Category: Google+

Google Releases ‘Visual Inspection’ AI Tool That Can Spot Product Defects

Image via Michael Vi /

Google has launched the Visual Inspection AI, a new Google Cloud Platform (GCP) service that will help manufacturers and businesses detect faulty goods during the inspection process. This is the tech giant’s first GCP service dedicated to manufacturers, underscoring Google’s growing interest in the industry.

According to VentureBeat, defects cost manufacturers a hefty chunk of change each year. Quality-related costs account for as much as 15% to 20% of a brand’s sales revenue. The Visual Inspection AI aims to solve this problem, enabling businesses to conduct quality assurance checks and correct errors before the products are shipped to customers.

By identifying such defects early on in the manufacturing process, a brand will be able to improve its overall production output, increase yields and slash return costs. The Visual Inspection AI covers two high-level uses in manufacturing: cosmetic defection detection and assembly inspection.

Upon fine-tuning the software for each business’ specifics, the Visual Inspection AI will be able to spot potential defects in real-time, while leveraging Google’s cloud for processing. Among the first users of this new service are Renault, Foxconn, and Kyocera.

Google said its software can build models of products with up to 300 times fewer human-labeled images than other machine learning platforms, from as few as 10 images. The software’s accuracy will increase over time as it gets exposed to more products.

The Visual Inspection AI will be going up against Amazon’s Lookout for Vision, a similar cloud service that analyzes images using computer vision to spot defects in manufactured goods, though it’s notable that Amazon’s software requires a minimum of 30 baseline images as compared to Google’s 10.

“AI has proven to be particularly beneficial in helping to automate the visual quality control process for manufacturers – a particular pain point felt by the industry. We’ve been delighted by the strong interest in Visual Inspection AI, and we look forward to supporting more organizations as they continue to find innovative new ways to deploy AI at scale,” said Dominik Wee, Managing Director Manufacturing and Industrial at Google Cloud.

[via VentureBeat, cover image via Michael Vi /]

Google Opens The Doors To Its First-Ever Physical Store, Take A Peek Inside

Image courtesy of Google

On June 17, Google opened the doors to its first-ever physical retail store in Chelsea, New York City.

This brand-new space will allow customers to have hands-on experiences with Google’s vast lineup of devices and services. From Pixel phones to Nest products and Fitbit wearables, there’s everything you need under one roof.

When designing the space in Chelsea, Google wanted to ensure it was warm and inviting, while providing customers new ways to interact with its products. Plus, sustainability was a key concern, which led to Google integrating eco-conscious materials into every facet of the store’s design.

For example, each lighting fixture in the store is energy-efficient, the veneer on the walls is made from responsibly-sourced hickory, and even the carpeting is manufactured from recycled materials.

The Google Store Chelsea is now one of fewer than 215 retail locations worldwide to be awarded the LEED Platinum rating – the highest certification possible within the Environmental Design rating system.

Key highlights of the store include the Nest Gallery Wall, which displays 35 Google home products in their full range of colors and materials. You can now view the different designs in real life, finding the perfect fit for your home’s aesthetic.

Littered throughout the store are also Discovery Boxes, which feature custom transparent LED screens, informing customers about Google’s latest launches.

Step into Sandboxes – rooms designed to allow customers to experience Google devices in real-life scenarios.

Interact with Nest products in a simulated living room, or check out Pixel’s newest camera features within a custom light installation. Customers can even geek out in the entertainment room decked out with Stadia.

Shoppers who require assistance with their Google devices will also be able to approach support staff on hand at the store, including Pixel on-site repair.

If you’re keen on expanding your expertise, Google Store Chelsea will also be offering regular events and workshops, so you stay on top of the technology game.

Take a peek inside this remarkable space below.

Image courtesy of Google

Image courtesy of Google

Image courtesy of Google

Image courtesy of Google

Image courtesy of Google

Image courtesy of Google

Image courtesy of Google

[via Google, images courtesy of Google]

Google Opens Entire Workspace Suite To All, Free Of Charge

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Video screenshot via Google

When Google first unveiled Workspace—formerly G Suite—in October last year, it was the first time users had the option of a single, integrated experience for the myriad apps the tech giant offers.

Gmail, Chat, Calendar, Docs, and Sheets could all be accessed from the same page, eliminating the need to switch back and forth between tabs. However, this service was initially only made available to those with a paid enterprise account.

From this week, the tech firm is making Workspace accessible to anyone with a Google account, free of charge. To enable Google Workspace, simply turn on Google Chat.

Highlights include Google Chat’s collaboration feature, which allows users to share and keep track of ideas and discussions. From pictures and videos to Google Docs and Sheets, everything can now be found in one place.

Plus, smart suggestions help you link to recommended files easily, and enables you to @-mention others to alert them specifically, be it in an email or invite in Calendar.

Those using Google Meet for meetings will also be able to present the file they’re working on directly in the call with just a click.

Google is also introducing new features to Rooms. Over the summer, it’ll be expanding Rooms to become Spaces, introducing a streamlined user interface to boost productivity.

New functions will include in-line topic threading, presence indicators, custom statuses, express reactions, and a collapsible view.

Though Google Workspace is now free of charge, entrepreneurs or other power users of Google can choose its new subscription offering: Google Workspace Individual.

This paid service will allow small business owners to get more done professionally. Users who sign up for the subscription plan will gain access to premium features, such as smart booking services, professional video meetings, personalized email marketing, and more.

Though Google Workspace Individual has yet to launch, interested users can sign up here to receive updates. The service will soon be rolled out to the US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, and Japan.

For more information on Google Workspace and Google Workspace Individual, check them out here.

Image via Google

Image via Google

[via Google, images via various sources]

Google Sheets’ Fun Pride Easter Egg Gives Your Documents A Colorful Twist

Images via Shutterstock / rvlsoft / / Google Sheets

Google Sheets are lighting up with pride, thanks to a fun addition uncovered in the free spreadsheets tool, just in time for Pride Month.

As spotted by Twitter designer Paul Stamitaou, when you enter the word “PRIDE” across columns, the entire sheet would be splashed in rainbow colors. It’s an Easter egg anyone staring at drab grayscale cells all day would appreciate.

Upon discovering this neat trick, others have noted that it also works with translations of “PRIDE” in other languages, since acceptance is multifaceted.

For those hoping to create colorful Google Sheet art, some users have additionally discovered that the Easter egg is compatible with formulae, allowing you to create rainbow documents with “PRIDE” spelled out diagonally or in other shapes.

Who knew you could make colorful parades out of boring spreadsheets too? Hopefully, this feature will thrive beyond Pride Month, because color-coded sheets are certainly more enticing than black and white ones.

just learned that if you type PRIDE across Google Sheet columns it does this:

— Paul Stamatiou (@Stammy) June 9, 2021

— Piizeus (@piizeus85) June 9, 2021

Curious; it works with formulae as well:

I added the actual characters in various rows and columns that aren't the homerow, and using `=[cell]` to map the characters back results in the same effect. Neato!

