The 16 stories that shook media and advertising in 2017

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took a lot of heat this year

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took a lot of heat this year
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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In so many ways, 2017 was not normal. That’s true for the world at large, and of course in the media and advertising business.

Consider that at the start of this year, no company on the planet was hotter than Snapchat. Now every few months it’s as if the media world braces for its earnings.

Similarly, YouTube opened the year poised to steal ad money from TV. Then came ads next to PewDiePie Hitler jokes and exploitive kids videos.

Meanwhile, three years ago 21st Century Fox tried to buy Time Warner. Just a few weeks ago, the media conglomerate sold a bunch of pieces to Disney!

Speaking of mergers, if there was one sure bet of 2017 it would be that AT&T would complete its acquisition of Time Warner. But alas, the US government suddenly doesn’t love that deal (hint, like Jaws 4, this time it’s personal).

It’s increasingly clear that every sector of these industries is being upended and uncertain. And everyone’s afraid of the Facebook-Google duopoly.

Other than that, no one knows anything. Happy New Year.


Brands aren’t going to take it anymore. They want to know where their digital ads are running and what ad tech companies they are paying.

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Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”
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YouTube

Everyone was mad at Facebook, whether it was for funding fake news, or for letting Russian operatives buy ads, or for ad measurement problems. But advertisers kept spending.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
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David Ramos/Getty Images

TV networks complained louder than ever that Nielsen can’t track how many people watch shows on digital devices.

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Skip Bolen/CBS

The NFL ratings are still down. And you can’t blame the 2016 election anymore


Live TV viewing continued to decline. Yet advertisers still keep spending on TV ads. And surprise, CBS showed a breakout hit is still possible with “The Good Doctor”

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“The Good Doctor” star Freddie Highmore.
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ABC/Liane Hentscher

Marketers don’t know what to do anymore. Brand safety issues have made they fearful of digital advertising. Yet they know streaming is eating TV

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Netflix

Companies have realized they have no idea how to market in a divided America, where everything from the NFL to immigration is a hot button.

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Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad celebrated its immigrant heritage
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Budweiser/YouTube

People are ditching, or never getting cable. Which makes them even tougher to reach with ads.

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Amazon is looming everywhere. It’s hard to have a conversation about the ad business without someone mentioning the retailer is “coming.”


The Facebook and Google duopoly keeps getting stronger. Other digital media companies talk openly about competing for leftover budgets.

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WWE/YouTube

Digital publishers are freaking out. Venture capitalists hoped that media would grow like tech. They were wrong.

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Mashable’s sign in their New York office.
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Business Insider

Snapchat couldn’t have been hotter. And then it went public, and investors and advertisers are questioning its fundamental business and reason for being.

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Snap

Facebook and Snapchat are trying to make original, mobile video shows happen, during a time when Netflix and Amazon are investing billions in content.

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Samantha Lee / Business Insider

Ad agencies are taking fire from all sides. Consulting firms, publishers, social influencers and brands themselves are all nipping at their business.

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Business Insider

Everyone is buying everyone. Discovery and Scripps got together. Fox sold big assets to Disney. And AT&T is still trying to close a deal for Time Warner.

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Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

An ad tech shakeout has long been predicted. This year, with Rocket Fuel and other former high flyers selling for cheap, it got real.