All posts in “advertising”

Snap’s earnings this week will once again test its place in the advertising universe


Snap will report its second earnings report this week, which will once again look to answer the question: is there room on the advertising spectrum for Snap?

The answer during its last earnings report (its first as a public company) was a resounding to be determined. The company’s stock has been hammered in the past several months falling well below its IPO price, which is not great news for all parties involved. Snap’s employees are probably the worst off here, who are still waiting for lockups to expire as they watch the stock tick lower and lower. For better or worse, that number is a constant indicator of their perceived success — and morale and retention is everything for a company with a creative product like Snap.

Chart time!

Its last earnings report included a pretty hefty loss, though a lot of it was due to stock-based compensation, our new favorite financial asterisk. The company brought in around $149.6 million in revenue on a loss of $2.31 per share, and user growth came in pretty soft as it now has to contend with a much larger product ripping off some of its best features.

This time around, Wall Street is expecting Snap to post a loss of 14 cents per share on revenue of $189.2 million. But the company is still going to be judged on its metrics — like daily active users — even though a company like Snap would die for Wall Street to look closer at other metrics like engaged minutes, daily logins or session time. That’s really their core pitch: they’re smaller than Facebook, but offer different formats and have a way more engaged user base. For Wall Street, that story is still in a sort of twilight zone.

The company has tried to make a number of moves during this quarter, in which the results may not actually end up actualizing til later this year given they are new products. But nonetheless, the company launched its own variation of an advanced advertising manager this week in order to woo big self-serve advertisers looking to launch aggressive campaigns. Snap launched self-serve advertising tools in June, also seemingly in an attempt to get that volume up.

Pinterest, too, has been known to roll out its products at a glacial pace though that’s sped up in recent quarters as it looks to figure out where to fit in the ad spectrum. But Snap might not have the luxury anymore to move so slowly as Facebook aggressively copies its products. Snap needs to be a company, not a product — the latter of which could just be copied and kneecap its growth if done right. That nightmare became reality in the form of Instagram stories, and the Facebook threat is simply not going to go away as the company can flip a switch and reach 2 billion users immediately.

Snap wants to be a camera company. That means it needs a portfolio of products and revenue streams. It does have its semi-nifty Spectacles sunglasses, but the story there too still has to play out before Wall Street is ready to consider it a metric they’re going to gauge for success. It may turn out that those sales explode and suddenly Snap has to be re-evaluated as a company, but that’s probably not going to happen.

Snap is definitely not a small app, but it still has a massive uphill pitch to advertisers that its products are driving real value. It means that it has to show attribution for its advertisers, where those firms know what kind of return on investment they’re getting for every dollar they pour into Snap. The company’s huge acquisition of Placed makes sense to that extent, as are its efforts to work with attribution firms like Nielsen. These kinds of tools are also going to be critical going forward as Snap looks to jump from experimental advertising budgets to something bigger and more important.

Snap is still an advertising company that has a lot of people using it every day. It’s still a company that faces the existential threat of Facebook, a much larger company with more resources and the ability to scale features instantly to billions of users. It still needs to prove to advertisers that it offers something unique (a problem that Pinterest and other new modern advertising companies have). And it has to show Wall Street that its story will be a successful one this time if it’s going to be taken seriously.

Google is testing a native ad blocker for Chrome on your phone

Your Google Chrome mobile experience is about to get better.
Your Google Chrome mobile experience is about to get better.

Image: imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock

Google is making a move to upgrade your mobile browsing experience in future versions of Chrome. The search giant is finally banishing those distracting ads that make it more difficult to navigate websites on mobile device’s smaller screens. 

The latest version of the Google’s experimental mobile browser, Chrome Canary, includes a built-in setting that allows users to block websites from showing ads that the search giant deems to be “intrusive.” The barred content includes things like pop-up ads, interstitials, and autoplay video —which have all long been some of the biggest gripes in mobile internet browsing. 

The new ad blocker is surprisingly the default setting for the latest Chrome build, making it clear that Google is preparing to wage war against bad mobile ads, or at least against third-party ad blocking software that has become popular in the last decade. 

