Sara Fischer

Google will stop scanning free Gmail to target ads

Virginia Mayo / AP

The tech giant will now treat its free Gmail product the same way it treats its G Suite's enterprise products, and will use settings-based ad targeting as opposed to content scanning for ad personalization.

Why it matters: The decision likely stems from consumer concerns broadly in the U.S. about data privacy and security. In a statement, Google touted Gmail's reputation to protect users from spam, hacking, and phishing. "G Suite customers and free consumer Gmail users can remain confident that Google will keep privacy and security paramount as we continue to innovate," the statement says.


Why Facebook doesn't have to reveal political ad data

Noah Berger / AP

Political researchers are frustrated that Facebook will not release aggregate data about political advertising on its platform, Reuters reports. They currently don't have any way to track political ad spend trends (frequency of ads, how they were viewed, creative that resonated with people, etc.).

Why it matters: As the law currently stands, candidates do not need to formally and publicly disclose political ad spend data on Facebook or any other digital property, like they have to with TV spending. Facebook, as they noted in an interview with Reuters, contractually guarantees its advertisers' discretion and will likely continue to honor that without a law in place to force them to act otherwise.

Digital regulation of advertising is pretty far behind TV, radio and print generally, as we noted in a piece about the digital ad landscape earlier this year. Generally speaking, the FCC's laws around media regulation are outdated. For example, the FCC still has laws in place that say you can't own TV station and a newspaper in same market. Citing this and other outdated regulations, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai declared earlier this year that the FCC will undergo a comprehensive review of all media regulations.

Political ad disclosure: The FCC requires broadcasters, cable and satellite operators to publicly disclose political ad spending, but no such requirement exists for digital ad platforms such as Google or Facebook. The FCC does not have statutory jurisdiction over these properties.

What's next? "Eventually laws will be rewritten and reconsidered," says Steve Passwaiter, Vice President of political advertising at Kantar Media, a premier advertising measurement firm. "I think it's clearly just an issue that the laws haven't caught up with the developments in political advertising. Four-five years ago, digital was a relatively small piece of puzzle, but now it's starting to ring up impressive numbers and will likely continue to grow. I would imagine as that happens, hopefully the laws that regulate this kind of stuff will catch up but clearly we're not there yet."


Apple wants to give record labels smaller revenue cut

Jeff Chiu / AP

Apple is looking give record labels a smaller share of revenue made from streaming with Apple Music, Bloomberg reports. Other streaming services, including Spotify, have made similar moves as turbulence in the streaming business looms.

Why it matters: Streaming businesses are continuing to grow adversely to revenue gains, which is why they are slashing revenue for record labels. Labels are for the most part tolerant, because of the promise of continued audience growth on streaming platforms. For Apple, the biggest challenge is ensuring growth on Apple Music won't cannibalize iTunes, which is more widely accessed in other markets.

Elsewhere in the market: YouTube just resigned a revenue share agreement with music creators, while other platforms, like Apple Music's main competitor Spotify, continue to negotiate better deals to land big names. Taylor Swift just joined Spotify after 2+ years of boycotting streaming.


Apple makes its easier for publishers to monetize

Apple announced Wednesday that publishers can now use two new ad formats (standard sizes you would typically find on mobile) and are able to utilize third-party ad tags to better track and measure ads. Publishers can also now view demographic information about their audiences, like age and gender, on the Apple News dashboard.

Why it matters: These advertising updates (mostly the ad tags) will make it easier for publishers to monetize on Apple News. The introduction of ad tags will also help Apple win more ad business, since most other platforms allow tags for measurement and tracking purposes.

This is the latest update Apple news has made to beef up its platform as a major news distribution destination. Last month, Apple announced it hired Lauren Kern as its first-ever editor-in-chief for Apple News.


The people most likely to block ads and why they do it

AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato

Millennials, males, streamers, researchers and heavy downloaders are most likely to use an ad blocker, according to the latest media Dimension study from Kantar Media, a leading advertising measurement company. The study also shows that consumers don't necessarily hate advertising or think it's irrelevant, they just don't like excessive targeting.

Why it matters: Those who block ads (younger males) tend to mimic the general demographics for other new technologies, Kantar Media North America CEO Manish Bhatia says. Bhatia explains while consumers do prefer getting more relevant ads, they can feel overwhelmed when ads are served too frequently.

"There's lot of emphasis and focus on using data to hit the right consumer at right time," Bhatia says. "But you also need high quality, relevant creative to break through."

Here's the full demographic and behavioral breakdown of who blocks ads:

  • Gender: Men are 28% more likely to have downloaded an ad-blocking app and 27% more likely to use an ad-blocking app, whereas women are 26% less likely to have downloaded an ad-blocking app and are 25% less likely to use an ad-blocking app.
  • Age: Younger users are more likely than their elders to use an ad-blocker (shocking) and users ages 18-24 are 109% more likely to use an ad blocker than older generations. Adults age 65+, for example, are 53% less likely to use an ad blocker.
  • Attitude: Those who use an ad blocker are 80% more likely to be less concerned about rules, and 27% more likely to be less concerned about perceptions and conventions.
  • Internet Activity: Those who use an ad blocker are 134% more likely to be particularly social online, using the internet for email, instant messaging and social/professional networking. They're also 121% more likely to use the internet for conducting research, 145% more likely use the internet for entertainment and leisure, streaming music, podcasts or video content across devices and 173% more likely to download content from the internet, whether it be music, films, TV shows or games.

