The Digital Download: Facebook and Amazon soar, while Yahoo struggles

A book highlights Yahoo’s problematic finances on the eve of its bidding day, as Facebook and Amazon each become more competitive in a new area.

This week in digital, just like every other week in digital ever, Facebook has some news. The tech powerhouse announced some upcoming video offerings that will help it stack up against Snapchat and Periscope in the live-streaming space.

Similarly, a new program by Amazon makes the company competitive with Apple Pay, PayPal and Visa. Meanwhile, the Media Ratings Council (MRC) seeks to increase both viewability and transparency, Nielsen and Time Warner Cable aim to understand virtual reality (VR) better, and some bleak numbers are released around during Yahoo’s pre-sale period.

Facebook moves into live video

A new form of Facebook video ad was a highlight last week. On Wednesday, the social media giant beefed up its video offerings some more, with a prominent video tab in the Messenger app. But that’s not all.

Facebook is also making live video more easily-sharable through Facebook Groups and Events, an update that will also include filters, reactions and viewer measurement. Along with the recent algorithm tweak, this demonstrates that live video is a growing focus for Facebook, especially as Snapchat becomes a stronger adversary.

In addition, Facebook also reportedly plans to pay publishers to livestream on an upcoming video hub, rather than their own channels. The new features will all roll out in the coming weeks.

New program makes Amazon more competitive in mobile payments

With the popularity of mobile payments on the rise, Amazon launched its Amazon Payment Global Partner Program on Monday. The program will help merchants integrate with Amazon Payments, making it easier for them offer “Pay with Amazon” during their own checkout processes.

These merchants can take advantage of Amazon’s huge audience, while increasing conversions by simplifying shopping without a need to register, or create a new username or password. It also benefits Amazon; by making its own payment option easier and more widespread, the ecommerce giant can better take on companies like Apple, PayPal and Visa.

To start, the Amazon Payment Global Partner Program is invite-only, in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Japan.


MRC brings viewability standards to mobile

As more web browsing moves happens on our phones, the MRC has created a set of viewability guidelines for mobile devices. The standards are more or less the same as those for desktop, calling for 50 percent of the ad to be viewable for at least one second, or two seconds, if it’s a video ad.

In-app ads initially had to be fully loaded before being considered viewable, but now the guidelines apply to both the mobile web and apps, where people spend the majority of their time. For now, the MRC is holding off on creating specific standards around ads appearing in newsfeeds; the organization wants to spend more time analyzing user cognition first.

That’s not all the MRC was up to this week. On Monday, the watchdog organization announced a new group that will review the methods and data of those who evaluate agency media plans and buys. The idea is to increase transparency and reduce the variability that so often exists within media ratings data.

Nielsen and Time Warner aim to get to the bottom of virtual reality

VR is hot at the moment, but there’s still an air of mystery around the technology. Marketers are still figuring out how virtual content can be monetized, while Nielsen and Time Warner aim to figure out how it actually affects those who view it.

On Tuesday, the two companies announced a three-year partnership centered on studying the way video content registers with viewers’ subconscious, measuring eye-tracking, facial movement, heart rate and brain activity. Other research will look at shifts in attention, memory activation and emotional motivation.

Time Warner is in the midst of constructing a VR facility at its New York Medialab, where most of the research will take place.


Yahoo looks to be in bad shape as sale looms

With initial bids for Yahoo due Monday, the tech giant’s finances are in shambles, according to the book the company’s bankers have passed out to perspective buyers. Having seen the book, Re/code‘s Kara Swisher reported the bleak numbers contained therein.

Yahoo has made several big changes in recent years, such as a search partnership with Mozilla and shifting its focus to a series of digital magazines. Most of the latter were axed in February, however.

Revenue is estimated to drop 15 percent this year, following a decline from $4.4 billion to $4.1 billion from 2014 to 2015. Earnings are also projected to drop to $750 million, while the company expects to lay off about 1,500 employees.


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