumer demand for this sort of content.
  • Spotify also tests a feature that inserts “slow down” songs in playlists when users approach school zones. The feature was being tried in Australia.
  • YouTube said its TikTok rival, YouTube Shorts, was seeing 3.5 billion views per day during tests in India.

Security & Privacy

  • Apple says iOS 14.4 fixes three security bugs that may have been exploited by hackers. Details were scarce but two of the bugs were found in WebKit. Apple wouldn’t say how many users may have been impacted.
  • TikTok fixed a vulnerability that would have allowed for the theft of private user information.
  • WhatsApp added a biometric authentication to its web and desktop apps to make authentication more secure for its over 2 billion users.
  • A location broker called X-Mode was discovered to still be tracking users via Apple and Android apps, despite app store bans. The broker sold data collected in apps — like unofficial transportation app New York Subway, Video MP3 Converter and Moco — to U.S. military contractors.


Image Credits: Telegram

  • Telegram adds a new feature that would allow users to import their WhatsApp chats and others, making a switch easier. The feature appears in version 7.4, and supports WhatsApp, Line and KakaoTalk import on iOS and Android.

Social & Photos

Image Credits: Instagram

  • Instagram launches a professional dashboard for creators and small business. The new in-app destination offers centralized access to tools for tracking performance, discovering insights and trends, growing your business and staying informed through access to educational resources.
  • Facebook expands its Facebook News portal to the U.K., its first international market.
  • TikTok owner ByteDance’s revenue more than doubled in 2020, according to The Information, to about $37 billion.
  • Snapchat launched a digital literacy program aimed at educating users about data privacy and security. The program teaches users how to turn on two-factor and introduced a new filter that connects users to privacy resources.
  • Twitter launches Birdwatch, a community-based approach to handling misinformation on its platform. The system allows users to identify misleading info in tweets and write notes that provide information and context, in a sort of Wikipedia-like model. Eventually, these notes will be made visible directly on tweets for all to read, after consensus from a broad and diverse group of editors is achieved.
  • QAnon moves to a free-speech focused TikTok clone called Clapper, which is a new home to some of the Parler crowd. ToS violations coming in 3, 2, 1…
  • TikTok was found to be hosting a number of vape sellers who were clearly marketing toward minors, promising no ID checks and discreet packaging to hide vape purchases from parents.

Health & Fitness

  • Apple expands its new Apple Fitness+ service with “Time to Walk,” a feature that offers inspiring audio stories from guests like country music icon Dolly Parton, NBA player Draymond Green, musician Shawn Mendes, Emmy Award winner Uzo Aduba and others. The launch indicates Apple understands how to make the service more broadly appealing to reach beyond those who are already deeply committed to their regular exercise routines.
  • Health and Fitness app downloads grew 30% in 2020, reports App Annie, from $1.5 billion in consumer spend in 2019 to $2 billion in 2020, and from 2 billion downloads to 2.6 billion. On Android phones, time spent was up 25%.

Government & Policy

  • Italy’s data protection agency gave TikTok a deadline to respond its order to block all users whose age it can’t verify following the death of a 10-year-old girl who repeated a dangerous “challenge” on the social app.
  • Iran blocked the Signal messaging app after the WhatsApp exodus sent a flood of users to the open-source, encrypted communication service.
  • India said it will continue its ban on TikTok, UC Browser and 57 other Chinese apps that the country first banned last June, saying the responses the companies provided didn’t adequately address the cybersecurity concerns. TikTok owner ByteDance said it’s closing its India operations and laying off 1,800 employees.
  • Norway’s data protection agency notified U.S.-based dating app Grindr for violation of GDPR consent violations, which carry a fine of around $12.1 million USD.

Funding and M&A

  • Buzzy voice chat app Clubhouse raises $100 million, valuing the business at $1 billion. Despite being launched under a year ago and remaining an invite-only experience for the time being, the app has been carving out a new form of audio-based social networking. With now over 180 investors and a pandemic coming to an end — perhaps — with the vaccine rollout, Clubhouse will soon have to prove it has value in a reopened world where there’s more to do, including, once again, networking events and conferences. It will also eventually have to contend with what sort of app it becomes when it finally opens up to the public. So far, its private, insiders-only atmosphere has given it something of a protected status. Though conversations have turned toxic at times, only a few users ever heard them — and there’s no transcript. When the world piles in, however, Clubhouse could not only lose its exclusive appeal but also become host to conversations that do real harm.