— (ᐛ)xDEADCE11::ED (@ebelliveau) June 9, 2021

Works with other languages too. Portuguese (“orgulho”), e. g.:

— K. Langoso 🇧🇷🔴🐷🇳🇬🏡😷 (@klangoso) June 11, 2021

@annamareet @kimber_steffen Henceforth all spreadsheets must be rainbow-ified!

— Angela (@ad_west10) June 9, 2021

[via Gadgets 360, images via various sources]

Google Is Apparently Building A Foldable Pixel Phone, As Hinted In Android 12

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Image via Frederic Legrand – COMEO /

A foldable Google Pixel phone could be arriving around the bend, if a codename in the Android 12 Beta is of any indication.

As quoted by Yanko Design, developers who examined the Android 12 Beta code in the past months uncovered a reference to model numbers for the Pixel 6 lineup, including a mention of a ‘Passport’ foldable device.

Tech YouTuber Waqar Khan then visualized a passport-shaped Pixel smartphone in a set of renders, complete with the Pixel’s trademark hole-punch camera. As for the foldable design, he envisions it working in a similar layout as the Samsung Galaxy Fold. Given the tech industry’s fixation on flexible displays, though, you can expect that the rumored foldable Pixel phone will be a step up from the Galaxy Fold’s crease-plagued design.

“Project Passport” being cited in Android 12 Beta suggests that Google is building a standalone Android OS for a flexible Pixel, Yanko Design notes.

Adding fuel to the fire was a tweet by tech leaker Jon Prosser in February about a “Google Pixel ‘Fold’ [being] a real thing.” Tech analyst Ross Young made an even earlier claim, far back in December 2020, that a whole bevy of foldable phones by Samsung, Oppo, Vivo, Xiaomi, and Google would be expected to arrive in the second half of the year.

Meanwhile, it is confirmed that Pixel 6 will be unveiled at the upcoming Made by Google event, which usually takes place in October. Whether or not the foldable Pixel will make its appearance remains unclear.

[via Yanko Design and Mashable, cover image via Frederic Legrand – COMEO /]

Google & Harvard Create 3D Map Of Human Brain Made From 225 Million Images

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Image via Shutterstock

Humans are complex, and much of this can be owed to the way the brain works. To offer some inkling of just how complicated the human brain is, scientists from Google and the Lichtman Lab at Harvard University have put together a colorful, 1.4-petabyte reconstruction for your perusal.

The 3D map depicts the cerebral cortex, which accounts for how sophisticated cognitive functions like thinking, memory, language, and perception are being processed. It contains 225 million images from one cubic millimeter of brain tissue, which includes millions of neuron fragments, 130 million annotated synapses, and more.

To stitch this elaborate diagram, the team extracted a microscopic slice from the temporal lobe of a human cerebral cortex. The surgical sample was stained for better visualization, before being preserved in resin.

The scientists later diced the sample into some 5,300 fragments measuring 30 nanometers thick. This gave their computer 225 million separate 2D images to analyze and finally stitch into one of the most elaborate maps of the human brain ever.

For all its intricacies, Google says the 3D map only covers “only one-millionth the volume of an entire human brain.” There’s just so much untapped potential, and we can’t wait to find out how much more the human brain can accomplish.

You can browse the map for yourself here.

“Incoming axons.” Image via Google and Harvard University

“6-Class Subcompartments: Volumetric labels for soma, axon, dendrite, astrocyte, axon initial segment, and cilia.” Image via Google and Harvard University

“‘Parasitic’ glial cells: Many glial cells appear ‘glued’ onto large pyramidal cells, with many appearing right next to somas.” Image via Google and Harvard University

“Blood vessels: Vasculature within the tissue rendered in 3D.” Image via Google and Harvard University

“L2 Interneurons: A selection of all L2 interneurons that have more than 800 incoming excitatory synapses.” Image via Google and Harvard University

[via SYFY WIRE and 9to5Google, images via various sources]

Google Docs Adds 60 More Fonts To Meet All Kinds Of Purposes

Image via Google Fonts

If you spend much of your time working on documents, it’s recommended you use a default font that’s legible and, perhaps, scientifically proven to help you retain information.

That’s why Google is bringing 60 new, vastly different fonts to its Docs and Slides web apps. Depending on the project you’re working on, you’ll probably need a new font.

For a touch of humor, try Comic Neue, a “refined” update to the notorious Comic Sans. Hear us out—Comic Sans has apparently been found to boost reading retention, so typing with Comic Neue might create a similar effect if you’re trying to prepare for a presentation.

Those who stare at code all day might instead enjoy JetBrains Mono, a font “for the specific needs of developers.”

To locate these additions, open the fonts dropdown menu and click on “More fonts.”

Preview all 60 new Google Fonts for Docs and Slides below.

We've recently added 60 new additions to our library to Google Docs and Slides!

— Google Fonts (@googlefonts) June 2, 2021

[via 9to5Google, images via Google Fonts]

Google Clarifies Photos Policy About Ending Free Storage From June 1

Image via Google

Starting Tuesday, June 1, Google will begin rolling out changes to its Google Photos policy. Instead of unlimited storage, users will now get 15GB of free storage, though more can be purchased for Google One members.

If you have tons of photos currently in storage, fret not. Any photos or videos backed up in ‘High Quality’ before June 1 will not count towards your new storage limit.

The new change also comes with a personalized estimate of how long your storage might last, taking into account how frequently you back up photos and videos. According to the tech firm, it expects the free storage to last more than 80% of users about three years.

In order to save you some space, Google is also introducing a new storage management tool within the Photos app that flags photos or videos you might want to delete, such as blurry pictures, large video files, or random screenshots.

The ‘High Quality’ tier you’re familiar with will also be renamed to ‘Storage’. Despite the name change, the quality of your photos and videos already saved will remain the same.

For users looking to fit more photos into the free 15GB space, the ‘Storage’ option is your best bet. You’ll still be able to save super special moments at high-definition in their original quality, at the expense of using up more space.

For more information on the policy changes, visit Google’s announcement here.

[via Google, cover image via Google]

How Twitter is Expanding its Reach in Audio

In June 2020, Twitter introduced audio tweets where you can record your voice and share that audio as a tweet to your followers. A perk? These can also be listened to while you multi-task across other day-to-day activities including checking email or working on a document — comparable to a micro podcast. There’s a lot that can go unsaid or uninterpreted via text, so the platform’s goal with the offering is to bring a more human experience to conversations.

Following this, the company announced in December its own audio-based social networking product and Clubhouse rival, Spaces, was heading into beta phase. This opened the door for users to chat in real-time using voice instead of text, as they do today. The product remains in beta while the platform works out technical issues and bugs with the feature, but also the more complex issues that arise from hosting live audio, including moderation.

Fast forward to today, Twitter announced its acquisition of community-focused podcast app, Breaker. Here’s a breakdown of the latest.

What is Breaker?

