Hello ladies and gentlemen, this is the news.

It’s a good’un this week, with lots of big stories that you hopefully weren’t already aware of. Beginning with...

Smart sofas

Ikea is currently surveying people to ask how they’d like to interact with a virtual assistant placed in smart furniture.

According to TheNextWeb, the questions mainly probe respondents about aspects of the bot’s personality, such as whether they’d prefer a male, female or gender-neutral voice, and whether it should be robotic or humanlike.

Though Ikea claims this is just ‘playful research’ to gauge people’s interest in AI, we can obviously hope that the end result will be smart flat-pack furniture that builds itself.

Amazon searches for meaning

On its recent earnings call Amazon made overt what until now has been covert. It has designs on taking a big slice of the digital ad pie.

Asked by an analyst whether advertising could become a more “meaningful part of the business”, Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky said that it was much more of a possibility than ever before.

“Our scale and number of customers, number of clicks, number of eyeballs and new content – video content and other opportunities for advertising has really helped create some in that business,” he said.

Amazon’s ad business will increase by an average annual rate of 37% between 2016 and 2018, leaving it at $5bn. This is small fry compared to Google’s $80bn in ad revenue, but there’s plenty of room for growth.

The rich get richer

Facebook once again beat predictions when announcing its quarterly results this week.

Revenue grew by 49% to $8.03bn from $5.38bn, whereas Analysts had predicted revenue of $7.83bn. The company earned $3.06bn in Q1, a whopping 76% increase on the same period in 2016. Mobile ads made up 85% of revenue, up 82% year-on-year.

Aside from the money, Facebook had 1.28bn daily active users in Q1, up 18% year-on-year.

Facebook hires 3,000 staff to censor inappropriate videos

Following several high profile cases of people livestreaming horrific crimes on Facebook, the social network has announced it will hire 3,000 extra staff to review and censor inappropriate posts.

Facebook already employs 4,500 people tasked with reviewing posts among its total of 18,770 staff.

This highlights the ongoing difficulty with policing live broadcasts online. You obviously can’t stop people from streaming criminal content, but Facebook needs to get better at identifying and removing such videos.

Uber belatedly realises it needs some values

Speaking at the Millennial 20/20 conference this week, Fred Jones, Uber’s general manager and head of cities, admitted that the company has failed to establish a brand voice.

“We’ve grown really quickly, but never really had a brand voice in terms of what we stand for and what we believe in. Our service is quite complex with our riders, partner drivers and cities we serve,” he explained.

“This year, we’re looking at what our voice is, and what the best way is to communicate our message to different customers.”

Can marketing gloss over the company’s many, many, many misdemeanours? Let’s wait and see.

Snapchat welcomes SMEs

Once the preserve of advertisers with mega-budgets, Snapchat is now offering itself to advertisers of all sizes. In June Snap will roll out a new suite of self-service tools that will let any advertiser buy, manage and view reporting on their campaigns.

No minimum spend will be required and all ad formats will be up for grabs.

Previously advertisers had to go through one of Snapchat’s auction partners, so the hope is that by removing that barrier Snap’s ad revenues will increase.

David Moth

Published 5 May, 2017 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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