Weekly Digital Breakdown

Alexa Gets Into Politics

If you’re looking for an easy way to contribute to the 2020 presidential election, Alexa can help. As of today, principle candidates can register to receive donations through voice commands on Amazon’s Alexa. Starting in October,users can contribute up to $200 to participating candidate’s campaign funds through Amazon Pay. 

In addition to making a financial contribution, Alexa users will also have access to advanced functionality which includes support for new questions and features to keep voters informed. Some examples include, “Alexa, how is [candidate’s name] polling?”, “Alexa, who endorses [candidate’s name]?” or “Alexa, when is the next debate?” The enhanced technology is an effort to build off previous election experiences and helping voters become more involved in the electoral process. 

As Alexa learns more about the information voters seek, Amazon will continue to add and refine its functionality in the process.  Aside from asking questions directly to the device, the company also allows users to choose their preferred news providers for electoral updates as the country is about to enter what many considered a very contentious race. 

Steps to sign up for Alexa Political Contributions detail the necessary criteria required to be considered. As stated on the site, only principle candidates are eligible but no additional information on what qualifies someone for that distinction is included. 

While the improved technology could be a huge win for candidates, it comes as big tech is under immense scrutiny for data privacy. Amazon did not make any comments with the release concerning if or how they will use users questions or presidential candidate preferences for targeting purposes. Following the 2016 presidential race, election integrity in terms of data and ad targeting remains a huge concern and with this updated feature, users will be willingly providing detailed information into what previous generations have viewed as very personal information.  

As of today, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the first to express interest and has contacted Amazon about the process. The company expects others to follow suit prior to giving the public access next month. 

Alexa is ready and willing to be a resource for users during the election process, they just won’t tell you who to vote for on election day.  

https://www.adweek.com/digital/amazon-alexa-campaign-donations/?

Amazon Searches Turn A Profit

Amazon is facing new claims in a recently published Wall Street Journal article that product results populating from shopping searches are being skewed to show the company’s most profitable items first. Engineers who worked on the project report the tech giant optimized its algorithm last year in favor of Amazon’s own branded products. 

If true, the news is particularly concerning for Amazon sellers who rely on the results for product promotion. With the majority of sales coming from the first page of results, losing rank could significantly impact profits, particularly for smaller businesses. Other indications of the potential shift come with default search rankings now being listed as “featured” rather than previously listed by “relevance”. The adjusted criteria could be giving other companies no way to overcome what appears to be a hardwired disadvantage. Amazon denied changes to its process and said it does not factor in profitability into search rankings. 

The accusations could be a serious concern as big tech brands continue to find themselves the target of federal focus. Regulators are monitoring the industry particularly closely for fear companies are using their stronghold on the market to  discourage and even eliminate competition. As the company continues its massive success, it’s unlikely it will escape the growing spotlight.

https://www.engadget.com/2019/09/16/amazon-algorithm-search-results-profitability/

The Peacock Network Struts Into Focus

The streaming market is about to welcome a new player next spring. NBC plans to release the Peacock network packed with over 15,000 hours of content with a heavy focus on their original comedies. NBC chose the name of the service in a nod to the iconic brand’s logo, which has been  viewed in living rooms since it first debuted in living rooms in 1956. The announcement comes on the heels of the launch of Disney+ and Apple TV+, both slated to be open to subscriptions starting in November 2019.

Like others, the new service will offer both an ad supported and subscription supported options. The company is hoping to boost viewer excitement with reboots of loved 80’s classics such as Punky Brewster and Saved by the Bell, combined with original programming with stars such as Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater. Peacock also boasts a catalog of exclusive streaming rights to coveted comedies such as The Office, Parks and Recreation, and many more.

The service will first be offered to Comcast subscribers, at least in ad-supported format, and then rolled out to the public. NBC anticipates the service will offer content that can connect to all household members, continuing their reign as a leading household name for entertainment.

https://www.adweek.com/tv-video/nbcuniversal-sets-a-name-and-content-slate-for-its-upcoming-streaming-service/