January 10, 2018 By Zak Mehan
What do a YouTube vlogger and large-scale protests in Iran have in common? Nothing, you may be saying to yourself. Hear us out. Two seemingly unrelated stories making headlines this week underscore that it may be a new year, but the conversation surrounding social media regulation hasn’t lost any steam.
First up: Iran. In the country’s largest display of discontent since 2009, protestors have taken to the streets to express their anger over government corruption and the country’s foundering economy. But 2009’s protests were markedly different from today’s in one key way: the number of people using smartphones in the country has increased from one million to 48 million. The role social media has played in these protests became eminently clear when the government responded with a “temporary” block on Instagram and Telegram (Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have been banned since 2009). We’ve (sadly) grown used to discussions about the role of government crackdowns and the physical presence of police when it comes to organized protest both at home and abroad, but if this story is any indication these discussions may soon grow to include social media blackouts.
Meanwhile, on YouTube, vlogging “star” Logan Paul has been giving Alphabet, his advertising sponsors and parents across the world quite the headache. Paul, who built his fame on the now-defunct video platform Vine, has over 15 million YouTube subscribers. A video posted by Paul showing a dead body hanging in Japan’s “suicide forest” was met with outrage that YouTube (and parent company Alphabet) hadn’t banned Paul’s account. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen outcry about “shock value” content, and it certainly isn’t the last. But as incidents like this continue to make headlines, it will become harder and harder for YouTube and advertisers to turn a blind eye. When, and how, they finally react could change the way both casual users and “influencers” interact with the platform.
At the end of the day, one thing is clear: the shift from a Wild West content free-for-all to more censorship and regulation is likely to continue. Neither politically-motivated nor commercially-motivated regulation should come as a surprise to any of us (see the U.S. Presidential election), but we move into the new year as we left the old one, with new efforts at both legislative and self-regulation of these tech giants from of mind.
ESPN triumphantly announced an innovative new pivot in its ad sales tactics: target women. It probably says a lot about our culture that “women like sports!” is a revelation, but be that as it may, we’ll pivot away from cultural criticisms and towards data analytics here.
Almost every mid-to-large-sized company sits on a trove of data, some richer than others. What you do with this data could be the difference between success and failure. Communications plans are the same way. Social media, survey and customer data have made it easier than ever to understand your audience. As with ESPN, your audience is probably not as one-dimensional as you might imagine.
If you dig deep enough into your data, really leveraging every point you have, there’s a good chance you will find some stones to overturn with lucrative treasures hidden underneath – from new customers to brand ambassadors and fans you didn’t even know you had.
Major investments are being made by Chinese internet giants Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba into U.S. media and tech companies. A major reason for this – besides being able to take a peek at the inner workings of some of the sophisticated ad tech companies – is to reach Chinese students, tourists and expats in the U.S., projected to hit 10 million by 2021.
Minus the politics, companies would be wise to see the value in this audience of typically affluent and highly-educated professionals. If Chinese media companies or social media channels start to have a larger presence in the U.S., these individuals will require targeting across channels relatively untapped by U.S.-based communications and marketing practitioners.
We’ll be closely watching while lawmakers have their say over whether they are comfortable with China’s proximity to sensitive technologies (and user data).
Cross-examining the network: The year in digital and social media research Nieman Lab
Facebook is shutting down M, its personal assistant service that combined humans and AI The Verge
Scoop: WaPo hits 2nd year of profitability, plans expansion Axios
16.5% of Americans hope Giphy dies. How? How?!