  • Twitter acquires newsletter platform Revue, a Substack rival, to get its users a way to monetize their Twitter fan base. Despite only announcing this week, the company is already integrating Newsletters on its web app.
  • Edtech app ClassDojo raises $30 million led by Product Hunt CEO Josh Buckley. The app has boomed during the pandemic as schools and teachers needed a new way to communicate with families at home.
  • Scheduling startup Calendly raises $350 million for its cloud-based service that helps people set up and confirm meeting times with one another. The round values the business at $3 billion.
  • Virtual social network IMVU raises $35 million from China’s NetEase and others. The app lets users create virtual rooms and chat with strangers using custom avatars.
  • Short-form video app Clash acquires would-be TikTok rival Byte, created by a former Vine founder.
  • IAC’s Teltech, home to Robokiller, acquires encrypted messaging app Confide, in an unannounced deal. Terms were not revealed but included the app and IP, not the team.

Confide app

Image Credits: Confide

  • Opal raises $4.3 million for its digital well-being assistant for iPhone that blocks you from distracting apps and websites.
  • Finance tracking and budgeting app Brigit raises $35 million Series A led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation from DCM, Nyca, Canaan, DN Capital, CRV, Core, Shasta, Hummingbird, Abstract, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, Secocha, NBA star Kevin Durant, Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures and Flourish Ventures.
  • SoftBank-backed Travel platform Klook raises $200 million in a round led by Aspex Management. The startup, which helps users book activities in overseas destinations, had been impacted by the pandemic, so pivoted to “staycation” activities and service for local merchants.
  • Video software company Vimeo raises $300 million in equity from funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. and Oberndorf Enterprises, LLC at a valuation in excess of $5 billion.
  • RuneScape publisher Jagex has been acquired by investment firm The Carlyle Group for at least $530 million. The British video game publisher creates both PC and mobile games, including a mobile version of RuneScape with 8 million installs in 2019.
  • Appointment booking app Booksy raises $70 million to acquire other salon appointment apps and expand internationally. The round was led by Cat Rock Capital with participation from Sprints Capital.
  • Fintech startup Albert raises $100 million in Series C funding led by General Atlantic. The funds will be used to expand its financial wellness service now used by over 5 million people to help save, budget and more.
  • Dating app S’More raises $2.1 million for its concept where users photos’ are initially blurred.
  • Stacker raises $1.7 million seed round for its platform that lets non-developers build apps using spreadsheets from Google Sheets or Airtable.
  • Kuaishou, ByteDance’s main rival in China, raises $5.4B in Hong Kong IPO, valuing the business at $61B



Image Credits: Opal

Opal offers a digital well-being assistant for iPhone that allows you to block distracting websites and apps, set schedules around app usage, lock down apps for stricter and more focused quiet periods and more. The service works by way of a VPN system that limits your access to apps and sites. But unlike some VPNs on the market, Opal is committed to not collecting any personal data on its users or their private browsing data. Instead, its business model is based on paid subscriptions, not selling user data, it says. The freemium service lets you upgrade to its full feature set for $59.99/year.


Image Credits: Charlie

Founded by a former mobile game industry vet, Charliegamifies” getting out of debt using techniques that worked in gaming, like progress bars, fun auto-save rules that can be triggered by almost any activity, celebrations with confetti and more. The app plans to expand into a fuller fintech product in time to help users refinance debt at a lower rate and bill pay directly from the app.


#adtech, #advertising, #android, #android-apps, #app-stores, #apple, #apps, #developers, #facebook, #gamestop, #google, #idfa, #ios, #ios-apps, #mobile, #privacy, #robinhood, #tc, #trading

Why Facebook and Apple are going to war over privacy

Tim Cook

Enlarge / Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers a speech on privacy at a virtual conference. (credit: CPDP)

Today, Apple announced plans to finally roll out its previously delayed change in policy on apps’ use of IDFA (ID for Advertisers) to track users for targeted advertising. The feature will be in the next beta release of iOS 14 (the company just rolled out the public release of iOS 14.4 this week) and will reach all iOS devices supported by iOS 14 “in early spring.”

