News You Can Use: Facebook outage, 5G on the way, China to seize AI crown

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Hello headlines my old friend: We’re back for another round of your favorite recurring series on the CallRail blog, News You Can Use.

In this ongoing series, we review the most recent headlines in technology and marketing, and explain what it all could mean for your business. As the old saying goes, staying on top of the news isn’t just good civics — it’s good for business.

Let’s get to the news.

1) Facebook users reeling after multi-day global outage (Reuters)

Facebook, and its subsidiary services like Instagram and WhatsApp, suffered intermittent downtime and outages for nearly 48 hours this week. Millions of accounts worldwide were inaccessible during this period, and unhappy users flooded social media with the #facebookdown and #instagramdown hashtags.

“[On Tuesday March 12], a server configuration issue made it difficult for people to access our apps and services. We are 100 percent back up and running and apologize for any inconvenience,” Facebook said in a statement. This week’s outage is reportedly the longest-ever downtime for the Facebook platform and its family of apps.

Digital marketers will no doubt want to press Facebook for a refund on any promotions and ad placements that ran during this downtime. Facebook would not commit to a refund, and only indicated it would continue “investigating the overall impact of this issue.”

If you’re a digital marketer who was affected by this outage, get in touch with Facebook’s support team to request a refund.

2) Spotify files lawsuit against Apple for ‘anticompetitive practices’ (New York Times)

Spotify has launched an antitrust lawsuit against Apple in court for alleged violations of European antitrust law. The music-streaming service announced on Wednesday it has filed a suit accusing Apple of using its proprietary App Store to crowd out competitors, including Spotify.

As one of Apple’s biggest competitors in the music space, Spotify has long been frustrated by the legendary walled garden of Apple’s App Store. Services listed on the App Store must abide by all of Apple’s rules and regulations — including around pricing and competition — or risk being shut off from tens of millions of Apple devices and users.

In their suit, Spotify calls for EU antitrust regulators to break up Apple and separate the App Store from its main services. This mirrors a similar call by US presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who recently proposed breaking up the biggest tech companies in order to check their quasi-monopolistic powers.

It remains to be seen whether the case will be escalated into a formal EU investigation of Apple. Nevertheless, it’s clear that in the UK — just like in the US — the push to regulate Big Tech is gaining momentum.

3) Verizon to offer first-ever 5G cellular service in Chicago, Minneapolis (CNN)

Starting on April 11 of this year, Verizon will become the world’s first major telecom to offer 5G cellular service to consumers. The company’s pilot 5G program will launch in Chicago and Minneapolis, and will be offered for free to Verizon customers for three months. After that, customers must pay an extra $10 a month to upgrade from 4G to 5G.

2019 is expected to be a big year for 5G wireless rollouts in the United States, and Verizon is looking to seize the opening advantage by being the first out of the gate with their 5G network. However, there are some caveats: The 5G service will only work with the company’s Moto Z3 mobile device, and will require a hardware add-on that attaches to the phone.

This announcement is something of a starting pistol for the 5G arms race, so mobile marketers should pay close attention to other networks and telecoms as they roll out their own 5G plans over the coming year.

4) China to overtake U.S. in AI, machine learning research (Allen Inst. for AI)

A new study by the Allen Institute for AI predicts that China will soon outstrip the US in the field of AI research. By 2020, Beijing is expected to surpass all other nations in terms of the influence and the quantity of their research into AI and machine learning

Citing the more than 2,000,000 papers on AI and machine learning published in China through 2018, the report asserts that Beijing is “poised to overtake the US in the most-cited 50 percent of papers this year, in the most-cited 10 percent of papers next year, and in the 1 percent of most-cited papers by 2025.”

The study points to China’s plans for massive government investment in both educational facilities and private industry as the key driver behind China’s growing AI dominance. In the absence of a similar and sustained push for national investment in technology and science, the US is expected to continue to lag behind.

As we’ve observed in this space before, AI is going to be key driver of future advances in marketing and technology. Digital marketers would do well to closely observe China’s moves in the coming years to zero in on future strategies.

5) U.S. eSports marketing to top $200 million by 2020 (Newzoo)

Competitive video game advertising in the US is expected to surpass $200 million in revenue by 2020, according to a new report by the video game analytics agency NewZoo.

The report predicts that eSports ad revenue will grow 25 percent to $178 million this year, and will top the $214 million mark in 2020. Global revenue around eSports is similarly expected to hit $1.1 billion this year, which amounts to a positively meteoric rate of 27 percent year-over-year growth.

If it seems like every brand under the sun is scrambling to advertise to the gaming audience, it’s because they most definitely are. Fans of eSports (and video games generally), tend to be young, affluent, and tech-savvy — in other words, the kind of demographic that makes digital marketers see visions of sky-high ROI dancing in their heads.

Maybe your brand or business should do the same?

Do you have thoughts about how current events have changed your marketing or business strategy, or guidance for others to share? Head to the CallRail Community to connect with other professionals and share your perspective.

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