We downloaded the new Canary build to confirm that the blocker exists for ourselves after it was spotted by TechCrunch. You can try it, too, if you’re feeling adventurous; just download Chrome Canary from Google Play, head to its Site settings section, and open the “Ads” tab.  

Image: screenshot/google

You’ll notice the ad blocker is enabled automatically, giving users a more streamlined, distraction-free experience by default.

Image: Screenshot / google

The move to build a quality check against ads on mobile isn’t that surprising. The feature was first teased back in April, with reports claiming that the mobile version of Chrome would be the first arena Google would draw up a line against the ads and give the company, the largest purveyor of ads online, even more power over the industry.    

Apple has followed suit in choosing user experience over ads, blocking autoplay videos and throttling ad tracking technology on its Safari mobile browser.

Google’s native ad blocker is definitely part of the Canary build, but we still don’t know when it might reach the consumer version of Chrome for Android, or when it will expand across the aisle to iOS. Google’s reps haven’t yet responded to our requests for comment, so we’ll update the story as soon as we know more.  

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A $99 ‘subscription’ will be the beginning of the end for Twitter

Image: Bloomberg via Getty Images

You know that guy on Twitter. He (or she) is always firing off what they’re up to (no matter how mundane), commenting on every trending hashtag, and often tossing out flashes of #dailyinsight.

This is the Twitter Influencer™, and it’s a species as old as Twitter itself. Even if you don’t value what this kind of person has to say, chances are you follow a couple of them—maybe because you once met them in real life and thought they seemed okay, or you clicked on a few of them when you were new to Twitter. Or maybe you were simply curious what the hell a professional influencer does all day.

Now imagine if the top of your feed was mostly tweets from so-called influencers, with a bunch of tweets from brands thrown in for good measure.

It’s hard to imagine a change to Twitter better designed to make me leave the service for good. But that appears to be where the service is heading with today’s news that Twitter is testing a monthly $99 subscription. The idea is you pay roughly a hundred bucks a month and Twitter will boost your overall presence on the site, ensuring your tweets appear in your followers’ feeds more often, and your profile surfaces more often in searches.

This is a fundamentally different tool than Twitter’s Promoted Tweets, which are specific and generally about a single idea or product. Businesses use those in pretty straightforward ways, but the new tool appears to be the lazy man’s version of that—when a user doesn’t have any kind of specific campaign or product to plug, but just wants an overall bump.

The tool is clearly not for celebrities; they already have massive followings and simply don’t need it. While Twitter says the new subscription is meant for small- and medium-size businesses, it would clearly be invaluable to those who stake their careers and reputations on their ability to reach people through the service, or for those who wish to. The price is low enough for even sole proprietorships to take advantage, and I’m sure every “social media guru” is considering it.

That’s why this change, more than any other in recent months, has the potential to finally push Twitter into a death spiral. If they make this change, and all those influencers start to pepper users’ feeds, those users will start to tune out—first out of the feed and then out of the app itself. Eventually it’ll be nothing but influencers talking over other influencers, perhaps instigating some kind of catastrophic social-media singularity where online conversation folds in on itself.

Certainly, Twitter will tightly manage the product so you won’t be overloaded with these tweets. But it’s a pointless change if it doesn’t drive engagement, and I can’t think of a type of Twitter user I’d want to engage with less.

I get the need for revenue, but I don’t know if Twitter has considered how destructive this subset of its users might be to the face of the brand. Earlier this year Twitter CTO Anthony Noto dismissed the idea that it would charge monthly fees for basic access, but honestly I’d sooner pay $5 a year for using Twitter than see my feed get flooded with tons of #motivation.

So step back from the cliff, Twitter. You win. You don’t have to destroy yourself to make things work financially, but you may need to start seriously asking your broader user base: What’s it worth to you?

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This new hologram could make Star Wars chess a reality

The holographic chess match played between the droid R2-D2 and Chewbacca in Star Wars: A New Hope could become possible in the near future.

Researchers from the University of Utah have developed an inexpensive way to create full-color 2D and 3D holograms. The scientists are able to produce brighter holograms than currently available and can be viewed at almost any angle, making them appear more realistic than ever before.

