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  • The rise (and fall) of autoplay video, in 5 charts

    Image courtesy of DigiDay

     by Lucia Moses

    You can’t browse the internet too long without running into an autoplay video ad. So ingrained (and derided) have autoplay video ads become that the leading browsers are cracking down. Apple is updating its Safari browser to block videos that play automatically with sound on and Google’s Chrome is expected to follow suit early next year when it starts filtering out ad formats that turn off users.

    Facebook’s role
    The explosion in autoplay can be traced back to Facebook, which started autoplaying videos in its news feed in September 2013. Facebook also has heavily promoted video in its feed generally. Since then, the number of daily video views on Facebook has skyrocketed, reaching 8 billion daily video views in November 2015, the last number it made public, up from 4 billion in April 2015 (although it only counts views as 3 seconds or more).

    Source: Facebook

    Now, 61 percent of video ads autostart in Chrome, the dominant browser (compared to 66 percent in Safari), according to JW Player.

    Source: JW Player

    Autoplay pile-on
    Facebook’s use of autoplay, along with YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter, paved the way for publishers to pile on. Today, about one-third of sites autostart more than 75 percent of their video ads, according to MediaRadar, based on an analysis of sites that run video. One-third autostarts video ads 50 to 75 percent of the time. The final third autostarts video ads less than 50 percent of the time.

    The drive for ad revenue that’s driven the use of autoplay seems to be universal; everyone from Refinery29 to The Wall Street Journal runs autoplay, and they’re just as likely to be small as big publishers, said Todd Krizelman, CEO of MediaRadar. “This was surprising and reinforces that video drives revenue for all size publishers,” he said.

    MediaRadar also found that consumer-aimed sites overall are almost twice as likely as business-to-business sites to run autoplay video ads (69 percent versus 37 percent), with the highest rates found among business/finance- and technology-focused sites, he said.

    Source: MediaRadar

    Ad blocking
    Autoplay also has been linked to increased rates of ad blocking, which is now employed by 18 percent of internet users in the U.S. and 11 percent globally, according to PageFair’s 2017 Adblock Report. PageFair, a company that helps publishers circumvent blocked ads, found that interruptive ads were the second most common motivation for blocking ads (cited by 29 percent), behind virus and malware concerns (30 percent). Non-interruptive ad formats are largely tolerated, while interruptive ones, starting with unskippable video ads, are the biggest annoyances.

    “You hear people say, ‘It’s not fair with mobile phones; [autoplay] consumes data,’” said Mike Green, vp of Brightcove. “I think it’s just more the disruption of a quiet workspace.”

    Source: PageFair

    Negative sentiment
    Still more evidence that people hate autoplay comes from Brandwatch, which found that since January, autoplay video has been mentioned more than 25,000 times on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Reddit. Interest peaked on two days in May when Pinterest introduced autoplay ads. There also were big spikes in mentions on news relating to Chrome combating autoplay videos. During that time period, the overall sentiment toward autoplay was 74 percent negative, according to Brandwatch.

    Mentions of autoplay from Jan. 1-Oct. 16. Source: Brandwatch

    Featured image courtesy of Digiday

  • Copyranter takes on ad agencies that shamelessly pilfer creative ideas

    It was not Pablo Picasso who coined “good artists copy; great artists steal.” And it was somebody else who first said, “There’s no such thing as an original idea.” And it was a third different person (maybe David Ogilvy?) who declared, “We (ad creatives) are not artists; we’re salespeople.”

    When you think “most ethical industries,” advertising isn’t top of mind. But most copywriters and art directors follow a code of conduct about idea theft — if only because we don’t want to get disqualified for any all-important industry awards.

    In the last year or so, though, many copywriters/art directors have apparently blatantly broken this code. We’ll start with the most blatant examples.

    Tiffany Felony?

    Tiffany’s current tagline/hashtag is #TheresOnlyOne (scroll down to see ad images), which it says celebrates “the power of individuality.” However, its new campaign (above left), launched in late July, is just a little too similar to the images (right) from jeweler Annoushka’s “Rule The World” Instagram effort from May (agency: Mr. President) that featured sign language hand poses.

