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Facebook highlights small businesses as it ramps up Apple criticism

Facebook already made it clear that it isn’t happy about Apple’s upcoming restrictions on app tracking and ad targeting, but the publicity battle entered a new phase today.
Over the summer, Apple announced that beginning in iOS 14, developers will have to ask users for permission in order to use their IDFA identifiers for ad targeting. On one level, it’s simply giving users a choice, but because they’ll have to opt-in to participate, the assumption is that we’ll see a dramatic reduction in app tracking and targeting.
The actual change was delayed until early next year, but in the meantime Facebook suggested that this might mean the end of its Audience Network (which uses Facebook data to target ads on other websites and apps) on iOS.

Then, this morning, Facebook placed print ads in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post declaring that it’s “standing up to Apple for small businesses everywhere,” and it published a blog post and website making the same argument.
While it’s easy to see all of this as an attempt to put a more sympathetic face on a PR campaign that’s really just protecting Facebook’s ad business, Dan Levy — the company’s vice president of ads and business products — got on a call with reporters today to argue otherwise.

Image Credits: Facebook

For one thing, he said that with its “diversified” advertising business, Facebook won’t feel the impact as keenly as small businesses, particularly since it already acknowledged potential ad targeting challenges in its most recent earnings report.
“We’ve already been factoring this into our expectations for the business,” he said.
In contrast, Levy said small businesses rely on targeting in order to run efficient advertising campaigns — and because they’ve got small budgets, they need that efficiency. He predicted that if Apple moves forward with its plans, “Small businesses will struggle to stay afloat and many aspiring entrepreneurs may never get off the ground.”
Levy was joined by two small business owners, Monique Wilsondebriano of Charleston Gourmet Burger Company in South Carolina and Hrag Kalebjian of Henry’s House of Coffee in San Francisco. Kalebjian said that while business in the coffee shop is down 40% year-over-year, his online sales have tripled, and he credited targeted Facebook campaigns for allowing him to tell personal stories about his family’s love for Armenian coffee.
Wilsondebriano, meanwhile, said that when she and her husband Chevalo started a business selling their homemade burger marinade, “we did not have the option to run radio ads or TV ads, we just didn’t have a budget for that” — and so they turned to Facebook and Instagram. With the marinade now available in 50 states and 17 countries, Wilsondebriano said, “It makes me sad that if this update happens, so many small businesses won’t get that same opportunity that Cheval and I had.”
Levy also suggested that Apple’s bottom line might benefit from the changes — if developers make less money on ads from Facebook and other platforms, they may need to rely more on subscriptions or in-app transactions (with Apple collecting its much-discussed fee), and they might turn to Apple’s own targeted advertising platform.
A number of ad industry groups have also taken issue with Apple’s policy, with SVP Craig Federighi fighting back in a speech criticizing what he called “outlandish” and “false” claims from the adtech industry. In that speech, Federighi said Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature is designed “to empower our users to decide when or if they want to allow an app to track them in a way that could be shared across other companies’ apps or websites.”
Update: Apple sent out the following statement.
We believe that this is a simple matter of standing up for our users. Users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites — and they should have the choice to allow that or not. App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 does not require Facebook to change its approach to tracking users and creating targeted advertising, it simply requires they give users a choice.

Facebook isn’t happy about Apple’s upcoming ad tracking restrictions

Facebook highlights small businesses as it ramps up Apple criticism

Daily Crunch: Apple delays ad-tracking changes

Apple announces a surprising delay, Facebook bans new political ads for the week before the U.S. election and SpaceX is testing its Starlink internet system. This is your Daily Crunch for September 3, 2020.
The big story: Apple delays ad-tracking changes
At this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple announced that in iOS 14 (currently in public beta), app developers would have to ask users whether they wanted to be tracked for ad purposes.

