School districts across the country are increasingly taking on social media, filing lawsuits that argue that Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube have helped create the nation’s surging youth mental health crisis and should be held accountable.
How The Trade Desk went from media agency BFF to frenemy
The Trade Desk was once seen by agencies as the helpful, friendly alternative to the might and heft of Google when buying inventory programmatically. Seems those happy days have faded in recent months, as several media agencies complain the ad-tech firm has become less transparent, more expensive to use — and perhaps so big that they have begun to fear it.
Why fear it? Because The Trade Desk has made efforts over the last year to generate a closer and more direct relationship with brands — media agencies’ clients. But also because, besides seeking out negotiating clout on their own, there’s not much media agencies can do since The Trade Desk has become such an important part of programmatic buying and selling of inventory.
None of the media agencies or analysts Digiday reached for this story would speak for attribution, due to continued existing relationships with The Trade Desk (TTD).
A TTD representative refuted the agencies’ complaints, saying the firm has done nothing different in the last year that would provoke them — and added that no agencies have voiced complaints about these issues.
“Our agency partners are our closest allies in the transformation of the media business to a more data-driven ecosystem built on trust, transparency, and objectivity within the open internet,” said the representative.
For many agency traders, TTD’s concentration of power is both from a business perspective, because it performed more consistently than, and grew steadily relative, to other vendors, but also because it did a solid job early on of positioning itself as the anti-Google (whose DV360 is a rival to TTD) and a champion of the open web.
Now the tables are almost turned, not only because agencies point to poorer customer service assistance from TTD, but improved customer service from Google. That latter development may have more to do with Google experiencing its first-ever revenue downturn in 2022, which has perhaps necessitated a kinder and friendlier approach to agencies and clients. Still, the end result, to media agencies, is that TTD comes across as less helpful than it used to be.
So what are the complaints?
Direct outreach to clients around agencies
All the agencies reached for this story agreed TTD is approaching clients more directly. One pointed to The Trade Desk’s increasingly close relationship with Walmart as a direct threat.
In February 2022, TTD launched OpenPath, which worked with a number of publishers to provide advertisers with direct access to their inventory. Agencies are grumbling this effectively cuts them out of the buy-sell equation. (Although one agency exec noted TTD’s move hurts other programmatic vendors more than it hurts agencies.)
TTD sees it quite differently. “To help our agency clients drive objective value in digital advertising, The Trade Desk has long pioneered and championed supply chain improvements that increase transparency, most recently with the launch of OpenPath,” responded TTD’s rep. “As a result, the relationships and alignment on the buy-side that we have with our agency clients have never been stronger.”
One agency exec said TTD completely changed how they charge for data, shifting from a CPM fee to a percentage of media fee. Another agency corroborated that, saying that fees for data that’s essential to making investments smart, valuable and effective end up costing considerably more than they used to, as much as double the cost of other (non-Google) DSPs.
A third exec expressed frustration TTD charges “a significant amount of fees” in order to use its UID 2.0 solution (TTD’s proposed post-cookie identifier solution), and doesn’t leave room for negotiation — they’re simply put forth as take it or leave it. (TTD’s rep responded that there are no fees for UID 2.0 and that it’s open-sourced.)
TTD responds that the take rate for fees has actually stayed the same at around 20% over the last eight years, at 21.1% in 2014, and fluctuating slightly up and down in ensuing years and most recently at 19.4% in 2022.
Increasing opacity in its products/services
One programmatic expert at an agency noted that TTD is apparently not participating in a Google-led program that aims to bring more transparency to the DSP process — called “Confirming Gross Revenue.” The expert did acknowledge that Google and TTD are direct competitors in the DSP space, but still felt that not participating equated to having something to hide.
“We’ve built our platform to enable our clients to apply data that make their digital ad buys precise and transparent,” said TTD’s rep.
In the end, it will most likely come down to size and negotiation. If your holding company is big enough, you will likely be able to negotiate on the fees. The smaller the agency, the less wiggle room it will have to cut deals. But the whole idea of programmatic is that it’s non-guaranteed, noted one agency exec, so locking in pricing defeats the purpose.
But it’s possible that other DSPs and programmatic vendors will have the chance to gain a little ground here, said one analyst observing the tension between the two sides. Some agencies are designed to work around a programmatic workflow, and that will mean having to either work with what TTD offers — or try to find it elsewhere.
One agency executive at a programmatic specialty shop disagreed with most of the other agencies’ arguments, chalking up the sentiments to resentment about clout. “Whether it’s The Trade Desk or Google or Amazon, people tend to not like it when platforms become very powerful,” said the exec “Nobody likes losing leverage.”
The exec did acknowledge that all DSPs, not just TTD, need to reconsider the amount of fees applied to larger guaranteed campaigns that don’t involve retargeting, frequency capping or other work DSPs do.
“I kinda could get comfortable with paying 20% of my media budget through a DSP for that retargeting campaign, but I’m not at all comfortable paying 20% of my TV budget to a DSP that’s just a workflow tool,” said the exec.
