All posts in “Social”

Facebook Watch is finally growing as payouts get spread thin

Both Facebook Watch and Instagram’s IGTV have yet to become superstar video platforms, leaving Facebook at risk as more people seek streaming entertainment instead of status updates. So today Facebook is trying to build some buzz for Watch with new stats and rollouts. The free video hub that combines original content, sports, and cult favorite TV shows like Firefly now has 400 million users watching at least one minute per month. That’s not a ton of engagement amongst a wide audience. But on the brighter side there are 75 million users watching at least one minute per day with a much more promising average of 20 minutes per day.

Though that’s just 5 percent of Facebook’s 1.5 billion daily users, it indicates that if Facebook can get people hooked on its ad-supported shows, it could squeeze serious viewing time out of them. Just four months ago, Facebook was saying that only 50 million people spent at least 1 minute per month on Watch, so it’s making strong progress.

Watch is now available worldwide on desktop and Facebook Lite as well as the main Facebook app. And it’s rolling out ad breaks to 40 countries after an initial launch in 5 in August. It’s also renewing four shows for a second season: Huda BossFive PointsSacred Lies & Sorry For Your Loss.

But The Information reports that news media executives feel that while some shows are getting satisfactory viewership, ad revenue has been underwhelming. Six months ago, Facebook commissioned news programs from outlets like CNN and Buzzfeed. Facebook reportedly now plans to pay news video content producers less per show as it seeks to spread the same $90 million budget across more programs, potentially with a greater focus on international markets. That cut-back could make producing some shows tough, but at least the execs believe Facebook understands it must prioritize monetization for its content partners.

To the end, Facebook plans to offer more options for advertisers like more targeting capabilities, and expanding its In-Stream Reserve premium ad inventory inside the top quality Watch shows. For individual video creators, Ad Breaks will become more widely available including within game streams from eSports stars. Facebook is also planning to expand its Brand Collabs Manager to additional countries so creators can get hooked up with sponsorship deals, and let more creators sign up fans for Patreon-style subscription payments.

The viewing stats have likely been bolstered by the addition of all episodes of Joss Whedon’s old TV shows Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly that users can binge watch for hours on end. 12 million Watch Party group video sessions have been launched to date, helping shows go viral. Facebook is now testing live picture-in-picture commentating that could let actors host viewing parties that feel like you’re sitting in the living room beside them. Facebook’s VP of video Fidji Simo writes that “With Facebook Watch, we set out to demonstrate what it looks like to build deep bonds through watching online video, instead of just having a passive viewing experience.”

Simo also notes that “People can find videos on Facebook in a number of different places — Watch, News Feed, Search, Pages and more — and all of these can feel different. We want to make the experience of watching video feel immersive no matter where you discovered it. As part of this effort, we’ll be testing a few things in the coming months, like creating a darker background whenever you immerse yourself into a video on mobile.”

Facebook has yet to concentrate its funding on a blockbuster tentpole video series — its Game Of Thrones or House Of Cards. The closest thing it has is the Elizabeth Olsen show Sorry For Your Loss, though viewership has been somewhat weak. Next year Facebook Watch will debut a revived and social media-infused web version of MTV’s Real World. But tapping its deep pockets to pay for one must-see original scripted series could help wedge Watch into people’s lives.

Facebook redesigns Life Events feature with animated photos, videos and more

Facebook today announced a redesign of its “Life Events” feature, which allows people to share significant milestones in their life, like an engagement, graduation, a new job, a move to a new city, and more. The feature has existed since the launch of Timeline, but has to date offered a fairly nondescript type of post. Today, that’s changing, Facebook says. Now, users will be able to add animated photos or videos, photos from the people or Page you’ve tagged (like those of your partner or your new workplace), or you you can pick an image from Facebook’s own art collection, if you don’t have your own.

The photos and videos you post will also have subtle animations, like slowly zooming in, to give the post more attention. And you can still pick an icon to represent the life event, as before.

The idea behind the redesign is to give these sorts of posts a better way to stand out from other posts, the company explains

Of course, Facebook likely wants to increase the feature’s adoption, too, as it’s a straightforward way to collect profile data on an individual that they may not have otherwise filled out – like where they live, where they work, or their alma mater, for example.

Facebook will also now alert your friends directly when you’ve shared some life events, it says.

For certain types of life events – like changes in your current city, work, education, and relationship status – your friends may receive a notification to let them know about the news. This ensures they won’t miss the update if they were just casually scrolling their News Feed. And it’s a way to make sure the event gets seen by your broader network of Facebook friends – including those acquaintances whose updates don’t regularly show in your News Feed, as Facebook’s algorithms have determined you aren’t close.

In addition, when you react to a life event someone else posted with a like, wow, heart, etc., Facebook now shows all the other reactions from friends alongside your own.

Perhaps most importantly, is that Facebook is finally giving life events a place of importance on users’ profiles.

