Brands Brief: Google Launches Ad-Blocking Program for Chrome Browser

Top Stories

  • Google’s Chrome browser, used by more than 59 percent of internet users, today will begin blocking certain types of online advertisements like pop-ups and spam, a move that some in the industry say is designed to benefit the Alphabet Inc. unit. Critics say the push to prevent ads that are considered annoying could ultimately help Google’s bottom line because advertisers might choose to invest more in Google sites and products, which are less likely to be blocked. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • YouTube TV next month will raise its monthly fee for new customers — to $40 from $35 — following a deal with Turner Broadcasting System that added programming from eight cable networks, including CNN, TBS and TNT. YouTube TV, which reaches more than 85 percent of U.S. households, now has more than 50 networks in its base package. (Variety)
  • U.S. retail sales fell 0.3 percent in January, the biggest drop in 11 months, according to Department of Commerce figures. Last month’s decline in sales was spread throughout the major retail categories, including a 2.4 percent drop at building-supply merchants, a 1.3 decrease in purchases from automobile dealers and 1.2 percent drop at personal-care stores. (Bloomberg)

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Events Calendar (All Times Local)

AEI discussion on Internet of Things security 12 p.m.
PRSA and Ragan Writing Virtual Summit 12 p.m.
AMA content strategy webinar 12 p.m.

Tracking Trump: The President’s Approval Rating in All 50 States

The inaugural edition of Morning Consult’s new monthly approval tracker is now live. Explore the data state by state, month over month.


Google Will Block Spammy Ads (Just Not Many of Its Own)
Douglas MacMillan, The Wall Street Journal

Starting on Thursday, Google’s Chrome browser will block certain types of online advertisements, a change Google is describing as user friendly. But some in the industry say the ad giant’s move is self-serving, and they contend Google overly influenced the process that selected which ad types to block.

San Francisco branding shop Character gets acquired by Dentsu Aegis, adds Portland office
Bennett Bennett, The Drum

Dentsu Aegis has announced the acquisition of San Francisco-based branding and design firm Character, which also recently opened its second office in Portland. The acquisition, Dentsu said, will form the cornerstone of the agency network’s branding and design practices.

‘It lost its community of innovation’: Why agencies are skipping SXSW this year
Ilyse Liffreing, Digiday

Every year since 2012, OMD Worldwide has taken over a popular barbecue joint in Austin, Texas, to host its annual Bootstrap Barbecue at SXSW. It would welcome about 100 clients and introduce them to up-and-coming startups they would not meet otherwise.

Media and Entertainment

YouTube TV Adds Turner Networks, Will Raise Price to $40 for New  Subscribers
Todd Spangler, Variety

The YouTube TV “skinny” bundle is packing on a bit more weight: Under a deal with Turner, YouTube TV is adding the programmer’s suite of eight networks, including CNN, TBS and TNT. Meanwhile, YouTube TV is raising its rates for new customers.

CW Expanding Original Programming to Sundays
Lesley Goldberg, The Hollywood Reporter

Network president Mark Pedowitz talks with THR about the decision to grow his younger-skewing network’s roster. The CW set a network record this pilot season with nine new projects in the works for the 2018-19 broadcast season, and now the rationale for the extra orders is coming into focus.

Beyoncé Songs Come to the Olympics. But Who Pays for the Rights?
Ben Sisario, The New York Times

In an earlier era, Olympic figure skaters competed to the sounds of orchestral pieces like Korngold’s movie themes, as Dorothy Hamill did in 1976. Now, the soundtrack is Beyoncé, Coldplay and “Despacito.”

Social Media and Technology

Snapchat is finally giving influencers data about their posts and followers

Snapchat is finally giving its most popular users data about their posts and followers — data that could help them make more money from brands that want to work with them on partnership deals. Since the beginning, Snapchat has basically treated influential users — internet “stars” that attract millions of followers on rival platforms like YouTube and Instagram — the same as it treats regular users.

Google “doubling down” on news, publisher traffic explodes
Sara Fischer, Axios

According to new data from Chartbeat, the vast majority of traffic growth publishers are seeing from platforms is now coming from Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) — or fast-loading mobile article pages on Google Search and Google News. Why it matters: As Facebook pulls back from publisher traffic referrals in the News Feed, Google General Counsel Kent Walker tells Axios that Google is “doubling down” on news, specifically using Google AMP.