Since its inception in 2016, Breaker’s mission centered around influencing the perception of audio and disrupting the norms of podcasts as audio feeds and podcast apps as productivity tools. Instead, Breaker painted a picture of podcast apps as an experience around which a community could be established. More specifically, Breaker users have the ability to like and comment on their favorite episodes, discover new podcasts that align with their passions, following friends with similar interests and taste, and share their favorite shows to their other social media platforms to spark conversation.

Creating the future of audio

Breaker co-founder Leah Culver took to Twitter sharing her eagerneses to help create the future of audio through and build out Twitter Spaces while CEO Erik Berlin emphasized his vision to help the industry redefine and reimagine traditional podcasts.

“We’re truly passionate about audio communication and we’re inspired by the ways Twitter is facilitating public conversations for people around the world,” shared Berlin in the official announcement. In his own Medium post, he shared, “We’re now inspired to go even further in re-imagining how we communicate with each other, beyond the scope of traditional podcasts.”

In a separate thread, Twitter engineering lead Michael Montano, reiterated his excitement to leverage Berlin and Culver’s backgrounds to help “improve the health of public conversation on our service.” He added, “both Erik and Leah have founded and sold startups previously and will bring an entrepreneurial spirit to our engineering organization.”

According to TechCrunch, Berlin was previously the founder and CTO at social advertising company 140 Proof — which sold to Acuity — while Culver previously founded Pownce and Grove and co-authored web technologies OAuth and oEmbed.

“As an entrepreneur she’s been out front, testing ideas on several waves of online conversation and publishing. Pownce and Convore were exciting and in many ways ahead of their times,” said Montao of Culver’s efforts to push for more open standards over the past several years.

Podcasting: the new tech battleground

With the ebbs and flows of tech, there seems to be areas that receive targeted traction. Podcasting is that space today. Look no further than the giants Amazon, Google, Apple and Spotify.

Amazon’s $300 million acquisition of Wondery, Sirius bought Stitcher for $300 million, not to mention Spotify’s purchases of Anchor, Gimlet, Parcast, Megaphone, and The Joe Rogan experience — one of the most popular shows on the scene to date. Unakin to these deals, however, Twitter’s play is unique in that its sale doesn’t center on strictly podcasts themselves and the content, rather Breaker’s sale is made up of staff and technology with the larger objective of cementing Spaces as a viable offering for marketers and users.

Feature image credit via Breaker.

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How Google is Preparing for Fully Immersive AR Environments

Since its inception, one of the biggest use cases of AR on mobile remains the ability to play with your appearance whether through clothes, accessories, or makeup. Snapchat and Instagram are no stranger to this trend, and now Google is making its mark in the space with its own update.

Specifically, the tech giant tapped ModiFace and Perfect Corp, two companies highly involved in AR beauty technologies, to deliver a feature that gives online shoppers a way to virtually try on makeup without having to deviate from their Search results.

Separately, Google teamed up with Snapchat to put an immersive twist on its ‘Year in Search’ trends overview. Here’s a high-level overview of the latest.

Bringing the benefits of in-store shopping to mobile

Similar to YouTube’s AR feature for makeup try-on launched last year, Google’s latest push utilizes top brands including L’Oréal, Estée Lauder, MAC Cosmetics, Black Opal, and Charlotte Tilbury allowing consumers to try on a variety of makeup products without having to set foot in a store to test the look and feel.

Here’s how it works: When a user searches for a particular lipstick or eyeshadow product such as— “L’Oréal’s Infallible Paints Metallic Eyeshadow,” — they’ll be directed to the virtual try-on shopping experience at the top of their search results. From there, they can browse a library of photos of models representing a range of skin tones to help compare the shades and find the right product for them

“Seventy-three percent of U.S. shoppers are planning to buy online,” said Archana Kannan, Group Product Manager, Shopping and author of the announcement regarding this past holiday season’s expectations. “There are plenty of perks with online shopping, from the convenience of doing it from your couch to the multitude of options right at your fingertips.”

Details aside — the key takeaway here is that more than ever consumers are finding out about products from social media, then clicking through direct links to retailers to make purchases or even transacting directly on social platforms like Facebook or Instagram without leaving the app. A big driver of this shift? Influencers.

Endorsements from experts and enthusiasts

As part of the effort, Google is taking into consideration how consumers ultimately make their decision and a big trend as of late is recommendations from trusted sources like influencers.

In this vein, the company is unveiling recommendations from beauty, apparel and home and garden enthusiasts and experts, including online influencers, when a consumer browses Google Shopping on their phone. For example, hear the latest from professional makeup artist Jonet about makeup looks, or get holiday gift ideas from Homesick Candles.

“Sometimes it’s helpful to get recommendations and see how products work for other people,” explained Kannan. “Once you’ve found a product you love, you’ll be able to easily shop these recommendations.” This feature comes from Shoploop, a product formerly part of Area 120, Google’s in-house incubator.

The ‘Year in Search’ AR experience

The end of the year always seems to be nostalgic and Google and Snapchat are leaning into this in an innovative way. A new Google Lens accessible through Snapchat gives users an interactive walk down memory lane of all the key events of 2020 and noteworthy insights.

For instance, clicking on a photo of a Black Lives Matter protest highlights that compared to the previous year, searches of the term were up five-fold. Further, searches for “protest near me” were made in every state in the country for the first time ever.

“As 2020 comes to an end, Snap and Google have partnered to bring Google’s iconic “Year in Search” story to life with an immersive augmented reality experience. This marks the first time Google’s “Year in Search” has been brought to life in AR, and the campaign’s debut on Snapchat.”

Additionally, Snapchat also reports that for the first time Google will run its “Year in Search” video as ads on the platform.

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How Google is Helping Marketers Navigate Shifting Shopping Behaviors

The 2020 holiday season will undoubtedly look a little different this year, but one thing that is unchanged: it is still a time of peak demand and a critical time to connect with consumers. With just under 70 days until Christmas, brands are scaling their efforts as best they can and learning along the way as they reinvent and maximize opportunities.

In support of this, Google launched a 27-page guide on evolving shopping patterns and how to prepare for them including some case studies brands can emulate in their own approach. Here’s an overview of some of the key trends extracted from the findings.

Extended period of shopping and deal-hunting

COVID-19 has led to an increase in shoppers looking for value in terms of quality and price. More specifically, 62 percent of U.S, shoppers are planning to start holiday shopping earlier this year to avoid missing out on items. “This means retailers will need to rethink the usual timelines for Cyber Monday and Cyber Week to help shoppers already looking for special offers and deals this October,” says Google. In short, it isn’t only about peak days anymore.

A growing number of people are recognizing the efficiency and other benefits of ordering online. While deal-seeking certainly isn’t a new concept, the emphasis on value and quality are higher than ever as people turn to their devices to research, browse, and purchase. In fact, searches for “best affordable” are up 60 percent year-over-year and just under half (46%) expect brands to offer discounts.

The takeaway to note from these shifts in behavior: Maximize the exposure of your sales and holiday deals. The report points to a case study from handbag company Dagne Dover who delivered 4X return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) over two months using Google Smart shopping campaigns.