The move seems like a straightforward win for privacy, but some developers and advertisers have been pretty worried — Facebook, for example, predicted that this could render its Audience Network ad network completely ineffective. So Apple announced today that it’s delaying the changes until early next year.
“We want to give developers the time they need to make the necessary changes, and as a result, the requirement to use this tracking permission will go into effect early next year,” Apple said in a statement.
The tech giants
Facebook to block new political ads 1 week before Nov 3, adds more tools and rules for fair elections — Campaigns can still run ads to encourage people to vote, and they can still run older political ads.
Nintendo’s latest trick is turning the Switch into an RC controller for an AR Mario Kart game — The idea is that you can control real RC cars in your home.
Amazon launches an Alexa service for property managers — The company’s goal is to Alexa a tool for smart home management, even for those without their own Amazon account.
Startups, funding and venture capital
SpaceX confirms Starlink internet private beta underway, showing low latency and speeds over 100Mbps — While the current private beta is limited to SpaceX employees, the company said that the public Starlink beta is still on track to kick off later this year.
Optimizely acquired by content management company Episerver — In a statement, Episerver CEO Alex Atzberger said this is “the most significant transformation in our company’s history – one that will set a new industry standard for digital experience platforms.”
India’s Zomato raises $62 million from Temasek — The food delivery startup announced in January that Ant Financial had committed to provide it with $150 million, but apparently the firm has yet to deliver two-thirds of that capital.
Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch
9 top real estate and proptech investors: Cities and offices still have a future — Optimism still runs high for startup hubs as well as supercities like New York and San Francisco.
Media Roundup: Patreon joins unicorn club, Facebook could ban news in Australia — Are you interested in the media business? Do you appreciate my news-gathering skills? Then this is the roundup for you!
What happens when public SaaS companies don’t meet heightened investor expectations? — The lesson for startups is clear: You’d better be damn impressive.
(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)
Everything else
Spirit Airlines starts testing biometric check-ins — It’s starting at Chicago’s O’Hare airport.
NSA call records collection ruled illegal by US appeals court — The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the NSA’s “bulk collection” of call records violated the law, but the judges fell short of ruling the program unconstitutional.
Disrupt 2020 Labor Day flash sale — Starting today, you can save $100 off the price of a Disrupt Digital Pro Pass.
The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Daily Crunch: Apple delays ad-tracking changes

Pandora launches interactive voice ads into beta testing

Pandora is launching interactive voice ads into wider public testing, the company announced this morning. The music streaming service first introduced the new advertising format, where users verbally respond to advertiser prompts, back in December with help from a small set of early adopters, including Doritos, Ashley HomeStores, Unilever, Wendy’s, Turner Broadcasting, Comcast and Nestlé.
The ads begin by explaining to listeners what they are and how they work. They then play a short and simple message followed by a question that listeners can respond to. For example, a Wendy’s ad asked listeners if they were hungry, and if they say “yes,” the ad continued with a recommendation of what to eat. An Ashley HomeStores ads engaged listeners by offering tips on a better night’s sleep.
The format is meant in particular to aid advertisers in connecting with users who are not looking at their phone. For example, when people are listening to Pandora while driving, cooking, cleaning the house or doing some other hands-free activity.
Since their debut, Pandora’s own data indicated the ads have been fairly well-received, in terms of the voice format; 47% of users said they either liked or loved the concept of responding with their voice, and 30% felt neutral. The stats paint a picture of an overall more positive reception, given that users don’t typically like ads at all. In addition, 72% of users also said they found the ad format easy to engage with.
However, Pandora cautioned advertisers that more testing is needed to understand which ads get users to respond and which do not. Based on early alpha testing, ads with higher engagement seemed be those that were entertaining, humorous or used a recognizable brand voice, it says.

