In this week’s digital news, Google AI gets more advanced, Amazon ads generate record sales, and the Facebook lawsuit uncovers more damaging emails.
Google’s AI tech leaps forward
Data scientists from Google Brain and the University of Michigan released a paper this week detailing a big step forward. Their new machine learning system can reportedly generate sentences using a written sample, but that’s nothing new. Remarkably, the AI can now change the mood, tense, nuance, and even the voice of the text. The development team suggests that the tech could be used for such tasks as paraphrasing, translation, or conversation-based tasks. Interestingly enough, the developers used Yelp and IMDB reviews to help program the distinction between positive and negative sentiment. The resulting text generated by the AI was grammatically correct and perfectly realistic, setting a new precedent.
Amazon ads wildly successful over Thanksgiving weekend
The numbers are in from Thanksgiving weekend, and it looks like Amazon ads are generating more revenue than ever before. Orders generated by ads jumped from 16.3% to 25.1%, more than doubling profits. Companies now must put a lot of their marketing budgets into buying ads on Amazon, and most are doing so. As CNBC reported this year, some marketers are shifting 50% of their search budgets from Google to Amazon. The only issue, of course, is oversaturation. Amazon will need to prevent their pages from becoming full of ads, but the exact threshold isn’t clear. The e-commerce platform is now number three among digital ad platforms behind Facebook and Google, and they’ll need to keep filling up pages with ads to stay competitive.
New report implies Facebook has ‘whitelisted’ apps in the past
This past Wednesday the ongoing investigation into Facebook’s internal emails produced a new batch of interesting results. It seems that in past years, Facebook used a policy of “whitelisting” different companies, such as Bumble and Badoo. The practice essentially entails limiting access to advanced API, and in effect, access to user data. Although this practice isn’t exactly illegal, the primary concern is the secrecy of the dealings. For context, these emails have been released as a part of a lawsuit between Facebook and app developer Six4Three. Facebook allegedly defrauded developers by encouraging them to build on the platform, and then making changes that harmed business. Regardless of how the case pans out, the information coming out of the investigation is shedding a lot of light on the practices used by Facebook.
Apple pumps money into marketing discounted iPhone XR
Poor sales of the iPhone XR haven’t improved, so Apple is reportedly allocating staff and marketing dollars to spark holiday sales. So far, the advertising includes a fairly blatant home page banner on Apple.com, selling the month-old device for $499 with an eligible trade-in. Ongoing promotions also include a 10 percent discount for military personnel and gift card giveaways. This news comes after reports that Apple slowed down production of new phones at their biggest production plants. Plus, the company quickly scaled the price down for Japanese markets in late November. Sales have been declining ever since the release of the iPhone X, which was their first mobile device to reach the $1000 price point. Considering the company’s history of influence, however, more consumers will likely be willing to pay the bloated price point soon enough.
Lyft continues its hot streak by filing for IPO
It’s been a big year for Lyft. They reached the 1 billion ride mark in September and partnered with a healthcare service to offer rides to medical patients. They even acquired an AR startup and a bikeshare service. Plus, they showed their drivers some love by updating the service to provide default tips and automatic 5-star ratings. And now they’re filing for an IPO before their main rival Uber. The company is reportedly shooting for an IPO in the first half of 2019, and projected valuations are in the $18-30 billion range. The company has continued to shoot upwards over the past year. In June they secured $600 million in a round led by Fidelity Investments at a $15.1-billion valuation. While Lyft’s global reach may not be nearly as extensive as that of Uber, their advantage on the home front is only increasing.
Published on December 7, 2018