Preparing for a surge in first-time online shoppers

A whopping 69 percent of U.S. shoppers are planning to shop online for the holidays more than they have in previous years. Further, over 50 percent of surveyed US shoppers tried a new shopping service for the first time this year and more than one in ten surveyed reported trying a new shopping app for the first time.

“Due to this overall trend toward online shopping this year, retailers will need to be ready to offer helpful, frictionless shopping experiences for more first-time online shoppers,” the report states. This is critical as stores shift to mere transaction points while the majority of the decision making happens online whether the item will be picked up in store, at the curb, or delivered to someone’s home.

Simplicity, streamlined, and speed are key terms in this vein to keep in mind. Accuracy is another important element where ensuring relevant search terms and fully complete online listings are a make or break in the eye’s of today’s shoppers. If you’re in need of fresh ways to enhance your online shopping experience, Google suggests checking out Grow My Store and testing your mobile site speed with Test My Site. Petco, for example, upped investment in Search, Shopping, and local inventory ads and saw a 100 percent lift in their e-commerce business, along with a 10x increase in new e-commerce customers.

The purpose-driven consumer

With more choices around brands and products than ever before, people are taking a beat and identifying ways to use their purchasing power for good. 2020 has been a testament to the various ways consumers can align their purchase decisions with companies with shared values and support local causes that are important to them.

Roughly half (46%) of surveyed U.S. shoppers “make a deliberate effort to shop at businesses that align with my values.” What’s more — 66 percent of U.S. consumers who plan to shop this holiday season said they will shop more at local small businesses. During an age of social distancing, consumers crave a sense of community and preserving local shops and cafes is one way to maintain a sense of normalcy and empowerment amid the uncertainty. Just since last year searches for “support local businesses” grew by over 20,000 percent.

Google also notes that many shoppers are trying new brands for the first time. Specifically, over 70 percent of viewers say YouTube makes them more aware of new brands. Sportswear brand Ariat took these insights and launched YouTube TrueView in-stream ads and increased investment in Shopping ads to help drive online sales and engagement with its customers in new ways. The result? A 700 percent lift in sales year-over-year and a 300 percent boost in online conversions year-over-year.

This isn’t to say all shoppers are testing the waters — some will prefer what’s already familiar to them. Regardless if you’re engaging with new or repeat customers, actionable formats will be differentiators this holiday season. To best prepare, embrace these tough questions including what do we stand for and how do we leverage social media appropriately to serve our customers and community. Your consumers will reciprocate the mindfulness and authenticity with loyalty and trust.

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5 Best Practices for Finding the Right Influencer for Your Brand

Think you can get away without dipping into the world of influencer marketing? Think ahain. According to The State of Influencer Marketing 2020: Benchmark Report, which surveyed 4,000 brands, marketing agencies, and industry professionals, earned media value, which is publicity that comes from promotions, not paid advertising, is $5.78 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing.

That means while ROI is notoriously difficult to track when it comes to influencer marketing, the publicity gained from influencer marketing is nearly six times as much as is spent. While direct sales may be difficult to track for some companies, it seems that exposure is exponentially increased thanks to influencer marketing.

Here are the best practices to keep in mind when you’re searching for the right influencer for your brand.

Select the Most Important Platform

Choosing the platforms where you want influencer marketing to have an impact isn’t as cut and dry as you may think. On the one hand, the platform where your business is already performing well is a great place to capitalize on that popularity and help it grow via an influencer campaign. On the other hand, a platform where you don’t have a strong presence but where an influencer who’s a great match for your brand and does have a strong presence is also beneficial because you can break into a platform you’ve been wanting to add to your strategy.

You may want to focus on one type of platform over another, or you could try to do both at the same time, assuming the influencer you choose has a solid following on both platforms. What’s most important is that you choose influencers who are doing their best work on the platforms you’ve decided are most important for your business. More on selecting the right platform next.

Approximately 90% of influencer campaigns include Instagram, so whether you only want to promote your business on Instagram or it’s part of a larger campaign, Instagram should absolutely be included. This is especially true if your customer base is under the age of 35 since the largest concentration of Instagram users are ages 25 to 34, followed by 18 to 24.

Make Sure the Influencer Is Relevant to Your Brand

There’s a lot more to think about than just the influencer’s Instagram following and the average age of their fans. Even if they’re in the exact same niche as you are, their content and messaging have to be consistent with or complementary to your brand, too. If the aesthetics or voice of the influencer’s content is way off compared to your own branding, you’re not going to reach the right audience, no matter how engaged their following is. And you could even harm, or at least muddle, your own reputation, too. 

A good way to find the influencers who are relevant to your brand is to discover which ones are already talking about you. Influencers are experts at knowing their audience and what will connect with them, and if they’re interested in what you sell, chances are they know it’ll be a great match for their audience.

Select Influencers According to Your Budget

When it comes to influencers, you should care more about the quality of their following than the number of followers they have. But, in general, a smaller influencer is going to charge less than a larger-scale influencer. If your budget is meager when starting out, aim for a micro-influencer with a dedicated fan base. What you don’t want to do is try to talk to well-known and well-established influencers into accepting a lower rate than they deserve. You could ruin your relationship with an influencer who you’d love to work with in the future when you have a bigger budget to dedicate to the campaign.

Search the Old Fashioned Way

While you can Google something like “top influencers in organic cooking,” you may be disappointed with the results. Lists of top influencers are often repetitive, only featuring the same ones, and you’ll miss out on a bunch of influencers you don’t even know exist. Instead, go about your search the old fashioned way. If you’re on Instagram, for example, search by hashtag. If you use #ad or #sponsored to search, you can skim the results to see if any post looks like it matches your brand’s industry and look. This process may take a while, but it’ll be worth it, and you’ll come across a lot of high-performing smaller influencers who you’d never know about otherwise.

Spot a Fake Influencer Before You Get Too Far

Many influencers are in it for the money they’re paid, and it’s clear why just about anyone would love that opportunity, even without working for it. Fake influencers quickly gather a massive following by buying followers and engagement, which can make their accounts look popular, even if it’s all smoke and mirrors. There are a few strategies you can use to determine if an influencer is the real deal or not, but the most telling one will be their engagement ratio. If they have a ton of followers and their posts have a bunch of likes, but nobody is actually commenting on their posts in a meaningful way, it could be that all of those “fans” are actually bots.

Narrowing down your list of influencers is just one step toward getting a compelling influencer campaign up and running. You also have to pitch the influencer to encourage them to work with you, and then you have to figure out how they work with clients, what type of campaign you want to run, how to track the effectiveness of it, etc. All in all, though, it will be worth it, and with more businesses planning to increase their budget for influencer marketing, you’ll not just only reach more members of your core customer base, but you’ll also compete with others in your industry.

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YouTube Advertising: What Your Brand Needs to Know

In lieu of entertainment sources other than in-person events, COVID-19 pushed more people to social platforms as a way to engage with timely and relevant content. YouTube is no exception. Year over year, watch time on YouTube and YouTube on television screens jumped a whopping 80 percent underscoring the accelerating shift from linear to digital video and over 2 billion people globally are gravitating towards these new experiences.

