Snapchat Makes Licensing Deal With Sony

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Snapchat has made a licensing deal with Sony Music Entertainment, permitting the use of the record company’s artists’ music on the app. This will grant Snapchat access to music from Sony’s three major labels Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Snapchat’s existing music partners include MERLIN Members, major publishers Sony Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group and Warner Chappell, Kobalt, BMG, NMPA, and DistroKid. Ben Schwerin, Head of Content and Partnerships at Snapchat commented, “Our new deal with Sony Music marks a major milestone as Snap now has partnerships with all the major labels, in addition to networks of independent labels and emerging artists.”

All music from these labels will be available in the music catalogue of Snapchat’s Sound Feature. This feature permits its 200 million users to add music to their Snapchats. Since the feature has been added in 2020, it has been used nearly 1.2 billion times. 

Following the partnership with Sony, Snapchat also announced it will be releasing a two new features, ‘Sound Lenses’ and ‘Cameo Sound Lenses’.  Described by Snapchat as “a Lens that transforms pictures of anyone to appear as if they are singing a song”, and “apply visual effects to put you and a friend as the stars of your own animated music video”.

The social media platform says these new features will create a more immersive experience for its users as well as provide another platform for artists to their share music. Dennis Krooker from Sony Music Entertainment shared, “We are pleased to be expanding our relationship with Snap to develop new commercial opportunities for our artists around short form video and augmented reality experiences.”  


Spotify Acquires Audiobook Platform Findaway

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Spotify has been working to expand its streaming reach beyond music, investing millions into the growing podcast market and recently partnering with Shopify, to feature artists’ merchandise directly on their profiles. Now Spotify is moving onto audiobooks.

Spotify has shared its plans to acquire the audiobook distributor, Findaway. Founded in 2004, Findaway is an audiobook distribution platform that connects audiobook creators with selling partners including Apple, Google, Scribd, Audible, Nook, and many more. The company also operates Findaway Voice, a platform that pairs authors with professional narrators for companies like Audioworks and Playaway. 

Spotify has yet to share the financial terms of the deal but plans to bring in Findaway’s full team of about 150 employees.  Spotify’s Chief Research & Development Officer, Gustav Söderström announced, “We’re excited to combine Findaway’s team, best-in-class technology platform, and robust audiobook catalog with Spotify’s expertise to revolutionize the audiobook space as we did with music and podcasts.”

This expansion into the audiobook industry would make Spotify a commercial bookseller and an audiobook publisher, a first for the music streaming platform. 

Nir Zicherman, Spotify’s head of Audiobooks explained, “With this acquisition, the plan is to accelerate into the audiobooks space by expanding our platform.”  Zicherman added, “As an industry, we think there’s massive potential and growth ahead for audiobooks. Combining Spotify and Findaway and their amazing team and their amazing tech, the idea is to realize that future faster than we ever could as separate companies.”

This is a strategic move by Spotify, as the audiobook industry is predicted to grow from $3.3 billion to $15 billion over the next five years. 

Google Loses Appeal in E.U. Antitrust Breach Case

Google critics lobby EU's Vestager to take tougher antitrust action
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The EU’s General Court, the EU’s second-most senior court, has ruled in favor of the European Commission’s fine against Google in 2017 for an antitrust breach. According to the European Commission, Google favored its own shopping comparison services over rival services and fined Google for 2.42 billion euros ($2.8 billion). Google’s parent company, Alphabet, had appealed the decision but was dismissed by the General Court. 

In a press release the court announced, “The General Court finds that, by favoring its own comparison shopping service on its general results pages through more favorable display and positioning, while relegating the results from competing comparison services in those pages by means of ranking algorithms, Google departed from competition on the merits”. 

In response, a spokesperson for google told CNBC, “Shopping ads have always helped people find the products they are looking for quickly and easily, and helped merchants to reach potential customers. This judgement relates to a very specific set of facts and while we will review it closely, we made changes back in 2017 to comply with the European Commission’s decision.”Google has the option to appeal the verdict to the EU’s highest court.

This ruling has strengthened existing antitrust arguments against US tech firms made by Margrethe Vestager, the European Commissioner for Competition. Vestager is an aggressive antitrust enforcer and this case is one of three penalties issues by Vestager against Google.  Vestager’s legal argument in this case and other antitrust breaches is that big tech companies like Google are able to ‘self-preference”, explained by the court as “favoring its own comparison shopping service on its general results pages through more favorable display and positioning, while relegating the results from competing comparison services in those pages by means of ranking algorithms.” This is a direct violation of antitrust law.

