Maryland Becomes First State to Tax Big Tech on Digital Ads

The state of Maryland has taken a groundbreaking step, with its State Senate voting to approve the first U.S. tax on revenue from digital ads sold by Amazon, Facebook, Google and other major technology companies. The Senate had to override the governor’s veto to pass the measure, after its House of Delegates gave the law the greenlight. The new law is expected to generate an estimated $250 million in the first year, with money going to that state’s schools. Connecticut and Indiana have introduced similar bills to tax Big Tech companies. Continue reading Maryland Becomes First State to Tax Big Tech on Digital Ads

Twitter Experiences Subscriber Growth and Plans Expansion

Since Twitter banned former president Trump, the company said daily users rose to 192 million from Q3’s 187 million, including one million in the U.S. In January, the social platform gained more daily users than the average month in the last four years. Twitter chief exec Jack Dorsey revealed that 80 percent of its user base is outside the U.S., adding that it is “not dependent upon just news and politics.” The company is looking to expand and continue development of a decentralized social network. With regard to banning Trump, chief finance officer Ned Segal said the decision was well received by advertisers. Continue reading Twitter Experiences Subscriber Growth and Plans Expansion

Tension Erupts Between Apple, Facebook Over Targeted Ads

Facebook took the offense against Apple for its new policies limiting personalized ads on its products, stating that this would disproportionately hurt small businesses that rely on such ads. It pointed to internal research that found small businesses earned 60 percent less without access to targeted advertising. Facebook vice president for ads and business products Dan Levy called Apple’s move anticompetitive, benefitting the company’s own profits at the expense of not just small businesses but also app developers. Continue reading Tension Erupts Between Apple, Facebook Over Targeted Ads

Nielsen to Introduce New TV Ratings That Include Streaming

Nielsen will debut a new TV ratings system beginning in Q4 of 2022 that will incorporate digital viewing, including streaming TV, into its metrics of current traditional TV audiences. In 2021, it will preview the new data with existing ratings. Nielsen will need the approval of the TV networks and tech companies and hopes to gain ad seller and buyer support by the start of the fall 2024 TV season. Nielsen will also need to integrate its new metrics across platforms and data sources to ensure reliably comparable information. Continue reading Nielsen to Introduce New TV Ratings That Include Streaming

YouTube Intros Audio Ads, Targeting Based on Music Genres

Google-owned YouTube is introducing 15-second audio ads on its video-sharing platform, the first such format aimed at those who listen to music or podcasts in the background. It is also enabling advertisers to make buys across “dynamic music lineups” such as Top 100 charts and collections of channels in genres like Latin or Country in addition to buys targeting moods or interests such as fitness or relaxation. But ads running on creators’ videos won’t generate a profit for them if they’re not big enough to be in YouTube’s Partner Program. Continue reading YouTube Intros Audio Ads, Targeting Based on Music Genres

Advertisers Reinvent the Cookie to Better Track Streaming TV

Reaching viewers on streaming media is now a double-edged sword: advertisers want better metrics and the ability to target their messages even as the issue of privacy has also come to the fore. What’s becoming clearer is that any tools to provide metrics will need to obtain viewers’ consent. Until now, advertising has depended on tracking cookies and retargeting to follow people from website to website, which sparked the rise of ad blockers. Now, new privacy regulations in Europe and California are forcing a change. Continue reading Advertisers Reinvent the Cookie to Better Track Streaming TV

FTC to Fine Twitter for Using Consumer Data for Targeted Ads

Twitter revealed that the Federal Trade Commission may hit it with a fine up to $250 million for using consumers’ email addresses and phone numbers — collected for “safety and security” purposes — to target ads, something it said it did “inadvertently” between 2013 and 2019. This is a violation of its 2011 agreement with the FTC, in which Twitter agreed that it would no longer mislead consumers by not disclosing other potential uses. Twitter has already received a draft complaint from the FTC. Continue reading FTC to Fine Twitter for Using Consumer Data for Targeted Ads