As we continue to spend the bulk of our time at home, brands are making the most of YouTube’s massive reach and deeply relevant content to build brand awareness, and ultimately, drive results at scale. In response to this trend, the platform is adding some notable elements to help brands and marketers further hone their YouTube ad campaigns, including advanced data insights and new category targeting to help them show up in the right contexts for today’s consumers.

Here’s a peek into the updates and how you can start using them to enhance your efforts.

Advanced contextual targeting with dynamic lineups

A new study from YouTube parent company Google in partnership with Ipsos found that video advertising based on consumer interest and intent has significantly more impact than demo—with a 32 percent higher lift in ad recall and 100 percent higher lift in purchase intent.

To help further its ability to drive mass reach, YouTube is introducing dynamic lineups powered by advanced contextual targeting. Put differently, videos are segmented based on their content, with machine learning systems developed to best determine what each video is about and how to feed it to the right people at the right time. This is based on analysis of key elements spanning video imagery, sound, speech and text.

In addition to targeting broader categories like “home” or “lifestyle” or lifestyle, you can find more nuanced choices such as “home and garden” and “home improvement.” What this boils down to is “better access to customers with unique interests and needs—all with the brand suitability controls that are most important for your business,” explained Debbie Weinstein, Vice President, YouTube and Video Global Solution in the official announcement. More specifically, what this translates into is the ability to routinely engage with the right audience segments who are receptive and responsive and having to spend less to reach them. Sounds like a win-win.

An early adopter of dynamic lineups, Chrissie Hanson, Global Chief Strategy Officer at OMD said, “Using lineups powered by advanced contextual targeting delivers a more relevant and empathetic understanding of audiences. This in turn serves to drive more relevant reach and efficiencies for our customers, as part of a broader program that leverages audiences and other tactics across YouTube.”

Driving efficient reach with Nielsen TV data

Last year YouTube unveiled its integration with Nielsen TV data into its Reach Planner with the goal of helping marketers fuel their awareness strategies on YouTube and get a broader view of critical audience trends. Across 21 commissioned Share Shit studies, results showed that on average, advertisers that shifted just 20 percent of spend from TV to YouTube generated a 25 percent increase to the total campaign reach within their target audience, lowering the cost per reach point by almost 20 percent.

As part of its recent push to allow marketers to lean into the rise in YouTube viewership, the platform is expanding its Nielsen’s Total Ad Ratings for advertisers in the UK and Italy, in addition to the US with initial efforts already showing promising results.

“PepsiCo Beverages turned to YouTube to drive scale and extend the reach of Pepsi’s ‘Gift it Forward’ Holiday campaign. The campaign did not disappoint – YouTube drove new brand buyers during the holiday season to the unique audience we wanted to reach.”

Video reach campaigns are a simpler way to buy efficient reach across ad formats and incrementally reach the right audiences at a more optimal frequency. Marion Carpentier, Omni Business Leader at French men’s wear brand, Jules, explained the company was able to achieve this specifically by combining skippable in-stream ads and bumpers into a single campaign and saw higher lifts in brand awareness (4.9%).

Beyond this, to support marketers looking to plan YouTube with other online video partners YouTube is providing new reach planning options within Display & Video 360 including YouTube, auction, and programmatic deals.

Catering your strategies with success stories and trends

Finally, to support marketers as they navigate a post-COVID era, YouTube is unveiling a new awareness collection within its Advertising Solutions Center spotlighting notable trends and case studies from companies that include PepsiCo, Domino’s, and Jules. The goal behind sharing these stories is to offer a more concrete understanding of YouTube’s product innovations and how they can be built to better meet your awareness objectives.

If the pandemic has proven anything, it’s that YouTube is behaving more like traditional TV with time. Those that understand the nuances of the platform as an alternative, will be able to deliver TV-like promotions with a higher degree of targeting but without derailing from their budget plans.

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How Google’s ‘Fundo’ is Reimagining the World of Virtual Events

With COVID-19 restrictions still in place around the world, the need for virtual events is more apparent than ever. Numerous platforms have stepped up in an effort to fill the void with a variety of features from Facebook’s paid online events and Instagram’s announcement of monetization in IGTV to LinkedIn’s introduction of virtual events into pages. One thing is clear from this flurry of updates — these options are here to stay and will likely be utilized long after the pandemic is behind us.

Today, Google is getting involved and providing more tools in this space through an expanded launch of its Fundo virtual events platform aimed to help creators and brands seamlessly schedule and host events through simplified organization and promotional tools.

Creating meaningful experiences online

Originally developed in 2018 by Google’s Area 120 incubator, Fundo began as a tool to allow YouTube creators a way to organize host paid, ticketed virtual meet-and-greet events. Following a beta launch last summer for several hundred testers including fitness instructors, business and lifestyle consultants, Fundo is now available for anyone to use and can be leveraged for a variety of cases including workout and cooking classes and workshops.

“Over the past year, many parts of life had to move online and become virtual. While we didn’t build Fundo specifically because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mission of creating meaningful experiences online is even more important today,” shared John Gregg, General Manager at Fundo in the official announcement.

The one-on-one focus is an important way for creators to host an intimate event with a single individual or small group while workshops are an important feature during a time when small businesses including are facing substantial obstacles. Outside of presenting more ways to spread the word and share content, the option adds greater flexibility in which creators can schedule an event in advance, or let fans request a time and have the option to bring in co-hosts or special guests.


“In 2020, a lot of things are online,” Gregg said in a separate statement to Variety. “We’re not exclusive for YouTube creators. We think it provides value to any kind of creator… There are lots of different ways it can be used.”

Taking the complexity out of virtual events

A primary goal of Fundo is to take the headache out of hosting a virtual event, especially when you’re dealing with a ticketed experience. Through a single end-to-end platform, creators and businesses can schedule their event, manage sign-up and payment processes, communicate details about the livestream, and more.

There are no apps for external software necessary for Fundo: Event hosts and their guests access everything on the site through a special-purpose video-chat system separate from YouTube. A fan favorite feature? The built-in “photo booth” feature, in which each attendee gets a photo with a creator-customized frame.

Hosts are in control of the price to sign up and any discounts and whether they want a given event to be free, though Google takes a 20 percent cut of revenue generated per Gregg. Furthermore, some creators using YouTube Channel Memberships are able to offer Fundo Meet & Greets exclusively to channel members as a premium perk. To help fuel cross-channel promotion, Fundo users are able to create an account including their other social media profile details, as well as a personalized URL for easier access.

Safety and discoverability

Fans are able to find events happening on Fundo through the home page, or through links that their creators share. Once they’ve chosen an event iall they simply have to do is answer a few basic questions, and complete a ticket purchase. Fundo manages everything else including generating the event link and sending reminders leading up to the event. The platform also provides technical support if it is needed.

