Weekly Digest

The Fix Weekly Digest: Tech giant struggles

Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every Friday, we bring you five important news stories from the world of media — and try to put them in a wider context.

The research predicts that Google’s US ad revenue will decline in 2020 for the first time in known history. By contrast, Facebook and Amazon ad revenue is expected to rise, though the increase will be considerably smaller this year than the last one.

The general reason behind the stagnation is obvious: the global pandemic turned global economic crisis. Why is Google hit worse than its fellow tech giants? According to The Wall Street Journal, it is “largely because Google’s core search product is so reliant on the pandemic-battered travel industry”.

Remember those old days when you had to remember and manually type a promocode from a podcast ad? Actually, these days are still with us, but Spotify wants them gone. The company is testing a feature called “In-App Offers” that provides podcasters with an option to supplement the podcast’s description with an embedded link to an advertiser’s website, which will automatically apply a promocode. The Verge calls it “apparently just the start for Spotify’s interactive ads”.

Spotify also made some investments in content this week. The audio platform has confirmed two exclusive podcasting deals, with Kim Kardashian West and Warner Bros, which will attract considerable listenership

Lately, we have seen big tech platforms implement new features designed to curb the spread of misinformation:

  • Google Images has announced the service will add fact check features which will help distinguish fake photos.
  • Facebook will show users a warning if they try to share outdated stories — posts which are more than 90 days old. As Techrunch put it, “Facebook acknowledged that old stories shared out of their original context play a role in spreading misinformation”.
  • In a similar vein, Twitter is starting to warn users when they retweet links they haven’t actually opened.

While not game-changing, these moves underline that there’s still a lot platforms can do to counter the spread fakes — and they are moving in this direction.

Last week, The Fix wrote about Trump’s controversial appointment of Michael Pack to become the CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which oversees Voice of America (VOA) and other state-funded broadcasters.

This week, the story got some new developments. First, four prominent media leaders and former members of the USAGM’s Advisory Board filed a lawsuit over Pack’s firing of the heads of four organizations controlled by the USAGM. The plaintiffs claim Pack’s actions constituted political interference and were illegal.

Second, former US Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s main rival in the 2020 presidential election, has already at this point promised to fire Pack in case he becomes president.

The outgoing week has been historic for the UK’s newspaper industry. For the first time in four decades, The Sun has lost its distinction as the most-read newspaper in the country. The Daily Mail beat it, with 980,000 copies being sold daily in May. The reason is all too common these days — “declining print sales across the sector and the impacts of the coronavirus”

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