Weekly Digital Breakdown – 9.13.19
Weekly Digital Breakdown
Sep 13 2019
Google, Too Big To Go Unnoticed
A major announcement came this week with the opening of an antitrust investigation into Google. The tech monopoly is being scrutinized for their stronghold on the market which is stifling competition and industry innovation due to their overwhelming control of the market. The probe specifically targets Google’s advertising structure and search technology which have made it difficult for other businesses to compete in the space, harming availability and pricing for consumers.
Big tech companies have experienced this level of criticism from European countries but this is the first it has come within the US. The multi-state bipartisan investigation has been prompted by filings from 50 US Attorneys Generals in what they see as a lack of Google’s desire to leverage the free market for success and undermining consumers to gain an overwhelming share of the digital space.
The investigation is still very much in the preliminary stages but is expected to expand to data privacy and usage, as has been the focus for other large tech companies. The banning together of the state attorneys generals should not be taken lightly as they have had significant impact on the structure of other industries such as payment from Big Tobacco for related health issues and anti-smoking campaigns to the reform of mortgage lending practices that were harming consumers. The spotlight on Google could intensify the digging into big tech practices depending on their findings.
While it would be premature to speculate where this will lead, it’s clear that the tech giants are under the microscope. It’s also important to note the timing of the investigation as it pertains to the political arena. With so much concern around fake news and bias by big tech, it could be another push for clean and fair election practices.
Some Good News For Facebook
The Facebook News Tab is becoming more of a reality and details are emerging about how the platform will integrate with publishers to curate news content. The move to include a news tab has been carefully planned as the company has faced ongoing scrutiny whether they have previously harbored political bias when choosing stories to highlight. In the new launch, Facebook plans to partner with ‘high quality” news outlets that lend credibility to ensure information shared is accurate and dependable.
An internal memo was obtained this week detailing Facebook’s news content selection process which included the assistance of human editors who will play an integral role in choosing which news headlines are displayed on the tab. What was not clear was how the company will create clearly defined policies for those employees as to avoid personal bias playing a factor.
As outlined, the editors will focus on promoting news based with the outlet that first broke the story and also prioritize those done by local media. While this sounds good on paper, the execution could prove to be a bit tricky, especially in the case of major news events where it’s critical to get the information out quickly and accurately.
The most critical of the editor duties noted in the memo may be working to avoid content that’s “constructed to provoke, divide, and polarize” and focusing stories with “on-the-record sources.” Many news outlets choose more riveting headlines to evoke an immediate response to read and share the news. Using less descriptive headlines may decrease engagement for both Facebook and the publisher.
Reports on publisher licensing were also included and are said to involve three-year contracts between the news organizations and Facebook that also include up to $3 million in payments from the social media giant. The large payout is believed to show Facebook’s commitment to building a reliable news platform. However, it also poses questions about the details included in the arrangement and the accountability required by entering the partnership.
As the electoral season is about to head into full swing with candidate and social topics taking up much of the news cycle, it will be interesting to watch this story develop. The addition could open an opportunity for news redemption for Facebook or it could plant additional seeds of doubt as to the company’s motives.
Uncle Ben’s Brings Dinner To Life
If you’ve ever wandered the grocery aisle hoping for some dinner recipe inspiration, Uncle Ben’s is serving up just what you’ve been looking for this month. In a partnership with the visual search technology of Google Lens and Innit, a personalized food shopping solution, shoppers will be able to scan the company’s products as well as some in-store displays for an enhanced shopping experience during “Family Meals Month.” The scan will connect with Innit for recipes and how-to videos incorporating the selected product. Customers who are registered Innit users will have access to additional recommendations based on their app profiles where they’ve provided food preferences or dietary limitations.
Accessing personalized, real-time content offers the company a competitive edge for shoppers struggling to plan a quick meal. By offering meal suggestions that include other Uncle Ben’s products, it could also boost sales and boost brand loyalty.
The partnership could be the first of many as visual search continues to gain popularity. The additional customization that comes from using Innit brings added ability to remove the stress of family meal planning, providing additional convenience to shoppers and more family time around the dinner table.