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Big Revolution - Pivoting atop a house of cards

Welcome to Wednesday's Big Revolution, in which we definitely won't be pivoting to video. – Martin
October 17 · Issue #234 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to Wednesday’s Big Revolution, in which we definitely won’t be pivoting to video.

Big things you need to know today
  • Facebook says data from video calls on its Portal device WILL be used to target ads. The company had previously said this would not happen, but it turns out that was incorrect, due to the Messenger tech it’s built upon. The news comes as Cheddar reports Facebook plans a set-top box, with… yes, a camera.
  • The two biggest publishers on Facebook are now one: LadBible is acquiring Unilad in a firesale. LadBible is likely to downsize Unilad’s headcount of more than 200 over time. The two Manchester-based companies had shared roots and a bitter rivalry, and now only one is left standing.
  • MTV’s Real World is returning on Facebook Watch with new interactive features. Other new content Facebook announced at MIPCOM in Cannes today includes ‘The World’s Most Amazing Dog.’
The big thought
Imagine how much money and time has been wasted on videos no-one watched. Credit: Matthew Kwong on Unsplash
Imagine how much money and time has been wasted on videos no-one watched. Credit: Matthew Kwong on Unsplash
Pivoting atop a house of cards
‘Pivot to video’ has been the big joke in online publishing for a couple of years. Now the joke isn’t even remotely funny.
In a new lawsuit, advertisers allege that Facebook failed to disclose the scale it had been overestimating video views for more than a year, and that the size of that overestimation was much bigger than it publicly admitted.
That’s bad news for advertisers, who paid too much for video ads that no-one was really watching. But it’s also devastating news for publishers who, led by the news that video consumption was suddenly huge on Facebook, got rid of their editorial staff and hired video producers.
Sites like Mic and MTV News laid off talented writers to chase video ad dollars that it turns out weren’t really there.
Publishers aren’t without blame. 'Everyone’s watching video all the time on Facebook now’ just didn’t pass the sniff test. You weren’t doing it, other people never talked about doing it, and trains and buses weren’t full of people doing it – it seemed common sense that the video audience wasn’t really there.
And yet, those overseeing dwindling ad revenues at publishers saw the numbers in video and took a business-focused decision – really they had little (business) choice. But it was all based on lies.
“You should look into fraud in ad tech, it’s rife,” a reader of this newsletter told me once, back when I was at TNW. I didn’t have time to dig into it before I left, but he was right. While it would be rash to call Facebook’s case here outright fraud without more evidence, ad tech fraud remains the great under-reported story of the digital age. Perhaps no-one wants to discover just how unstable the foundations of ad-supported media really are.
One big read
Instagram Has a Massive Harassment Problem Instagram Has a Massive Harassment Problem
Last week’s story about teen bullying on Instagram was just a taster for this deep dive into harassment on the photo and video app.
One big tweet
It feels like only a matter of time…
Ed Dead Redemption 2
zuckerberg announces that they accidentally married your spouse if you changed your status
9:01 PM - 16 Oct 2018
Correction corner
Eagle-eyed readers spotted that in yesterday’s newsletter, I wrote that Paul Ryan co-founded Microsoft. That would be a surprise to Bill Gates and the Republican Party alike. I of course meant Paul Allen. Sincere apologies.
That’s all for today...
See you tomorrow. In the meantime, don’t forget:
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