Last Week In Digital - 21st August 2017

Amazon debuts new service, Apple invests in video, Uber cedes to FTC and Reddit debuts video platform


Uber agrees to privacy audits

At this point, it’s a good thing that Uber is almost untouchably colossal. The company has taken quite the battering over recent months - not because of its product, which is still exceptionally popular, but over internal issues of culture and management style. Former CEO Travis Kalanick has recently stepped down, senior figures have left the company in their droves, and what was once viewed as an innovative startup is now something of a sour note for Silicon Valley’s reputation.

Last week, Uber attempted to tackle an FTC investigation dating back to 2014 head on. The complaints are around data mishandling, security, and privacy, with Uber reportedly having misrepresented its practices to its users. The company has agreed to regular independent privacy audits - which could last for as long as 20 years on FTC discretion - as well as a ‘comprehensive privacy program,’ according to TechCrunch. Uber’s submission to the complaints, which essentially suggested that employees could spy on users’ rides, is reflective of its desperation to be rid of its negative public image and put a rocky past behind it. Uber’s issues with the FTC are longstanding and complex, but if the company wants to avoid further problems, it needs to start toeing the line.

Amazon rolls out ‘Instant Pickup Points’

In its continued quest to blur the lines between online and offline retail experiences, Amazon has premiered ‘Instant Pickup’ at five college campuses in the US. As the name implies, Instant Pickup allows shoppers to order items online and pick them up in a matter of minutes. The move is both part of the retail giant’s push into brick-and-mortar sales as well as an improvement on its already mind-blowing speedy delivery times.

Being able to offer almost immediate pickup caters for two of e-commerce’s biggest problems. Firstly, Amazon has realized how difficult it is to sell perishables like groceries online. Ripley MacDonald, Amazon's director of student programs said: ’I want to buy a can of coke because I’m thirsty. There’s no chance I’m going to order that on and wait however long it’s going to take for that to ship to me.’ Amazon can now provide a service that can cater for that need. Secondly, it encourages impulse purchases. Amazon is slowly taking over real-world retail, and it’s doing so by rolling out genuinely impressive products that few others can match.

Reddit debuts video platform

Like everyone else, Reddit is launching a native video hosting platform in an attempt to further diversify its content portfolio and attract more content creators. The platform has arrived as a result of the $200 million funding round the company completed at the end of July, valuing it at $1.8 billion. Video is, naturally, a huge chunk of Reddit’s content already, but uploading it has previously been via third parties, which is time consuming.

This is not to say that Reddit will stop users being allowed to post Youtube videos, for example, rather it hopes that users will upload direct to Reddit also as it looks to become a host rather than a content aggregator. If it begins producing its own content, this opens up a host of new advertising revenue streams, the likes of which could finally properly leverage its incredible visitor figures. With the likes of Facebook also vying to become a video hosting platform in its own right, Reddit’s move is part of a wider obsession with video across the key social players.

Apple to spend big on original content

Like Reddit, Apple is piling resources into video content. According to the Wall Street Journal, it has set aside a budget of $1 billion to spend on creating its own shows in 2018. The tech giant is already doing so, but reviews of its currently limited stock haven’t been great. Both ‘Carpool Karaoke’ and ‘Planet of the Apps’ have been met with poor reviews and there is very little to suggest that Apple is about to strike gold. Even so, as video content well and truly becomes the hottest commodity in digital, Apple is throwing its hat into the ring.

Apple’s aspirations are slightly different to that of Reddit, though. Where Reddit is looking to host content, Apple is looking to create its own in a similar vein to the likes of Netflix, HBO, or Amazon Prime Video. Against this kind of competition, though, a $1 billion investment isn’t that significant. According to TechCrunch, Amazon plans to spend $4.5 billion on its own shows this year, while Netflix will spend around $6 billion. If Apple is serious about competing with the biggest players in the market, it will need to up its yearly investment down the line. 

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