A group of sex tech startup founders, employees and supporters gathered outside of Facebook’s NY office in Manhattan to protest its advertising policies with respect to what it classifies as sexual content. The protest, and a companion website detailing their position , are the work of ‘Approved, Not Approved,’ a coalition of sex health companies co-founded by Dame Products and Unbound Babes. These policies are applied have fallen out of step with “the average person’s views of what should or shouldn’t be approved of ads,” according to Janet Lieberman, co-founder and CTO of Dame Products. “If you look at the history of the sex toy industry, for example, vibrators were sexual health products, until advertising restrictions were put on them in the 1920s and 1930s – and then they became dirty, and that’s how the industry got shady, and that’s why we have negative thoughts towards them,” she told me in an interview at the protest. “They’re moving back towards wellness in people’s minds, but not in advertising policies. There’s a double standard for what is seen as obscene, talking about men’s sexual health versus women’s sexual health and talking about products that aren’t sexual, and using sex to sell them, versus taking sexual products and having completely non-sexual ads for them.” Credit: TechCrunch It’s a problem that extends beyond just Facebook and Lieberman says. In fact, her company is for its own ad standards after it refused to run ads for women’s sex toys in their out-of-home advertising inventory. But it also has ramifications beyond just advertising, since in many ways what we see in ads helps define what we see as acceptable in terms of our everyday lives and conversations. “Some of this stems from society’s inability to separate sexual products from feeling sexual, and that’s a real problem that we see that hurts women more than men, but hurts both genders, in not knowing how to help our sexual health,” Lieberman said. “We can’t talk about it without being sexual, and that we can’t bring things up, without it seeming like we’re bringing up something that is dirty.” Credit: Unbound / Dame Products “A lot of the people you see here today have Instagrams that have been shut down, or ads that have been not approved on Facebook,” said Bryony Cole, CEO at Future of Sex in an interview. “Myself, I run Future of Sex, which is a sex tech hackathon, and a podcast focused on sex tech, and my Instagram’s been shut down twice with no warning. It’s often for things that Facebook will say they consider phallic imagery, but they’re not […] and yet if you look at images for something like HIMS [an erectile dysfunction medication startup,], you’ll see those phallic practice images. So there’s this gross discrepancy, and it’s very frustrating, especially for these companies where a lot of the revenue in their business is around community that are online which is true for sex toys.” Online ads aren’t just a luxury for many of these startup brands and companies – they’re a necessary ingredient to continued success. and Facebook together account for the majority of digital advertising spend in the U.S., , and it’s hard to grow a business that caters to primarily online customers without fair access to their platforms, Cole argues. “You see a lot of sex tech or sexual wellness brands having to move off Instagram and find other ways to reach their communities,” she said. “But the majority of people, that’s where they are. And if they’re buying these products, they’re still overcoming a stigma about buying the product, so it’s great to be able to purchase these online. A lot of these companies started either crowdfunding, like Dame Products, or just through ecommerce sites. So the majority of their business is online. It’s not in a store.” Credit: Unbound / Dame Products Earlier this year, sex tech company netted a win in getting the Consumer Technology Association to restore its CES award after community outcry. Double standards in advertising is a far more systemic and distributed problem, but these protests will hopefully help open up the conversation and prompt more change.
Quiz Khalifa aka Host Malone aka Trap Trebek aka HQ Trivia’s Scott Rogowsky has been pushed out of the live mobile gaming startup. The two split due to disagreements about Rogowsky attempting to take a second full-time job hosting sports streaming service DAZN’s baseball show while moving to only hosting HQ on weekends, first reported. HQ wanted someone committed to their show. Now co-founder and CEO Rus Yusupov confirms to TechCrunch that Rogowsky will no longer host HQ Trivia. He tells me that the company ran a SurveyMonkey survey of its top players and they voted that former guest host Matt Richards rated higher than Rogowsky. Yusupov says HQ is excited to have Richards as its new prime time host. It’s also putting out offers to more celebrity guests to host for a few shows, a few weeks, or even a whole season of one of its time slots. HQ Trivia’s new host Matt Richards The departure could still shake HQ’s brand since Rogowsky had become the defacto face of the company. But he was also prone to talking a lot on the air and promoting himself, sometimes in ways that felt distracting from the game. Rogowsky has also been using HQ’s brand to further his standup comedy career, splashing its logo on advertising for his shows like this one below at a casino where “The centerpiece is a live trivia competition”, he told . TechCrunch had if he wasn’t properly compensated with equity in HQ Trivia that would only vest and earn him money if he stuck around. The damage to HQ could worsen if he’s scooped up by Facebook, Snapchat, or another tech company to build out their own live video gaming shows. HQ Trivia provided this statement on Rogowsky’s exit: “We continue to build an incredible company at HQ Trivia, from drawing hundreds of thousands of players to the platform daily, to increasing the size of the prize, to attracting strong talent. We’ve come a long way since Scott Rogowsky’s first trivia game and we’re grateful for everything he’s done for the platform. This is a team that creates products for talent to really shine—we’re just getting started at HQ Trivia, and as he makes his next move, wanted to take a minute to thank him for being part of our journey.” Yusupov tells me he’s excited about exploring new hosts, noting that Richards in a person of color who brings more diversity to HQ’s lineup. who has appeared on CBS’ 2 Broke Girls, Nickelodeon’s School of Rock and was a voice-over host for game show Trivial Takedown on FUSE. Yusupov says the team feels jazzed about the new creative opportunities beyond Rogowsky, though the CEO says he appreciates all that its former host contributed. Richards will have the tall task of trying to . It climbed the app store charts to become the #3 top game and #6 overall app in January 2018, and peaked at 2.38 million concurrent players in March 2018. But it’s been on a steady decline since, falling to the #585 overall app in August, and it dropped out of the top #1500 last month according to . HQ Trivia was installed over 160,000 times last month on iOS and Android with approximately $200,000 in in-app purchase revenue, according to . But that’s just 8% as many downloads as the 1.97 million new installs HQ got in March 2018. Exhaustion with the game format, so many winners splitting jackpots to just a few dollars per victor, and laggy streams have all driven away players. The introduction of a new in August hasn’t stopped the decline. And the may have impeded efforts to turn things around. There’s a ton of pressure on the company after it raised $23 million, including a. Even if HQ Trivia fades from the zeitgeist, it and Rogowsky will have inspired a new wave of innovation in what it means to play with our phones.
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