    Jimi Obama

    Foxy! On the left, it’s stern 2013 Jimi-O for Radio Metro, an Ecuadorian station: “Today’s News, Yesterday’s Music” (agency: Koenig & Partners). On the right, stoned 2017 Jimi-O for Mexico’s Contemporary Music School: “Music Makes Everything Better.”

    Axe Jacks Concept

    Last year, the man-boy brand launched a “Shower Thoughts” video campaign (created by Generate, a division of Defy Media, and Mindshare Entertainment). Reddit already has a “Showerthoughts” subreddit. No biggie; Reddit didn’t invent shower thoughts. But the above launch ad featured this copy: “When you’re criticized for being short, they’re really just saying the worst thing about you is that there isn’t more of you” — which was the exact same wording of a popular Reddit shower thought from 2015. Tail between legs, Axe issued a statement saying it would “collaborate” on a future “piece of content” with the Reddit user.

    Lego My Idea!

    The Lego ad on the right was part of a 2017 Cannes Silver Lion-winning “Build the future” campaign that the trade press gushed about zealously (agency: Ogilvy, Thailand). It’s a good idea that probably didn’t come from the creatives’ imaginations. At left is a 2013 Lego ad by Ogilvy & Mather, Costa Rica. Same network! Is that the same girl?

    Google Ad Fraud?

    In August 2016, Google premiered the above spot (done in-house) for its “Free Up Space” service. The idea was to show videos/photos frozen and ruined by the “storage full” message. Mildly creative. But this was the exact concept used in a far superior 2015 Japanese spot for internet service provider Plala (watch that ad here). Again, this is too specific of a linchpin for it to be an innocent coincidence.

    Absolut Unoriginality

    Lastly, maybe you’ve seen this new spot for Absolut via BBH London and Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki that industry folk are crowing about. It’s cool to look at. But it’s not at all original.

    There are some established tried and overused broad ad conceits, like: use babies, use animals, go back in time, go forward in time. Absolut goes back and then forward in time, with lame voice-over copy that talks about “the mother of all ideas” (creativity, I guess). It ends with the line, “You can take it from here,” as if to say, “We don’t have a good ending.”

    It has absolutely nothing (sorry) to do with Absolut. And it immediately brings to mind one of the greatest alcohol spots in ad history: Guinness’ noitulovE (Evolution spelled backward) commercial from 2005 by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO where three lads are hurled back through time to show how long they had to wait to sip their beers. It tied in perfectly with the strapline “good things come to those who wait.” Brilliant, and no breathy, condescending voice-over needed. Watch the Guinness ad here.

    The BBH creatives were of course very aware of the Guinness spot during “ideation,” and it’s a fair bet that this is where their big bang “creation” concept came from.

    This is only a small sampling of probable recent ad larceny. There have been scores more, just this year. To take an amazing trip down larceny lane, visit Joe La Pompe, the ad industry watchdog who calls himself “masked to unmask copycats.”


  • Domino’s is starting to see pizza orders come through Amazon Alexa

     by Seb Joseph


    Domino’s is letting people order pizza through voice-controlled devices, and the early results are promising.

    One in five customers who can order a pizza with one click through the pizza chain’s Easy Orders option has asked Amazon Alexa instead, two months after making the feature available there, said Nick Dutch, head of digital for Domino’s UK.

    Domino’s introduced Easy Orders in 2013 and debuted the feature on Alexa at the end of July. To use it, customers must create a Easy Order account, which lets them save their favorite order and submit it through platforms including Domino’s website and app, Facebook Messenger and Google Home. The pizza chain sees Easy Orders as a way to apply Amazon’s one-click shopping model to pizza ordering and aggressively promoted its Alexa skill in the summer to get people to buy and track their orders this way.

