It’s been a big year for Adweek’s tech team, which has been focusing intensely on the weird, wonderful and occasionally frightening world that is tech, media and advertising. Here’s some of the work we’re most proud of from the past year. If you have a moment or three to kill while sitting around the fireplace, here are some of our favorite articles from the year for your reading pleasure.
What’s on the other side of the uncanny valley?
Reporter Lisa Lacy took an intensive look at what increasingly lifelike robots will mean in the near future in a beautifully illustrated feature.
“It already seems like we’re on the verge of an apocalypse—if climate change doesn’t get us, nuclear war will,” Lisa wrote. “So I have some good news and some bad news. The bad: We need to add robots to the list. The good: We need to start thinking about how to infuse the best parts of humanity into technology—or stop development altogether—or we really are doomed.”
If you loved Lisa’s Uncanny Valley piece, check out Adweek tech reporter Patrick Kulp’s article on how brands are trying to work with artificial influencers. Lisa also wrote about the privacy and legal implications when Amazon’s smart speaker Alexa is called to the witness stand.
AT&T and Verizon are making very different bets on what 5G will mean for consumers and content
The tension between the promise of 5G and its reality has become something of reporter Patrick Kulp’s specialty. In September, he wrote about the different ways AT&T and Verizon are thinking about 5G and evolving their businesses to meet the 5G moment.
“The nation’s two biggest wireless carriers are taking increasingly different bets on what sorts of business propositions will make sense in this future state,” he wrote. “AT&T thinks it will pay to own content and the means to monetize it, while Verizon sees value in selling quality network access to a range of partners across existing markets and any that might arise around 5G.”
Are you fascinated by 5G? Check out Patrick’s piece on how 5G stands to change the wireless internet as we know it.
What I learned from spending a day on a boat with seven influencers
Ann-Marie Alcántara is Adweek’s resident influencer and ecommerce expert, and in January she spent a day on a boat with some influencers to pick their brains about the burgeoning influencer economy.
“The seven influencers moved deliberately, snapping photos from all angles and at every point during the tour of the cruise ship, the Queen Elizabeth from Cunard Lines, docked at Pier 27 in San Francisco,” Ann-Marie wrote. “No Boomerang was left untouched. No Instagram story was left unfiltered. All while trapped on a boat, with nothing but water surrounding us.”
Can’t get enough content about the emerging world of influencers, ecommerce and social media? Check out Ann-Marie’s stories about how brands can get involved in the growing world of self-care apps in a way that feels natural or how some ecommerce sellers think Instagram needs to get its act together to be a more effective social commerce platform. And be sure to read her piece about geek retailers and what traditional brands can learn from their success.
Why does the internet suck?
“What started as a small community of government and academic researchers trying to create separate passageways for information to travel has blossomed into a community of 3 billion people, often yelling at each other about things both trivial and consequential, but also an economic boon for the companies that control the access to logging on and tuning out,” writes tech editor Josh Sternberg. He and Lisa talked to internet pioneers to learn about how the internet got to be such a toxic place and how it can (or can’t) be fixed.
Want to know more about how the internet is bad? Check out reporter Kelsey Sutton’s piece about how major brands’ ads were appearing on YouTube videos promoting AIDS denialism and false health information. Or check out Lisa’s piece explaining how bias works its way into Google’s search results, but not in the way that conservative lawmakers might think.
Dreaming of a better web? Check out Lisa’s pieces about how people are creating private network alternatives or about what a decentralized web will mean for digital advertisers.
Consumers are coming for their data
GDPR threw the digital marketing world for a loop, and reporter Kelsey Sutton dug into how some companies are offering consumers a way to cash in on their digital identities in what might mark the beginning of how we think about data ownership stateside.
“Some services are getting ahead of the regulatory curve by offering individuals the chance to track their data in one place and make decisions about how their data is used and to whom it’s provided,” she wrote.
Speaking of GDPR, reporter Ronan Shields dug into how the world of ad tech is trying to grapple with federal privacy rules. Like it or not, data privacy rules are coming, so be sure to read Josh’s interview with Sen. Mark Warner about federal privacy rules. Check out his thoughts on what to expect in 2019 when the industry’s desire for data and consumers’ demands for privacy will collide in full force.
On Facebook’s nuclear bomb
Remember when we thought the Facebook algorithm change would be the worst thing the company did all year? Josh dug into how the change catapulted the publishing industry and digital marketing world into disarray. While you’re at it, check out Kelsey’s article on how some publishers are reconsidering their ill-fated pivot to video in the wake of lawsuits against Facebook over inflated video metrics.