Hi and welcome to this weekly edition of Insider Advertising, where I break down the big stories in media and advertising.

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This week: What Instagram is whispering to creators, Discovery joins the streaming wars, and Estée Lauder pivots in the pandemic.

Tech platforms wield enormous influence on business and society but the algorithms that power them are a black box to all but a few.

So that's why it was fascinating to see what Instagram told certain creators about how they could grow their followings on the platform, as Sydney Bradley reported.

Key points:

  • Some creators said while they were glad to get specific tips from Instagram, the posting volume that was recommended was unrealistically high.
  • The advice also shows how much Facebook-owned Instagram is pushing Reels, the feature it rolled out in August and which has been widely seen as an attempt to knock off the wildly popular TikTok app.
  • Reels, you'll recall, launched to a mixed reception, and Instagram reportedly dangled cash before high-profile TikTok creators to try to lure them to use the new feature. 

Read the full story here: Instagram has privately advised some creators on how often to post, offering a rare glimpse into how its mysterious algorithm works

Chip and Joanna Gaines, who are coming to Discovery Plus.Rob Kim/Getty Images

Streaming wars, take 2

Streaming media has exploded as people ditch their cable bundles and more recently, are forced by the pandemic to seek out in-home entertainment. 

But if it already feels like there are too many services to choose from, we're about to get more.

Discovery Plus is the first new streamer to launch in 2021. And while it doesn't boast the originals Netflix has, if wildlife documentaries and cooking shows are your thing, it's a relative deal at $4.99 for a subscription with ads, compared to Netflix starting at $8.99.

Speaking of Netflix, the streamer just released viewing numbers for its new "Bridgerton" series, showing it's on track to be its fifth biggest original series ever (and a win for creator Shonda Rhimes). 

Read the full story here: The $6.99 Discovery Plus streaming service launched today with shows from HGTV and Food Network, joining an already crowded streaming market

Estée Lauder's pandemic pivot

Getting a handle on consumer sentiment is critical for makeup companies, which have seen a sales dip in the pandemic. But the same conditions have made doing in-person research safely near impossible.

Estée Lauder described how it's pivoted to virtual research methods, like getting people to send them videos talking about how they use makeup.

It's found some opportunity: There's demand among people who use videoconferencing platforms for work and frontline workers who want to treat themselves with things like mini spa days and new products like sheet masks.

Read the rest here: An Estée Lauder exec reveals how the pandemic is transforming the company's research and marketing as people ditch makeup for sheet masks and self-care

Other stories we're reading:

  • The CEO of Newell Brands, which makes iconic products like Crock Pot and Sharpies, reveals his growth strategy for the company after a disastrous merger and activist campaigns (Business Insider)
  • Pure Barre exec reveals how the ballet-inspired fitness company retained most of its members during lockdown — and increased subscribers by 44% after studios reopened (Business Insider)
  • 400 Googlers have created one of the first 'white-collar unions' in Silicon Valley. Organizers say they want it to combat moral issues, not salaries. (Business Insider)
  • How The New York Times Is Adapting to Life Without Third-Party Cookies (Adweek)
  • YouTube has gone from Hollywood pariah to partner. Meet the executive who led the change (Los Angeles Times)
  • Why salad chains have popped up everywhere (Business Insider)

That's a wrap. See you next week!

— Lucia

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