    Domino’s doesn’t break out voice or Easy Order sales as a percentage of its online earnings, but Dutch said the initial orders on Alexa proved it “backed the right horse.”

    Voice could be key to Domino’s growing the Amazon-style model, given it is looking for the next big sales channel after desktop and mobile. The pizza maker has opted to sell direct to customers rather than through online delivery companies like UberEats and Deliveroo, which could leave it exposed should its online sales dwindle and those companies continue to grow.

    Domino’s same-store sales in the 26 weeks ended June 25 declined 13 percent from the previous year. While voice, and more broadly, Easy Orders aren’t a quick fix to the decline, they simplify the ordering process, making it easier to get people to buy. It worked so well for Amazon that it patented its 1-Click process in 1999 and fought hard to prevent others from copying the process until the patent expired earlier this month.

    “The reality is right now there aren’t millions of people who are doing that [making voice orders],” said Dutch, speaking on Sept. 27 at a We Are Social event. “We’re building for the future, and we need to leverage this [early growth] … in the hope that over time, more people use the technology.”

    Domino’s immediate focus is on growing direct sales from voice-controlled devices with options such as letting customers pick different toppings and locating their nearest store. At some point, however, the company will need to consider search ads, particularly if comScore’s prediction that 50 percent of all searches will be done by voice by 2020 comes true.

    Elsewhere, Diageo and Unilever have recently revealed their own plans for voice searches. Unilever’s Cleanipedia Amazon Echo skill, which answers questions about home cleaning with a direct link to e-commerce, now has 15,000 users in the U.K., where it debuted. The consumer goods company plans an 11 percent increase in investment in voice.

  • Pivoting-to-video publishers face a big monetization gap

    Publishers are pivoting to video, hoping it’ll pay off in ad dollars. But despite the big view numbers they’re generating, the revenue is often a mirage.

    The majority of those views take place off those publishers’ own platforms and occur on platforms that have tons more scale (Facebook, Instagram and YouTube) and have optimized themselves around video. That could be because, like BuzzFeed or NowThis, they deliberately built their business on social distribution.

    The chart below illustrates the gap. For these publishers that have made a big push into video lately, most of their views take place off their own site.

    Notes: All views in millions. On-site views are U.S., desktop, June-August (Source: comScore). YouTube views are global, for 90 days ended Sept. 27. Facebook views are global, for 90 days ended Sept. 21. Facebook views refer to publisher property, which includes all the channels that fall within that entity. YouTube views refer to HuffPost property; all others are publisher channel (Source: Tubular Labs)

    “It’s a terrible trap,” said Andy Feinberg, CEO of Brightcove, which powers video players on publishers’ sites. “[Publishers] have to be on these platforms to retain their audiences and make sure their brand is being presented to a broad audience, and their competitors are there. But the ability to monetize on these platforms is not the same as their ability to monetize on their owned-and-operated platforms. Their CPMs are low; their revenue streams are suffering.”

    Second, the big view numbers publishers are getting off their own sites are somewhat deceptive because for various reasons, not all those videos can be monetized. Facebook is testing mid-roll ads in publishers’ videos, but video has to run at least 90 seconds to be eligible for the test — and viewers have to make it to the break. That doesn’t help publishers that specialize in short videos, which often is true of news clips. The mid-roll test is still just a test, and publishers who are participating in it have said they’re only making a little money on it at this point.

    Then, there are self-imposed limits. Case in point is Bleacher Report. It can sell ads against all the videos it runs on its own site. But most of its views take place on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, and while marketers pay to sponsor those videos, Bleacher Report is careful to limit the sponsorships it runs on video-heavy Instagram to about one out of four videos, so it doesn’t turn off viewers with a constant stream of “brought to you by” messages. Publishers participating in Facebook’s mid-roll test took a similar position since mid-roll was new.

    “On social, if every video has a ‘brought to you,’ it might diminish the [user experience],” said Keith Hernandez, Bleacher Report’s svp of strategy. “And you’re not the only publisher that’s in someone’s feed.”

