The great Halloween surprise of 2022: SKAdNetwork 4.0 is already here!
Until Monday morning, the iOS 16.1 change that excited me the most was a battery percentage icon that finally worked on my iPhone 12 Mini.
But then SKAdNetwork 4.0 suddenly popped up in the public release…live, fully-formed, and evolved from the original WWDC announcement in some fairly notable ways. The good news is that none of the major improvements have been rolled back: SKAN 4 is far from perfect, but it remains unambiguously better than SKAN 3 in every way.
However, that doesn't mean the updates are quite 'business-as-usual' either. For a more in-depth recap on what changed, you should read one of the numerous 'breaking news' blog posts — these all cover the same basic points, so I'll simply list them out in order of publication:
- Singular: SKAdNetwork 4.0 officially launches for iOS and iPadOS 16.1 (and yes, there are changes)
- Branch: SKAN 4.0 Recap: What’s Changed Since WWDC 2022?
- AppsFlyer: SKAdNetwork 4.0 is out, let’s build your strategy
- Kochava: Apple Releases SKAdNetwork 4.0 with iOS 16.1
- Adjust: SKAdNetwork 4.0 has launched: Here’s everything you need to know
If you're into a deeper analysis, I recommend spending an hour on one of these:
- Mobile Dev Memo podcast: SKAdNetwork 4.0 is live. What does that mean for mobile advertising?
- Branch webinar: SKAN 4.0 Recap: What’s Changed Since WWDC?
So what happens next? No one I've spoken to was expecting this release to happen so soon. SKAN 4 has been 'coming later this year' ever since WWDC in June, and given the complete absence of more recent updates, most of the smart money was on a launch in late Q4 or even early 2023.
The reality is that this new version is essentially a 'system reset', which means a number of things need to happen before advertisers will see benefits:
- Users need to update to iOS 16.1 (easy, certain to happen quite quickly).
- Publisher apps need to be built for iOS 16.1 (easy, also certain to happen).
- MMPs need to support SKAN 4, including advertiser app SDK updates (less easy, but all have announced plans).
- Ad networks need support SKAN 4, including publisher app SDK updates (hard, and very little guidance yet on timelines from most).
The unfortunate reality is that because there is no required timeline from Apple, and the previous versions of SKAN will continue to function just fine for the foreseeable future, we might be looking at an extended ecosystem transition period. The lingering specter of rampant fingerprinting abuses (on which Apple has still not yet cracked down) further erodes the incentive to update quickly. And that's unfortunate, because SKAN 4 is finally approaching 'usable', where previous versions were just painful.
Bottom line: if you want quality, privacy-first measurement, now is the time to go make sure all your partners understand that SKAN 4 support is critical!
PS: I'm not sure who needs to hear this…but no, the postback delay in SKAN 4 is not always longer than previous versions. You can put away those pitchforks now.
Meta Marketing Mix Modeling Summit Highlights
Meta is betting big on media mix modeling (MMM) as the future of campaign measurement. This week, they held an MMM summit in London (Branch was one of the featured participants!), and this blog post chronicles the highlights.
If MMM is on your radar — and it should be — then you won't want to miss this. It's robust, full of examples, and a much easier read than the subject matter suggests.
Apple Is Charging In-App Fees for Boosted Posts
For readers of this newsletter, SKAdNetwork 4.0 is the most impactful iOS-related news from Monday…but it's still a relatively niche story. Not so with one of the App Store Review Guidelines changes that came out at the time time: Apple now explicitly states that 'Advertising Management Apps' are exempt from in-app purchase policies, and that 'boosts' are not.
I see two possible interpretations here:
- Apple genuinely didn't expect this to be a big deal, and was just cleaning up some policy language.
- Apple decided that it was time for a preemptive strike in its holy war to preserve the sanctity of in-app purchases (with some sweet, new services revenue as a by-product).
Regardless of Apple's intention, the narrative has clearly coalesced around interpretation 2. And as you might expect, Meta is not impressed.
Apple wants a piece of the NFT pie
Those comments for the article immediately above? Copy-and-paste, except for NFTs instead of 'boosts'.
Big Tech falters on Q3 2022 results as Meta has worst week ever
The last quarter has really not been good for many tech stocks, and it's easy to play this off as 'macroeconomic headwinds'.
But, as Eric Seufert points out, there is more than a passing correlation between this recent weakness and each company's degree of exposure to the signal loss caused by AppTrackingTransparency.
Apple Just Responded to the Controversy Over Gambling Ads in the App Store and It's Learning a Very Hard Lesson
Apple also released more ad formats into the App Store this week, and quickly got into hot water for problematic placements (for example, promoting online casinos as an alternative to apps for gambling addiction recovery).
This is clearly an own-goal, and Apple is hardly the first company to suffer one of these when it comes to ad targeting…but most companies aren't engaged in highly-public attempts to reform mobile advertising.
Audiobooks - Time to Play Fair
Remember how Spotify launched a new audiobook feature a few weeks ago, and took excruciating care to design it around the limitations of in-app purchase policies?
Turns out Apple had second thoughts and isn't OK with things after all. Spotify has a whole PR campaign in response, and even Elon Musk is weighing in now.
Spotlight on: The Dynamic Island
And finally, to end this special edition on a more positive note: iOS 16.1 also brought third-party Live Activities, including to the Dynamic Island (on devices that support it).
Apple interviewed a few developers about the experience of integrating with the Dynamic Island, and many other apps have also launched support. You can even adopt a tiny little pet to live up there!
I just got my battery icon back, but maybe it's time for me to upgrade that iPhone 12 Mini after all…
Mobile Growth Meetup - New York
When: Tue, Nov 8, 6:30 PM (EST).
Where: Serendipity Labs.
Panelists: TickPick, Publishers Clearing House, Bilt Rewards.
Last week, someone must have noticed me scraping the bottom of the barrel to fill a newsletter. I hope you enjoyed that shorter issue, because all the excitement over the past five days means now we're getting an out-of-sequence special edition.
Welcome to the world of mobile. At least you'll never have to worry about being bored for very long!
Let's get to it (and fair warning: this is going to be a very iOS-centric issue).Alex Bauer