While Fundo prides itself on putting creators in control of their event, safety is also a top priority. To support in this regard, Fundo checks every event guest’s ticket and monitors for reporting and flagging of potentially harmful or abusive content

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#TechNews – Google ups the game with wearable tech…

Google puts ‘on’ switch in hoodies

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How Google is Helping Marketers Understand Rising Consumer Interests During COVID-19

At the beginning of COVID-19, we saw an initial rush on sanitizers and toilet paper but this was only the beginning when it came to the major retail changes that would result from this domino effect.

With billions around the world forced to quarantine for the past few months, consumer activity has adapted even further — spikes in virtual education, upticks in sales of jigsaw puzzles, bread makers, hair care products as people take their self-care from the salons to their home. As we look ahead and see enforcements around social distancing ease, it’s become more apparent that while we may regain some semblance of normalcy, any patterns that held pre-COVID-19 are highly unlikely to remain unchanged.

Gathering deeper consumer insights

It’s impossible to know how exactly consumer behavior will evolve with the exception we can expect to need to adjust our strategies according to the shifts. Google is looking to make this transition for brands easier with a new “Rising Retail Categories” tool via Think with Google. In the official announcement the company explained that businesses are grasping onto whatever resources they can to gain insight to make decisions on the fly from Google Trends, social listening, surveys, and their own data but the efforts lack structure and concrete guidance.

“If they don’t know what to look for, there isn’t an easy way to understand which product categories are gaining in popularity, and might pose an opportunity.” Pallavi Naresh, Product Manager explained. Google’s move comes at a time several leading platforms are looking to support retailers including Pinterest, which recently launched an updated business community to facilitate a connection between business owners.

How it works

While you may wonder how this tool differs from the already-existing Google Trends, the new offering was designed to emphasize product searches gaining the most traction. This can fluctuate day to day or even on a monthly basis depending on the region and the government advice that applies to the specific location.

With the new tool, you can filter the data by category and country — U.S., U.K., and Australia to start — and time frame — weekly, monthly, or yearly. Once you’re in a designated category you can get even more granular and learn what people are searching for within that space. For instance, searches for “volleyball nets” have grown by 60 percent in the past week and under that, “crossnets” are of particular interest.

Taking a step back and reflecting on the month of April, swimming pools, golf bag accessories, and trampolines took the leading spots as the most searched products in the U.S. Only time will tell how this may shift into the summer months and again come the fall.

Looking ahead: the use cases

“Having information on the fastest-growing product categories from Google can have a big impact on multiple areas of marketing, particularly at the geographic level as states reopen at different paces,” Jim Leichenko, Director of Marketing and Media at Kantar, shared in a statement to Adweek.

In this effort, Google previewed data with a variety of businesses before an official rollout and saw several creative ideas ensue from having access to these evolving trends.

In one example, a cookware company noticed “flour” was a growing category in the U.S. so it teamed up with a well-known local chef to create content about recipes that incorporate the ingredient. In another, a jewelry and accessories company noted a growing interest in products falling under the “free weights” category. The team then made the decision to work with fitness influencers to promote their products authentically.

Finally, an apparel company with a “fast and flexible” production model is applying the information to inspire new product line ideas and inform what products are featured on its homepage throughout the pandemic. Aside from brand new product ideas, these insights can also enable product offering pivots where the product itself doesn’t change; just the angle in which it’s presented.

The future will be turbulent and as we move forward the “one size fits all” and “set it and forget” mentalities will unarguably do more harm than good. Having communities and the insights to propel us forward will be critical as we look to navigate whatever the “new normal” in a post-COVID age ultimately looks like.

You can check out Google’s ‘Rising retail Categories’ full listing here.

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Apple and Google join forces to build coronavirus tracking into iOS and Android

Apple and Google are adapting iOS and Android to help track the spread of Covid-19 (Apple/Google)Apple and Google have made a joint announcement that…

Apple and Google join forces to build coronavirus tracking into iOS and Android

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Apple and Google join forces to build coronavirus tracking into iOS and Android

Apple and Google are adapting iOS and Android to help track the spread of Covid-19 (Apple/Google)Apple and Google have made a joint announcement that…

Apple and Google join forces to build coronavirus tracking into iOS and Android

Business and Sports News from Mike Armstrong – See

Apple and Google are to create contact tracing technology aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.

Apple and Google have announced they are working together to create contact tracing technology aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus. In a rare …

Apple and Google are to create contact tracing technology aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.

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And That’s How the Google Cookie Crumbles

The days of third-party data tracking within the world’s most popular browser are over.

After months of speculation, Google has finally confirmed that it will join Safari and Firefox in withdrawing support for third-party cookies by 2022.

The growth of the ad tech ecosystem as we know it was due in large part to advertisers’ ability to use third-party products to “follow” customers around the web, understanding their behaviors and preferences, and then serve targeted advertising to them efficiently via digital media. As the major browsers (and consumers themselves, via ad-blockers) eliminate the ability to “tag” consumers, the industry can expect a sharp departure from the way things were.

That said, personalization is here to stay. What the news does reinforce is the strength of so-called “walled gardens” like Google, Amazon, and Facebook that carry so much individual scale that they don’t need to rely on cookies to make hyper-personalized targeting possible.

What are cookies, anyway?

Most consumers are “cookied” every day without even being aware. A cookie refers to text or small packets of data sent by websites to be stored in your computer’s browser.

Third-party cookies, specifically, are those that are set by an alternative site than the one you are on including a third-party video provider, social channel, or ad platform. When a publisher or site strikes a partnership with one of these businesses, they add a line of code to their site.

Cookies help create user profiles, which provide detailed information on the sites you visit and the journey of what you do during your browsing time. This gives advertisers key insight into your interests and preferences allowing them to deliver a more targeted advertising experience.

Industry implications

Google’s Chrome browser makes up 69 percent and 40 percent, respectively, of desktop and mobile browser share — accounting for more than half of all web traffic overall. The bottom line?

Anyone with a website, including brands, agencies, and publishers, will be affected by the move. While some may argue this was an inevitable move, this doesn’t change its significance and the impact it will have today and in years ahead.

  • In the short term, marketers lose an instrumental method they currently use to target many of their customers.
  • In the long-term, they must find a more sustainable solution that is more direct and personal to the consumer.

One way to achieve this is by seeking out and relying on first-party data from owned audiences. The other, and what would be much more complicated to navigate, building better relationships with customers and the media they consume.

Moreover, many experts predict that the real winners will be walled gardens like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, who now stand alone in their ability to provide a high degree of targeting at scale.

The trend toward a cookieless web impacts publishers and third-party ad-tech platforms the most, since this will require them to sell and serve ads in new ways. Digital publishing was already under pressure as ad budgets have shifted from their owned and operated properties to the big platforms. Some publishers, like The New York Times, have had success by refocusing their efforts on driving digital subscriptions.

In short, we can expect a greater emphasis on one-to-one relationships that are personalized and relevant — but this won’t come without some obstacles and the likely continued flow of ad budgets to the big platforms.