As the new ad format enters into beta testing, the company is expanding access to more advertisers. Advertisers including Acura, Anheuser-Busch, AT&T, Doritos, KFC, Lane Bryant, Purex Laundry Detergent, Purple, Unilever, T-Mobile, The Home Depot, Volvo and Xfinity, among others, are signed up to test the interactive ads.
This broader test aims to determine what the benchmarks should be for voice ads, whether the ads need tweaking to optimize for better engagement, and whether ads are better for driving conversions at the upper funnel or if consumers are ready to take action based on the ads’ content.
Related to the rollout of interactive voice ads, Pandora is also upgrading its “Voice Mode” feature, launched last year and made available to all users last July. The feature will now offer listeners on-demand access to specific tracks and albums in exchange for watching a brand video via Pandora’s existing Video Plus ad format, the same as for text-based searches.
 

Pandora launches interactive voice ads into beta testing

Extra Crunch Live: Join Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg for a live Q&A May 26 at 2pm ET/11am PT

Hans Vestberg, CEO of Verizon Communications, is a busy man. He’s also a business man. He’s a busy businessman, but has graciously made time to join us for an episode of Extra Crunch Live, our ongoing speaker series for Extra Crunch members.
We’re thrilled to have Vestberg as a guest on the show! The episode will air on May 26 at 2pm ET/11am PT.
Full disclosure: Verizon is the parent company to TechCrunch, which means that Vestberg is our boss’s boss’s boss’s boss.
Vestberg was previously CEO at Ericsson and joined Verizon as chief technology officer and EVP of network and technology in April of 2017. In June of 2018, the company announced that Vestberg would succeed Lowell McAdams as CEO of Verizon Communications. The promotion was made official that August.
Vestberg is unlike some of our previous guests on Extra Crunch Live — VCs like Kirsten Green, Roelof Botha and Charles Hudson and entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban. Vestberg is an operator at the helm of one of the world’s biggest corporations, and, as such, provides a unique perspective on adaptation strategies during the coronavirus pandemic.
Not only can attendees plan to hear about how Verizon is thinking both short and long-term about the effects of this pandemic on business, but also about how things are changing internally at the company, from re-opening offices to keeping morale high.
Vestberg leads a company with thousands of employees and can help founders understand how to manage a company at scale, particularly during a time when decisions are being made quickly and the stakes are high.
We’re also interested in talking to Vestberg about the company’s 5G rollout. 5G technology has huge implications for startups, especially as video conferencing and high-bandwidth communication formats become more popular in the midst of physical distancing.
Oh, another important thing! We’re not going to be the only ones asking questions. Extra Crunch members can also ask their questions directly in the Zoom call. So make sure you come prepared! If you’re not already a member, you can join Extra Crunch here.
Again, this episode of Extra Crunch Live with Hans Vestberg goes down on May 26 at 2pm ET/11am PT. You can find the full details below the jump.

Extra Crunch Live: Join Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg for a live Q&A May 26 at 2pm ET/11am PT

Declining ad rates may signal a reset for startup SEM strategies

With limited prospects for growth, one of the iron laws of economic downturns is that advertising is among the first budgets to be cut.
Advertising revenues have already cratered at many alt-weekly newspapers, which heavily rely on local events and restaurants that have been shuttered in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. BuzzFeed even went so far (as they do) to label it a “media extinction event.”
Clearly it’s bad times, but I wanted to get a lot more granular around the data for ad rates, particularly around top startups. So I compiled a list of a little more than 100 unicorns across a variety of sectors and explored how the prices of their search engine keywords have changed with the global pandemic that is sparking a global recession.
The results aren’t surprising — there has been a collapse in prices for almost all ads (with some very interesting exceptions we will get to in a bit). But the variations across startups in their online ad performance says a lot about industries like food delivery and enterprise software, and also the long-term revenue performance of Google, Facebook and other digital advertising networks.
A quick overview of the data
It’s common for startups to buy their own keywords on search engines like Google and the App Store. Owning that top rank guarantees that their own company’s page is the first result a user sees and prevents competitors from buying their name, potentially intercepting customers.

Declining ad rates may signal a reset for startup SEM strategies