Self-preferencing is common practice in the tech world, this case could set the precedent for antitrust laws regulating digital marketing, but not without difficulty. This case is proving that the EU and other courts have many limitations when it comes to regulating big tech companies despite Google loosing their appeal. In the United States, Google is also facing a lawsuit from Justice Department for similar anticompetitive behavior.

Meta Announces Removal Of Targeted Advertising Tools

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Facebook, now known as Meta, announced its plans to remove advertisers’ ability to create targeted ads and promotions based on data including race, religion, sexual orientation, geographical location, gender, and political affiliation. These changes will also be implemented in Meta’s apps including Facebook, Instagram and Facebook Messenger. 

The removal of data based advertising is planned to take effect on January 19th. Meta explained the changes to its targeting tools are to limit targeted advertisement abuse. In the past, there has been huge controversy surrounding abuse of data by advertisers. 

In one case, advertisers were using Facebook’s ad targeting tools to market body armor, gun accessories and rile enhancements to far-right militia groups on the platform. 

In another instance, Department of Housing and Urban Development sued Facebook in 2019 for permitting landlords and property sellers to restrict certain demographics from viewing their property postings based on users’ data like race, religion and ethnicity. 

Meta vowed to involve outside parties who took part in the legal settlement, including the American Civil Liberties Union, to test its ad systems to ensure the removal of ad based housing discrimination. They have also agreed to meet with groups and experts every six months over the next three years to continue testing. 

In response to complaints surrounding its ad targeting tools back in 2018, Facebook removed 5,000 ad targeting classifications to prevent advertisers from excluding certain demographics. 

Graham Mudd, a vice president of product marketing for Meta, announced, “We’ve heard concerns from experts that targeting options like these could be used in ways that lead to negative experiences for people in underrepresented groups.”

This is a drastic change to Meta’s business model as advertising accounts for $86 billion in annual revenue. This change is widely controversial as millions of businesses use the social network’s marketing and advertising tools to promote their businesses and expand their audience reach. Meta’s advertising technologies have proven more effective and affordable than traditional television commercials. 

The Facebook Papers

Photo Via T.J. Kirkpatrick from The New York Times


Former Facebook product manager, Frances Haugen, has come forward with a cache of internal messages, research, and documents that present internal concerns about the social media platform’s failure to regulate dangerous content and its adverse effects on children. Widely known as the Facebook Papers, include tens of thousands of pages and files collected by Haugen as well as redacted versions of news and articles from the Associated Press, The Atlantic, CNN, the Financial Times, Fox Business, Le Monde, The New York Times, NPR, Reuters and Süddeutsche Zeitung. Multiple US and European news outlets have followed suit and have published stories, research, documents, and presentations on Facebook and their failure to regulate the platform.

Haugen supplied the documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission before testifying at Congress and the UK Parliament on how the Facebook knowingly failed to filter misinformation, hate speech, and dangerous content across the platform. Haugen claims that the collection of data and internal documents prove that Facebook’s leadership continuously withheld information to maintain public image and profitability. Facebook declined to make an official statement but claimed that the internal documents are misleading and paint a “false picture” of the social media platform.

Among many experts, Haugen urged senators to implement regulations and antitrust initiatives to reduce the power the social media platform that is used by nearly half the world’s population. Several experts have suggest the formation of an independent regulatory agency and legal penalties for major media companies. This agency would include industry leaders and federal representative that would enact behavioral and privacy policies and well as regulations on the use of collected user data and information. For Facebook, this would require more transparency on internal affairs and policies and changes to its algorithms.

Spotify Partners With Shopify

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On Wednesday Spotify announced its partnership with Shopify, the e-commerce platform for online stores and retail. Artists will now be able to list merchandise and apparel for fans directly on their Spotify profiles. Global artists were already able to feature a link to their Shopify account to their Spotify profile but now users are able to view featured products directly on the streaming platform. According to Spotify, he new feature is currently still in its “beta” phase and only Spotify users in the the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K will able to view and purchase merchandise on the platform.

Spotify is offering several packages for artists linking their Shopify accounts to profiles. Packages range form $29/month for a basic package, to $299/month for the most advanced package which includes enhanced marketing reports. Spotify is offering a free 90 day trial for all artists linking their accounts for the first time.

Camille Hearst, head of Spotify for Artists, explained in a statement, “For many fans, Spotify is the primary way they interact with an artists’ music, and we are excited to give artists a new way to capitalize on that moment. The integration of Shopify’s powerful backend for powering commerce presents a significant step forward in our efforts to help artists maximize additional revenue streams and give them agency over their careers.”