Apple made the announcement with a white paper and Q&A targeted at its users. To illustrate the benefits Apple claims the change will offer to users, the document describes in detail a typical scenario where a father and daughter would have data about them tracked and updated while doing normal, everyday things in the current digital ecosystem.

Apple’s document goes on to explain Apple’s stated philosophy on user data protection and privacy, and it announces the release window for this upcoming change. The document explains the change this way:

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#advertising, #apple, #facebook, #idfa, #ios, #ios-14, #ios-14-5, #iphone, #mark-zuckerberg, #tech, #tim-cook

Facebook will turn all US political advertising off again after Georgia runoffs

Georgia is the only state in the U.S. right now where Facebook allows political ads to run, but after Tuesday’s polls close that’s set to change.

According to Facebook’s site detailing changes to its ad policies and a story from Axios, the company will no longer allow political and social issue ads anywhere in the country, Georgia included, beginning early tomorrow.

Facebook told TechCrunch that the decision to toggle political ads in Georgia off again brings that state in line with its current “nationwide pause” on social issue, election and politics ads. A Facebook spokesperson declined to say when political ads will again be allowed or if permanently blocking them from the platform is under consideration.

The company first hit pause on those ad categories November 4 as a precaution designed to reduce misinformation in the U.S. presidential election. On December 16, the company re-allowed political ads in Georgia, inviting eager campaigns to pay to get their messages in front of Facebook users. It appears that some politicians, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) among them, pounced on Facebook’s Georgia loophole to raise money for themselves in spite of restrictions.

When political ads came flooding back in for Georgians, they edged out mainstream news sources, according to new reporting from The Markup. While that result is fairly intuitive, it does underline the outsized influence of targeting political advertising in Facebook’s information ecosystem.

Plenty of politicians and political groups are likely eager to get back to fundraising on Facebook. The company’s decision to keep the pause in place suggests that it’s still evaluating how — and perhaps if — it wants to handle political ads in the future. But Facebook also might be waiting for the storm to pass in light of the misinformation that plagued November’s drawn-out process of calculating election results.

It’s also worth noting that Facebook’s head of advertising integrity Rob Leathern left the company at the end of December, calling his team’s work on the 2020 U.S. election the “culmination of a huge amount of effort over several years.” Leathern helped sculpt the company’s policies around political advertising — decisions that were often controversial due to the prevalence of paid misinformation sweeping through the platform throughout 2020.

Because they will decide control of the Senate, the unusual pair of runoff races in a state that just flipped blue are high-stakes for both political parties. With a Democratic Senate, the Biden administration’s ambitious plans for things like COVID relief and the climate crisis will have a much better shot at becoming a reality. And for Republicans looking to stymie the president-elect’s policy priorities, extended control of the Senate would put a powerful barrier in Biden’s way.


#advertising, #facebook, #facebook-misinformation, #government, #misinformation, #political-advertising, #political-campaigning, #social, #tc

Facebook extends its temporary ban on political ads for another month

The election is settled, but the nation is far from it.

Before Election Day in the U.S., Facebook hit pause on all political and social issue ads. At the time, the company made it clear that the precautionary measure designed to turn off one potential faucet of misinformation would be temporary, but it couldn’t say how long the policy would remain in effect.

Now, Facebook says the temporary ban will continue for at least another month. The decision to extend the special policy was implemented Wednesday, four days after Joe Biden’s election victory — and four days after it became clear that Trump had no intention of conceding a lost election.

“The temporary pause for ads about politics and social issues in the US continues to be in place as part of our ongoing efforts to protect the election,” the company wrote in an update to its previous announcement. “Advertisers can expect this to last another month, though there may be an opportunity to resume these ads sooner.”

Facebook’s ongoing political ad pause throws a wrench into things in Georgia, where two January runoff elections will decide which party will control the Senate heading into President-Elect Biden’s administration. A friendly Senate is essential for many of Biden’s biggest proposals, including a $2 trillion climate package that could reshape the American economy and push the country toward an electrified future that doesn’t rely on fossil fuels.

Over the last few days, a shocking number of Republicans have “humored” the president’s refusal to transfer power in spite of an unambiguous election call and Biden’s decisive win in Pennsylvania, which cut off any potential paths to victory for his opponent. The Trump campaign’s last-ditch flurry of legal challenges have presented little of substance so far, and they might ultimately be more about dividing a nation and sowing doubt than prevailing in court.

