Medium Moves Away From Ad-Supported Publishing; Pandora Launches New Ad Formats

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Death By Transformation

Medium is moving away from the ad-supported publishing model announced last year, without indicating what will replace it. The company has eliminated 50 jobs and closed its offices in New York and D.C. In a blog post, CEO Ev Williams said the company had successfully migrated commercial publishers to its platform, but the move wasn’t “transformative” enough. “We had started scaling up the teams to sell and support products that were, at best, incremental improvements on the ad-driven publishing model, not the transformative model we were aiming for.” Read it.

Turn Up The Volume

Pandora will roll out muted video and responsive display ads, allowing brands to buy a native, lean-in experience. Read the release. The formats, to be launched on January 19th, will display only when users engage with Pandora’s mobile app while listening to music. “When the video is running, it’s not dead sound in the background; it’s the station or song that you love,” Lizzie Widhelm, Pandora’s SVP of ad product strategy, told Adweek. Beta partners saw a 50% increase in time spent compared with previous products, according to Pandora. It’s part of Pandora’s push to build out its visual display assets as it looks toward programmatic audio this year. More.

Smooth Operator

Microsoft owned PCs, Google owned the internet, Facebook owned the smartphone … will Amazon own the connected home? Ben Thompson at Stratechery makes the case that Amazon has a legitimate claim on “the home OS.” Just as Google could give away Android for free in return for search dominance and Microsoft could sit pretty on developer licensing fees, Amazon “doesn’t need to make a dime on Alexa, at least not directly: the vast majority of purchases are initiated at home.” Amazon’s Echo has outsold direct competitors, but what really creates a moat for Amazon is its penetration with manufacturers. Just look at the CES parade of Alexa-enabled devices. More.

Eastward Dreams

Google’s Sundar Pichai has his sights set on India. The search giant is rolling out a tool to get India’s small businesses online by allowing owners to create mobile-friendly websites for free. Given that three-quarters of the country’s 51 million small businesses lack an internet presence, that’s a big opportunity. As it grows its own staff in the populous nation, Google is also partnering with Indian business organizations to offer internet training skills for entrepreneurs. Roughly 1 billion people in India lack internet access, and if Google can help get them online, it will likely be their first point of entry to the online world. More at WSJ.

The Frightful Five

“Together, the Five compose a new superclass of American corporate might. For much of last year, their further rise and domination over the rest of the global economy looked not just plausible, but also maybe even probable.” That’s Farhad Manjoo writing about Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet. But there’s a rub. The disrupters “have become incumbents themselves, and they are more likely to be treated as such by governments.” The EU is increasingly antagonistic to US tech – which in some countries has proven a political winner. Even in America, the tech-friendly Obama administration will give way to a Trump administration expected to side with legacy telcos (like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon) in key regulatory disputes. More at The New York Times.

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