    When publishers do monetize their distributed video, it’s not as lucrative for several reasons. There are measurement gaps by companies that track social video, which limits publishers’ ability to sell their video audience to advertisers. There’s an issue of whether the video ad gets counted as being seen, which is dubious given how fast people scroll through their news feeds. Then, publishers have to take into account the share of revenue that the host platform keeps (45 percent in the case of Facebook’s mid-roll ads, the same as YouTube’s split).

    Bleacher Report said the CPM on its social video is roughly half what it gets on its own site. For USA Today, the ad rate on social video is one-third to one-half what it gets on its own site. One video exec at another premium publishing company said that while video on the publisher’s own site can command a $70 CPM, on Facebook and YouTube, the effective ad rate drops to around $20.

    The conundrum publishers face is that they have to go where the audiences are, even though the monetization lags. The Washington Post makes money on 80 percent of its video on Facebook and all its YouTube video, but because of the platforms’ tracking limitations and their revenue share, “the monetization still has a lot of room to grow,” said Micah Gelman, director of editorial video at the Post.

    Years ago, Feinberg said, publishers were happy to take YouTube’s money to run their video on the platform. This helped train audiences to watch video on YouTube and the like, instead of publishers’ own sites. The technology costs of serving video on your own site are decreasing, but it’s expensive to make high-quality video, and monetization still lags on social video. Progressive publishers are starting to think of social as a discovery vehicle, a place to put their less timely, less premium video, while keeping their more valuable video for their own sites.

    Other publishers like the Post cope by not expecting distributed video to drive their business. Bleacher Report values engagement it gets on videos over mere views because it can use engagement as a selling point to advertisers.

    “The inclination is that every video view needs to be monetized and also that video view is the North Star metric for success,” Hernandez said. “I say, quality of user experience is key. You want an active, not passive, viewer that’s so excited about what you’re doing that they want to share it.”

  • Experts: Facebook’s Russia disclosure unlikely to hurt its brand

     by Ilyse Liffreing


    This week, Facebook faced questions over whether it was overstating its audience reach and admitted it ran election ads from fake Russian accounts aimed at influencing the U.S. presidential election.

    Since Facebook’s announcement, more than 55,000 people took to social media to comment on the scandal, with 80 percent of the mentions containing a negative sentiment toward Facebook, according to Brandwatch. In comments, people expressed their frustration over Facebook’s inability to stop the fake accounts, how long it took the platform to investigate the ads and founder Mark Zuckerberg’s initial response following the election, in which he scoffed at the idea that fake news on Facebook could influence voters. “Shame on Facebook,” one person tweeted on Thursday. “You were purposefully misinforming the American public then denying it incessantly.”

    Yet, even with all this negativity, branding experts say Facebook’s brand is intact.

    “Ultimately, the Facebook brand won’t be damaged,” said Trevor Wade, global marketing director at branding agency Landor. “If anything, they will get a lift because they are making an effort to improve the platform and make it transparent.”

    “The way they put this blog post out was a really good move from a brand standpoint,” said Erik Huberman, founder and CEO of Hawke Media. “Most reasonable people will understand that if you’re Facebook, you can’t control everything at the same time.”

    For the past year, Facebook has taken steps to be more transparent with users and advertisers, revealing mistakes in ad measurements and updating counts of fake profiles. In April, the platform published a white paper on organized attempts to use Facebook to influence the election. And, on Wednesday, Facebook handed over all data surrounding the banned Russian accounts to Robert Mueller, the special counsel in charge of investigating Russian interference in the election. “As long as Facebook is seen as being proactive in uncovering these sorts of things and then quickly fixing them,” said J. Walker Smith, executive chairman at Kantar Futures, “consumers will be content with Facebook.”

    Richard Levick, founder and CEO of communications firm Levick, said the fact that Facebook came forward with the Russian ads news and briefed members of Congress is a sign the platform has grown up and is starting to act like what the platform has long resisted admitting it is: a media powerhouse.