#2020-election, #advertising, #facebook, #facebook-political-ads, #government, #social, #tc

Amazon launches a program to pay consumers for their data on non-Amazon purchases

Amazon has launched a new program that directly pays consumers for information about what they’re purchasing outside of and for responding to short surveys. The program, Amazon Shopper Panel, asks users to send in 10 receipts per month for any purchases made at non-Amazon retailers, including grocery stores, department stores, drug stores and entertainment outlets (if open), like movie theaters, theme parks, and restaurants.

Amazon’s own stores, like Whole Foods, Amazon Go, Amazon Four Star and Amazon Books do not qualify.

Program participants will take advantage of the newly launched Amazon Shopper Panel mobile app on iOS and Android to take pictures of paper receipts that qualify or they can opt to forward emailed receipts to to earn a $10 reward that can then be applied to their Amazon Balance or used as a charitable donation.

Amazon says users can then earn additional rewards each month for every survey they complete. The optional surveys will ask about brands and products that may interest the participant and how likely they are to purchase a product. Other surveys may ask what the shopper thinks of an ad. These rewards may vary, depending on the survey.

The program is currently opt-in and invite-only, and is also only open to U.S. consumers at this time. Invited participants can now download the newly launched Shopper Panel app and join the panel. Other interested users can use the app to join a waitlist for an invite.

Image Credits: Amazon

Amazon claims it will delete any sensitive information from the receipts users upload, like prescription information. But it doesn’t delete users’ personal information, instead storing it in accordance with its existing Privacy Policy. It will allow users to delete their previously uploaded receipts, if they choose, but it’s not clear that will actually remove collected data from Amazon’s systems.

Consumer research panels are common operations, but in Amazon’s case, it plans to use the data in several different ways.

On the website, Amazon explains it “may use” customer data to improve product selection at and Whole Food Market, as well as to improve the content selection offered through Amazon services, like Prime Video.

Amazon also says the collected data will help advertisers better understand the relationship between their ads and product purchases at an aggregate level and will help Amazon build models about which groups of customers are likely to be interested in certain products.

And Amazon may choose to offer data to brands to help them gain feedback on existing products, the website notes.

Image Credits: Amazon

The program’s launch follows increased scrutiny over Amazon’s anti-competitive business practices in the U.S. and abroad when it comes to using consumers’ purchase data.

Amazon came under fire from U.S. regulators over how it had leveraged third-party merchants’ sales data to benefit its own private label business. When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos testified before Congress in July, he said the company had a policy against doing this, but couldn’t confirm that policy hadn’t been violated. The retailer may also be facing antitrust charges over the practice in the E.U..

At the same time, Amazon has been increasing its investment in its advertising business, which grew by 44% year-over-year in Q1 to reach $3.91 billion. That was a  faster growth rate than both Google (13%) and Facebook (17%), even if tiny by comparison — Google ads made $28 billion that quarter and Facebook made $17.4 billion, Digiday reported.

As the pandemic has accelerated the shift to e-commerce by 5 years or so, Amazon’s need to better optimize advertising space has also been sped up — and it may rapidly need to ingest more data that what it can collect directly from its own website.

In a message to advertisers about the program’s launch, Amazon positioned its e-commerce business as a small piece of the overall retail market — a point it often makes in hopes of avoiding regulation:

“In this incredibly competitive retail environment, Amazon works with brands of all sizes to help them grow their businesses not just in our store, but also across the myriad of places customers shop. We also work hard to provide our selling partners—and small businesses in particular—with tools, insights, and data to help them be successful in our store. But our store is just one piece of the puzzle. Customers routinely use Amazon to discover and learn about products before purchasing them elsewhere. In fact, Amazon only represents 4% of US retail sales. Brands therefore often look to third-party consumer panel and business intelligence firms like Nielsen and NPD, and many segment-specific data providers, for additional information. Such opt-in consumer panels are well-established and used by many companies to gather consumer feedback and shopping insights. These firms aggregate shopping behaviors across stores to report data like average sales price, total units sold, and revenue on tens of thousands of the most popular products.”

The retailer then explained that the Shopper Panel could help it to support sellers and brands by offering additional insights beyond its own store.

