No articles found to show on this page.
After the presidential election, social-media companies, particularly Facebook, were criticized for being slow to stamp out fake news on their platforms aimed at influencing voters. The outcry grew in 2018, propelled by successive revelations about Russia’s role in spreading misinformation on platforms like Facebook and Twitter during the run-up to the election. This fall, Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet Inc.’s Google were called in front of congressional committees to testify about potential Russian influence on their sites and through their advertising services. Facebook revealed that Russia-backed content reached an estimated 126 million people on its platform, and Twitter disclosed that there were about 288 million automated, election-related tweets from accounts tied to Russia in a 2½ month period around the election. The tech behemoths struck a contrite tone about the role their services played in stoking political tensions and pledged to develop better policies for curbing such foreign influence. The ordeal has spurred lawmakers to introduce legislation that would make advertising on social media more transparent. The fate of that legislation, and the effect of misinformation on the 2018 midterm elections, will both be important to follow in the new year.
YouTube’s Brand Safety Problem
Google’s YouTube faced criticism this year after marketers learned that their ads were running alongside objectionable content such as extremist videos, prompting brands like ATT and Verizon to pull their advertising from the company. Google took steps to appease advertisers, allowing third-party measurement companies to monitor placement of ads and promising video-level reporting across YouTube. But brand safety concerns were rekindled anew in November after marketers were alerted to their ads appearing next to videos that appeared to attract pedophile viewers. While brand safety has been an ongoing issue for advertisers for years, the high-profile controversies presented marketers with added leverage to press Google to give them greater control over where their ads appear and more visibility into its ad systems.
Digital Media Hits a Rough Patch
The digital media sector got a reality check near the end of 2017. The Wall Street Journal reported in November that BuzzFeed and Vice, two of the biggest digital media startups, were both on pace to fall short of their 2017 revenue goals. Mashable agreed to sell itself to trade publisher Ziff Davis for about $50 million, a fraction of its $250 million valuation less than two years earlier. The troubles faced by independent digital publishers are at least twofold: Native advertising can be tough to scale, making it increasingly difficult for publishers to live up to lofty growth expectations year after year. And competition for digital ad dollars is getting more fierce. Though the market is still growing, Google and Facebook gobbled up more than 63% of digital ad spending in the U.S. this year, according to eMarketer. Next year, digital media firms will continue to try to diversify their revenue streams to avoid overdependence on the fickle fortunes of the digital ad market. And consolidation may prove to be the answer for some, as a range of smaller digital publishers weigh their options.
CMO Today Newsletter
Get your daily dose of media and advertising news with WSJ’s CMO Today newsletter. Sign up here.
The media and advertising industries weren’t exempt from the reckoning around sexual harassment that swept the corridors of America’s business, political and cultural institutions this year following the flood of accusations of sexual assault and harassment against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Journalists including “Game Change” author and MSNBC analyst Mark Halperin, “Today” show co-anchor Matt Lauer and veteran broadcaster Charlie Rose all lost their jobs after inquiries into accusations of sexual misconduct. On the advertising side, the Martin Agency parted ways with its chief creative officer, Joe Alexander, after investigating allegations of sexual harassment. This week saw the firing of another journalist who appeared on a list of men in media accused of sexual harassment, a sign that the revelations may not be over yet.
This year in media occasionally resembled an episode of “Game of Thrones,” with major power-brokers jockeying to expand their influence and wealth in an eat-or-be-eaten environment. In July, Discovery Communications Inc. agreed to buy
for $11.9 billion, part of a tie-up that would give the combined cable channels a better chance for survival in the cord-cutting era. In December, Walt Disney Co. agreed to buy much of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets for $52.4 billion to bolster its flagging television business and prepare to challenge Netflix in streaming. It was a shocking development in an industry where
was long considered a buyer not a seller, and it significantly reshapes the entertainment landscape. But not all major tie-ups proceeded as planned. Exhibit A is ATT’s $85 billion planned purchase of Time Warner, which hit a snag in November when the Justice Department filed a lawsuit to block the deal. The fate of that deal will be determined when the case heads to court in March.
End of an Era in Magazines
This year marked a major changing of the guard for the magazine sector. Big-name editors, executives and even entire companies headed for the exits. Time Inc., the storied publisher of Time, Fortune and People, sold for $1.85 billion to
, the lifestyle-focused magazine publisher behind Better Homes Gardens. Rodale, the publisher of Men’s Health and Runner’s World, was bought by Hearst for less than $225 million, and Rolling Stone founder
sold his controlling stake in the magazine to Penske Media for north of $50 million. Marquee editors including Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter, Time magazine’s Nancy Gibbs and Glamour’s Cindi Leive all announced they were leaving their posts. In 2018, we’ll see how these new stewards—editors and owners alike—will manage brands that come with decades of history and significant business challenges.
The Agency Model Falters
It was a grim year for WPP, Omnicom,
and Interpublic Group. Large ad companies are grappling with marketers’ spending cuts and clients seeking more transparency from their agencies. The ad giants have acknowledged the need to revamp their structures and service offerings. WPP has consolidated various agency groups, while Publicis announced plans to withdraw from Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and other large industry events in 2018 to pay for a new technology system to drive efficiencies and collaboration. Most holding companies announced plans to create more robust central data and analytics offerings. In 2018, we’ll see if any of it sticks.
Facebook’s Advertising Discrimination Problem
Facebook’s massive user base—more than 2 billion monthly active users, as of November—allows marketers to target niche audiences on the platform with enormous granularity. Until September, it also allowed advertisers to market their wares to people interested in topics such as “Jew hater,” “how to burn jews” or “why Jews ruin the world,” according to a ProPublica article. The story was part of the nonprofit newsroom’s “Machine bias” series, which revealed the darker side of algorithmically targeted advertising: sponsored help wanted posts that exclude older users, housing ads that illegally discriminate by race and political ads that are actually scams and malware.
Data Privacy in Europe
The countdown is on for a key piece of legislation in Europe to go into effect, impacting marketers, ad vendors, agencies and publishers the world over. The General Data Protection Regulation will be enforced from May 25, 2018, but most companies spent this year preparing for it (or at least they should have, anyway.) In short, companies will be required to obtain unambiguous consent from European residents to collect and use their personal data online. Violations of the new rules could see companies potentially fined as much as 4% of their annual world-wide revenue. But while there’s still some ambiguity surrounding exactly how GDPR will be enforced, there’s a whole host of newly formed consultancies willing to take your money to make sure your business is compliant in time.
The Cord-Cutting Ripple Effect
Pop-quiz: What do Disney, Facebook, Apple and Sports Illustrated have in common? The answer: They’re all aiming to get a bigger piece of the online streaming business. U.S. consumers can now choose between more than 200 streaming services serving up content on any internet-connected device, and that number is only slated to grow. This year, Disney announced plans to launch two streaming services: A subscription video service from ESPN aimed at sports fanatics and a family-friendly offering that includes its Marvel and “Star Wars” properties. (It also bought 21st Century Fox assets to bolster those efforts.) Tech giants like Apple and Facebook are getting in on the action, with both companies announcing plans to spend about $1 billion on original content over the next year. Even Sports Illustrated announced its own subscription on-demand service. We’ll be watching next year to see whether any of these bets can slow the growth of Netflix and whether the traditional pay-TV ecosystem can stand its ground.
—Alex Bruell and Lara O’Reilly contributed to this article.