This Week in Social and Digital (Week of February 11)

This Week in Social is a weekly digest of some of the biggest stories in social media marketing news. These stories are the show notes for the Brave Ad World Podcast. Each story is discussed at a deeper level on the podcast.

Apple’s Magazine Subscription Service Terms Makes Publishers Wary

Apple has revealed more of its plans for its subscription magazine service. The plan is to offer users access to dozens of publishers on an unlimited basis for $10 a month. It’s Netflix or Spotify for magazines, and it’s the outcome of Apple’s acquisition of Texture last year.

This week we learned, however, of one major problem. Publishers are upset with the terms of the service after it was revealed that they will be paid 50% of the revenue from the service, while Apple pockets the rest. The move is the latest, and one of the most brazen, attempts by a tech company to squeeze the media industry for content, and given Apple’s major financial success, it’s easy to see why struggling publishers would be upset.

To make the economics work, Apple needs to deliver significant audience numbers to publishers and the revenue that comes with them.  Apple is reportedly thinking about bringing in that revenue by bundling this service with its upcoming TV service as well as Apple music.

This story comes amidst the latest round of media turmoil with BuzzFeed, Vice and Verizon Media cutting jobs. It’s understandable to see why they’d be hesitant to sign with Apple. It not only means they’re splitting revenue with Apple, but also with each other.

Still, they want the readers and the audience. Apple has shown a bit of flexibility with Apple News, which already works with digital publishers.  It’s letting publishers sell their own ads and allowing them to set up pay walls.

This is a story that’s going to develop a lot over the coming year. It may seem that Apple holds all the cards, but Apple needs the publishers too. As it evolves its business to be as much about services as it is about hardware, having the content providers onboard will be essential for making this work.

Facebook and Snapchat Court Publishers for Video Content

Facebook and Snapchat are doing what they can to get more video content on their platforms. 

Facebook has a new funding program that publishers and influencers can tap into for the production of Facebook Watch content. Right now, the program is intended to support six to eight shows with $200,000. The program's broken into verticals like entertainment, news and sports, and anyone who is part of it is in charge of show production. Facebook funds and provides additional support, and in exchange it gets access to more influencers and top publishers.

Snap, on the other hand, is ready to pay $40,000 to $50,000 per episode for any original series that premiers on Snapchat as part of its Snap Originals program. The episodes would be five to seven minutes long and part of an effort to bring in more interest from the entertainment community.

Facebook and Snapchat have been working to build up original content on their respective platforms for some time now, but the content wars are getting even hotter. Apple is about to enter the scene with original content of its own, and it will be joining an already crowded landscape. Now is the time for Snap and Facebook to build up their own offerings with content from known influencers and publishers with built-in audiences.

News Quick Hits

  • Facebook acquired GrokStyle, an artificial intelligence company that focuses on helping people find furniture and home decor. IKEA used the platform in the past to invite users to take a picture of furniture and then find similar items on its website. The move is in line with Facebook’s AI ambitions. It also allows Facebook to better compete in the area of visual search. Both Pinterest and Google have a head start on Facebook there.

  • LinkedIn has introduced LinkedIn Live on an invite-only basis for the time being. Right now, LinkedIn Live is focused on streaming earnings calls, conferences, company announcements and the like. The UI is similar to that of Facebook Live in that it allows users to follow a real-time feed of viewer comments while watching the stream. 

  • Amazon has acquired the mesh Wi-Fi provider Eero in an effort to do even more when it comes to smart-homes. The move, assuming it makes its way through regulatory approval, allows Amazon to compete more with Google in the smart home space. Google is already in the Wi-Fi router game with Google WiFi.

  • Instagram may be launching a messaging service that users can access via a desktop web browser and mobile called Direct. The service hasn’t been announced but was spotted in the wild by a software engineer. The move would be one of many Facebook is making in the messaging space; the biggest of which was the announcement that it plans to unify the backends of Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.

  • Reddit is following up on its introduction of CPC ads with the launch of app-install ads and an updated conversion pixel. The app-install ads can be targeted by iOS or Android and can be bought on a bid per click basis. The updated conversion pixel is now more robust. Previously, it could only track one conversion event, but now it’s able to track eight different events, including: page visits, view content, search, add to cart, add to wish list, purchase, lead and sign up.

  • Instagram and Twitter were hit with bugs this week. Instagram users noticed follower numbers dropping significantly, and Twitter was having issues with like counts on tweets.

  • Fortnite has some competition, for the time being at least. EA launched a new free-to-play battle royale game called Apex Legends. The game had record 25 million players in a week. Currently, Fortnite has 200 million, so Apex Legends has some catching up to do, but it is definitely the hot game at the moment.

  • Facebook is testing an option for publishers with content on Watch to sell and place ads using their own technology. This will allow partners to serve ads programmatically for their own content, giving them greater control over the data as well as results for advertisers. This is part of a larger effort by Facebook to court publishers and to make inroads with publishers and other content providers. Watch draws in 75 million daily viewers, which is impressive until you view it in the context of Facebook’s 1.5 billion total daily users.

  • Amazon is launching Amazon Moments, a new offering that lets apps and publishers reward users with products for certain behaviors. So a music service could ask users to listen to a certain amount of music. Once they do, they’ll get rewarded with a free set of headphones from Amazon. 

  • Facebook and the FTC are negotiating a settlement for privacy violations. Right now, the negotiation is around the amount Facebook will have to pay for sharing the information of 87 million users with Cambridge Analytica, a violation of a 2011 agreement between Facebook and the FTC. The fine could be a record.