NowVertical Group Solidifies its Media and Entertainment Vertical with Renewal of The Economist Group – Financial Post
TORONTO, March 20, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — NowVertical Group Inc. (TSX-V: NOW) (OTCQB: NOWVF) (“NOW” or the “Company”), the Vertical Intelligence (“VI”) company is pleased to announce it has renewed its contract with The Economist Group, the leading source of analysis on international business and world affairs. This most recent renewal marks the second consecutive service extension between the two companies. Based in London and serving a global readership and client base, the Economist Group’s flagship businesses include The Economist newspaper and website and a research and analysis division.
NOW’s UK-based Acrotrend Group began working with the Economist Group in 2020 to establish capabilities to define and standardize strategic and operational KPIs, provide critical insights for acquisition, retention and engagement, and provide solutions to improve the experience for their subscribers. The Company has also created a framework for delivering a modernized data platform to better serve demands from The Economists’ Marketing, Finance, and Customer Services teams. Under the renewed contract, NOW will continue to provide services to the Economist Group to support its robust architecture and introduce new technologies from the NOW VI-OS.
With this recent extension, NOW builds on its established list of approximately 30 media and entertainment customers. NOW’s current and past customers include Universal Music Group, Starz, Spotify, and Lionsgate, amongst many others.
“NOW continues to add incredible value for our Media and Entertainment customers,” said Daren Trousdell, Chairman and CEO of NOW. “This renewal further confirms our strength in the media and entertainment vertical, demonstrating how NOW delivers long-term value through the Vertical Intelligence (VI) approach. We look forward to continuing to drive value for The Economist and showcasing these winning use cases to more customers in this rapidly growing vertical.”
About NowVertical Group Inc.
NowVertical Group is a Vertical Intelligence (VI) software and services provider that delivers vertically-specific data, technology, and artificial intelligence (AI) applications into private and public verticals globally. NOW’s proprietary solutions sit at the foundation of the modern enterprise by transforming AI investments into VI, enabling its customers to minimize their risk, accelerate the time to value, and reduce costs. NOW is rapidly growing organically and through targeted acquisitions. For more information about NOW, visit www.nowvertical.com.
Neither the TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.
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For further information, please contact:
Daren Trousdell, Chief Executive Officer
t: (212) 302-0868
Glen Nelson, Investor Relations
t: (403) 763-9797
Elon Musk roasted for bizarre social media posts about Taylor Swift: ‘Stay away from her’
The divisive CEO of Twitter and Tesla shared comments with followers on his social media site as the Swift began her new Eras Tour in Arizona.
Musk commented underneath a tweet from Dogecoin founder Billy Markus, which read: “Taylor Swift rules and if you disagree you’ll be kicked off the internet i’m pretty sure.”
“Her limbic resonance skill is exceptional,” Musk replied.
“Limbic resonance” refers to the notion that a person’s capacity for sharing deep emotional states stems from the brain’s limbic system.
Musk also responded directly to a tweet from Swift’s official account, which comprised four images of the singer on stage.
The 51-year-old billionaire responded to the collage with a “cigarette” emoji, seemingly implying that he thought Swift was “smoking”.
In another tweet, Musk reacted to a post from a user called “Teslaconomics”, which asked whether Musk and Swift would “make a cute couple”. He replied with a “crying laughing” emoji.
Swift fans were repelled by Musk’s shows of admiration for the artist, with many writing that he should “go to horny jail”.
“You stay away from her,” one person wrote, while another commented: “Elon Musk better leave Taylor Swift alone dawg.”
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“I don’t know what a limbic resonance skill is but I’m gonna work on mine as soon as I find out,” one person joked.
The Independent has contacted a representative of Elon Musk for comment.
The opening night of Swift’s tour drew rave reviews from critics and concert-goers, including The Independent’s Kelsey barnes.
In a five-star review, she wrote: “In the 44-song setlist that spans three hours and 15 minutes, [Swift] shows why the ‘era’ concept is so integral to who she is. Each chapter marks a specific shift in her artistry.
“There’s a palpable elation at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Costumes are emblazoned with hand-painted lyrics; faces are bright with glitter; hands are covered in Swift’s lucky number 13. The fans I speak to say the concert feels like ‘coming home’.”
School systems sue social media companies for unprecedented toll on student mental health
The legal action started in January, with a suit by Seattle Public Schools, and picked up momentum in recent weeks as school districts in California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida have followed. Lawyers involved say many more are planned.
San Mateo County, home to 23 school districts and part of the Silicon Valley in northern California, filed a 107-page complaint in federal court last week, alleging that social media companies used advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to create addictive platforms that cause young people harm.
“The results have been disastrous,” the filing asserts, saying more children than ever struggle with their mental health amid excessive use of the platforms. “There is simply no historic analog to the crisis the nation’s youth are now facing,” it said.
