What kept the digital world buzzing through 2019
We take a look at events that kept digital majors busy and those who emerged as newsmakers of the year
Newsmakers in the digital world kept us on our toes throughout this year. Despite the economic slowdown overshadowing other news developments in the second half of this calendar year, we did see digital movers and shakers grab headlines on several occasions.
Here, we have bundled up some of 2019’s highlights and newsmakers as a refresher for the year that was.
Digital Advertising makes its presence felt
The year started with a positive forecast for digital advertising with the DAN–e4m report expecting the medium to command nearly 30 per cent of the ad pie by 2021, similar to the Pitch Madison report’s prediction for a 33 per cent growth in 2019.
With the number of smartphone users and internet consumption growing by the day with no signs of slowing down, the medium looked set to establish its hold in Digital India. And so it did.
The General Elections saw political parties double their ad spends on the medium, with the BJP accounting for the lion’s share.
This was followed by the IPL and the Cricket World Cup, events that saw a substantial number of Indians going online to watch the games. Disney-owned OTT platform Hotstar shattered records by fetching over 300 million viewers for IPL 2019. The Hotstar app saw 8,000 downloads per minute for India –with the India-Pakistan match during the ICC Cricket World Cup delivering around 365 million views in a span of just 8 hours.
Post the second quarter, the strain on marketing budgets resurfaced as the economy was seen dragging its feet. Digital advertising, however, managed to keep its head above the water, while its traditional counterparts could not fare as well. For the festive season, digital was expected to grow at 20-25 per cent but with the economy showing no signs of recovery, the medium had to be content at 10 per cent.
Tech majors who made big news
The debate around restricting political advertising online grew louder this year with stakeholders taking up serious for and against positions.
Facebook drew maximum criticism, both from within and outside the organisation, for failing to take a strong stand on banning political ads on its platform.
Meanwhile, Twitter walked away with the moral high ground after CEO Jack Dorsey announced a complete ban on political ads. Google, too, tweaked its political ad policy, announcing that it would not allow highly targeted political ads on its platform. The row shows no signs of simmering down just as yet, at least not until Facebook decides to announce some drastic changes to its political ads policy.
Closer home, messaging platform WhatsApp dominated headlines as news of the Pegasus spyware snooping spread. The platform that prides itself on its encryption features was now being accused of a privacy breach. The spyware that was produced by Israeli cyber intelligence firm NSO Group, it was revealed, had snooped on diplomats, journalists, activists and many others.
Twitter India also faced flak after it was accused of discriminating against SC, ST, and OBC activists. This was after news came out of the micro-blogging platform blocking the account of senior columnist Dilip C Mandal. While the platform debunked accusations of bias, several of its users decided to switch to its counterpart Mastodon.
Meanwhile, ByteDance-owned TikTok continued to dance into the hearts of Indian social media users with 277.6 million downloads by Indian users, accounting for 45 per cent of global installs, according to a report by Sensor Tower.
Even though influencer marketing grew from strength to strength, Instagram influencers were in for a shock as the social media giant decided to test hiding the ‘Likes’ on its platform. While some argued that the move would ensure a healthy online environment and remove the problem of fake likes, a majority of the influencer marketing community were worried about the impact on their engagement metrics.
The digital world saw some high-profile appointments this year. It was an endless trail of surprise announcements that kept media newsrooms buzzing through 2019. Google India brought on board former Star and Disney India MD Sanjay Gupta as Country Manager and Vice President of Sales and Operations after Rajan Anandan, once the face of Google in India, quit the company earlier this year to join Sequoia.
Meanwhile, former Times Network President and COO Nikhil Gandhi was roped in by TikTok as its new India Head. Manish Maheshwari was appointed MD for Twitter India and Truecaller appointed former Flipkart executive Sandeep Patil as its India MD. Viacom18 too roped in Gourav Rakshit as COO, Viacom18 Digital Ventures.
As concerns around data and privacy gained momentum, this was also the year of The Personal Data Protection Bill which was referred to a Joint Committee of Houses after being tabled in the Parliament. The bill aims to set up a framework on who can collect personal data online and how it can protect individual privacy.
The bill, however, has raised several questions about whether the government was serious about delivering its promise on data privacy or was it only giving government agencies sweeping powers to access individual data.
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