    “This is a very different attitude,” he said. “We’ve gone from laissez-faire to there’s a new sheriff in town.”

  • European broadcasters form combined programmatic video exchange to rival duopoly

     by Jessica Davies

    European broadcasters continue to square off with the Facebook-Google duopoly.

    German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1, France’s TF1 and Italy’s Mediaset took to Dmexco this week to unveil a combined programmatic video marketplace that they believe has the scale to counter the creeping threat of Facebook and Google’s attempts to get at TV ad budgets.

    The seeds for the alliance were sown 18 months ago, with each partner agreeing to stump up the cash to create the exchange and pool a sizable portion of their video inventory. The partners will neither disclose the size of their investment nor the amount of inventory they’re pushing into the exchange, only stating that there is a minimum (uncapped) buy-in for each founding partner. They claim a combined 100 million monthly unique video users across their programming, including in Spain, where Mediaset has a presence.

    The aim is to now court other European publishers in the biggest markets, like the U.K., to join. In fact, the headquarters for the new venture will be in London.

    Speaking to Digiday at Dmexco in Cologne, Germany, Christof Wahl, chief operating officer of ProSiebenSat.1 Group, said the timing for broadcasters to bring to market a controlled, premium video marketplace for buyers to book pan-Europe campaigns programmatically has never been better. Tensions around longstanding issues like brand safety have been magnified in the wake of the YouTube ad boycott and other uncertainties around transparency and viewability that have been growing. By coming together, the broadcasters hope to become an alternative for buyers looking to run pan-European programmatic video campaigns at scale.

    “We all face the same issues, opportunities and challenges, which in this technology and platform-orientated world means scale. Now we can say to buyers that if they want a pan-European programmatic campaign, this is the only place they can buy the inventory [of each of the founding partners],” said Wahl.

    From now until December, a series of text campaigns will run with a select number of clients, the names of which Wahl wouldn’t disclose. Currently, pre-roll inventory is available against each of the broadcaster’s programs, but in time, more formats and products will roll out, particularly around viewer-targeting capabilities like interests and demographics. In time, it could expand to include other digital video inventory on connected TVs and set-top boxes via addressable TV, said Wahl.

    The programmatic exchange is being run independently from the partners, an approach that’s emerged as vital ingredient for the longevity of such an alliance — without any internal bureaucracies within the shareholders slowing progress. They’re in the final stages of hiring a CEO and sales team to run the exchange. That team will sell the proposition to markets in a way that the partners can’t individually, according to Wahl.

    Traditionally, in-market broadcaster rivalries have prevented the forming of longstanding alliances, particularly in the broadcast space. But in this case, working with pan-European partners that aren’t direct competitors in their own local markets is of benefit. “We’re not in the same territories, so we’re finding ourselves in neutral territory, which certainly helps. It isn’t about controlling everything yourself; it’s about building an ecosystem in which you jointly do more than just sell your own products,” he added.

  • comScore Offers Free Digital Ad Viewability Measurement

    By Jon Lafayette


    With transparency and fraud issues slowing down growth in digital advertising, comScore is offering free viewability measurement to clients.

    With viewability taken off the table, marketers can focus on metrics that are more important to mounting effective advertising campaigns, according to comScore CEO Gian Fulgoni.

    Clients have been questioning their digital advertising investments because of worries about viewability, which include ads that appear in a tiny portion of the screen and for only a fraction of their full running time. There are also issues with fraud involving getting charged for ads that are seen by bots, rather than by people.

    “We want to eliminate viewability as something that one has to worry about,” said Fulgoni. “We hope that this helps restore some trust in digital, which has been buffeted by issues of trust and transparency.”

    comScore has found that as much as 55% of digital advertising is not viewable. “It’s a bigger deal on video than it is for display ads. And the reason appears to be that the price for video ads is much higher than the price for display ads, and so that attracts more fraudsters,” Fulgoni said.

