Perhaps the Freakonomics podcast episode from a few issues back (Does Advertising Actually Work?) was just ahead of the curve by a month or two, because we’re suddenly seeing a deluge of new buzz on this topic.
With all the industry changes in the air (iOS 14, limitations on web cookies, increasing regulation/governmental enforcement action around adtech and adjacent services, and greater general awareness both by advertisers and end users, just to name a few), I think this is likely to become a more regular subject.
Here are a few of the top selections I've seen in recent weeks:
"The biggest story in tech no one’s talking about is Uber discovering they’d been defrauded out of $100M - or 2/3 of their ad spend.”
This is the Twitter thread that seems to have kicked the current hornet’s nest.
Uber’s fight against ad fraud has been popping up in industry publications and podcasts on-and-off for years at this point. Who knows why this thread finally pushed the story into the public consciousness…but it did.
Something is Rotten in Online Advertising
Uber isn’t the only recent example where ad spend reductions didn’t lead to obvious changes in campaign results.
In this article, Rand Fishkin runs through a few similar cases. He also takes a crack at explaining the context (ads have long been seen as predictable option, which makes them a go-to tactic for many teams), and recommends some actions marketers should take if they have questions about the performance of their own campaigns (hint: campaign audits…but that’s easier said than done).
What Marketing Spend—and Opportunity—Looks Like in 2021
All the uncertainty caused by iOS 14 and web cookie degradation (not to mention the resulting reduction in data transparency, which is necessary to actually do audits) means many advertisers are going to be looking for safe havens over the next year.
It’s quite likely that Google, Facebook, so-called ‘endemic sites’ (think of examples like IMDB or Edmunds, where ads can naturally complement the site content itself — basically contextual-targeting-by-default), and other large publishers like Hulu and eBay are going to be the winners.
(Of course, there are also plenty of non-paid tactics to explore!)
Writing An App In 2 Days
For those who spend years building and marketing an app (or tried like heck to make something take off and never got traction), there might be some should-I-laugh-or-cry feelings when reading this article…
…but it’s still a neat insight into the process of bootstrapping a new app from scratch, and the first steps of executing an organic growth strategy that doesn’t rely on ads at all.
Google pilots a search feature that aggregates short-form videos from TikTok and Instagram
A few weeks ago, Google introduced a new search result ‘card’.
They do this from time to time, so it’s not exactly big news, but there are a few interesting aspects to this one:
- It’s not Google-owned content. This somewhat bucks the recent trend.
- The content is notably app-centric. Yes, Instagram and TikTok have web interfaces (that’s the only reason Google can even do this indexing, because all their prior initiatives to index app-only content have flopped), but no one thinks of them as ‘web products’.
- Despite the app-centric-ness, these results don’t support deep linking in all situations. The article in fact notes this, though it’s not the whole picture: the Google Search app on iOS doesn’t follow any Universal Links straight from the search results page. However, the new content section also shows up in searches from Safari and Chrome (and other browsers), where deep links fire as expected.
Privacy & Security
WhatsApp Beaten By Apple’s New iMessage Privacy Update
The new iOS privacy nutrition labels have been live for exactly a month now, and some of the most popular comparisons have been [insert third-party messaging app of choice] to iMessage.
However, it’s not a level playing field. Apple’s built-in Messages app gets to coast along ‘for free’ on other OS-level functionality (Apple Pay, Find Friends, etc.) that apps like WhatsApp must recreate from the ground up.
That’s no excuse for egregious data collection, but it is a good reminder that context matters, and the current implementation of this report leaves a lot to subjective interpretation (by both app developers and end users).
An Analysis of Privacy on the App Store
Speaking of the privacy nutrition labels, all the details are loaded for presentation on the App Store via an [undocumented] API. Which means the data can be crawled at scale for analysis.
…which is exactly what this writer did! Aside from the detailed breakdown of the API data schema (fairly interesting, if you’re into that sort of thing), the result is an early look at which categories of apps report the most data collection.
As you’d expect, free apps tend to collect more data and some genres (e.g., games) average higher than others. Meanwhile, it seems that perhaps Facebook just decided it was simpler to report the same items (i.e., almost everything) for all of their apps — I can’t think of any other reason why the results would be identical.
iOS 14 Readiness Checklist
“We still don’t know all the steps we need to take to prepare.”
When it comes to the IDFA Apocalypse, that’s still the main complaint from pretty much every mobile leader I chat with.
The iOS 14 Readiness Checklist is a new tool that I built to help with this (yes, a rare self-link in the newsletter). It’s an interactive way to check your progress, and it works regardless of whether you use Branch.
We’ll keep the checklist updated over the next few months, and would love any feedback and suggestions on what to include!
Tips & Techniques
Ask HN: Why aren't one-time sign in links more popular for authentication?
Magic, auto-login links are such a great experience, especially on mobile where typing passwords is a pain.
…at least, when they work. Slack popularized this UX experience, and auto-login is quickly becoming a favorite use case for Branch deep links. But there are a surprising number of gotchas involved in the implementation, especially when email delivery is involved.
This thread has some useful, likely hard-won experience from those who have tried (mixed in with plenty of user opinions on why this feature is either the best thing ever OR a disaster waiting to happen — it’s worth pointing out that the HackerNews readership is not exactly your typical end user!)
How Group Sessions on Spotify work — A UX case study
The new Group Sessions feature in Spotify is an awesome technical achievement — we appreciated it a lot during a roadtrip with my siblings last fall (…each other’s taste in music, perhaps somewhat less so!).
But after that roadtrip, I can also attest that the UX was confusing and not intuitive. We figured it out, but we’re all tech-savvy millennials.
Mobile Growth Online: Women of Color in Mobile
Where: virtual event.
When: Tuesday, Jan 19, 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM (PST)
Mobile Growth Awards Gala — North America
Thu, Jan 28, 2021, 12:00 PM (PST)
Mobile Growth Awards Gala — EMEA and APAC
Fri, Jan 29, 2021, 9:00 AM (GMT)
- Planet Fitness | Email Marketing Manager — Hampton, NH
- Neptune Retail Solutions | Director Digital Product Solutions — New York, NY
- Neptune Retail Solutions | Senior Product Manager — New York, NY
Do you have a mobile growth role you’d like to share with the community?
Just fill out this form — it’s free!
It’s been quite a week in the news, especially if you’re located in the US.
None of these stories have much of a mobile growth tie-in though. So let’s just say this: I hope you’ve all had a great holiday season, and that the links below will provide some light weekend diversion from everything else currently going on in the world!Alex Bauer