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Situational awareness: President Trump took to Twitter again this morning, claiming that Big Tech, and Google in particular, is suppressing conservative voices.
Reality check from Axios’ David McCabe: “Nobody has presented strong evidence that the engineers at Silicon Valley companies manipulate algorithms to intentionally disadvantage conservatives because of a personal political bias, despite such claims being made for years.”
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
The Facebook/Google/Twitter trio are better prepared for this upcoming round of Congressional testimony on Sept. 5.
Why it matters: Many recall CEO Mark Zuckerberg's positive performance during televised Facebook hearings in April following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but the last time these three companies faced Congress together, the reviews were brutal.
Flashback, November 2017:
Flash forward, August 2018:
In anticipation of the hearings, the companies are also making greater efforts to work together on some of these issues. Representatives from some of the biggest tech platforms met last Friday to discuss their election strategy, BuzzFeed News reports. The meeting comes amid increased efforts to work together on a variety of policy issues, like privacy.
The bottom line: These companies will be more buttoned up and prepared than the first time they sat before Congress together. But that might not be enough to reverse the tide against them in the legislature.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Matthew Ball, former head of strategy for Amazon Studios, just published Part 4 of his Media REDEF series explaining the business of Netflix.
Why it matters: He is considered one of the most authoritative voices on big media business, particularly streaming.
The bottom line: Most view Netflix's massive spending as reckless, but Ball argues it isn't if you consider how it's driving an unprecedented growth that could eventually allow Netflix to surpass Facebook in engagement and Pay-TV in penetration. At that point, they will have the leverage to increase prices, bringing them closer to profitability and making the massive spend worthwhile.
A group of media professionals is launching Progress News Network (PNN), a 2.5 minute newscast that will air daily on Facebook, Axios has learned. It is slated to reach 35–40+ year-olds with broadcast-like videos that they plan to promote through ads.
Why it matters: It's a surprising business model considering the fact that Facebook's traffic to publishers has dropped considerably since it began down-ranking content from brands and publishers in the News Feed.
"We believe that Facebook has the ideal targeting and low-cost media reach (.6 CPV) to engage an audience on a platform that is currently almost entirely dominated by extremist conservative voices."— Steven Rosenbaum, executive producer, PNN
The details: The newscast will launch on Sept. 4 and will air daily on Facebook. It aims to target a general population of news consumers from all sides with the exception of "pro-Trump" Republicans.
The company is growing out a team of funders and advisers to assist with the project, including:
As far as a business model goes, everyone is working pro bono between now and the midterm elections.
Our thought bubble: There have been dozens of efforts over the past two years, on the right and the left, to create new internet shows that will help audiences distill fact from fiction online, but most have been unable to cut through and make any real impact.
Meanwhile, Digiday reports that Facebook is continuing its charm offensive with a tool to boost news publishers’ reach on the platform.
Twitch, the Amazon-owned video-streaming service used primarily for esports, is beginning to give Google-owned YouTube a run for its money.
Why it matters: Twitch will help drive Amazon's rising advertising business, but it also leaves the platform vulnerable to some of the safety, business and philosophical headaches that some of its rivals have faced for years.
By all measures, Twitch's growth has been explosive.
The bigger picture: Twitch is by far the most popular streaming platform for gamers, but if it wants to become a larger live streaming business, it needs to get buy-in from creators, including those outside of the gaming community.
Be smart: Amazon acquired Twitch in 2014 for $970 million. That's roughly the same price that Google paid for YouTube in 2006 and Facebook paid for Instagram in 2012.
The global esports economy will reach nearly $1 billion in 2018, according to NewZoo, a market intelligence and research firm that focuses on gaming, with a lot of that growth coming from two distinct areas: the U.S. and China.
Esports has become a massive business in the U.S., and is expected to nearly double in U.S. revenue by 2021, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.
In China, more sophisticated technologies and culture trends around esports have helped bolster their market.
"Gaming in China is a micro economy around franchises, regardless of where game stems from ... We’ve made leagues out of esports franchises, even reality shows ... The hardcore user in the US is the mild user in China."— Humphrey Ho, managing partner at Hylink, China's largest independent digital advertising agency
Ho cites several major factors to the rising esports time spent in China, including the culture of loneliness and long commutes in China that drive people to spend more time on gaming, and specifically, mobile gaming.
Speaking of gaming ...
Fantasy sports participation in the U.S. has nearly doubled in the past six years, increasing from roughly 8.3 million participants in 2012 to 15.6 million in 2017, according to a new report from Nielsen Scarborough.
Go deeper: ESPN's big bet on fantasy.
In the past week, it's been announced that Facebook's top PR exec Rachel Whetstone is leaving the social giant for Netflix and that its top business executive Dan Rose is leaving the company, per Recode.
More than half (54%) of teens say they're worried that they're spending too much time with their devices, according to a new Pew Research Center report.
Why it matters: Americans, and young people in particular, are becoming more aware of the health, safety and productivity risks of being constantly connected. That's significant because more work, economy and lifestyle opportunities are moving online.
Addiction, by the numbers:
Read more: Awareness around cellphone addiction is prompting a new push to detach kids from their devices.