    Programmatic activity involving open exchanges has also opened the door to increased fraud, he says.

    comScore has traditionally been the leader in measuring digital advertising. Since acquiring Rentrak, it has been trying to move into the television business, dominated by Nielsen, and win the race to provide cross-platform measurement.

    For digital advertising to be worthwhile “you’ve got to be in view and you’ve got to eliminate the fraud,” Fulgoni said. “That’s what an advertiser should be paying for, and that’s what should be expected. It’s what’s expected and delivered in television.”

    comScore’s effort received some support across the industry.

    “In order to create a total video marketplace where buyers can plan across platforms to achieve advertising goals, viewability is key to leveling the playing field between digital and TV. This new viewability solution will help expand access and use of viewability measures, allowing the industry to turn its focus back to making sure that ads have an impact,” said Lyle Schwartz, president of investment, North America, GroupM.

    “Giving the market broad access to viewability metrics is a critical step in moving digital advertising forward,” said Blaise D’Sylva, VP of media at Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. “We applaud comScore for taking this step to bring greater trust and transparency to the industry, and working to level the playing field between digital and TV advertising.”

    comScore’s free tool sets its viewability standard at the Media Rating Council definition, which is a half a pix being viewable for at least a second. That’s a pretty low bar, and Fulgoni says comScore’s full suite of measurement enables clients to set higher standards if they want.

    Last year, comScore earned accreditation by the Media Rating Council for its Sophisticated Invalid Traffic detection capabilities across both desktop and mobile ads.

    comScore Viewability becomes available globally this summer as a free, self-service offering, delivered through a fully redesigned user interface.

    The free offer should put a positive spotlight on comScore, which is emerging from accounting difficulties that have distracted the company for about a year.

    “This will help the industry increase trust and get users to focus on more appropriate metrics, and will ultimately have a benefit for us also,” Fulgoni said.

  • Forget the duopoly, Apple’s anti-tracking moves rattle digital media

     by Ross Benes

    Ad industry groups are pissed off at Apple, but there’s not much they can do about it.

    Apple is limiting ad tracking in its Safari browser, which will make it harder for ad buyers to target niche audiences. Although this move protects users’ data privacy, it’s likely to hurt advertiser conversions and reduce CPMs for publishers that rely heavily on third-party data.

    On Tuesday, Apple will update the operating system of its web browser Safari so users can’t be tracked by third parties for more than 24 hours after visiting a website. In response, six ad industry groups let Apple know they were frustrated, publishing an open letter last week stating that this move will sabotage the internet’s economy. Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

    Apple’s Safari update is just the most recent example that displays company’s ambivalence about digital advertising. In 2014, Apple CEO Tim Cook criticized ad supported businesses like Facebook. Last year, Apple shut down its mobile ad platform iAd. While other tech giants like Amazon and Google are growing their revenue by creating new ad products, Apple has fully invested in getting people to pay for products like $1,000 cellphones.

    Julie Rezek, North American president at ad agency HackerAgency, said Apple’s restrictions on retargeting data could hurt conversions and reduce reach by making it harder for advertisers to find users who fit specific demographics. Two other ad buyers said Apple’s reduction of third-party tracking will make it harder for them to drive sales and that if their ad performance declines, publishers will ultimately suffer since their CPMs will drop due to a reduction in demand.

    But not all publishers will be harmed. Publishers that rely on third-party data vendors to sell the majority of their ads programmatically on open exchanges are most likely to be affected. The issue doesn’t hurt publishers that get most of their revenue from direct sales, said Todd Sawicki, CEO of native ad platform Zemanta.

    Just as the General Data Protection Regulation will force advertisers to buy ads on sites with recognizable brands rather than target audiences whenever they wind up on the web, Apple’s data-gathering restrictions could benefit premium publishers not reliant on hypertargeting, said a product head at a comScore 200 publisher.

    Although Ranker gets about 90 percent of its revenue through programmatic, Apple’s new rules should only affect 1 to 2 percent of its revenue, said Ranker CEO Clark Benson. This is because Ranker, like many publishers, is ramping up its private marketplace deals where it sells its proprietary data to advertisers. Meanwhile, Apple is clamping down on third-party data collection, which Ranker does not depend on in its PMPs.

