Google: Damned If They Do, Damned If They Don't

Experts look ahead to how government regulation will impact digital marketing. Updates to Instagram & LinkedIn. And is the podcast market in jeopardy?

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If all goes as planned, you will be receiving this email when I finish my first half-marathon. It's a pretty big milestone for a guy who wore 'husky' pants for much of his childhood. 😳

Wish me luck


🔎 Search

Investigation into Google’s ‘Privacy Sandbox’ browser changes - GOV.UK

On 7 January 2021, the CMA launched an investigation under Chapter II of the Competition Act 1998 into suspected breaches of competition law by Google. The investigation concerns Google’s proposals to remove third party cookies (TPCs) on Chrome and replace TPCs functionality with a range of ‘Privacy Sandbox’ tools, while transferring key functionality to Chrome.

Amidst the Apple vs Facebook scuffle, you have to admit it is ironic Google is coming under antitrust scrutiny for removing cookie-tracking functionality. 

🗣 Social

TikTok surges past Facebook in average monthly time spent per user

TikTok users in the UK almost doubled the time they spent using the app last year, from an average of 10.8 hours a month among Android users in 2019 to 19.6 in 2020, according to research from mobile data and analytics company App Annie’s state of mobile report.

The increase resulted in the short-form video-sharing platform overtaking Facebook, which grew its average hours per month from 14.3 to 16.6. TikTok is also well ahead on this measure against Facebook's other three main apps: Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

The data for other countries shows similar trends, with the average monthly hours spent using TikTok roughly doubling in the US, France and Germany.

LinkedIn Adds Swipe-Up Links to LinkedIn Stories | Social Media Today

As you can see in these screenshots, posted by social media expert Matt Navarra, the new option enables you to add a 'See more' prompt to your LinkedIn Stories, which will link through to a URL of your choosing. You can add a URL via a new 'link' icon in your Stories options, at the top right of the composer screen. 

🎙️ Audio

Apple Plans Podcasting Subscription Service in Threat to Spotify — The Information

Apple—long considered the sleeping giant in the podcast space—is waking up. The company, which runs the most widely used podcasting app in the industry, is discussing launching a new subscription service that would charge people to listen to podcasts, according to people familiar with the matter.

Such a service could pose a threat to Spotify, SiriusXM, Amazon and other big companies that have in the past couple of years swallowed up podcasting production firms in an effort to gain more control of the podcast ad market. By charging for individual podcasts, Apple could potentially offer podcast creators a chance to make more money, drawing them to its orbit and away from rivals.

⚖️ Legislation

Are We Entering a New Era of Social Media Regulation?

...now that Democrats have won the presidency and both Congressional chambers, we’re likely to see robust reforms in a slate of technology regulation areas including privacy, market competition, and algorithmic transparency. While the Obama administration’s baseline privacy proposal effectively stalled out in a gridlocked Congress, the Biden administration will have the support of a Democratic-majority House and Senate, likely enabling them to advance comprehensive privacy regulations. For example, a potential low-hanging fruit is the Honest Ads Act, the digital political ad transparency bill spearheaded by Senator Mark Warner but stymied by a Republican Congress. If the bill is re-introduced, the now-Democratic Congress will most likely support it, offering a potential quick win for privacy advocates.

🛍 Marketplace

88% of marketers say collecting first-party data is a 2021 priority, study says | Marketing Dive

Forty-one percent of marketers say digital media activation will be the area most impacted due to the rise of privacy-related data restrictions, per Merkle's 2021 Customer Engagement Report that was emailed to Marketing Dive. In addition, web analytics (39%), digital media measurement (35%) and direct marketing activation (35%), among other areas, are expected to be impacted.

With that in mind, 52% of respondents said their organizations have prioritized digital experiences and/or strategies with the goal of collecting more first-party data. Overall, collecting and storing first-party data over the next six to 12 months is a high (58%) or even the highest priority (30%) among marketers.

First-party data is also my #1 recommendation to clients in 2021. 

🏬 Brick & Mortar

The future of physical retail | Vogue Business

“The physical store is to give support and give service. It’s the easy way to show who you are to the consumer.”

Loro Piana chief executive Fabio d’Angelantonio says that 2020 served as an “accelerator of relationship permission”, with customers becoming more interested in brands they relate to. “The store and your sales associate remain the heart of the relationship,” he says, but “it’s much broader today. I would never have expected to have a sales Zoom”. Virtual-meeting sales with an associate in a store and a customer at home are now common.

📦 Distribution

Amazon, Walmart Tell Consumers to Skip Returns of Unwanted Items - WSJ

We covered this last week, but Morning Brew caught a detail I missed: 

The WSJ notes that refunds make sense at opposite ends of the returns spectrum: for items so small they’re pocket change, or items so big they’re too heavy to re-ship. Middle ground items still can go back where they came from.

E-Commerce Returns Rose 70% in 2020

Return rates normally hover between 25–30%, Retail Brew reports, but more online shopping and bracketing (buying multiple sizes of the same item) during the pandemic have pushed that higher. In 2020, returns rose 70% year-over-year, per Narvar.

Air Cargo Construction Is Booming, Thanks to Amazon - The New York Times

Since the pandemic started nearly a year ago, 15,000 fewer people arrive and depart daily from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, known as CVG. Yet the 60 percent drop in passenger traffic is not so apparent on the airport’s four runways, which are handling a record amount of air cargo — nearly 4,000 tons a day.

Ranked by the Federal Aviation Administration as the nation’s sixth-largest cargo airport, CVG’s standing is about to climb higher.

Amazon Air, the e-commerce giant’s five-year-old cargo airline, is completing a 798,000-square-foot sorting center, seven-level parking structure and acres of freshly poured concrete to accommodate 20 aircraft. The new facility, under construction on a 640-acre site along the airport’s southern boundary, is scheduled to open in the fall. It represents about a third of the $1.5 billion, three-million-square-foot air cargo hub Amazon is committed to building at CVG.

Amazon's logistics arm is investing in more than just airplanes

👋 Holla!

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