2018 saw some world-changing events across social media and technology platforms. Here is a round-up of some of the key moments which affected the publishing and media industry.
Facebook announces a Newsfeed overhaul, deprioritising publishers. The year didn’t get off to a fantastic start, with a post from Zuckerberg announcing a series of changes to the NewsFeed, temporarily wiping $3.3 billion off the value of the company. He stated that users would see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media, and instead would focus on ‘meaningful interactions’.
Facebook launches the Local News Subscriptions Accelerator; a $3 million three-month pilot program in the US to help local newspapers take their digital subscriptions business to a new level. The scheme has since been expanded with a further $4.5 million from the platform, thanks to “overwhelming feedback and support from the industry”.
Snap stock plummets on the back of a tweet from Kylie Jenner. The celebrity, one of Snapchat’s most popular users, tweeted “sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad”. The tweet added up to a $1.5 billion loss in market value for Snap. The platform ended up in more hot water a few weeks later following a controversial ad appearing on the app featuring Rihanna and Chris Brown. Rhianna lambasted Snap for allowing the advert, wiping a further $800m off the value of the company.
Twitter turns its first quarterly profit, in the start of a positive financial year for the social media giant. The $91 million profit happened despite stagnating user growth.
Apple acquires digital magazine service Texture, a magazine virtual newsstand that’s known as the ‘Netflix of magazines’. At the time of writing, there are few confirmed plans about what Apple plans to do going forward, but there are plenty of rumours about its evolution, covered nicely in a piece from Bloomberg.
Google announces a $300m Google News Initiative. The money, committed over three years, will go towards various products and initiatives intended to help news publishers (note that this is separate from Google’s Digital News Initiative, which is a series of grants for European publishers).
Whistleblower Christopher Wylie breaks the Cambridge Analytica scandal, triggering a series of events that would cost Facebook millions of users in the West, and significantly alter the world’s view of the tech giant. Zuckerberg took out apology adverts in UK and US newspapers, before shutting off third-party data targeting at the end of March to improve trust in the platform.
Mark Zuckerberg is called to appear before Congress over the Cambridge Analytica scandal. He was grilled for almost five hours on topics from internet regulation and fake news to foreign interference and privacy policies. The Drum has an excellent round-up of the key takeaways for media professionals.
Snapchat’s redesigned redesign starts rolling out, following a much-derided redesign late last year which ended up with 1.2 million people signing a petition asking the company to restore the original UI. The update put Snaps and Chats back in chronological order, as well as a separate ‘Subscriptions’ feed for stories from publishers and creators.
Medium unexpectedly cancels the membership programs of its remaining publisher partners. Although publishers were informed that the company was planning to discontinue memberships, it wasn’t communicated properly or in enough time to the 21 publishers still using the program.
The ‘Trending’ sidebar is removed from Facebook, following a series of mishaps last year with bias and fake news. Facebook instead says that they will focus on breaking news labels, its local ‘Today in’ section and news video in Watch.
Instagram launches IGTV to celebrate hitting 1 billion users. The long-form video service is taking direct aim at YouTube, and has been formatted so that all videos play vertically.
YouTube puts $25 million toward news initiatives as part of the Google News Initiative announced in March. The money is aimed at hiring more specialists to support publishers and to help publishers build their own video operations.
Slow user growth and revenue sends Facebook stock tumbling 21%, in the first sign that the platform may not be invincible. Their quarterly report showed that user growth was bad, and revenue growth was only just okay.
Twitter’s own quarterly report came out, showing tumbling user growth but revenues holding steady following a purge of fake and spam accounts. The company said it lost 1 million monthly active users from the previous quarter, but video ads and booming international ad revenue were among factors that brought in higher-than-expected revenue. Looks like real people are more valuable than inflated user numbers…
Snapchat loses 3 million daily users in three months. It’s the first time the user count dropped in the company’s history, following Facebook’s relentless copying of features and an ill-fated redesign. But it’s not all bad news; overall revenue increased by 11.9% over the quarter.
Facebook injects a further $4.5 million into its local news accelerator, with a focus on memberships for local news groups.
Facebook Watch launches globally following a trial in the US. Watch is the platform’s TV-style service, aiming to rival YouTube and Twitch, monetised through ad breaks modelled on TV commercials.
Instagram’s co-founders resign following reports of clashes with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook appoints Adam Mosseri, who did significant work on the platform’s news feed and mobile products, as the new head of Instagram a week later.
Facebook faces a security meltdown, exposing more than 50 million user accounts. The flaw also affected any accounts on third-party sites that users logged into using their Facebook credentials.
Facebook debuts Portal, its video calling device, priced at $199. Timing is really not the company’s strong point, releasing the device just days after reporting a massive security breach.
Google closes its own social network Google+ after a huge security flaw is exposed. Google is heavily criticised as it had known about the flaw since March, but had chosen not to report it.
A lawsuit emerges suggesting Facebook may have knowingly inflated its video metrics for over a year. Publishers are outraged, with some blaming the closure of a number of outlets earlier in the year on this dependency on false metrics following the ‘pivot to video’.
Snapchat launches its own set of original shows as part of a big push to get younger generations watching video daily on the app. Shows will typically be around 5 minutes, and will use Snapchat’s AR lenses ‘to get users highly engaged’.
Zuckerberg refuses demands to appear before an international ‘Grand Committee’ of nine national parliaments, headed up by the UK and Canada. Instead, he sends Richard Allan, its vice president of policy solutions. Shortly before the hearing, Damian Collins invokes an ancient parliamentary law to seize a cache of confidential Facebook documents.
Snapchat loses a further 2 million users over Q3, sending the share price crashing 9.3%. However, CEO Spiegel still aims to be profitable in 2019.
LinkedIn launches a Stories-style slideshow for university students in the US. It lets students post short videos to a’ Campus Playlist’ that disappear after a week, and the platform has confirmed that it plans to launch the feature for more users in the near future.
Google announces that it is developing a voice-driven version of Google News for smart speakers and phones. The move is to try and make news briefings more appealing to consumers by delivering personalised audio news feeds, and has been developed after the company worked with 130 publishers.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai appears before Congress, facing questions on political bias, Chinese censorship and data privacy.
YouTube looks to phase out its $9.99-a-month YouTube Red subscription service following a lacklustre take-up among its core young audience, who are used to YouTube being free.
Facebook cuts funding for some news shows on its Watch platform. Although it plans to keep overall funding for news content the same at $90 million, some of the money will be shifted to fund news programs overseas.
This timeline was compiled in our Media Moments 2018 report. Read the full chapter on how publisher’s relationship with platforms has developed over 2018 by downloading the report here.