The best of MDM in 2023

2023 felt very much like a year of retrenchment, adaptation, and preparation across the digital advertising landscape. I published a piece at the start of the year titled The App Tracking Transparency recession in which I argued that blaming macroeconomic conditions for revenue growth slowdowns, which the largest social media platforms had done at the end of 2022 and into 2023, was misguided. These platforms seemed to hint at the time that the economy was headed for a dramatic slowdown, and because advertising is a forward (rather than coincident) economic indicator, their revenue growth decelerations — and, in some quarters, absolute year-over-year revenue declines — were warning signals for an impending recession.

Rather, I proposed that Apple’s App Tracking Transparency Policy (ATT), as well as the reversion of consumers spending habits to pre-COVID norms, caused acute and mostly isolated advertising revenue growth frictions for those platforms (namely: YouTube, Meta, and Snap). I made this case by comparing the revenue growth of those platforms to companies that were largely unaffected by ATT, such as The Trade Desk (TTD), a primarily web-centric DSP, and Lamar Advertising, an operator of outdoor and out-of-home advertising products.

Any references to macroeconomic weakness in early 2023 seem wholly far-fetched and indefensible in hindsight, particularly in the United States: inflation has receded significantly since its peak in June 2022 and is nearing the Fed’s target, while the unemployment rate has settled in a secularly-low range with wage growth cooling. Where once considered implausible, the US economy may potentially, conceivably achieve the historically elusive “soft landing.” The social media platforms that I highlighted in the ATT Recession have all seen their revenue growth rates improve (see Q3 earnings analysis for Meta, Alphabet, and Snap); certainly, public markets have grown more optimistic about these companies’ prospects. Per the chart above, Google, Meta, and Snap have seen their stock prices increase by 57%, 88%, and 190%, respectively, from the first day of trading in 2023 to the last day of trading before Christmas.

What explains this turnaround? I believe the four most consequential trends across digital advertising in 2023 were:

To that end, I present the most popular articles and podcasts from 2023 below. Mobile Dev Memo went through a fundamental transition in 2023 by adopting a paywall; for that reason, traffic numbers for the pre- and post-paywall articles aren’t directly comparable, so I had to adjust the rankings using my judgment. In terms of editorial direction in 2024, I hope to focus most intently on two broad sets of topics:

  1. High-level trends within the digital advertising ecosystem related to platform partnerships, privacy restrictions, and new technologies for advertising measurement;
  2. Tactical marketing, product design, and product analytics guidance related to advertising measurement, revenue and cash flow optimization, and product personalization.

I will also launch a new feature within the Darkpool Chart Explorer early next year that will be available to all MDM Pro subscribers. Stay tuned.

I am deeply appreciative of everyone that participated in the Mobile Dev Memo community in 2023, across the Slack Team and with the paid subscription program. Thank you.

Most Popular Articles

  1. The App Tracking Transparency Recession (January 2023);
  2. Flying Blind (May 2023);
  3. Meta’s AEM update and the disappearing IP address (October 2023);
  4. Reprogramming the Broken Marketing Brain (May 2023);
  5. First-party data and the new Walled Compounds (November 2023).

Most Popular Podcast Episodes

  1. The Future of Digital Advertising Measurement (with Maor Sadra and Julian Runge) (August 2023)
  2. The post-ATT eCommerce landscape (with Rishabh Jain) (April 2023)
  3. Exploring the CTV advertising opportunity (with Peter Hamilton) (November 2023)
  4. A deep dive into the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and Digital Services Act (DSA) (April 2023)
  5. How to build a brand (with Joy Howard) (November 2023)