Google’s and Facebook’s share of the U.S. ad market could decline for the first time, thanks to Amazon and Snapchat

Google and Facebook — the world’s biggest online ad companies — could see their share of U.S. digital advertising decline for the first time, thanks to slowing growth and competition from the likes of Amazon and Snap.

Google’s share is expected to decline from 38.6 percent last year to 37.2 percent in 2018, according to digital measurement firm eMarketer, while Facebook could shrink slightly from 19.9 to 19.6 percent.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s ad business is expected to grow to nearly 3 percent of the market in that same period from 2 percent last year, for a total of $2.9 billion in ad revenue for 2018. Snap’s share of the ad market is expected to grow from 0.6 percent last year to 1 percent this year. Both Amazon and Snap ad shares are expected to grow through 2020.

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Google opens its Slack competitor, Hangouts Chat, to everyone

After months of testing, Google is opening its business messaging platform, Hangouts Chat, to everyone. The Slack-like service for team communication is now open to all of the company’s business customers who use its G Suite services.

Hangouts Chat, first unveiled nearly a year ago, is a lot like Slack in that teams can communicate in group chat and one-to-one messages. It also supports integrations with third-party apps and bots.

Google is a relatively late entrant to the business-messaging software game. At this point, Slack and Microsoft, with its Teams app, both have significant head-starts. But there are a few areas where Google is hoping to differentiate itself from the competition.

 

By being directly integrated into all the Google services businesses are already using, like Drive and and Google Calendar, Hangouts Chat can streamline tasks like file sharing and scheduling meetings. For example, Google’s meeting-scheduling bot will be able to automatically schedule team meetings based on each person’s calendar.

Google has a total of 25 bots available on Hangouts Chat today — far fewer than the thousands that Slack has — but that number is likely to rise now that the service has reached general availability.

Hangouts Chat is available now to all G Suite users on desktop and iOS and Android in 28 languages.

Google brings six-second video previews to mobile search

dg8lmkuo0wdqsqylawnkvuks-d6-1yxjrnfwu5isbockxonjo4nvd5s0e4v4zhcullznuws400Google announced a major update to its mobile search results pages today. Whenever your query brings up a video, Google will now show you a silent six-second clip to help you decide if it’s actually a video you want to see.

This will work for the vast majority of videos on the web today — including, but not limited to, YouTube. Indeed, as Emily Moxley, Google’s director of product management for this project, told me, any video on the web is eligible for inclusion, though Google may not have a preview for some of the newest videos available yet because it takes the servers a bit of time to build the previews.

Even though video is getting more and more popular, it’s no secret that it’s not always the most convenient way to get information. A thumbnail isn’t going to give you a lot of information about what the actual video is going to look like, after all (and video producers have gotten pretty smart about which thumbnails will generate the most clicks…).

Ideally, Google’s new feature will remove at least some of this ambiguity so you know that you won’t be wasting time on some boring gongoozling video when you’re looking for the real thing. Google’s canonical example involves looking for salsa dancing videos. Some videos may simply show you professionals at work, while others will actually teach you the steps.

Unsurprisingly, Google decided to use some of its machine learning smarts to enable this feature. That’s because the first six seconds of any given video aren’t usually the most representative ones. So Google’s algorithm actually analyzes the whole video and then decides which six-second clip to pick. While the team didn’t want to delve into the details of how this algorithm decides what to show, Google product manager Prashant Baheti told me that the algorithm looks at what’s in the different scenes in a video, where those scenes start and end, and which scenes best represent the video.

What the algorithm doesn’t do, though, is look at your query. Unlike the previously launched Featured Snippet, which directly links you to the relevant answer to one of your questions in a video, the snippets are always the same. Moxley noted that this is something the company is looking at, though.

It’s worth noting that these previews do not feature any ads and by default, they will only play when you are using a WiFi connection. If you want, you can enable video previews on mobile networks, too, or even completely opt out of them in the settings for both the Google app and Google Chrome for Android.

For now, this feature is only available on mobile, both through the Google app and in Chrome. It’s not available on the desktop yet. A Google spokesperson argued that this is because the company now focuses on its mobile users, though I can’t think of any major limitation of the desktop platform that would prevent the company from rolling this out across all platforms.

Google Chrome Will Automatically Block Annoying Ads

304842353_1620170601Google’s Chrome browser will soon come with preinstalled technology that will block the most annoying ads currently marring the web experience, the company confirmed on Thursday.

Publishers will be able to understand how they will be affected through a tool Google is dubbing “The Ad Experience Report.” It will basically score a publisher’s site and inform them which of their ads are “annoying experiences.”

At the same time, Chrome will give publishers the option to force a choice on people running their own ad blocking software: whitelist the site so its non-annoying ads can display or pay a small fee to access the content ad-free.

The moves, which had been anticipated since word got out in April but hadn’t been previously confirmed by Google, will impact the entire advertising ecosystem because Chrome is the most popular web browser for both desktop and mobile.

“We’ve all known for a while that the ad experience is a real problem, and that it’s confused and angered users,” Sridhar Ramaswamy, senior VP of ads and commerce at Google, told Ad Age. “We realized solutions like ad blockers punish everybody, including publishers who develop great content and are thoughtful about the ad experience they put on their site.”

Google isn’t calling its technology an ad blocker, instead classifying it as a “filter” that removes the ads that consumers hate most. These include popups, ads that flash quickly, change colors or force people to wait 10 seconds before accessing content on a publisher’s page.

The effort to install such software on Chrome is a result of work by the Coalition for Better Ads, whose members include Google, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, WPP’s GroupM, Facebook, Thomson Reuters, The Washington Post as well as the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Association of National Advertisers.

In an effort to develop a Better Ads Standard and slow the spread of ad-blocking software, the Coalition set out to determine which ad formats were most at fault. It paid some 25,000 study participants in the U.S. and Europe to rate 104 different ad experiences on desktop and mobile. Chrome’s “filter” is informed partly by the results.

The industry is particularly eager to keep ad blocking from taking off on mobile devices, where it has a 1% adoption rate, the way it already has on desktop computers, where the figure is 18%, according to Mary Meeker’s 2017 Internet Trends report.

“We think getting ads right is really, really important to the future for the internet. We love the sources of information that makes the internet great,” Ramaswamy said. “What’s scary is ad blocking has been a big problem on desktop and has been a big problem for the last few years.”

“Hopefully leading to a much better, much stable ecosystem for everybody,” he added. “We are very excited about what we’re announcing and doing here.”

The option for publishers to charge for ad-free access is called Funding Choices.

“We want to provide consumers with choice,” Scott Spencer, director of product management at Google, told Ad Age. “The publisher will get compensated either way and it will help explain to the consumer the value of advertising.”

Users who opt to shell out to avoid ads will pay with their Google Play account, Spencer said.

Google said it expects to roll out the features in early 2018.