The new Shopify feature offers inventory management technologies including automatically removing out-of-stock items from artists’ profile, instantly adding new products, offering print-on-demand services, and connecting artists with merchandise-fulfillment partners. The integration could offer additional revenue for artists without an establish merchandise website as well as encourage artists to create Shopify accounts.

Squid Game is Netflix’s Most Popular Series

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The popular Netflix series “Squid Game” has become their biggest title ever released. The South Korean show about indebted people participating in a deadly content for a cash prize, reached 111 million global views within the first 17 days of release. According to figures estimated by Bloomberg, Hwang Dong-Hyuk’s thriller will generate almost $900 million for the company. “Squid Game” reached the number one position on Netflix in 94 countries.

Compared to other original series produced on Netflix, “Squid Game” was relatively cheep to produce. Each episode cost roughly $2.4 million to produce, a total of $21.4 for the whole series according to Netflix’s performance metrics for the series. The document illustrated how successful the international series has been for Netflix as one of the most popular show ever.

With the success of many of its foreign films, Netflix has invested efforts in translating and dubbing foreign language films for international consumption. “Squid Game” further opens the door for international film production as more American’s consume foreign films and television. Netflix saves millions of dollars and avoids strict union regulations by filming internationally and hiring local talent and production crews.

Next Big Sound Will Be Shutting In November

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Next Big Sound, a New York-based company which provides analytics for online music, will shutting down effective November 1st. Next Big Sound allowed users to track mentions of bands and musical artists across several music social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter. NBS tracked music data across hundreds of thousands of artists and hundreds of billions of streams.

After being acquired by Pandora in 2015, its team will now work on Pandora’s Artist Marketing Platform. In a blog post NBS stated, “This is just the final step of a multi-year transition, and our team is excited to focus on improving and expanding the awesome marketing tools and data-driven insights available in Pandora’s Artist Marketing Platform. Pandora’s AMP tools have been the primary focus of our development and growth for two years already, and we’re really excited about the opportunities we can create for artists and creators across the industry on the AMP platform.”

Pandora’s AMP was launched in May of 2020 as a service for artists to find, engage, and market to their target listeners. Pandora’s AMP “allows creators to promote their music to more Pandora listeners and engage with fans more deeply through a free suite of powerful self-serve artist marketing tools.” Some of these tools include, artist audio messages, featured tracks, Pandora stories, and audience maps.

Youtube Terminates Anti-vaccine Accounts and Content

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Youtube is cracking down on COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and has announced a total ban on content falsely claiming that the vaccine is harmful or ineffective. Youtube has terminated the accounts of several prominent anti-vaccine influencers, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Joseph Mercola who have contributed to skepticism surrounding the vaccine and slowed vaccination rates in the United States. Since the ban, over 133,000 videos featuring coronavirus misinformation have been removed from the platform.

Youtube had existing policies on COVID-19 misinformation but this new ban had broadened its enforcement against content claiming the vaccine is dangerous or that vaccines are a cause of autism. The company announced, “We’re now at a point where it’s more important than ever to expand the work we started with COVID-19 to other vaccines.”

Anti-vaccine advocates have been using platforms like Youtube and Facebook for over a decade. In the past both platforms haven been reluctant to censor content arguing it challenges users’ rights to free speech. Matt Halprin, YouTube’s vice president of global trust and safety stated, “Developing robust policies takes time. We wanted to launch a policy that is comprehensive, enforceable with consistency and adequately addresses the challenge.”

TikTok Adds New Mental Health Resources

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Last week TikTok announced it would be adding new mental health resources for users struggling with suicidal ideations. The resources available include crisis call and text hotlines and advice on how to engage with someone in a crisis when a users searches #suicide.

In their announcement Tiktok stated, “We care deeply about our community, and we always look for new ways in which we can nurture their well-being.That’s why we’re taking additional steps to make it easier for people to find resources when they need them on TikTok.”

The updates to the app coincide with Suicide Prevention Awareness month, which takes place in September. Many users have turned to the app to speak out about mental health and wellbeing and to connect with other users struggling with anxiety and depression. The #MentalHealth hashtag has been viewed more than 16.4 billion times and the #MentalHealthMatters hashtag has been viewed over 13.5 billion times.

Professional say this is a step in the right direction for that app as research shows social media platforms can contribute to depression and anxiety, especially among young users. However, experts warn not to replace TikTok’s new resources with professional therapeutic and psychiatric care.