Learn more about Privacy Matters as part of our 2020 global theme: HUMAN.X and help us establish a human-first, experience-driven approach to digital marketing. Secure your early-bird discount today to save 20% on your full-conference pass to #SMWNYC (May 5-7, 2020).


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4 Major Brands and Platforms Addressing Digital Literacy and Fake News in 2020

The majority of marketers realize the issues presented by fake news and “deepfake” techniques in skewing the information we’re exposed to and the implications for determining what is fact from fiction.

We face a critical point in our industry where many brands and platforms are facing increased pressure for setting a benchmark for detecting these types of conversations.

Here are a few that are taking action in 2020.

Tumblr’s Digital Literacy Initiative “World Wide What”

With the 2020 election on the horizon, social media platforms are making moves to update their strategies to curb the spread of information. The latest to join the bandwagon is Tumblr, which recently launched an internet literacy campaign targeted to help younger demographics entering the voting scene spot fake news and unsavory posts.

The initiative, World Wide What, was developed in partnership with UK-based internet literacy organization, Ditch the Label. The campaign’s structure emphasizes six core community topics in video form that include fake news skewed views, authenticity, cyberbullying, the importance of minimizing screen time, how much we share online, and creating a safer internet through moderation.

Unlike traditional literacy materials, the platform is tapping into visual, more culturally messaging such as GIFs, memes, and short text in line with imagery native to the Tumblr brand. Videos will also leverage outside experts and industry leaders to tackle certain subjects through a series of Q&As in the coming weeks and months.

“We are constantly striving to learn and utilize new ways to create a safe place for our communities,” Tumblr shared in a statement on the World Wide What site.

Google x Jigsaw Visual Database of Deepfakes

In September 2019, Google tapped Jigsaw in an effort to develop a dataset of visual deepfakes aimed to boost early detection efforts. The tech giant worked with both paid and consenting actors to record and gather hundreds of videos which ultimately were crafted into deepfakes. The final products including both real and fake videos, were then incorporated into the Technical University of Munich and the FaceForensics benchmark and made widely available for synthetic video detection methods.

Fast forward to November, Jigsaw has continued on this momentum by releasing what it refers to as “the largest public data set of comments and annotations with toxicity labels and identity labels. “ This includes the addition of comments and annotations with toxicity and identity labels. The goal with incorporating these details is to more accurately measure bias within AI comment classification systems. Traditionally conversations are measured with synthetic data from template sentences that often fail to address the complexity and variety of comments.

“By labeling identity mentions in real data, we are able to measure bias in our models in a more realistic setting, and we hope to enable further research into unintended bias across the field,” shared in a recent Medium post. The key in the ever-evolving deepfake tech space will be a healthy and growing research community.

Twitter Policies Targeting Synthetic and Manipulated Media

Twitter is looking to its community for support in fleshing out its strategy for addressing synthetic and manipulated media, what the company defines as “…any photo, audio, or video that has been significantly altered or fabricated in a way that intends to mislead people or changes its original meaning.

As a draft to its policy, the platform has outlined that it will:

  • Place a notice next to Tweets that share synthetic or manipulated media
  • Warn people before they share or like Tweets with synthetic or manipulated media
  • Add a link – for example, to a news article or Twitter Moment – so that people can read more about why various sources believe the media is synthetic or manipulated

The platform also vowed to remove any deepfake believed capable of threatening someone or leading to serious harm. This raises the question as to how it would address these types of manipulated conversations spurring a falsity but not technically causing harm or that use newer creation methods that lag behind the detection techniques.

To garner feedback from users, the platform created a multiple-choice survey that addresses the broader preference of removing versus flagging (e.g. should altered photos and videos be removed, have warning labels, or not be removed at all). To date, the survey is closed and the platform is reported to be working on an official policy that will be announced 30 days prior to roll out.

Facebook’s “Deepfake Challenge” and Ban

This past fall Facebook teamed up with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, and academics from Cornell Tech, University of Oxford, UC Berkley, University of Maryland, and SUNY Albany to launch the Deepfake Detection Challenge. The DFDC as its referred to includes a data set of 100k+ videos using paid actors — as well as grants and awards —aimed to inspire new ways of detecting and preventing AI-manipulated media.

The DFDC will run to the end of March of this year with the goal of “…producing technology that everyone can use to better detect when AI has been used to alter a video in order to mislead the viewer.” According to the official website, a winner will be determined based on “a test mechanism that enables teams to score the effectiveness of their models, against one or more black-box tests from our founding partners,” the company shared.

‘Deepfake’ techniques, which present realistic AI-generated videos of real people doing and saying fictional things, have significant implications for determining the legitimacy of information presented online,” shared Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer in a recent blog post.

In addition to these efforts, the platform followed up with a new policy that would remove synthesized or edited content in ways that “aren’t apparent to an average person and would likely mislead,” or deepfake posts that use AI technologies to “merge, replace, or superimpose content onto a video, making it appear authentic.”

Again, the issue becomes how we as an industry will move forward walking the fine line between malicious deepfakes and those with less-harmful intents of creative parodies or satire.

Learn more about this topic as part of our 2020 theme HUMAN.X through the lens of the subtheme Privacy Matters. Read the official announcement here and secure your early-bird discount today to save 20% on your full-conference pass to #SMWNYC (May 5-7, 2020).

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YouTube Brings Shopping Ads to the Home Feed: What It Means for Your Visual Advertising Efforts

Nearly two-thirds of consumers claim that online video has informed and inspired their decision to make a purchase according to recent research and more than 90 percent report having discovered a new product or brand from YouTube.

To tap into this trend and how more shoppers are using video in their buying journey, the Google-owned platform is introducing Shopping ads to its home feed and search results.

Capture users earlier and make it personal

“Consumers are continuing to watch more content on the YouTube platform and we want to be where they are, to reach and engage them,” said Rick Almeida, Vice President of E-commerce at Puma Group. “This new opportunity will enable Puma to extend our shopping strategy into a new property and inspire consumers.”

Puma is just one debut advertiser of the Shopping ad product, but the company’s experience points to promising results for other brands eager to expand their visual advertising efforts.

As depicted below, the display will be very similar to other ads delivered through Google’s platform including Search, Shopping, and various partner websites and the larger Google Display network. More specifically, they’ll be targeted and delivered based on a user’s interest leveraging details about the product and the brand.

Instead of having to specifically enter the name “Puma” in a search bar to see ads for running shoes, simply expressing an interest in running could trigger ads from other retailers offering related gear highlighting different products and prices.

The new YouTube ads are just one update from Google as it looks to become more of a visual advertising option for brands.

Drive action through interactivity

The company also shared that it’s working towards enhancing the interactivity of ads within videos themselves so they’re more actionable. For example, clicking on a video to be directed to store location specifics and interest forms. In the coming months, this will be expanded to sitelink extensions for TrueView for action ads, making it more seamless to navigate to additional landing pages such as holiday catalogs. A beta test conducted with 30 advertisers yielded a 23 percent boost in conversions after added sitelinks.

