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Situational awareness: For all the talk of a techlash, tech giants are still raking in ad dollars. Google, Facebook and Amazon grew their ad businesses last year by 20%, 3o% and roughly 95%, respectively. (Amazon groups ad revenue as a part of a separate revenue category that mostly consists of advertising.)
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Scoop: Facebook is building a feature to allow unified messaging for businesses so they can access and manage messages from Instagram Direct alongside Facebook Messenger, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Why it matters: It's a first step in building a tool to manage messaging across Facebook's apps for businesses. The New York Times reported last month that the company was planning to unite the back-end technology that runs Instagram, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp on the consumer side.
Details: The feature will add Instagram Direct Messaging to a page owner's messaging inbox within the Facebook Pages Manager app on web and mobile. The tool currently only lets businesses control messages coming from Facebook Messenger.
The big picture: Facebook’s decision to unite the backend of its three giant messaging services could help the company get a bigger foothold in the business messaging space, an area that's growing quickly, especially in developing countries.
By the numbers: Millions of businesses around the world use Facebook’s messaging tools as a business-to-business (B2B) communications platform between vendors and consumers.
Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images
Exclusive: Facebook is adding Lead Stories as a new fact-checking partner, the company will announce today.
Why it matters: The announcement comes as Snopes, one of the first online fact-checking websites, says it is reevaluating its relationship with the Facebook fact-checking unit. The Associated Press is renegotiating its contracts with Facebook but says it plans to continue in the program.
Details: In addition to fact-checking posts that Facebook flags, Lead Stories will also use its own technology, called "Trendolizer," to detect trending hoaxes from hundreds of known fake news sites, satirical websites and prank generators. Lead Stories specializes in hoax debunking as well as fact-checking.
The big picture: The Facebook fact-checking effort includes over 30 partners, most of which have renewed their partnerships with Facebook for the rest of the year.
Yes, but: Neither Snopes nor the AP has fully ruled out the partnership. Snopes VP of operations and co-owner Vinny Green says that the company is trying to figure out what makes the most sense for their entire business long-term.
"The future of fact checking can't be defined by the relationships with platforms. They must be defined by fact-checkers themselves."— Vinny Green
Part of that negotiation includes understanding the value that the partnership brings to Snopes' operation. Poynter reported last week that the partnership was taking up a lot of time amongst Snopes' small staff, time that could be spent building fact-checking tools across multiple platforms, not just Facebook.
By all accounts, Super Bowl LIII was a snoozer, and its ratings appear to reflect this. The broadcast was seen by a total of 98.2 million people, per Nielsen. CBS Sports said 100.7 million watched the program across TV and digital channels.
Why it matters: Overall, ratings were the lowest they've been in a decade. By contrast, ratings during the regular season last year were up about 5%, with most analysts citing more points being scored overall as the reason.
Yes, but: Despite declining Super Bowl viewership overall, advertising rates continue to hold steady, although reportedly plateauing this year. The Super Bowl is typically the most-watched annual broadcast event on TV in the U.S., making it a lucrative opportunity for advertisers.
Note: Axios' chart was created yesterday before final ratings were released, and thus show preliminary overnight Nielsen ratings, which can be indicative of overall viewing trends but are not final and subject to change.
Go deeper: Super Bowl ads highlight Big Tech debate
Following Sunday's Super Bowl, the NFL is now officially able to exercise its option to exit from its current NFL Sunday Ticket deal with DirecTV, starting with the 2020 season.
Why it matters: If it does, it's expected to open the floodgates for new and bigger bids, serving as a litmus test for how much Big Tech is willing to spend to meaningfully get enter the sports streaming market.
The big picture: Years ago, the NFL turned down the highest bidder — Google-owned YouTube. Thanks to their massive audiences, TV networks have secured exclusive sports rights for decades. YouTube simply didn't have the same reach.
Tech companies have won several big-ticket rights to streaming platforms over the past few years, although leagues have been reluctant to pull rights from live networks. But those rights are still considered small-ball. Most of the biggest games are up for renegotiation over the next few years.
What to watch: Disney needs to divest the 22 regional sports networks it got through its acquisition of most of Fox's assets. A bidding war is expected, but Fox may have to buy them back.
Read more in our Deep Dive: The Business of Sports
Big news on the podcasting front: Spotify is in talks to buy podcasting startup GimletMedia for more than $200 million, per Recode. The Wall Street Journal also reported the news last week, and suggested that the deal isn't solidified and may not go through.
Why it matters: "If this deal closes, Spotify's ingestion of Gimlet would be the biggest acquisition in the podcast industry to date. By quite a mile," writes Nick Quah in his podcast newsletter, Hot Pod.
Context, per Quah:
The big picture: Podcast revenue is still very small right now, but it's projected to continue growing quickly as more big companies invest in podcasts and popularize the format. Its growth trajectory could be attractive to buyers and media companies.
Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images
Exclusive: The New York Times will announce today that more than 3 million U.S. students now receive free access to nytimes.com, thanks to more than 30,000 contributions from Times readers.
Why it matters: It's the company's way of investing in the next generation of NYT readers, which it thinks will help it retain current subscribers. "We already have high retention, but I think this could make it almost bullet proof," says Hannah Yang, head of subscription growth.
Details: The donations come from nearly 75 countries and are made possible through its sponsor a student subscription program that launched in 2017.
The big picture: Yang says while many subscribers pay for the NYT to read it for themselves, many others aim to support the mission of the NYT, and to pass it along to the next generations of readers.
One weird twist: Some schools were initially skeptical of the plan.
"Some schools in some parts country are not going to want this ... There's a skepticism, [with] people asking us, what's our ulterior motive? It was harder to give this away than [we] expected."— Hannah Yang
A new report from researchers at Cornell University finds that Americans care less about the source of a particular news story, but rather are more concerned with whether a particular headline aligns with the reader's political views.