Facebook Greenlights Equity Teams to Study Algorithmic Bias

Facebook-owned Instagram created an “equity and inclusion team” to look at how Black, Hispanic and other U.S. minority users are impacted by the company’s algorithms and machine-learning systems. An Instagram spokesperson revealed that Facebook is planning a similar team. Only last year, Facebook wouldn’t allow employees to study the issue of bias introduced by algorithms, so the move is a reversal. Meanwhile, the advertiser boycott against Facebook, in part for how it deals with racial issues, is still in effect. Continue reading Facebook Greenlights Equity Teams to Study Algorithmic Bias

Walmart Subscription Service Aims to Take on Amazon Prime

Later this month Walmart plans to unveil Walmart+, a subscription service intended to compete with Amazon Prime. Walmart+ will cost $98 per year and, according to sources, will offer same-day delivery of groceries and “general merchandise” as well as early access to product deals and discounts at Walmart gas stations. The company originally planned to unveil Walmart+ in late March or April but pushed the date to July due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s still not clear if Walmart will introduce the service regionally or nationally. Continue reading Walmart Subscription Service Aims to Take on Amazon Prime

BBC Partners with Microsoft to Release Beeb Voice Assistant

The BBC partnered with Microsoft to release an early version of Beeb, its digital voice assistant. Its U.K. debut will be part of Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program to encourage users to help improve Beeb prior to a wider rollout. The BBC first announced Beeb last year, noting that the aim was to integrate voice services into all its products. The public broadcaster will collect data by requiring users to log in to Beeb with their BBC accounts but such data will not be used for targeted ads. Continue reading BBC Partners with Microsoft to Release Beeb Voice Assistant

YouTube Limits Data Collection, Targeted Ads on Kids’ Videos

This month, Alphabet-owned YouTube will begin limiting the data it collects on children’s videos and stop showing data-driven personalized ads. Video creators will be responsible for designating their content as targeting children and will face Federal Trade Commission fines if they do not do so. The FTC also won’t allow comments or other features such as pop-ups meant to increase viewership. The new data collection limits will likely have negative financial implications for creators of free kids’ content. Continue reading YouTube Limits Data Collection, Targeted Ads on Kids’ Videos

Google Reconsiders Micro-Targeted Ads Ahead of Election

Google is tweaking its policies in advance of the 2020 presidential election. The company has decided to restrict just how minutely political advertisers can target an online audience. While advertisers will still be able to target ads based on age, gender, location and content of the websites that users visited, they will no longer be able to target audiences based on public voter records or political affiliations described as “left-leaning,” “right-leaning” or “independent.” Meanwhile, social giant Facebook is considering a similar move. Continue reading Google Reconsiders Micro-Targeted Ads Ahead of Election

Apple to Bundle News+, TV+, Music as Early as Next Year

According to sources, Apple, in a bid to gain more subscribers, plans to bundle its paid Internet services, including Apple News+, Apple TV+ and Apple Music, as early as 2020. Apple included a proviso in its recently inked media deals that allows it to bundle the News+ service with other paid digital content. Debuted in March, Apple News+ is a $10 per month subscription service that provides access to many publications, splitting the revenue in half with the newspaper and magazine publishers. The Apple TV+ streaming video service launched earlier this month. Continue reading Apple to Bundle News+, TV+, Music as Early as Next Year

Lawmakers Introduce Sweeping Online Privacy Legislation

Currently, the Federal Trade Commission is the government agency responsible for monitoring privacy violations. But, in response to rising calls to regulate big tech companies, two legislators — Anna Eshoo (D-California) and Zoe Lofgren (D-California) — have sponsored the Online Privacy Act. Among its provisions, the Act would create the Digital Privacy Agency (DPA) to enforce privacy legislation, backed up by 1,600 officials. The size would make it on a par with the Federal Communications Commission. Continue reading Lawmakers Introduce Sweeping Online Privacy Legislation

Princeton Study Shows Smart TVs Are Collecting Your Data

While streaming your favorite show on Netflix via an Internet-connected smart TV, your data is being collected, according to a new study from Princeton University, which found that smart TVs are equipped with data-collecting trackers. Researchers built a bot that installed thousands of channels on both Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices and mimicked human behaviors like watching videos and browsing. When the bot ran into an ad, it tracked what data was collected. Researchers claim there’s little consumer awareness of this activity.

Continue reading Princeton Study Shows Smart TVs Are Collecting Your Data

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