Here's what happened in digital media this week

Snapchat ad 13

SNAPCHAT, WPP, DAILY MAIL INTRODUCE ‘TRUFFLE PIG’: Mobile messaging app Snapchat, advertising giant WPP, and media outlet Daily Mail are teaming up to launch Truffle Pig, a new global content marketing company. Partners of the associated firms announced the new venture Tuesday morning at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Truffle Pig aims to help brands with their content planning, development, creation, and analytics across digital media and social platforms, according to Daily Mail. The company will largely focus on mobile video ads, with an emphasis on Snapchat’s vertical ad format. New content will first be tested on, Elite Daily, and Snapchat, but it will likely expand to other digital media platforms in the future.

Snapchat’s vertical video ads, dubbed as 3V advertising by the messaging app, could be incredibly attractive to advertisers. Vertical videos have an engagement rate nine times that of horizontally oriented ads, according to metrics published by Snapchat. Vertical ads on Snapchat also take up the entire mobile screen. This is a huge advantage over competitors like Facebook and Twitter, whose native ads are horizontal and can be lost among other in-feed content. Before Truffle Pig, Snapchat’s unique 3V format meant that advertisers could not reuse ads from other mobile campaigns, making it an expensive venture, according to Bloomberg. However, Truffle Pig’s mission to bring the vertical mobile format to other digital platforms could eliminate this cost concern for advertisers.

Truffle Pig may encounter major hurdles in wooing the advertising industry. First, the firm must prove to brands that its functions are essential. Many ad agencies and media outlets already help brands with creating sponsored content and could find a partnership with the firm redundant. Secondly, the company must prove that its strategy, which is largely reliant on Snapchat’s ad format, is effective. While the vertical, full-screen format is promising, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel has made it clear he does not support the use of targeted ads. This could pose a major drawback for advertisers and brands that value targeted ads on digital platforms.

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GOOGLE HOPES TO ATTRACT JOURNALISTS WITH ‘NEWS LAB’: Google announced the launch of Google News Lab, the company’s latest initiative to cement itself in the digital media industry and compete with recent news offerings from social media platforms. The site hopes to become a place where digital journalists can take advantage of Google’s existing tools and data from platforms like Maps, Fusion Tables, YouTube, Earth, and Search, according to VentureBeat. Journalists can also access recently updated programs like Google Trends, which tracks trending stories from Google Search and YouTube. Google also announced new partnerships with media outlets and organisations aimed to supplement News Lab and connect reporters with the larger industry. These include a partnership with Matter, a media investment fund; Hacks/Hackers, a grassroots journalism organisation; and TechRaking, a series of technology summits with the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Google News Lab is not a revolutionary development for the company. Google appealed to journalists in 2013 with the introduction of Google Media Tools, which incorporated Google’s data and various platforms to reach a wider audience. News Lab appears to be an updated version of Media Tools and largely bundles together many of Google’s existing offerings under one site.

The new initiative could become the precursor to a Google-owned content-management system (CMS). Google already has a massive digital reach with an impressive stock of user data. If it is able to leverage its technological capabilities through Google News Lab, it could become a platform for publishers who lack the technology and funding to create their own proprietary CMS. This scenario would likely see Google’s various ad products integrated directly into the CMS, which could boost its already dominant advertising business. The company has not yet mentioned offering such a service, but its eventual implementation of one would not come as a surprise; many other large media and technology companies boast their own CMS.

BRANDS ARE UPLOADING LESS MEDIA TO FACEBOOK OVERALL: Brands are uploading significantly less media to Facebook overall as the upload mix shifts to video. The number of media uploads from brands, including photos and videos, declined by 24% year-over-year (YoY) during May 2015, according to data from Socialbakers shared with BI Intelligence. The decline was driven by a massive drop-off in photo uploads. Brands uploaded just 182,000 photos during May 2015, down 27% from one year earlier. Video uploads, on the other hand, increased by 27% YoY. This trend likely reflects a changing emphasis on higher-impact, but less frequent, media uploads among top brands. Facebook posts that contain videos typically drive higher engagement (e.g. likes, shares, etc.) than other types of posts. Socialbakers’ dataset tracked more than 10,000 brand Facebook pages over a three-year period.

Facebook -- BrandMediaUploads(Global)

AD-SUPPORTED RADIO COMING TO GOOGLE PLAY MUSIC: Google unveiled a free, ad-supported, web radio station for its Play Music streaming service, Recode reports. Previously, Google has only offered its Play Music service to paid subscribers. One reason for this is that ad-supported listeners typically monetise at a much lower rate than paid users. As a result, many streaming music companies view their free service as a funnel to convert listeners to higher-value paid accounts. Apple Music, for example, will offer its Beats 1 radio station on an ad-supported basis in hopes of enticing listeners to pay for the service’s other features.

But a Google-powered free music service has the potential to upend the streaming industry’s focus on converting listeners to paid accounts. The search-giant has proven highly effective at targeting ads and driving conversions. If Google brings its digital advertising prowess to bear in the streaming music space, it will likely have little trouble driving meaningful revenue from its free listeners. However, as of right now, Google is maintaining that its web radio service will play a similar function as Beats 1 radio, according to Recode. Google Play Music executive Zahavah Levine told Recode, “millions of people open the Google Play app, and many close it immediately, because the first thing they see is a request for a credit card.”

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