Amazon doesn’t say when the program waitlist will be removed, but says anyone can sign up starting today.

#advertising, #amazon, #amazon-com, #business-intelligence, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #online-shopping, #retailers, #united-states, #whole-foods

Companies can track your phone’s movements to target ads

Companies can track your phone’s movements to target ads

Enlarge (credit: Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

Google and Apple have taken steps this year they say will help users shield themselves from hundreds of companies that compile profiles based on online behavior. Meanwhile, other companies are devising new ways to probe more deeply into other aspects of our lives.

In January, Google said it would phase out third-party cookies on its Chrome browser, making it harder for advertisers to track our browsing habits. Publishers and advertisers use cookies to compile our shopping, browsing, and search data into extensive user profiles. These profiles reflect our political interests, health, shopping behavior, race, gender, and more. Tellingly, Google will still collect data from its own search engine, plus sites like YouTube or Gmail.

Apple, meanwhile, says it will require apps in a forthcoming version of iOS to ask users before tracking them across services, though it delayed the effective date until next year after complaints from Facebook. A poll from June showed as many as 80 percent of respondents would not opt in to such tracking.

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#advertising, #biz-it, #privacy, #smartphones, #tech

Facebook launches Facebook Business Suite, an app for managing business accounts across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger

Facebook this morning launched a new app designed to make it easier for businesses to manage their pages and profiles across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger in a single place. The app, Facebook Business Suite, combines access to the business’s key updates and priorities, and offers a way to draft and schedule feed posts for both Facebook and Instagram, view insights and create ads.

To use the new app, business will first need to link their Facebook and Instagram business accounts, if they hadn’t already.

Once logged into Facebook, the Business Suite can be accessed on the desktop at On mobile, users of the existing Pages Manager App will see an option to join Business Suite instead. The app will also become available as a standalone download for both iOS and Android.

Image Credits: Facebook

Inside Business Suite, business owners will be able to see critical alerts, messages, comments and other activity taking place across Facebook and Instagram right in the new app’s homescreen. They can also set up personalized saved replies here, in order to respond to common customer inquiries.

The app offers tools for creating feed posts for Facebook and Instagram, scheduling posts, and provides insights on what’s working. Here, businesses can view their posts’ reach, engagement and performance across both Facebook and Instagram. They can also choose to create an ad to help boost that engagement and grow their audience, if needed.

Facebook says it’s initially building Facebook Business Suite with the needs of small businesses first, as so many have been forced by the pandemic to find new ways to reach customers and sell online. However, the long-term plan is to build out a set of tools that can be used by all businesses, including larger ones. The company aims to address that market sometime next year. Business Suite will also expand to include WhatsApp in the future.

Related to the news, Facebook published two surveys offering insights on small business trends. One, the monthly Global State of Small Business Report, produced in partnership with the World Bank and OECD, found that businesses that make more than 25% of sales online are more likely to be reporting higher sales this year, and are less likely to have laid off employees.

A second study details the impact of COVID-19 on consumer purchasing patterns and use of digital tools. Nearly half of respondents said they spent more money online overall since the outbreak, and 40% increased their use of social media and online messaging for product and business recommendations, Facebook says.

Of course, these fairly upbeat reports on the state of small businesses in the midst of the pandemic don’t provide the full picture. In the U.S., for example, Yelp is reporting that 60% of the U.S. businesses that closed due to COVID-19 won’t be re-opening. As of August, 163,735 of U.S. businesses have closed since the start of the pandemic, the report said, up 23% since mid-July.

These closures could impact Facebook as well, as the majority of Facebook’s advertisers are small and medium-sized businesses. But Facebook’s global nature protects it. Even if the U.S. loses more small businesses due to its mishandling of the pandemic, there are far more advertisers are outside the U.S. that Facebook taps into.

Facebook says the Business Suite will gradually roll out during the month of September. The app joins several others Facebook offers today for its business customers, including Facebook Pages Manager, Facebook Analytics, and Facebook Ads Manager. However, Facebook notes that its new Business Suite isn’t currently designed to serve those who use Ads Manager.