Fuel inspiration through rich imagery

In a study led by Google in partnership with Ipsos, 85 percent of people take action within the first 24 hours of discovery — spanning actions including reading reviews, comparing prices, or committing to purchase.

In the spirit of these findings, Showcase Shopping ads are now available on Google Images with the intent of making it easier to browse more products from a single click through grouping related products together. With additional categories like cosmetics and electronics, the hope is to boost consideration and create a unique experience for those unfamiliar with a specific brand.

Online shopping is most definitely not a one-size-fits-all game. People expect personalization and targeted ads whether they’re shopping for themselves or someone else and they have less time to do it. It’s up to brands to make experiences frictionless and efficient through listening, anticipation, and being present when it matters.


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Who (or What) Killed YouTube’s Direct Messenger?

YouTube Messenger made its debut in August 2017 as a way to enable sharing of videos (and, as a result, increases in traffic) between users and their friends or followers. The service was added to the web interface in May of the following year. But this week, its shuttering was quietly announced, not with a blog post but with a post in YouTube’s support forums.

“Heads Up: we’re removing the ability to message directly on YouTube after September 18,” the post was titled, with a four line note about its removal. Although their brief message cited a desire to focus on the quality of the platform’s public conversations, such an answer feels incomplete. Further, given the larger move that other popular social media networks have made toward private communication, it’s difficult to justify from a market need perspective. While we may never know the precise reason (or combination of reasons) that led to this decision, we break down a few possible options here.

Possible Culprit #1: Spam

It’s possible that, like Google Plus, the Messenger feature was plaguing users with spam requests, messages, and videos. For my part, I do recall using the now-defunct platform primarily for the Hangouts function, only to find that random users would hop on and off the calls I shared with friends and colleagues. Critics of G+ repeatedly used the term “drowning” to describe their inundation with unwanted or uninvited messages.

But this doesn’t seem like the likely culprit for YouTube’s direct messaging. For one, it’s not as popular enough of a feature to merit that type of throttling from spammers and bots. For another, if this were the case, it’s likely that more users would have noticed or reported the issue. But in this explanation, lies a second, more likely contributor to the tool’s shuttering.

Possible Culprit #2: Underutilization

Even a company the size of Google, which has…everything to burn: money, time, resources, and the like, can choose to not pursue something that isn’t worth the team’s attention. And direct messaging on the site could easily be counted among those things. The company isn’t afraid to shutter products that underperform (see also: Allo, Spark, or even Google Plus when the time came). And has someone who was only fully aware of the feature within the last two months or so, it’s easy to imagine that many other users had similarly overlooked—and therefore, not used—the tool.

This seems like the most likely cause for the feature’s coming shutdown. And yet that doesn’t mean that the brief announcement didn’t come without complaints. Who those complaints came from, though, could hold the key behind the most likely reason that direct messaging is leaving the platform.

Possible Culprit #3: Further Crackdowns on the Kid Experience

Sarah Perez’s examination of the decision for TechCrunch focused on one very specific element of the blowback on the Support post: the most vocal dismay seemed to come from the site’s youngest users. As she highlighted selections from the comments, she pointed out some of the common sentiments. “A sizable number of commenters are complaining that YouTube was the “only place” they could message their friends because they didn’t have a phone or weren’t allowed to give out their phone number. Some said they used the feature to “talk to their mom” or because they weren’t allowed to use social media.” And, to use Perez’s words from later in the piece, “That’s not a good look for YouTube at this time.”

Given their recent struggles with the content being served to kids, as well as the discovery of a pedophile ring in the comments of several videos, it makes complete sense that a space that allowed younger users to flout the authority of their parents would get shut down. Moreover, this could be the “improving public conversations” charge that is mentioned in the support post. As they do that, they claim to be focusing on comments, posts, and Stories (yep, YouTube has those); no one would argue that YouTube and Google should spend their time correcting the ongoing consequences of these scandals.

In the grand scheme, I think YouTube had the right idea when they added direct messaging to the platform a few years back; it allowed them to increase circulation of videos within their own domain. With that said, in the face of scandal around their youngest users’ experience and low utilization in other market segments, I think it also has the right idea in shutting it down. It stands to have a minimal impact on the platform experience for most users, and prioritizes the safety of those who did depend on it most.

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Why Google Photos’ OCR Compliance Could Predict a Major Step Forward for Social Media Managers

An accidental find by a Google Photos user has the potential to make images more accessible, and make digital marketers’ lives easier in the process.

Twitter user Can Duruk made the realization when using the app last week, sharing with his followers that “@googlephotos has OCR to turn screenshots into copy/paste text!” The Google account replied, “Starting this month, we’re rolling out the ability to search your photos by the text in them.

Once you find the photo you’re looking for, click the Lens button to easily copy and paste text.” This is a major discovery for anyone using the tool and struggling to search for images that have text in them, but the announcement of this technology could have major implications for digital marketers, or anyone wanting to make the internet more visual…and more accessible in the process.

The Promise of OCR

OCR, or optical character recognition, is an invaluable feature for those using screen readers or other accessibility tools to experience an increasingly visual internet. Whereas now, images and PDFs that are not OCR-enabled can be difficult for anyone using a screen reader (a challenge when things like transcripts or forms are uploaded in PDF or JPG formats), the power of OCR can make more types of files accessible to visually-impaired internet users.

Google Lens has enabled it since its inception; major apps like Photos enabling this technology could pave the way for other Google properties, like Google Images or Google Slides, to similar deploy this capability. I liken it to the ubiquity of QR code reading capabilities, a feature once only available by downloading “unitasking” apps to do it.

The result? Simpler interpretation of images that also feature text, in more and more places across the internet. And in an online landscape dense with inspirational quotes overlaid over scenic landscapes or pensive men, this could unlock a far easier way to make this experience seamless for the visually impaired.

An Alternative to Alt-Text

At present, if we upload an image with text to a website or social media post, users who can’t see the image are at the mercy of our ability to describe the image (including the text within) in the alt-text or the image’s caption.

But if OCR recognition of the type currently found with Google Lens and Google Photos were to spread, it could spread some of the “work” required to make these images usable out, requiring less description from social professionals who frequently must include it as part of the photo-posting process. Especially when platforms like LinkedIn or Medium severely limit the characters permitted to do this (generally around 125 characters), tools that pull text from images can widen the scope of understanding.

What To Do in the Meantime

At present, this capability only exists in Google Photos, although users of Google Lens can apply it in a variety of other spaces. For those of us currently in charge of creating common understanding with our posts, the following can serve as helpful measures until OCR support becomes more widely available:

  • Use alt-text, every time. Be as descriptive as possible in the limited characters provided. As with crafting a tweet, it can be challenging to get the point across in a small space. But with practice, it becomes easier.
  • Supplement overlaid text with captions or additional inline text that could help a reader glean understanding even if alt-text is incomplete.
  • Be thoughtful about how information ordinarily presented in images or “flat” PDFs is presented. Are there more accessible formats you can have available? If so, lean toward those and encourage colleagues to do the same.

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