Spotify upgrades artist app, ESPN on Facebook Watch, Google launches Play Pass, & more

In today’s subscriber update, there are three noteworthy news stories involving big tech companies and their cultural content platforms: Spotify, Facebook and Google. Also I highlight an interesting debate in the book world that is begging for a tech solution.

What You Need To Know 👀

  1. Spotify revamps app for artists; adds real-time listener stats 🎹

Techcrunch reports:

“Launched two years ago, the Spotify app already offers a way to see real-time listening stats for new releases for the first week they go live. Now it’s expanding its listening stats so artists can see how many people are playing their songs right now.

It’s also now easier to track important milestones in the revamped app […] like when a song gets added to a playlist or the artist gains new followers.”

My take: As I noted in early August, Apple released Apple Music For Artists (AMFA) out of beta just over a month ago. So Spotify’s artist app upgrade is a clear response to that. Ain’t competition good! Musicians also have it good compared to other cultural sectors, when it comes to getting platform data about their content. Again, that probably says a lot about how competitive the music streaming business is.

  1. ESPN inks Facebook deal to bring exclusive content to Watch 📹

Variety reports:

With the new content, ESPN will engage with fans through the Facebook Watch platform via Watch Parties, polls, or live talent Q&As.

“We are extending some of our most popular ESPN shows and creating new ones with content available only on Facebook and Facebook Watch,” said Ryan Spoon, ESPN’s SVP of digital and social content.

My take: Back in June, I checked out ESPN’s live stream of the NBA Finals. It was inspired by popular live streaming platform Twitch and featured cartoon animations and a youth-oriented commentary. It was terrible. What’s worse, there was no interactivity. Perhaps shifting this type of content from the ESPN app to Facebook Watch will help with the interactivity part, since there’s no question Facebook is an expert in creating two-way engagement. But ESPN’s content will need a big improvement too.

  1. NYT calls for more fact-checking in books 📚

Alexandra Alter writes in The New York Times:

“In an era plagued by deep fakes and online disinformation campaigns, we still tend to trust what we read in books. But should we?

In the past year alone, errors in books by several high-profile authors — including Naomi Wolf, the former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, the historian Jared Diamond, the behavioral scientist and “happiness expert” Paul Dolan and the journalist Michael Wolff — have ignited a debate over whether publishers should take more responsibility for the accuracy of their books.”

My take: This seems like a case where technology – specifically, artificial intelligence – could help the book industry. Poynter had a couple of stories (1, 2) earlier this year about multiple new AI projects being funded to help fact-check journalism. I don’t see why the same technologies can’t be applied to nonfiction books.

  1. Google launches mobile gaming subscription service, Play Pass 🎮

Gamasutra reports:

“Google has launched its own subscription service for mobile apps and games on its Android platform, a launch that conspicuously comes less than one week after iPhone maker Apple debuted its own similar service.

[Play Pass] offers access to both regular apps and mobile games and has launched with a library of over 350 titles. Unlike Apple Arcade and its promise of new titles and semi-exclusivity, the titles included in a Play Pass subscription are games and apps already available on the Play Store.”

My take: As with the Spotify news above, this is another case where competition (again from Apple) has forced a bigco to up its game. In this case, Google has opted for a different strategy than Apple Arcade – which was announced a couple of weeks ago. Google’s value proposition is that for $4.99 a month (matching Apple’s price), users can avoid per-game upfront costs, intrusive ads and in-app purchases in the 350 games available. Given these are factors that easily turn off casual gamers, this seems like a pretty good deal.

Data Points 📊

  • Hypebot: This Chart Shows What Streaming Services Are Paying (Maybe) 🎸

  • Adage: Media net advertising revenue will grow 4.1 percent in 2019 and 6.2 percent in 2020; especially from DTC brands. 💰

  • Newzoo: Global mobile game revenues will grow to $68.5 billion in 2019, a year-on-year growth of +26.7%. China will be the largest mobile games market, followed by the U.S. and Japan. 🎮

  • Socialbakers via WNIP: Audience sizes on Instagram catches up to Facebook, with Instagram generating higher engagement. 📱

  • The Streamable: TiVo study finds that multi-service usage (e.g. Pay TV plus SVOD) has grown 14 percent year-over-year. 📺

Tweet of the day 🐦

Frank Condello reads the fine print of Google Play Pass:

That’s the latest subscriber update, hope you found it useful. Coming up tomorrow is this week’s analysis post, which will be made available to free signups to help get the word out. Thanks again for your early support of Cybercultural. 🙏