Harvard Friday Five

Friday Five round-up: our top five tech and comms stories from August 2017

Lee Menzies-Pearson

07 Sep 2017

Summer coming to a close might be bad news to some, but it does mean it's time for another monthly round-up of our ‘Friday Five’ newsletter. I've pulled together my five favourite stories from August below. Sign up to the newsletter if you like what you see, and get more like this in your inbox every week.

Bloomberg moves into consulting

Bloomberg has launched a new service offering brand consulting, corporate communications and marketing advice to clients. The move marks an attempt by the publisher to reverse declining revenues but also sets a challenge to the strict impartiality rules that distinguish editorial from commercial teams in news organisations. This is certainly a serious effort: the new consultancy service, based in New York, is headed up by a former chief executive of Havas and staffed by experts from McKinsey, Bain and Boston Consultancy Group. It won't be cheap either - Bloomberg says it's targeting clients with budgets between $150,000 and $200,000 a month. The pitch is straightforward: Bloomberg can leverage its high-value information and analysis to provide what they’ve defined as part-consultancy, part-integrated agency, and the best media owner that really understands its audience. Is this the future of media - premium publishers exploiting their brand by offering 'agency' services?

Internet firms face a global 'techlash'

The latest financial results for the big five tech firms – Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft – put their combined quarterly revenues at $143bn. Yet their financial success hides a worrying problem for them: governments around the world are starting to pin them down. The Economist takes a look at this issue – which it dubs the global 'techlash' – in its latest edition and concludes that the excuses that used to work for the tech firms no longer cut it. Tech giants like these used to argue they were like telecoms companies – operating neutral networks that carried other people’s information for which they can’t be liable – but now their growing power means they are being scrutinised like media companies, who can be prosecuted or sued for what they publish. That shift has taken place as the tech firms have gone beyond being mere 'entertainment' providers, to playing a vital role within our political, economic and social infrastructure. Navigating through this techlash will be one of the biggest issues for the entire tech industry over the next few years.

Facebook launches Watch to take on TV

Facebook has been investing heavily in video for some time now - Mark Zuckerberg is on record as saying he believes the future of his company is video-first, not text-first. The logical conclusion of that strategy is to take on traditional TV channels and newer video aggregators like YouTube, and that's what Facebook has done with its launch of Watch. This new tab within the Facebook app gives content creators (whether they're production companies or individuals) an opportunity to launch their own channels to Facebook’s two billion users, and allow users to ask them questions in real time. Make no mistake: this is a really big deal and is another element in the reinvention of TV that's going on around us. Just as tech upended the music business, it's going to do the same for TV.

Giphy to test sponsored GIFs

Giphy is the search engine for GIFs - the place to go to find that clip that perfectly encapsulates your current feeling. It's been a remarkable success: now four years old, it has 200m daily users worldwide and fuels many of the social media posts you see every day. Now it's starting to get serious about monetisation. According to a Techcrunch report, Giphy will soon test sponsored GIFs, enabling brands to pay to get in front of users in a fun and emotional context. There are plenty of opportunities for brands here: a search for "Monday" or "morning" could bring up a Starbucks GIF, for instance.

Ofcom publishes 2017 communications report

Since 2004 the UK telecoms and media regulator Ofcom had published an annual report into consumer behaviour. 2017's edition was published last month and, as always, it was a treasure trove of fascinating stats on insights. We tweeted out some of our highlights here. We learnt that, on average, Brits use social media and messaging apps 12 times a day each, the peak time for using Facebook is 9-10pm, and only 13% of us have used Twitter in the past week. Sign up to our Friday Five newsletter to get stories like these in your inbox every week