In this week's round up of the big stories in digital media and tech, Amazon launch their Kindle tablet, lots of news about Facebook, and new ways to advertise in online video.
Last week, Amazon announced the launch of a new set of Kindle devices; a refreshed (and cheaper) "basic" model with a touch-screen alternative, and the Kindle Fire; a $199 tablet which is already being hailed as an iPad killer.
While it isn't the first device to spark these sorts of headlines, it is probably the first that will actually set the tablet market alight. Compared to the $499 iPad base model (and many similarly-priced competitors), the Fire comes in at a completely different price bracket. With a novel "split browser" (sharing the job between the device itself and Amazon's EC2 cloud servers), built on Google's Android platform (although devoid of any Android branding or applications), and featuring Amazon's "Special Offers" (ie. advertising, which can be removed for a fee), this appears to have a number of interesting implications for the online media, and we will be having a closer look at what it means later in the week.
I mentioned last week that Spotify were requiring all new users to have a Facebook account, following the launch of the new Spotify Facebook application. Figures from InsideFacebook.com indicate that since the F8 Developer Conference, Spotify has added 1 million users of its Facebook application. Similar growth has been seen by Rdio (a music service with a similar application), while SoundCloud, iHeartRadio, and Deezer have all lost Daily Active Users — none of whom are yet using Facebook's social features.
It looks like a powerful argument in favour of using the socially-connected applications, and it will be interesting to see whether we will see similar reactions outside of the music apps.
Facebook facing investigations
Following a number of complaints around privacy concerns (some of which were mentioned here last week), Facebook are being audited by Irish privacy regulators, facing similar investigations in Australia, and the FTC in the US is considering an investigation.
A new Facebook metric for brands is expected to be announced tomorrow. SocialBakers.com describes the changes
People Talking About is one of four metrics Facebook will measure on all Facebook Pages. The metric should be available from tomorrow, and it represents the number of people that are talking about the page, sharing content from the page and further interacting with the page, thus creating stories. Its basically a metric of active fans.
The interesting point is that unlike the existing metrics, this new metric looks outside of the number of "likes", comments and views of your brands' Page and into wider Facebook conversations.
Meanwhile, Facebook have introduced a new ad unit— named "expandable", but unlike the familiar rich media expandable units, the Facebook ad will "expand" to show the number of likes and comments an ad has received.
From October 31st, "Discussions" tabs will be removed from Pages. Facebook say
We've found that the best way to encourage conversation and feedback is through posts and comments on your Wall. We've removed these tabs for now as we work on tools to help you moderate and filter content.
Users of Discussions tabs have found them difficult to moderate (as they lack the API and tools that Pages offer), and are often abused. (Also, they had the snag that banning a user from posting to a Page didn't stop them from posting in the Discussion tab.)
Making it easier for advertisers to appear in YouTube content, Google have launched AdWords for Video. Bringing their auction-based advertising system to video content, using the same interface as existing search and display ads, this is likely to build interest in video advertising, simplifying the process and opening up Google's "TrueView" advertising formats (which use a "cost per view" quality measure- ads that get more views become more efficient to buy, similar to search advertisings "Quality Score.")
This should make it easy for new advertisers to get involved in the video marketplace, while surpressing low-quality advertising from their platform.
Meanwhile, AOL and VivaKi are partnering in a project to identify new advertising formats for online video. This follows on from The Pool (VivaKi's research into new video advertising models) in the US, which resulted in the "choose a pre-roll" Ad Selector model (currently in the field in the UK.)
By the time you read this, you will probably know about Apple's event this afternoon (6pm UK time- as I write), where they are expected to announce the latest iPhone and launch iOS 5 and iCloud.
As there has also been a new iPod Nano around this time of year for the last few years, it seems likely that a new Nano model will also be announced (perhaps with WiFi to access iTunes in the iCloud?) — although those who were expecting the iPhone to follow a similar pattern (with previous new models released in July for the last three years) have been waiting longer than expected. (Meanwhile this week, Microsoft has killed off the Zune, its dedicated MP3 player, as it is focussing on Windows Phone for their mobile music and video strategy. Might this mean an iPod-Touch-challenging Windows Phone that isn't a phone?)
Given that iPhone 4 users will be at most 15 months into (probably) a 2 year contract, it seems likely that the new handset will be a relatively minor upgrade (ie. an iPhone 4s aimed at first-time smartphone buyers or those migrating from other smartphone platforms, rather than an all-new iPhone 5), but that the more interesting news will be about the new iOS 5 software. With some interesting rumours about speech recognition and an artificial intelligence "Assistant", as well as what is already known about iOS 5 features (such as iCloud, iTunes Sync and integration with Twitter), we expect to have a deeper run-down once the news is out.