#advertising, #apps, #business, #businesses, #facebook, #marketing, #small-business, #social, #social-media

Taboola and Outbrain call off their $850M merger

Online advertising is a game of scale, but one attempt to consolidate two competitors to better take on Google and Facebook has fallen apart. Taboola and Outbrain, startups that each provide publishers with ad-based content recommendation platforms, have called off a planned $850 million merger that would have valued the combined company at over $2 billion. The news of the cancellation had been rumoured in the Israeli press, and TechCrunch has now confirmed it with both companies, too.

“We’ve seen changing conditions in the market due to Covid-19, and we decided to terminate the deal,” said a person close to the merger, who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s been such a long road, and it’s not great…but walking away is the right move.” We understand that a formal announcement will be made in the next couple of days.

The deal had been years in the making but was only finally pulled together about 11 months ago, in October 2019. However, in the interim, a combination of factors got in the way of it progressing.

The first of those was the global health pandemic. Both Taboola’s and Outbrain’s businesses are based around widgets that they integrate with publishers’ sites, which provide a way for publishers both to recirculate their own content, as well as share it, alongside sponsored content and ads, on other sites that also run the widgets. But in the last eight months, the world of ad-based media has taken a nosedive as many large brands reined in their ad budgets, and that had a knock-on effect on other players within the ecosystem.

And that has impacted financing prospects. The merger between the two was originally intended to have cash and stock components — specifically 30% of the value of Outbrain for $250 million in cash to be paid to Outbrain’s shareholders and employees — but in the contracting market, the financiers who were providing the capital for the cash component stalled. That deal ultimately expired in August, and it didn’t get extended. And then, attempts to convert the deal into an all-stock transaction were unpalatable to Outbrain, we understand. “The cash was a critical factor in the deal,” said a source.

On top of that was what was described to me as a “challenging cultural fit” between the two companies, something that only became more apparent as the closing of the deal dragged on. That again pointed to the cash element of the deal being important: “If you get the cash, you reduce the risk, so without that we grew even more uncomfortable,” the source said.

The third hurdle was ongoing regulatory issues. While it appeared that the US regulators nominally approved the deal, the merger was still being investigated both in the UK and in Israel, investigations that were due to go on for several more months. In the UK, the companies currently do not have any significant competitors, raising antitrust concerns.

The two companies, both founded out of Israel but headquartered in New York, had described their planned deal as a merger, but the combined entity would have been called Taboola, with Taboola’s founder Adam Singolda taking the CEO slot. Both Taboola and Outbrain were profitable going into the deal, each claiming some $1 billion in annual revenues. Taboola has raised some $160 million from investors that include Comcast, Fidelity and Pitango. Outbrain had raised $194 million, with investors including Index, HarbourVest and Lightspeed.

From what we understand, both companies will continue looking at ways that they can continue to grow, even if it’s not as a team. That will include weighing up other strategic acquisitions and other opportunities, since some truisms remain in the worlds of media and advertising. “Scale and reach are critical to being successful in this market,” said our source.

#advertising, #advertising-tech, #ma, #media, #outbrain, #publishing, #taboola

Facebook’s plan to prevent election misinformation: Allowing it, mostly

A casually dressed man speaks in front a stylized padlock symbol.

Enlarge / Mark Zuckerberg speaking at Facebook’s F8 developer summit in 2018. (credit: JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Although it may feel like the campaigns have been going on forever and will continue forever, linear time inexorably marches on and we are, at last, exactly two months away from the 2020 US presidential election. The logistics alone are more complicated than ever this year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, and voters around the nation are likely to encounter complications of one kind or another.

Into this milieu we now add Facebook. The company has a bad track record of being used as a tool of misinformation and manipulation when it comes to elections. In a Facebook post today, company CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined a whole bunch of new steps the company will be taking to “protect our democracy” this year. Some of those measures, alas, feel like shutting the barn door when the horse left so long ago you forgot you ever even had one.

“This election is not going to be business as usual,” Zuckerberg began, accurately. Misinformation about voting, the election, and both candidates for the presidency is already rampant on Facebook and every other media platform, and it’s being spread by actors both foreign and domestic. So what is Facebook going to do about it? “Helping people register and vote, clearing up confusion about how this election will work, and taking steps to reduce the chances of violence and unrest,” Zuckerberg promised.

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#advertising, #bad-ideas, #biden, #election, #facebook, #policy, #political-ads, #political-advertising, #politics, #presidential-campaign, #trump