Rajesh Menon, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, led the team. Their research paper, “Full Color, Large Area, Transmissive Holograms Enabled by Multi-Level Diffractive Optics”, was published in Scientific Reports on Wednesday. 

Menon and his team read recent papers on hologram production and realized that they could do a significantly better job at a lower cost. Once the team got rolling, it only took them about two months to complete the project.

“Conventional holograms suffer from two big problems.”

“Conventional holograms suffer from two big problems. First, their efficiency over a full color range is quite low. This results in holograms that are very dim. Second, the image projected by conventional holograms changes with viewing angle,” said Menon, the lead researcher. 

“We solved these problems by coming up with new ways of designing the nanostructures that make up the hologram and with new more precise ways of manufacturing these nanostructures,” he added.

Basically, they use new algorithms to recycle white light by redirecting it, so it won’t be absorbed into  material nearby. Because none of the light is absorbed, it’s all reused in the image, giving you brighter colors and a more realistic hologram. 

Everyone on the team has always been fascinated by holograms, and Star Wars was one of their biggest inspirations. They believe that the new technology could even make the Chewbacca and R2-D2 chess game a reality.

These holograms could also be awesome additions to amusements rides and other entertainment, like the chess game, holographic photos and videos for advertising, and moving 3-D video. But it could also have larger implications beyond Hollywood. 

Menon and his team believe the new holograms could be used to improve currency and identification badgers. They could create full-color photographs on foreign money to make them more identifiable. And if they were integrated into personal identification badges, like passports and driver’s licenses, all an official would have to do is point a flashlight at them to make sure they’re legitimate. 

Because these holograms use less complicated technology than other holograms, it also means that they can be created more easily and at a lower cost. 

“Its hard to predict costs because of many parameters that are outside the control of the technologist. Nevertheless, I am confident that the costs will be quite low, especially at high volumes,” said Menon. “The manufacturing process that we can use for these holograms is similar to the ones used in security holograms in currency notes, credit cards, and ID cards. Therefore, we believe that the costs can be quite low.”

Rajesh Menon is the team lead on the project.

Rajesh Menon is the team lead on the project.

Image: university of utah college of engineering 

Although the team’s holograms were only created in two dimensions, Menon thinks there is a lot of potential for more. It should be pretty straightforward to extend them into 3D and then 4D, which Menon described as 3D and time to create a holographic video.

“These can even be incorporated into virtual-reality or augmented-reality experiences in the future,” said Menon. “I strongly believe that technologies such as these can dramatically enhance education, entertainment and many other fields in the future.”

Menon also created a company called PointSpectrum to research the new technology and more commercial uses for it. If this invention really gets underway, look out for holograms to start becoming a part of almost every aspect of your life. 

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Time Warner will spend $100M on Snapchat original shows and ads


Time Warner and Snap Inc. have announced a new deal that will bring increased ad spending and the development of new made-for-Snapchat shows. People familiar with the deal tell TechCrunch that it is valued at about $100 million spent over the next two years.

The newly created shows will span a variety of genres, including scripted drama, daily news shows, documentaries and comedy. The shows will be similar to those already released by other networks on Snapchat, and run 3-5 minutes in a vertical format. Right now there is about one new show airing per day – this deal will push that to about three news shows per day, varying between the different genres outlined above.

Snap will take 50 percent of the ad revenue generated by these shows and the content partners will keep the other half, according to the WSJ.

While these new shows will definitely tempt users to spend more time watching content in the Snapchat app, they likely won’t create the buzz that the social network needs to convince users that Snapchat is the best place to watch new content.

Instead the company should focus on obtaining a giant blockbuster – in the style of Game of Thrones or House of Cards – that will generate the water cooler buzz that is needed to turn Snapchat into a place where users turn to for real entertainment.

On the advertising side, Time Warner will commit to investing in ads from Time Warner properties like HBO, Turner and Warner Bros. on Snapchat – a big vote of confidence for the young social media company.

This deal comes at the perfect time for Snap, as Wall Street has been punishing the company’s stock price after bad earnings and reduced confidence in Snap’s ability to monetize via advertising.

Snap’s stock is up 2 percent today on the news, pushing it about a dollar above its IPO price of $17.