Mobile Fix — February 23

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Good News

With the duopoly and the desire for a strong number 3, the ad market is currently geared around scale. But, as we closed with last week, there are media brands — old and new — making a good job of providing value for their readers and for advertisers willing to make the extra effort to find relevant context.

One of the other speakers at the Pubtelligence event I took part in the other week was the CTO of the New York Times, talking on the day they released their latest results. In mentioning that subscriber revenues were now over $1billion and 60% of total revenue, he shared they could see that reaching 80%. But with under 3 million subscribers and 150 million online users, advertising is still important. In fact they have launched some new tools,to help brands make the most of the data they have, including one that looks at attaching ads to stories they believe will resonate with users. This perspective targeting feels like the context angle we have been promoting for a while.

Other newspapers are rethinking the metrics they focus on; moving away from page views and looking at measures of loyalty; how often someone returns and time spent when they do.

An FT piece looks at how the promise of revenues flowing to content makers from GAFA etc hasn’t really materialised — or at least not at the scale once anticipated. So people are rethinking their strategy and trying to build stronger, more direct, relationships with those that value their content.

Vox are scaling back on video, as Facebook reduces its focus on publisher content, and they are firing people. But Atlantic is hiring people so it’s not all doom and gloom. Navigating GAFA is always a challenge but whilst Facebook scale back they are recommissioning some shows and Snap are widening their remit to bring in more video shows.

Content creators of all types are evolving their strategy to balance closer, deeper relationships with their readers / fans alongside distribution through GAFA. So brands too should better balance the reach and convenience of the duopoly with deeper, more bespoke partnerships with media brands that audiences trust and value.

Bad News

The problems of ad fraud seem to pale in comparison to how bad actors are using digital for nefarious ends. We have seen a number of stories that demonstrate just how hard people work to thwart the rules. With a Facebook exec weighing in on Russian interference in US Elections (ignoring one of our life mottos — when you’re in a hole, it’s best to stop digging) — the connection between what we do as brands and agencies and what the bad guys do was emphasised.

When you get Trump retweeting you, the smart head of one of your major customers asking you to stop preaching and the NYT fact checking you, things have probably gone a little too far.

But when you read pieces like this showing the effort being put into fake news, ads are only a small part of the problem. False accounts run by bots are an increasing problem for Facebook. Twitter has a worse problem and new rule changes are designed to try and solve this. In an effort to avoid future problems Facebook plan to send postcards to everyone who wants to run political ads so it knows where they are — but i can’t imagine someone won’t find a way to game this too.

Consider two examples of criminal ingenuity we found this week. A Bulgarian seems to have found a way to defraud Spotify by creating playlists made up of ‘fake’ songs — or at least ones he has published. These playlists then become hugely popular — one was the 11th most popular playlist in the US. That popularity translates into significant revenue even at the low royalty rates Spotify pays.

But with nearly 500 tracks and less than 2000 followers this playlist is quite unusual. The theory is someone has set up 1200 Spotify accounts which ‘listen’ to this playlist constantly on a loop. That is estimated to roll up to over 100 million plays, earning over $400k a month.

Another one is people selling ebooks full of nonsense for on Amazon for $550. Which seems to be a money laundering scheme. My point is that, with this degree of smarts and effort, it is hard for anyone to weed out ad fraud — and other fraud — completely.

But if we remember that bargains are not always what they seem and focus on spending our money where we can be confident that the content is safe, and the numbers legitimate, we might do better

Because it is probably only going to get worse. One of the people who predicted Fake News believes we will see an Information Apocalypse — citing this academic example of remaking Obama clips and anyone who has seen Nicholas Cage in every movie can understand how this might work.

Amazon Ads

The growth is spend on Amazon ads is accelerating but it seems the big FMCG brands have been slow — other than P&G. As other big brands recognise the importance of the platform we can expect further growth. As with any digital platform God is in the details and the intricacies of the platform need to be explored. This is a good look at some key issues.


Whilst we wait to see what happens to the two remaining packages of Premier League football rights, GAFA are closing in on American Football streaming rights with Amazon, YouTube and Twitter all considering bids for the NFL Thursday night games.

If you are interested on the convergence of content and tech — and who isn’t — this podcast of VC Mark Andreessen talking with Ted Sarandos of Netflix is a must listen.

Audio & Voice

With the new Apple speakers getting great reviews for sound quality the battle for voice services is more complicated. Despite Siri being first in the voice assistant space, it’s no longer dominant or the best. The new Apple speaker is in a different price bracket to the Amazon and Google kit — and maybe even a different market. With Facebook poised to launch their smart speakers in the summer it’s going to be complicated.

This look at Apple versus Amazon is a good summary and makes the point we keep coming back to — Amazon really need a smartphone to win this battle.


Lots of conversations triggered by the Direct Brand Economy we talked about last week. This newish sector is interesting to just about everyone and we found the video of the talk useful and the full IAB deck is a must read — it’s a 177 page PDF

The Snap partnership with Nike, where they sold trainers straight from the app suggests a new revenue stream. With previous success shifting cinema tickets the ability for brands to sell direct in Snap is a major advantage over Instagram.

Shortening and strengthening the connection between a brand and its customer is the holy grail of marketing and everyone can learn from this sector, its strategies and the tactics.

One of the things we believe is unique in our proposition is a real understanding of the whole customer experience — from organic social and SEO through to landing pages, baskets and checkout. Everything affects the ROI of media spend and all these areas contribute — along with creative — to maximising success. So new advice from Google on landing pages is good stuff.

Quick Reads

See what happens when Google Chrome filters bad ads. Lots of scepticism over Google acting as Judge and Jury on ads, but it’s good there is some action to reduce ads that annoy people.

In the early days of addictive! we did a lot of work on UX for media brands embracing mobile and lived through the evolution of infinite scrolling. This is a great look at why it works so well

The industry apparently thinks programmatic TV is still a couple of years away. Dave Morgan — who is speaking at our NY event on this space — talks about change in TV with the Hemingway quote about how bankruptcy happened “Two ways, gradually then suddenly,”

Reimagining how high street retail works is a big focus for us — so this Chanel / Farfetch partnership looks like a good example of the Uberfication of retail.

Talking with a major brand about the issues in digital we heard that the lack of comparability is a concern; are the rates you are paying good, bad or indifferent? These Facebook benchmarks are therefore helpful, if a little ad hoc

The Houseparty app is focused in group chats and from the founder of MeerKat. The inevitable Facebook clone is Bonfire but little has been heard of it since it was spotted last year in Denmark.

The IAB have new guidelines for Content and Native advertising. Very useful.

Finally — One of the smart people from Essence making the case for digital — It isn’t at risk it is just growing up.#GlassHalfFull

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