For your radar — Media/tech earnings out this week:
The hype around Russia's involvement in the elections and fake news is complicated, so here are some truths around the topic:
The bottom line is it's only going to get worse: Earlier this year, Axios outlined a number of ways fake news creators are becoming more creative in the face of efforts to stamp them out, often pivoting from circulating their own misleading stories to developing sophisticated techniques that manipulate real news.
Bots and fake accounts have been used to steal advertising dollars and game digital commerce for years. But new stories of Russian interference are showing that bots and fake accounts are being weaponized by bad actors to cause chaos, disrupt elections, and spread false and misleading information.
Why it matters: The government has stalled on regulating the digital ecosystem for years, in part because there's no agency that was ever set up to manage the internet, the way the FCC manages radio and TV. But now that the bot problem is affecting politics, Congress is starting to take bots and fake accounts seriously.
Case in point:
Go deeper: See my full post in the Axios stream for what Congress is planning for this week and beyond.
While the government takes a hand at regulating the internet's bot problem, the private sector is continuing to tackle their own:
Why it matters: The digital ecosystem, left to regulate itself, is a mess, and part of that has to do with the advertiser fallacy that reaching many people on a wide range of websites for little money is effective.
Go deeper: One of the smartest pieces about how this flawed mentality has been perpetuated to the point of chaos was published last week by Business Insider's Mike Shields: "The kinds of sites that are actually available via ad exchanges are far from ideal for most big marketers. Yet most brands seem stunned when they end up getting ripped off by fraudsters."
What's next? The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) launched an industry-wide project called ads.txt to prevent various types of counterfeit ad inventory from being exchanged across the ad ecosystem.
Oath, the newly-formed mega-media brand that includes Yahoo, HuffPost, AOL and others, is using a new video product called "Slick" to create vertical video at scale. Slick allows editors to "videofy" text stories into a vertical-driven mobile experience that can be used for mobile web article pages, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and within Yahoo's native apps. (See an example here.)
Why it matters: Growing mobile video in general has a heavy connection to Verizon's overall focus on video, according to Wallace. "Slick is part of an Oath key initiative this year to grow mobile engagement within Oath's power areas, including sports, news, finance, and mail." These are core areas that will help Verizon develop direct-to-consumer relationships on mobile, something telecom companies have been trying lately with the acquisition of digital media companies.
Sound smart: The bigger Oath's content footprint grows, the better it is for Verizon, which could offer favorable content deals for Verizon customers, further driving its telecom business. Matthew Ellis, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Verizon, said last week on the company's Q3 earnings call that with "the addition of Oath, Verizon's addressable market has expanded from millions of wireless and wireline customers to about one billion global content consumers." Ellis says Oath revenue was $2 billion for the quarter.
Content creators don't always like shooting video vertically, as it requires different tools which can be expensive. But mobile consumers are demanding it, so big web platforms are trying to help advertisers by automatically converting TV-like landscape videos to mobile-first vertical videos.
Google told reporters at its Publishers Leadership Summit earlier this month that it's using machine learning to automatically switch all landscape-shot videos in its ad-server, DoubleClick Bid Manager, to vertical videos automatically. Like Oath, Google says this is helping to quickly bring scale to mobile video, but on the advertiser side.
Snapchat, which was really the first platform to push advertisers to embrace vertical video, released Snap Publisher in July. It's a web-based tool to help advertisers quickly convert horizontal ads to vertical. Snapchat unveiled its 10-second vertical video ad format for its video content platform, Discover, over two years ago.
BuzzFeed: The viral web publisher has introduced BuzzCuts, where it takes TV ads and turns them into a short video or gif-like visual that translates well to mobile phones, according to Business Insider.
Some digital ad formats have become so invasive in the U.S. that in many cases, users are saying they want to be rewarded for having to sit through them. According to a recent AdColony survey provided by eMarketer, more 40% of respondents find "rewarded video ads," where they can win some sort of prize for watching, as the most acceptable ad format. "Playable ads," which let viewers play part of a game immediately, ranked second.
Go deeper: Why "Payoff" ads are surprisingly effective.
Some of the biggest names in conservative digital media are seeing big traffic declines over the past year, according to comScore data pulled by Activate and Axios. On the other hand, business-centric sites, like CNBC, Business Insider, and Bloomberg are seeing big traffic bumps.
Go deeper: IJR and Daily Caller contest the numbers.
A whopping 42% of children ages 0-8 have their own tablet device, up from less than 1% in 2011, according to Common Sense Media's newest national "Media Use by Kids" census:
Why it matters: Axios' Ina Fried spoke with Sara DeWitt, vice president of PBS Kids Digital, who argues that screen time isn't necessarily a bad thing. But DeWitt says a few things got lost in the message. "It's not like blanket all screen time is great," she said in a recent interview with Axios.
The bottom line: There are two things to keep in mind, she says. One is that the right amount of screen time really depends on the kid, and the other is that not all screen time is created equal. The key, she says, is for parents to be proactive.
Go deeper: Read Ina's full interview here.
New from Broadcasting and Cable: "The Federal Trade Commission will allow Internet-connected devices, including children's toys and personal assistants, to record and store the voice of a child under 13 without seeking parental permission so long as it is only for the replacement of written words with voice commands in performing search and other functions on those Internet-connected devices and then destroyed ASAP."