The suit points to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing climbing rates of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts among the nation’s high school students. The increasing popularity of social media, it contends, “tracks precisely” with a youth mental health decline. It quotes President Biden’s remarks in his State of the Union address that tactics used by social media companies are an “experiment they are running on our children for profit.”
San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Magee said in an interview that rampant social media use has left a mark on schools, to the point where administrators have observed a spike in mental health emergencies during the school day. There have been “very serious” cyberbullying incidents related to social media — with content “nearly impossible” to get the companies to take down — and school threats that have kept students at home, she said.
Magee also pointed to other harms — for example, vandalism in high school bathrooms during what was called the “Devious Lick Challenge.” Students across the country stole soap dispensers, flooded toilets, shattered mirrors — then showed off their stunts on TikTok.
“The social media companies create the platforms and the tools but the impacts are felt by schools, and I would really like to see an understanding of that, ” Magee said. “And then that the education community receives the resources in both people and tools to help support students adequately.”
Social media companies did not directly comment on the litigation but in written statements said they prioritize teen safety and described measures to protect young users.
TikTok cited age-restricted features, with limits on direct messaging and livestreams, as well as private accounts by default for younger teens. It also pointed to limits on nighttime notifications; parental controls, called Family Pairing, that allow parents to control content, privacy and screen time; and expert resources, including suicide prevention and eating disorder helplines, directly reachable from the app.
You Tube, which is owned by Google, has Family Link, which allows parents to set reminders, limit screen time and block certain types of content on supervised devices, said spokesperson José Castañeda. Protections for users under 18 include defaulting uploads to private and well-being reminders for breaks and bedtime.
Meta, which owns Instagram, said more than 30 tools support teens and families, including age-verification technology, notifications to take regular breaks and features that allow parents to limit time on Instagram. “We don’t allow content that promotes suicide, self-harm or eating disorders, and of the content we remove or take action on, we identify over 99 percent of it before it’s reported to us,” said Antigone Davis, Global Head of Safety of Meta.
Snapchat said its platform “curates content from known creators and publishers and uses human moderation to review user generated content before it can reach a large audience.” Doing so “greatly reduces the spread and discovery of harmful content,” a spokesperson said, adding that Snapchat works with mental health organizations to provide in-app tools and resources for users.
The first of the lawsuits, filed Jan. 6 for Seattle Public Schools, said research shows that the social media companies “exploit the same neural circuitry as gambling and recreational drugs to keep consumers using their products as much as possible” and that social media is so popular it is used by 90 percent of those ages 13 to 17. One study showed users check Snapchat 30 times a day, it said. Nearly 20 percent of teens use YouTube “almost constantly,” it said.
Seattle has seen a surge in the share of youth “who say they cannot stop or control their anxiety, who feel so sad and hopeless they stop doing the activities they used to love, who are considering suicide,” or made plans to take their lives or attempted suicide, the suit said.
Outside Philadelphia, officials in Bucks County filed suit Tuesday against the social media companies, laying out a similar case. It’s not because they are against social media, said Commission Chair Bob Harvie — who points out the county itself has used TikTok — but rather that the algorithms that get teens to “keep looking, keep focusing, keep scrolling” take a toll on kids’ mental health.
“The way we look at it, it’s not unlike the way cigarette companies used to manipulate nicotine levels to make sure that people kept smoking,” Harvie said. “… Our number one priority is just to get the behavior of these companies to change.”
School districts are generally seeking that the conduct of social media companies be declared a public nuisance, that their practices change and that damages be paid to fund prevention, education and treatment for excessive and problematic use of social media.
The 109-page lawsuit on behalf of Bucks County highlights worsening mental health data, saying the problems have “advanced in lockstep with the growth of social media platforms deliberately designed to attract and addict youth to the platforms by amplifying harmful material, dosing users with dopamine hits, and thereby driving youth engagement and advertising revenue.”
Later, it says social apps “hijack a tween and teen compulsion – to connect – that can be even more powerful than hunger or greed.”
In northern New Jersey, the School District of the Chathams has invested increasing resources over the years to help students struggling with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, said attorney Michael Innes, whose firm is representing the district in its litigation filed in mid February. The firm filed a similar action for another New Jersey school district, Irvington Public Schools, in early March.
“We’ve spoken to school districts that have made a decision between spending on mental health and spending on classroom education,” Innes said.
For Richard Weissbourd, a psychologist and senior lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, the lawsuits may make a lot of sense but parents, coaches and others involved in teens’ lives need to become more effective in talking to adolescents about the benefits and hazards of social media.
One problem, Weissbourd said, is that many parents are preoccupied with their own devices. In recent research, he said, many teens reported that their primary caregiver was using a smartphone or computer at times when they wanted help or to be together.
Marisol Garcia, a staff therapist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University, said social media can be a powerful means of connection but the downsides are significant too. She was not surprised schools have begun filing lawsuits, saying they want to do what they think is good for their students’ mental and physical health.
The long-term ramifications of social media use — on attention span, social skills, mental health — are unclear, she said. The legal action, she said, “could be a positive thing.”
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