The year of voice, Gillette's #MeToo ad, Amazon's influencers

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Voice is primed take off

You didn't have to be at CES to know that voice is shaping up to be one of the hottest areas for publishers and marketers this year. In a Reuters Institute survey, three quarters of digital publisher respondents said that audio is becoming a more important part of their content and business strategy. As we reported, The New York Times recently provided a glimpse of what customized audio content for the devices will look like. The Times is also making money on the platform, with a skill it created for Audi. A lot of publishers have already been repurposing podcasts for voice assistants, but many publishers are building dedicated audio production units and content as well. "We don't want to be road kill," as one publisher confided to me.

But voice comes with questions for publishers and marketers. Surveys have mixed results on how much people actually use the devices to pull up news. As with any platform, publishers have to think about the loss of control to the platforms, Amazon and Google, that dominate the market. At least when distributing on search and social networks, there's a possibility of getting traffic back to your site and visual brand recognition. Not so with voice.

The financial benefit also is limited since the device manufacturers have, probably wisely, kept them free of ad products. A utilitarian or entertainment approach seems to be the way to go. They also have to consider how their brand "sounds" on the device. Google has made grants to certain media companies to create content for its voice-activated Assistant, setting the stage for a situation of haves and have-nots in the space and tension between the tech giant and other publishers. It's a trend we'll continue to follow.

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--Lucia

Here's what else we're reporting:

Chief customer experience officers are the new must-have role at CPG companies

Established brands are losing share to digitally born companies that have shaken up retailing, in part with great customer experience. Casper, for instance, lets customers try a mattress for 100 days and return it if they don't like it. Legacy brands are fighting back by appointing c-suite executives to oversee every touchpoint with the customer. Around 12% of companies in the S&P 500 had chief experience officers, up from 6% three years ago, Forrester estimated.

We got a leaked document that shows how Amazon is courting influencers

Lauren Johnson looked into the online giant's program to get influencers to recommend products on Amazon to their fans on social media in exchange for a cut of the sale.

Amazon is promoting the program as a way to make easy extra money. But influencers we talked to said the money they're making varies widely. Ultimately, Amazon could be the big winner, by taking the data that influencers generate and using it to retarget customers on its own.

"There's so much data that Amazon can start to build within their advertising ecosystem," said Krishna Subramanian, a cofounder of Captiv8, an influencer marketing firm.

Gillette's #MeToo ad

Gillette  masculinity adGillette

Brands act at their own peril when it comes to being part of a cultural moment. When shaving giant Gillette created an ad addressing the #MeToo movement, it knew there would be a backlash, but it went ahead anyway to reach the next generation of consumers. The one-and-a-half-minute spot refers explicitly to #MeToo stories and calls for men to look inward and be the best versions of themselves.

Pay TV's problems are reshaping the cable business

The third quarter of 2018 was the worst ever for pay TV, with legacy-cable and satellite companies losing more than 1 million subscribers, and it's having a trickle-down effect on small cable operators. Wall Street analyst Craig Moffett predicts that, rather than fighting to keep video subscribers, cable operators will withdraw from the business to focus on higher-margin broadband products.

Publishers will roll out more paywalls this year, but face increasing resistance from readers

Subscriptions are a top priority for media companies this year, with 52% saying it's their main revenue focus, according to a Reuters Institute survey. But scores of publishers put up paywalls and created membership programs last year and people can only manage so many subscriptions. Reuters predicts there even will be a rise in paywall-blocking software.

How Sprinklr CEO's plans to survive the mar-tech consolidation

The CEO of the $1.8 billion social media-management platform says 80%-99% of marketing tech firms will go out of business. Ragy Thomas says his software-as-a-service model positions Sprinklr well. He sees a growing market for social media management as companies use digital channels to support customer service and other departments.

"We think it's going to go further because customer care is going to come into the fold," he told BI. "If I'm United Airlines and I talk about great customer service that isn't backed up by a real example in my content or messaging strategy, it's not going to be credible."

In tech news:

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