To block or not to block, to Like or Dislike, the most effective digital channels, cord cutting is becoming more prevalent, Google Car gets a CEO, buying and selling with Twitter, journalists get the ability to track trends, data and stories in Facebook, Snapchat has some enterprising developments, the competition heats up for Uber internationally, a house-sharing no-no, the importance of a story strategy, the changing landscape of SEO, Google wants privacy laws updated, a keynote you won't want to miss and more, it's The Week in Digital.
A roundup of relevant links affecting our industry.
Each Monday we publish a newsletter that includes a series of links about current events and trends in the worlds of technology, business, digital communications and marketing in order to keep leaders up to date on changes, newsworthy items and content that might be useful in your job. A new issue is available every Monday morning. Please subscribe to keep up to date on developments.
News items are in regular text; additional commentary has been added in italics.
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We're using Facebook Mentions each Sunday evening to bring you 10 minutes of commentary and previews of what to expect from today's newsletter. If you follow me on Facebook and tune in every Sunday night, you can get a preview as well.
- Apple's iOS 9 launched last week, with the news that it included ad blocking capabilities. Some indicated that if we eliminate the ads that support the content you read, we might see the end of the web as we know it. However, it should be worth noting that ads in Facebook's app and Apple's News app are unblockable. This really is becoming a battle between the tech giants.
- However, within 24 hours of the launch of iOS 9 — when ad blockers dominated the top 10 of the App Store — the creator of ad blocker Peace pulled it because it "just doesn't feel good."
- In case you're late to the party, here's a comprehensive explanation of the ad blocking controversy. One interesting statistic and three predictions from this piece: ad spending has remained constant over the last 65 years; we'll see a shift away from programmatic to native advertising; a shift away from medium size publications; and a shift away from the web into mobile apps.
- Is this a fait accompli for advertisers? They've had 15 years to show some restraint.
- With all of this technology available to us, have you stopped to consider whether you've missed a fundamental opportunity?
- The channels that CMOs leverage depend on where buyers are in their journey. Plenty of digital options are very effective throughout the journey, but as we've long said, social is most widely used at every stage except conversion.
Trivia question: According to research, which digital tactic is the most effective in driving ROI?*
- NewsCorp has acquired Unruly, a social video ad platform to expand its expertise in digital and mobile video.
- Video is becoming a more effective marketing tool, despite some challenges.
- According to a new survey of 2,400 consumers, the growth of cord-cutting is intensifying, putting the cable industry on a downward trend that shows no sign of diminishing. The cable industry needs to understand that traditional bundling and a business-as-usual approach won't work forever.
|Plus, 7.1% in the 25-34 age range were "very likely" to subscribe to a non-cable pay TV service in the next year.|
- We have a discount code available for Christopher Penn's ebook series on digital marketing: Marketing White Belt, Marketing Red Belt, and Marketing Blue Belt. Just $9.99 each. Use discount code monty20 to get 20% off of any single title. Highly recommended (and one of our affiliate partners).
- Google invested $32.5 million in Oscar, a healthcare insurance startup. Customers can talk to physicians on the phone for free, and they receive fitness trackers from Oscar. If done at scale, this could bring valuable data to the healthcare industry and even the CDC, with whom Google has collaborated on seasonal sickness search trends.
- Google landed John Krafcic, former CEO of TrueCar and Hyundai, as its new CEO of Google Car.
- Bloomberg has inked a long-term data agreement with Twitter to help customers uncover early trends, breaking news and sentiment shifts. A powerful endorsement for the power of Twitter's real-time data.
- Donating to political candidates has never been easier. In time for election season, Twitter is partnering with Square to launch a tweet-to-donate button that allows users to support a candidate directly through a tweet. Our view: while a valuable tool at the grassroots political level, we also see huge potential for nonprofits in their fundraising efforts.
- From buying to selling: anyone with a Stripe account can sell goods directly through Twitter. Expect more activity like this from other providers as well, with an increased attention on keeping people and their attention within apps.
- The biggest news out of Facebook this week came from an all-hands meeting in which CEO Mark Zuckerberg indicated that the company is working on a dislike button. The Internet flew into a typical tizzy, but it was clear from the announcement that it would be a limited use feature and one that allowed commenters to express empathy, such as regarding the death of a loved one. We're a little disappointed; we thought this was being created with election season in mind.
- Facebook's Like buttons will soon start tracking your web activity akin to the way cookies attach on certain ads and websites. What's not to like?
- Facebook at Work will debut some time before the end of the year. The office place version of the platform has been in beta since January and will likely have a freemium pricing model.
- Signal for Facebook and Instagram is a free discovery and curation tool for journalists who want to source, gather, and embed newsworthy content. They'll be able to see trends, data on who's driving conversations, save content and data for sharing outside of Facebook and more. This is clearly another move, along with Facebook Mentions, of Facebook taking the offensive against Twitter in trying to own realtime and the news.
- Virtual reality seems a bit of a stretch, with the requirement of those clunky headsets. But Facebook is looking to eliminate that hassle by making VR available on your mobile device through a stand-alone app that only requires users to tilt their phones.
- Snapchat struck a deal with the NFL to bring football into its Live Stories feature.
- Want to replay some of those disappearing photos? That'll cost $0.99 through Snapchat's Paid Replays. Plus, you can now animate selfies with the Lens feature. Great. As if selfies weren't annoying enough already.
- Burberry and Snapchat are collaborating in advance of London Fashion Week to unveil new clothing lines. This marks yet another example of Burberry's advanced thinking and activity in the digital space. They've been on top of the game for a couple of years now, trying new features and partnering with hot platforms and technologies.