Inside Apple’s Courtship of News Publishers
Tom Dotan, The Information

When news publishers have a big story these days, their editors jump on Slack and pitch it to an unlikely partner: Apple. The tech company has built a small but powerful news team that is making Apple a key distribution outlet for news publishers.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Can’t Beat Washington, So He’s Joining It: The Influence Game
Spencer Soper et al., Bloomberg

In the final days of 2017, President Donald Trump attacked Amazon, tweeting that the U.S. Postal Service should charge the world’s largest online retailer “MUCH MORE!” for delivering packages. It capped a year of criticism from Trump about Amazon’s market power, impact on jobs and ties to the Washington Post, which Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos owns.

Senator calls on Tinder to fix a security flaw that lets randos snoop through your dates
Taylor Hatmaker, TechCrunch

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is nervous about Tinder. He may not be swiping on the service this Valentine’s Day, but with a new letter demanding that Tinder resolve some security issues, Wyden is looking out for everyone who is.

Tinder plans women-talk-first option similar to Bumble
Emily Bary, MarketWatch

Tinder plans to give women more power in its online-dating app by adding a setting similar to a key feature for younger rival Bumble. Tinder will let female users choose whether they want to initiate all conversations with future matches, as Bumble does, Match Group Inc. Chief Executive Mandy Ginsberg told MarketWatch in an interview Tuesday.

Why Silicon Valley singles are giving up on the algorithms of love
Drew Harwell, The Washington Post

Kate Chan, a 30-year-old digital marketer in Silicon Valley, first approached dating apps with a blend of curiosity and hope that they’d help her find a great guy. But after six months of dead-end mismatches with guys she thought were boring or work-obsessed, she has gone back to what she called “meeting the old-fashioned way”: without a screen.

PR and Marketing

Retail Sales in U.S. Decline After December Revised Down
Sho Chandra, Bloomberg

U.S. retail sales unexpectedly declined in January and December receipts were revised lower, indicating consumer demand in the first quarter may cool, according to Commerce Department figures released Wednesday. The decrease in January sales and the downward revision to December were spread throughout the major retail categories.

Home Depot, Lowe’s embark on spring hiring sprees as labor market stiffens
Lauren Thomas, CNBC

Home improvement retailers are hanging out the “Help Wanted” signs.
Home Depot announced plans Wednesday to hire more than 80,000 seasonal workers this spring, in line with last year, to meet peak demand.

Lawsuit filed over L.L. Bean’s 1-year limit on returns
Staff, The Associated Press

An unhappy customer is suing L.L. Bean over its new return policy, claiming the company broke a vow to customers. The lawsuit in federal court in Chicago contends customers bought items because of L.L. Bean’s unlimited “satisfaction” guarantee.

Amazon has partnered with Bank of America for its lending program
Eugene Kim, CNBC

In his shareholder letter two years ago, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said he was looking to team up with banks that could help his company expand its lending program for small businesses that sell on Amazon’s websites. CNBC has learned that Amazon Lending, which launched in 2011, ultimately found a partner in Bank of America Merrill Lynch, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because the alliance is confidential.

How big tech and retail are inspiring consumer innovation at Wells Fargo
Tanaya Macheel, Digiday

In the new world of banking, banks come to their customers — not the other way around. On Tuesday, Wells Fargo released a new “predictive banking” feature that pushes insights based on customer data and more personalized guidance.

Uber could be profitable if it wants to, says CEO
Katie Roof, TechCrunch

Uber lost $4.5 billion last year, but CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he’s not worried. Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, the newly appointed chief defended the company’s financials, saying that “we can turn the knobs to get this business even on a full basis profitable, but you would sacrifice growth and sacrifice innovation.”

Opinions, Editorials, Perspectives and Research

Netflix Is Getting Huge. But Can It Get Great?
James Poniewozik, The New York Times

Ryan Murphy, welcome to the Upside Down. On Tuesday, the streaming giant Netflix announced that Mr. Murphy — the producer of “Glee” and “American Crime Story” and much, much more — had left 21st Century Fox to join its ranks, in a deal said to be valued at up to $300 million.

Why You Should Cut Cable—and What You’ll Miss
David Pierce, The Wall Street Journal

A couple of weekends ago, my life became a cable-cutter infomercial. On the morning of Super Bowl Sunday, my remote stopped connecting to my Comcast cable box.

Facebook should actually be Tinder too
Josh Constine, TechCrunch

There’s beauty in the double-blind opt-in. That’s the way you match with someone on Tinder. You like them, they like you, you both find out and get connected.

Siri, already bumbling, just got less intelligent on the HomePod
Geoffrey A. Fowler, The Washington Post

Siri, we need to talk. You’re embarrassing yourself.

2018 Global Digital Report
Simon Kemp, We Are Social and Hootsuite

It’s been another year of impressive growth across all things digital, and this year’s 2018 Global Digital report reveals some important new milestones and trends. Perhaps the most exciting headline in this year’s reports is that global internet users have now passed the 4 billion mark.