How Competitors Overcome Google’s Privacy Lobby; Comcast struts
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Google’s boring privacy talk
Judges and regulators have narrowly interpreted the consumer welfare standard – the mechanism that has dictated US antitrust enforcement for 40 years – so that a monopolistic business practice must be shown to directly affect prices at the consumption.
But that standard has failed in the modern economy, writes Sridhar Ramaswamy, co-founder and CEO of subscription search engine Neeva — oh, and former head of search and advertising products at Google — in an op-ed on The hill.
Some examples are well known. Google’s acquisition of YouTube or Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp have had no demonstrable effect on prices…because they’re free. Ramaswamy also cites how venture capital-backed tech categories have relied on investors to subsidize artificially low prices to prevent competition in a category.
“Big tech companies facing the daily pressure of returning shareholder value end up prioritizing advertisers and ad revenue over consumers.”
It’s a nonpartisan column, though more Democrats prefer a broad interpretation of the consumer welfare standard. Ramaswamy pushes Republicans in that direction by pointing out that the term itself was coined by Robert Bork, a former conservative justice whose 1987 Supreme Court nomination was scuttled by…Senator Joe Biden.
The herd of peacocks
Peacock reported 28 million active accounts at the end of the first quarter, down from 24.5 million at the end of last quarter, Comcast’s results showed Thursday morning. Of these 28 million accounts, 13 million are paid (compared to 9 million in Q4). In contrast, Netflix lost 200,000 subscribers over the same period.
Peacock offers an ad-supported free tier and an ad-free option for $10 per month, but it also offers an ad-lite option for $5. He introduced this middle ground based on Comcast research showing that 80% of consumers prefer ad-supported content over paying more without ads. ¿Why not the backs? (To take notes, netflix.)
The optionality seems to work – many paid accounts choose the cheaper option, and they also watch more content. Engagement hours up 25% year-over-year, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said on the earnings call.
But it’s not over yet. Content production and seasonality are a big part of the change. Peacock attributes much of its surge in paid subscribers to the Super Bowl and the Olympics — the company “doesn’t expect this dramatic quarter-over-quarter growth to become the norm,” Roberts said.
With content production costs soaring, Peacock reported a net operating loss of $456 million in the first quarter.
Light, camera, action
Snap has been garnering laughs since 2016, when it started calling itself “a camera company.”
The company launched Spectacles, Snap-made shades with built-in cameras. But it’s rich to call Snap a camera company – just check out Snap.com – when Snapchat only released a long-awaited Android app rebuild in 2019 because it relied so much on Apple’s camera.
To be fair, Snap released in-camera software. Other product makers may incorporate Snapchat-esque augmented reality technology. FitBit does, for example. And its Snap Camera download brings its signature filters to video services like Zoom and Twitch.
But if Snap calls itself a camera company, shouldn’t it have a position in hardware other than a product that’s likely a collectable or practical joke buy?
Well, today the company put an end to that replica with the launch of Pixy, a $230 camera drone. It costs as much as some large remote-controlled drones, but its value comes from being small and self-contained. Pixy keeps a person focused and hovering nearby. It’s not a drone competitor – it’s a replacement for selfie sticks.
Snap CEO Evan Spiegel told Bloomberg that the inspiration (and therefore the name) came from the question, “What would it be like if Tinker Bell was your personal photographer?”
But wait, there’s more!
Google now lets you restrict gambling, dating, pregnancy, and other sensitive ads. [9to5Google]
G/O Media, owner of Gizmodo, Deadspin and the Onion, acquires commercial site Quartz. [NYT]
TikTok and IRI team up to extract MMM models from CPG. [release]
Have you applied for financial aid online? Facebook has seen you. [The Markup]
IAB Tech Lab releases SHARC (Safe HTML Ad-Rich Media Container) for public comment. [release]
What brands need to know about in-game advertising. [Ad Age]
Marketplace service ecom Mirakl acquires Target2Sell, a personalization provider. [release]
The downturn in the attention economy. [Axios]
You are engaged!
AdPredictive taps Ali Levitan as senior vice president of business development and growth. [release]