December 5, 2018: Instagram launches “Close Friend” lists for sharing Stories; YouTube announces plans to make YouTube Originals free; New research on connected devices and OTT video suggests viewers are younger and more engaged; Holiday shopping hits record highs; and Facebook expands “Today In” local news feature.

Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:


For Close Friends Only

The Story

Instagram has given users a new option for Story sharing: the ability to share with “Close Friends.”

Tell me everything.

The new option lets users create lists of specific groups of friends, which appear as options when sharing Stories (seen IRL below). Chosen friends will see a green badge on displayed Stories and a green ring around users’’ profile photos to let them know that this is uber-exclusive “Close Friends”-only content (AKA: no screenshots).

Why’s Insta doing this?

Private sharing is the new social sharing. In fact, the top messaging apps now have more users than the top social networks. An increasing amount of engagement now occurs via messages and private groups. On Instagram, around half of all users also use the platform’s direct messaging options, while previous reports showed that 85 percent of the messages shared on the platform were distributed to the same three friends, highlighting the desire for more intimate sharing.


With this feature, brands and influencers have even more opportunities to target and share posts with specific segments of fans and followers. While these lists could be based on a post’s contextual relevance (i.e., location), they could also be curated based on a brand, interest, or engagement to allow for more exclusive, VIP-like experiences. The biggest potential gains for marketers really comes from the ability to rapidly test and iterate on content with select groups of influencers and their followers before content goes to market. Your insights are only as good as the audience you sourced them from, and these mini Insta focus groups are lit.


YouTube Originals Is Ch-Ch-Changing

The Story

YouTube has announced that it will make its YouTube Originals programming free to view and ad-supported. Formerly, Originals programming was only available to YouTube Premium subscribers.

Why the sudden change?

YouTube’s efforts in original video haven’t quite panned out as hoped, especially when compared to the successes of streaming giants like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. Despite YouTube’s plans to invest “hundreds of millions” of dollars into the development of original content, Netflix has allocated $8 billion in 2018 alone. So, while it initially made sense for YouTube to dip its toes into a subscription-based model, the lack of access ultimately left viewers saying “Thank u, next” to YouTube Originals and some frustrated creators over the lack of said viewership.  

What’s next for YouTube Originals?

The company has announced plans to “expand the audience of YouTube Original creators.” How exactly they will do that is TBD, but one thing’s for certain: YouTube won’t be abandoning its Premium model any time soon. Instead, the company is said to be focusing on its ad-free feature, its ability to be watched offline, and its superior music experience as the product’s core selling points.


Will the next Emmy-award winning show be an influencer-generated YT Original? For some time now, many influencers were reluctant to create content for YouTube Premium under the Originals umbrella because of the growing concern that videos weren’t being seen by as many people as YouTube’s free, ad-supported content. However, with YouTube removing this paywall, Originals content has essentially been democratized, open to more creators, able to amass an audience and generate critical acclaim. It’s also a potential first-mover opportunity for marketers.

Also for the next time your coworker asks, “whatever happened to Ludacris?”, you’re welcome:


OTT, Yeah, You Know Me

The Story

New research on connected TV and over-the-top (OTT) video suggests that platform viewers are younger than the audience for traditional, linear TV and more engaged in the content that they watch  (lemme pull out my shocked face – it gets better).

What else?

Today, seven percent of live TV viewers across the top five TV networks are between the ages of 18 and 24, and 19 percent of that demographic watches content on a connected device. Additionally, the majority of viewers of ad-supported OTT video like interacting with ads. They spent twice as long engaging with those ads as compared to similar ads elsewhere online.

Anything else?

American households are responsible for watching more than eight billion hours of content each month through connected TV devices. In addition, connected TV devices are becoming the preferred platform for video viewing, with consumers watching more than an hour daily on those devices, compared to 36 minutes on computers and 24 minutes on mobile.

Talk to me about the future of TV.

As TV becomes increasingly digital and connected, it will soon be viewed as a digital touchpoint and will become more integrated with digital attribution models. As such, TV ad retargeting will evolve in its maturity, as well, but what’s interesting to consider is how all the tech that’s now commonplace on mobile will be applied to TV. Imagine Apple applies its facial recognition tech to the next Apple TV, and personalized ads or content plays only when the device recognizes it has your attention. Can you imagine the view-through metrics on that! Wasted imps be gone.


The race is on. With the understanding that today’s consumers are increasingly turning to connected devices to consume long-form content, we’re seeing companies like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google constantly testing new programs, types of content, technologies and watch groups all geared towards meeting consumers where they are already engaging with content.

Another inevitable result of the TV world becoming increasingly digital and automated is that people-based processes in TV are also becoming increasingly automated. The results? More software, fewer jobs.


Ho-Ho-Holiday Shopping Hits Digital Commerce High

The Story

This year, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday all posted +28% or higher ecommerce revenue versus 2017, with an increased consumer emphasis on discounts, deals, and promotions.

What else?

Cyber Monday was the largest spending day of the three key days in terms of total volume and had the ho-ho-highest digital spend ever, hitting $6 billion in total digital spending. Total digital commerce grew 38% on Thanksgiving and 36% on Black Friday, with Thanksgiving being the “most mobile” of the three days. Free shipping also continued to be a point of accord for consumers, with 81 percent of transactions and 90 percent of desktop dollars spent on transactions that included free shipping.


‘Tis the season for brand collabs. According to our 2018 Influencer Holiday Survey, nearly 60 percent of influencers have received a higher number of requests to collaborate on winter holiday campaigns from brands, agencies, or influencer platforms as compared with the same time last year. Additionally, more than 40 percent of influencers surveyed reported that the conversations started earlier in the year this year as compared with last year. You can read more on the report here.


Today In Facebook, Local News Expands

The Story

Facebook has announced an extension of its “Today In” local news update section, with the tool now being made available in more than 400 US cities.

Tell me about the feature.

Facebook first launched “Today In” back in January, aiming to highlight the platform’s push for real and trusted news – something that Facebook has been evidently struggling with for quite some time now.  As shown below, the tool provides updates on local news stories, events, and group discussions, all aimed at keeping users informed about community happenings and encouraging participation.


In this era of growing political and institutional distrust, people have started turning toward local news sources for trusted and credible of information. The ongoing shift away from national news, as a result, is changing how marketers plan, strategize, and execute both PR and media buys, with more strategies pitching and incorporating local news stations and outlets.

For the same reason that brands invest in an integrated media strategy, brands should also look to invest in an integrated influencer strategy, incorporating local micro-influencers and brand ambassadors to build local relevance and credibility, as well as macro-influencers’ reach.



You Get Facebook Watch, You Get Facebook Watch, We All Get Facebook Watch – Yay?

Pinterest’s Recommendation Algorithms Are Improving – Big Time

The Future of Travel Is Biometric Boarding – And It’s Really Cool