Content Brief: how regulating the tech industry could benefit the content industry—and more content marketing news

Goodbye, year-end taxes and April showers! We’re a third of the way through 2017 and we’re already catching up with Google’s new ad blocker, a rebranded Huffington Post, and more. Without further ado, here’s what you missed in content marketing news this April.

Google wants to control the ad landscape and that includes ad blockers

Everybody hates ads, and Google—who makes a ton of money from online ads—knows it. Which is probably why there have been reports that Google is building its own ad blocking functionality for its popular Chrome web browser. The ad blocking feature, which can be switched on by default within Chrome, would filter out online ad types deemed as a “bad experience” for users across the web by the Coalition for Better Ads. According to those standards, pop-up ads, auto-playing video ads with sound, and “prestitial” ads with countdown timers could face Google’s new ad blocker. Google is also toying with the possibility of blocking all advertising that appears on sites with so-called bad ads, not just the individual bad ads themselves.

So why is Google—the tech company that controls the internet’s ad landscape—pushing for ad block software? There are a few possible reasons. One is that Google might be hoping to push back on ad blocking competitors, now that approximately 26 percent of American users employ the software on their desktop devices. Another possibility is that since Chrome accounts for 47.5 percent of the browser market across all platforms (according to StatCounter), Google may actually be protecting the ad market by blacklisting bad and disruptive ad experiences for users. Whatever reason, the fact that Google—who dominates the ad market—is betting big on ad blocking is a big deal.

Regulating the tech industry could be good for the content business

The biggest companies in the world today are all tech companies. That wasn’t the case 20 years ago or even 10. The big tech companies—Apple, Alphabet (Google’s new parent company), Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook—are not only tech giants, but, as The New York Times points out, monopolies. Google owns 88 percent of the search advertising market, Facebook owns 77 percent of mobile social traffic, and Amazon has 74 percent of the e-book market.

So why do tech monopolies matter? Specifically, why should it matter to content marketers and brands who publish content? Because one possible way to regulate these companies could give a big payday to content creators.

Some background: the “safe harbor” clause in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) grants tech companies the right to use content produced by others on their platforms. It’s this clause that allows YouTube to make money off user-generated content (by inserting ads to view this content) without taking responsibility or paying for the content. It’s how “One million downloads of a song on iTunes would yield the performer and his record label about $900,000. One million streams of that same song on YouTube would earn them about $900,” to borrow the Times’ example. But by eliminating this clause, tech giants would be forced to pay content creators for the content on their platforms that people consume.

This could be great news for news outlets, YouTubers, musicians, artists, and other businesses that run on content. Think of the possibilities for brands to make a secondary income from their content marketing business! Startups like Patreon already allow users to pay for content, but this rule would force tech companies to pay this burden. And it’s not even a burden! It’s just sharing the wealth with content creators who deserve it!

It may be just as unlikely to occur as the other regulations—like breaking up these monolithic companies and forcing them to sell their major acquisitions, or treating them like public utilities, etc.—but it does give hope (and perspective) to the content business at large.


File these news items away as noteworthy:

  • Among one of the biggest news items this month was Pepsi’s infamous pulled ad, which garnered worldwide attention and criticism. It also just so happened to leave a huge opportunity for Pepsi’s competitors to sweep in and that’s exactly what Heineken did with its latest ad aimed at speaking to a diverse audience. It just goes to show what happens when you lean into brand politics without any kind of perspective.
  • The Huffington Post rebranded itself as HuffPost to reflect the departure of its namesake founder Arianna Huffington. Insert your Harry Potter and Hufflepuff jokes here.
  • Facebook announced that non-verified pages can now submit applications to access the branded content tool. This is good news for small to midsized brands who want access to the social media network’s tools and analytics.

Image credit: Unsplash

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