    By protesting Apple, the trade groups show they’re upholding their members’ interests, said media industry analyst Rebecca Lieb.

    “But Apple is uniquely positioned to not care,” said Lieb, referring to how the vast majority of Apple’s revenue comes from selling devices, unlike Facebook, Google and Amazon. If Apple wants to change how users can be tracked in its browser, there’s really no one in ad land who can stop it, she said.

    By making advertising slightly more difficult on the web, Apple is playing its card against ad giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google, Sawicki said. But unlike how Facebook algorithm changes can suddenly cut off a publisher’s primary revenue stream, the impact of Apple’s ploy will be more subtle, given that only 4 percent of desktop traffic and 29 percent of mobile traffic runs through Safari, according to NetMarketShare.

    “As always in these kind of situations, the industry is saying, ‘The sky is falling,’” said independent ad tech consultant Brad Holcenberg, noting that Google’s Chrome browser is also restricting intrusive advertising by blocking the sound on autoplay videos. “Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but the industry has to be prepared to evolve quickly to a more user friendly one. Only a few companies hold the keys to users on the internet, and as [Google and Apple] show, that means changes can come fast and have broad implications.”

  • YouTube’s new ad policies are still causing creators to lose out on revenue

    This week, our top stories covered the lingering effects of YouTube’s brand-safety crackdown, e-commerce brands’ move into brick-and-mortar stores and more. As always, a full list of these articles appears at the bottom.

    Fallout from YouTube’s new ad policies
    YouTube started disabling ads on videos in March in response to the so-called “YouTube adpocalypse,” during which advertisers threatened to curb ad spending on the platform after discovering ads were appearing beside offensive content.

    Some top creators’ ad revenues took a hit as a result. Phil DeFranco, who has about 5.6 million subscribers on YouTube, saw ad revenue fall 30 percent within the first month. H3h3Productions, which has about 4.7 million subscribers, said it was only making 15 percent of what it typically makes month to month on YouTube.

    By May, revenues for most top creators returned to pre-adpocalypse levels. But some creators are still suffering.

    Real Women Real Stories, for instance, is a small YouTube channel that promotes women’s rights through testimonials in which women share stories of trauma. The charity project relies entirely on YouTube advertising to fund its productions. Because its content focuses on issues such as rape, sexual abuse and sex trafficking, the channel made just $10 in YouTube ad revenue in June, down from $2,000 in June 2016, said channel owner Matan Uziel.

    “Our charitable project is nearly dead because we can no longer pay for productions,” Uziel said.

    Brick-and-mortar stores aren’t dead yet
    It seems like every day another retailer announces it’s closing its brick-and-mortar store to concentrate on e-commerce. In April, brokerage firm Credit Suisse predicted more than 8,600 stores would close in 2017.

    But some direct-to-consumer e-commerce brands, including Boll & Branch, Allbirds, Away, ModCloth, Glossier and Madison Reed, have opened brick-and-mortar stores in the past year and some plan to expand beyond one shop. Amazon now controls 460 Whole Foods locations across the U.S. One reason for this: Consumers still like to see firsthand, try on and touch products before purchasing them.

    “Pretty much anybody can sell something online these days, but to have a physical location, there is definitely a brand legitimacy in that,” said Jill Dvorak, senior director for digital retail at the National Retail Federation. “It gives the sense to the consumer that the business is going to be in it for the long haul.”

    Meanwhile, Amazon continues to grow its digital presence, including its advertising business. A pitch deck obtained by Digiday reveals how the tech giant is emphasizing to agencies that its data reflects how people research, consider and purchase things, on Amazon and elsewhere.

    Stat of the week
    In the past 12 months, Bleacher Report’s House of Highlights Instagram account has amassed 3.5 billion views, surpassing the individual accounts for ESPN, Fox Sports and Bleacher Report.

