Amazon will survive the HQ2 fiasco. Its bigger problem is winning over reluctant advertisers

Amazon will survive the HQ2 fiasco. Its bigger problem is winning over reluctant advertisers

amazon hq2 new york protest

Bebeto Matthews/AP

New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, center, speaks during a conference in Gordon Triangle Park in the Queens borough of New York, following Amazon's announcement it would abandon its proposed headquarters for the area, Feb. 14, 2019.



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What a week it's been for Amazon. The company accustomed to being slobbered over by local municipalities got a cold welcome when it tried to expand to New York City, and ended up pulling out. It was another sign that the public's goodwill toward big tech is fading.

Amazon's business will be just fine without New York City. But more crucial to its business, and less publicly, it's trying to become the third player in digital advertising behind Google and Facebook. Advertisers have found it tough to parse all Amazon's ad formats, though.


Amazon's latest attempt to expand its ad business, with video search ads, is running into obstacles with advertisers. As Lauren Johnson reported last week, advertisers have issues with the price, creative demands, and data limitations. "It's not something that we have clients clamoring for," Nich Weinheimer, VP of e-commerce at Kenshoo, a company that helps marketers plan and buy digital ads.

That kind of challenge is giving rise to tech companies that are emerging to help marketers leverage Amazon, Tanya Dua reported.

Amazon needs to get formats like this one right if it's going to expand beyond performance ads.

-- Lucia

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Here's what else we've been up to this week.

Instagram is already running out of room for ads, and that's a threat to Facebook as it looks for new avenues to keep revenue growing
Speaking of growing pains, Facebook is running up against a wall growing Instagram. The app was supposed to be the savior of Facebook's ad business, but it's already getting saturated with ads itself.

The New York Times has more subs than ever. That's not necessarily good news for the rest of the industry.
I talked to Meredith Levien, COO of The New York Times Co., on the heels of a strong fourth quarter for subscription growth. But while the Times has many reasons to be optimistic about its ability to keep growing subscriptions, it's less clear that other subscription publishers can replicate that success.

Pay TV distributors are looking to new video packages after another disastrous quarter, and it might be their only option
Cable companies are running out of ways to hold on to cord-cutting subscribers, which is why one trend on the horizon could be bundling themed content in niche entertainment interest areas like kids and Bollywood. That's according to Amdocs, which works with MVPDs like Comcast, AT&T's DirecTV, and Dish and is talking to clients about offering packages like this in the US in the months ahead.

Giant brands like Unilever and Marriott are taking more of their advertising in-house than ever before, and a whole new cottage industry of companies is trying to cash in on the opportunity
Disruption creates all kinds of pains and opportunities. As more marketers try to bring their advertising in-house, some are getting help from new companies that have emerged to help them figure out how to cut out the agency middleman.


BuzzFeed cut 15% of its staff, and some critics are now taking shots at CEO Jonah Peretti's strategy
BuzzFeed represented soaring hopes that online media operators could reinvent the news model for digital, but since it had to lay off staff to get profitable, some in and outside the company are questioning decisions made under CEO Jonah Peretti, from its ballooning staff to aggressive overseas expansion to rejecting a reported offer from Disney.

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Here are other good stories from tech, media, and entertainment:

60-hour weeks, ambulance callouts, and 'swag bucks': 30 employees describe the intense reality of working for Amazon during its busiest time of the year

The CEO of sports media startup Overtime explains how he was able to quickly raise a $23 million round, even as gloom and doom grips the industry

Two words in Facebook's latest regulatory filing shows how worried the company is about what it's doing to people


Oscars ads will hit a record high this year despite the steady decline of ratings. Here's why ABC keeps making more and more money

How Dark Horse is building its own movie and TV empire out of comic books, from Netflix to a 'Hellboy' reboot