Nielsen Delays Total Content Ratings; Google Struggles With Its Liberal Identity

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Dream Deferred

“Nielsen won't release a syndicated product of its Total Content Ratings as it originally planned on March 1,” writes Ad Age, after a chorus of TV broadcast execs called on Nielsen to pump the brakes last week. Though, to be exact, Nielsen originally planned to syndicate the metric a year ago, but was rebuffed then too by broadcasters who considered the ratings unfit for prime time. For the moment, the dream of a single, transparent, cross-channel audience score remains just that. More.

DC Vs. Silicon Valley

Google is trying to balance its fundamental liberalness with a Republican-controlled government. Eric Schmidt, chairman of Alphabet, was an Obama adviser and bankrolled the tech startup behind Hillary Clinton’s campaign, while Google’s 70,000 or so employees are a strong Democratic donor pool. Now Schmidt is on a Republican charm offensive, and Google is hiring up conservatives to help with the charge. Some think it’s an impossible task. Google is inevitably going to voice opposition to administration policy (as with Trump’s recent immigration order). “Even though (Google) has reached out to Republicans, it can’t shake the image” of being a liberal company, said Gigi Sogn, former senior adviser to departed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. More at The New York Times.

The Good Fight

Good Worldwide, a liberal media and consulting company, is absorbing the viral news publisher Upworthy. Since its founding four years ago, Upworthy has been buffeted by cruel winds. It was a breakout news aggregator in 2012, but switched to original content in 2015 and then last year pivoted to video in pursuit of bigger ad budgets. Each of those changes, including its merger with Good last Friday, was accompanied by layoffs. Upworthy will remain an independent brand within Good, which also operates the liberal news network Good.is and a brand content studio. More at Politico.

Powerful Voices

The online search market has been practically cornered for decades, but voice-activated search is loosening Google’s iron grip. Amazon sold as many as 10 million Echo home devices over the holidays and Apple is swiftly developing its HomeKit software for iPhone, which connects Siri to home devices, Reuters reports. Investors have voiced concerns about Google falling behind in connected home devices. “It looks to me like Google devices are being outsold by 10 to one, or something like that, in a lot of homes,” Mark Mahaney of RBC Capital Markets said on Alphabet’s Q4 earnings call. But CEO Sundar Pichai noted that it is “very early days” for voice search and he feels “very comfortable about how this will play out in the future.” Recode has more.

Differential Privacy

Apple published its first AI research paper in December. Last week, it became the sixth founding member of the Partnership on AI, joining Google, Facebook, Amazon, IBM and Microsoft. It should come as no surprise that Apple’s iOS update features a policy change allowing it to gather data from iCloud accounts to improve Siri and its AI-driven software. Apple has “lagged behind data-mining rivals such as Google in developing machine-learning-powered technologies and embedding them into its software and services,” Natasha Lomas writes at TechCrunch. Apple’s privacy standards remain the most stringent  – it doesn’t use data-mining to personalize or enhance account targeting, for instance – but it wants to close the gap as far as it can. More.

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