    Quote of the week
    Trevor Wade, a global marketing director at branding agency Landor, shares her thoughts on Facebook’s admission about running ads from fake Russian accounts aimed at influencing U.S. politics:

    “Ultimately, the Facebook brand won’t be damaged. If anything, they will get a lift because they are making an effort to improve the platform and make it transparent.”

    Interesting takes elsewhere:

    • The New York Times’ Sydney Ember and Michael M. Grynbaum examine the fallout from a retracted story by CNN’s elite investigations unit.
    • Maggie Haberman, White House correspondent for the Times and CNN analyst, tells The Cut how she gets it all done.

    This week’s top Digiday stories:

    • The ‘demonetized’: YouTube’s brand-safety crackdown has collateral damage
    • Why e-commerce brands are flipping the script and opening brick-and-mortar stores
    • Pitch deck: How Amazon is selling ad buyers on its growing advertising business
    • Bleacher Report’s House of Highlights gets 400 million monthly views — and famous fans — on Instagram
    • Experts: Facebook’s Russia disclosure unlikely to hurt its brand
    • Publishers obsess about user experience, but worry about giving up revenue
    • Ads.txt, created to help publishers fight fraud, isn’t being adopted by publishers
  • Apple News is experimenting with ‘featured video’ section

    Apple News is still in its infancy as a news platform, but it’s already testing its own modest pivot to video.

    Apple has tried out a featured video section inside its mobile news app, not dissimilar to the featured collections of stories it creates around specific editorial subjects, which include broad categories like business or sports, as well as specific topics such as hurricanes.

    The featured video module runs multiple times per week, and its contents are selected by Apple News editors, rather than piped in algorithmically. And like those other sections, being included in the module drives huge spikes of consumption, according to the publishers involved in the tests, though none would share hard numbers. Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

    Since its launch nearly two years ago, Apple News has gone from a source of derision among publishers to a valued source of traffic, native ad revenue and even reader subscriptions for many. Apple News accounts for as much as 15 percent of participating publishers’ traffic, according to sponsored content distribution firm Polar.

    Similar growth patterns can be observed in video. Multiple publishers contacted for this story reported monthly unique-viewer totals in the low seven figures for their video on Apple News, though the publishers said the audiences are not yet large enough to warrant customizing content for them.

    Christy Tanner, svp and gm of CBS News Digital, which distributes digital video across a dozen different digital platforms, said the publisher’s audience on Apple News is “significant” and that it shares a large amount of video on the platform. She noted, however, that Apple News is not CBS News’ largest audience source.

    “We’re putting video front and center [on Apple News] because that’s our core,” Tanner said.

    Yet for a handful of publishers, Apple News’ audience has begun to exhibit distinct characteristics, which has allowed some publishers to optimize how they use Apple News as a distribution channel.

    “We generally know how the audience will respond, [compared to] our social distributions, our own [owned and operated] audience, and are able to tailor stories and release schedules to optimize performance,” said David Miller, svp of digital product at National Geographic Partners.

    In some respects, Apple’s move could be seen as a response to the increased amount of video publishers are sharing overall. Unlike Facebook, which used News Feed algorithm changes to compel publishers to create and share more video on its platform, Apple News has worked with publishers to curate and pare the content that’s shared on its platform. National Geographic, for example, now shares less content on Apple News than it did at launch, though it now boasts a larger audience on the platform.

    It is unclear whether the video module will be rolled out widely and how these video experiments fit into Apple’s broader product plans. While Facebook and YouTube both used video-consumption data to inform choices about content they would fund for their respective platforms, Apple News operates independently from Apple TV, the division of Apple that is reportedly readying a billion-dollar budget to fund original content next year.

    In the meantime, publishers using Apple News to distribute video are watching the growth continue: Great Big Story, the CNN-owned brand that specializes in distributed video, said its audience and video views both doubled month over month from July to August.

    “It’s a perfect mix for us as a media company catering to the ways people consume video today,” said Uyen Tieu, Great Big Story’s gm.