WPP invests $6.5 million in millennial digital site Mic

Mic, the digital brand aimed at creating authentic content for millennials, has raised $6.5 from WPP, one of the world's largest advertising agencies, as a part of its latest Series C round funding.

The investment brings Mic's total Series C round to $28.4 million, including prior investments from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Time Warner Investments, kyu Collective and You & Mr. Jones. All together, it has raised over $60 million.

Why it matters: The additional dollars will likely go towards beefing up Mic's branded content offerings — sponsored ads that the site produces and distributes for some of WPP's largest clients. For WPP, this is another strategic investment in digital. The holding company has been investing in digital startups for years — from Refinery 29 to comScore to Vice — in an effort to drive digital dollars, which now account for nearly 40% of its total revenue.


New Snapchat and Instagram milestones reflect their different strategies

Two tech milestones reported Tuesday show how drastically different the strategies are for Snapchat and its rival Instagram, which has been putting a dent in Snapchat's user growth ever since adopting Snap's "Stories" feature last summer.

  • Instagram Stories hit 250 million daily active users (DAUs) Tuesday, Facebook's global head of sales Carolyn Everson told CNBC. The number again surpasses Snapchat's 166 million DAUs, last reported during its first earning's report in May.
  • Snapchat became one of the first tech companies to win a prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award for outstanding achievements in electronic journalism Tuesday, winning alongside legacy news outlets like The New York Times and Washington Post.

Why it matters: Instagram's milestone is a reflection of its overall strategy, which is to grow its user base in order to sell scaled data-based advertising against it. Snapchat is also looking drive some scaled ad revenue, but is simultaneously working to win over the lucrative $70 billion TV ad dollar market through highly-produced original content on mobile — a reported $100 million content and advertising deal the company announced yesterday with Time Warner indicates that strategy is an effective one.

Between the lines: Instagram is part of Facebook's Audience Network, which allows the company to sell data from billions of users across all of Facebook's platforms (Messenger, Instagram, Facebook, etc) to advertisers. This data is gold for advertisers, regardless of the fact that it's not all user generated. (Everson also announced Tuesday that 1/3 of all Instagram "Stories" users are actually businesses.)

Because a large part of Snapchat's business is to sell ads against users who spend a lot of time with content, its focus is on driving home user engagement, a number they've reportedly been able to push past Instagram. (According to Snapchat, the average user spends roughly 30 minutes daily on the platform, while Instagram has yet to release time spent metrics. Third-party measurement groups, like Mediakix, also show that Snapchat surpasses Instagram in user engagement.)


GOP contractor exposes data of nearly 200 million people

Mitchell Zachs / AP

GOP data contractor Deep Root Analytics exposed voter information for up to 198 million people this month by storing the information on a non-secure Amazon server. In a statement, the firm confirms that a number of files within its online storage system were unknowingly accessed and says it takes "full responsibility for this situation." Deep Root says they have updated the access settings on the server and put protocols in place to prevent further access.

Why it matters: The data leak itself isn't as big as the implications of the leak, as lot of Deep Root's data is is publicly available. The exposure shows that the company, which touts itself as being one of the most sophisticated data management platforms, was lax when it came to protecting its proprietary data, which companies pay big money for. The RNC, for example paid nearly $1 million for Deep Root's insights during the 2016 election.


Vice lands $450 million in funding ahead of potential IPO

Vince Bucci/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images

Vice Media has raised $450 million in new funding from private equity firm TPG Capital, which brings its valuation to $5.7 billion. Noticeably missing from this round's contribution was Walt Disney Co., which invested $400 million into the company two years ago for what was then an 18% stake (which will likely be diluted).

Why it matters: CEO Shane Smith told CNBC that the investment will help Vice build up "the largest millennial video library in the world," while also expanding its content options for its cable, mobile and digital platforms to include "news, food, music, fashion, art, travel, gaming, lifestyle, scripted and feature films." The company also continues to flirt with the idea of an IPO.


Snap, Time Warner launch $100M content, advertising deal

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Snap Inc. and Time Warner announced a two-year content and advertising partnership Monday, reportedly valued around $100 million. Per the agreement, Time Warner will commit to developing and promoting made-for-Snap shows from brands across its portfolio (HBO, CNN, TBS, etc) and will invest in advertising from HBO, Turner and Warner Bros. on Snapchat over the next two years.

Why it matters: The announcement comes at a crucial time for Snap Inc., whose stock had fizzled down to its $17 IPO price after months of Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram installing copycat features on their platforms. The company has been at the forefront of launching exclusive original partnerships for its mobile platform, but the heavy content and advertising investment from a major cable company takes their Discover platform business to the next level, which will likely invigorate investor confidence in the brand.

Snapchat's gains in the content biz: To give you a sense of how quickly Snap's original content business is growing, the company says there is currently about one show airing each day on the platform and by the end of this year, Snap expects to have three shows airing per day.

What's in it for Time Warner? Access to Snap's loyal, younger audience that consumes shows differently on its platform than on TV. Nielsen data commissioned by Snapchat shows that Snapchat provided a 16% increase in average monthly reach in content partners' TV audience, compared to a 5% decrease for the six months prior to the partnership. Time Warner says Snapchat's platform "will help drive larger audiences to our shows."