- Flickr is getting on board with virtual reality. The photo sharing and storage site plans to add a VR link or button to any 360-degree photos for an immersive experience for headset owners.
- It's one thing to put display budget against social media platforms for advertising purposes, but Pinterest has a different idea. Pinterest is targeting search marketing budgets, pitching its platform as one where consumers search for and discover products.
- A rather radical position, but one journalist thinks we've killed the sharing economy. We'd prefer to kill the term "sharing economy," as it's not entirely accurate, but if there are commodity services that are used frequently, those are the the ones that are ripe for disruption — not the one-off mundane instances of needing to borrow a power tool.
- You know your competitors really dislike you when they go out of their way to partner. Lyft and Did Kuaidi have formed an international alliance that allows their users to hail drivers when in China and the United States, respectively. With Uber being blocked by Tencent's Didi in China, this run-around effectively creates a global system without resorting to the aggressive tactics that Uber typically uses in new markets.
- Speaking of spiting your competitor, France's BlaBlaCar, the local competitor to Uber, raised $200 million in its latest round, on a $1.6 billion valuation. This was France's largest round of venture funding ever.
- And Asia isn't done with ride-hailing competition. India's cab-hailing solution Ola is raising over $500 million on a $5 billion valuation.
- This Airbnb couple got more than they bargained for: after they left for a week at Burning Man, they got an email from a friend saying he just booked their home on Airbnb. The only problem: they left it in the care of a housesitter, who promptly put the property up for rent. Quite an enterprising entrepreneur!
- Breather, which allows users to book peaceful, practical spaces to work or relax, has raised $20 million in funding. It's already available in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Ottowa and Montreal; expect more cities to be added.
- Barnes & Noble is using its space to host workshops and collaborations on behalf of Maker Faire. This could give Maker Faire a boost in scale and give B&N a boost in reputation.
- Auto companies face some serious competition from ride-hailing apps. These technologies make it less attractive for consumers to purchase vehicles. One columnist even thinks Uber may kill the auto industry. While we understand the larger point, Uber can't really survive without the auto industry, can it? Plus, a number of auto companies like Ford and BMW have begun to develop their own ride-sharing programs.
- If Uber did lose the class-action suit that was given the green light, and subsequently had to categorize its drivers as employees, it could expect costs to rise by more than $4 billion.
- And in case you're wondering why so many of our stories are related to the transportation industry, it's because the majority of funding in the collaborative economy has gone to the transportation sector. Check out the spreadsheet and charts for a deeper dive.
- The new version of Chromecast will support even more services. In a nod to the importance of audio, Google's connected TV device will support Spotify.
- Music is uniquely a human art. Even philosopher Friederich Nietsche, who famously declared God dead said, "Music unites all qualities: it can exalt us, divert us, cheer us up, or break the hardest of hearts with the softest of its melancholy tones. But its principal task is to lead our thoughts to higher things, to elevate, even to make us tremble."
- Uber vehicles will carry their own in-car magazine, Arriving Now. The first edition launched in conjunction with New York Fashion Week and will contain pro tips, hotspots and exclusive deals. Expect more of this local and specialized content in other cities.
- A look at the state of social media content in 12 charts provides some valuable insights, including: publishers drive the most engagement on social media, with brands close behind; National Geographic is a leader, with more actions taken than BuzzFeed; video is the future of content; Millennials want to be funny while older generations want to tell a story.
- Have you considered the strategic aim of your storytelling? Every company needs a story strategy to align its efforts and stakeholders. Otherwise, you're aimlessly talking into the wind.
Metrics / Measurement / Data
- Search engine optimization is constantly changing. But if you've missed the tectonic shifts in how SEO is done, you might be interested in this infographic on the difference between old SEO and new SEO.
- While you're at it, you should take a look at how to use keywords throughout your marketing strategy, not just for website optimization.
* Answer to the trivia question above:According to research by The Relevancy Group, email marketing is the most effective at contributing revenue to the bottom line. Some of the respondents even indicated email is so effective that it contributes the same amount of revenue as their social media, website and display ad efforts combined.
Privacy / Security / Legal
- Google, which has taken a hammering recently with respect to some of its privacy practices, has decided to address the situation in a different way: lobbying the government to reform the 30 year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). After 30 years, the Act does likely need some updating. First, electronic communications have changed significantly in the last 30 years. And it needs one of those clever government acronyms like EMAIL or something.
- An appeals court indicated that Universal Music Group is on the wrong side of the law with respect to its takedown notices and fair use. The court indicated that companies must exercise good judgment before dashing off a takedown notice, and that includes considering the existence of fair use.
- Twitter is on the receiving end of a lawsuit that claims that the company is eavesdropping on Direct Messages. It hinges on Twitter's URL shortener changing URLs to t.co links via an algorithm — even though there is no human intervention. Hey, the robots are going to be taking over the world soon enough anyway. Why not show them that even robots aren't immune from the U.S. tort system and California privacy laws?
When You Have the Time: Essential Watching / Listening / Reading
- If you didn't make it to INBOUND, you missed one of the best marketing conferences of the year. And you missed this very thoughtful keynote by Seth Godin, who challenged everyone to stop waiting for reassurance, get out of their comfort zone, and remember the Leondard Bernstein quote, "I'm not sure what the question is, but I know the answer is yes."
Did you enjoy what you read this week? If so, please consider becoming a patron, which means you can pledge as little as $1 a month — or any amount you wish — to help support this newsletter by going to Patreon.
I advise agencies and brands to help them improve their corporate and digital acumen. Please get in touch if you'd like to put my experience and digital smarts to work on a project, to consult with your group, or to address an audience at your next corporate or industry event.