While the feature for years has been touted as a way to remember significant events, it’s actually been fairly difficult to relocate your older life event posts from years ago. With the update, however, life events will have their own dedicated section on user profiles. (You can opt to hide a life event here by tapping the “…” button then selecting “Hide from Timeline,” if you choose).

This will give people visiting your profile for the first time a way to get to know you, by way of the most important moments you’ve shared through this feature. That may not be something everyone is comfortable with, though, so you’ll want to check to see if there are any older life event posts you need to hide or delete.

The updated life events are rolling out worldwide on iOS, Android and desktop beginning today, and completing in the days ahead.

Google CEO admits company must better address the spread of conspiracy theories on YouTube

Google CEO Sundar Pichai admitted today that YouTube needs to do better in dealing with conspiracy content on its site that can lead to real world violence. During his testimony on Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee, the exec was questioned on how YouTube handles extremist content which promote conspiracy theories like Pizzagate and, more recently, a Hillary Clinton-focused conspiracy theory dubbed Frazzledrip.

According to an article in Monday’s The Washington Post, Frazzledrip is a variation on Pizzagate that began spreading on YouTube this spring.

In a bizarre series of questions, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) asked Pichai if he knew what Frazzledrip was.

Pichai replied that he was “not aware of the specifics about it.”

Raskin went on to explain that the recommendation engine on YouTube has been suggesting videos that claim politicians, celebrities and other leading figures were “sexually abusing and consuming the remains of children, often in satanic rituals.” He said these new conspiracist claims were echoing the discredited Pizzagate conspiracy, which two years ago led to a man firing shots into a Washington D.C. pizzeria, in search of the children he believed were held as sex slaves by Democratic Party leaders.

He also explained the new Frazzledrip theory in more detail, which he read about in The Washington Post’s report about the still rampant hateful conspiracies being hosted by YouTube. This newer conspiracy claims that Hillary Clinton and longtime aide Huma Abedin sexually assaulted a girl and drank her blood.

The Post said some of the video clips were removed after first appearing in April and had been debunked, but its review of the matter found dozens of videos where the claims were still being discussed. Combined, these videos had been viewed millions of times over the past eight months. In addition, the investigation found that YouTube’s search box would highlight these videos when people typed in terms like “HRC video” or “Frazzle.”

YouTube’s policy doesn’t prevent people from uploading falsehoods, The Post’s report noted.

Raskin asked Pichai about this type of extremist propaganda.

“What is your company policy on that? And are you trying to deal with it?,” he questioned.

Pichai admitted, essentially, that YouTube needed to do better.

“We are constantly undertaking efforts to deal with misinformation. We have clearly stated policies and we have made lots of progress in many of the areas where over the past year – so, for example, in areas like terrorism, child safety, and so on,” said Pichai. “We are looking to do more,” he said.

In terms of the Frazzledrip theory, he said it was more of a recent happening.

“But I’m committed to following up on it and making sure we are evaluating these against our policies,” the CEO promised.

The issue with videos like Frazzledrip is that YouTube’s current policies don’t fully encompass how to handle extremist propaganda. Instead, as The Post also said, its policies focus on videos with hateful, graphic and violent content directed at minorities and other protected groups. Meanwhile, it seeks to allow freedom of speech to others who upload content to its site, despite the disinformation they may spread or their potential to lead to violence.

The balance between free speech and content policies is a delicate matter – and an important one, given YouTube’s power to influence dangerous individuals. In addition to the Pizzagate shooter, the mass shooter who killed 11 people at the Pittsburgh synagogue in October had been watching neo-Nazi propaganda on YouTube, the Post’s report pointed out, in another example.

Asked what YouTube was doing about all this, Pichai didn’t offer specifics.

The CEO instead admitted that YouTube struggles with evaluating videos individually because of the volume of content it sees.

“We do get around 400 hours of video every minute. But it’s our responsibility, I think, to make sure YouTube is a platform for freedom of expression, but it’s responsible and contributes positively to society,” Pichai said. He added that its policies allow it take down videos that “insight harm or hatred or violence.” But conspiracy videos don’t always directly insight violence – they just radicalize individuals, who then sometimes act out violently, as a result.

“It’s an area we acknowledge there’s more work to be done, and we’ll definitely continue doing that,” Pichai said. “But I want to acknowledge there is more work to be done. With our growth comes more responsibility. And we are committed to doing better as we invest more in this area,” he said.

Facebook relaunches search ads to offset slowing revenue

It’s an ad duoply battle. Facebook is starting to test search ads in its search bar and Marketplace, directly competing with Google’s AdWords. Facebook first tried Sponsored Results back in 2012 but eventually shut down the product in 2013. Now it’s going to let a small set of automotive, retail, and ecommerce industry advertisers show users ads in the US and Canada.

They’ll be repurposed News Feed ads featuring a headline, image, copy text, and a link in the static image or carousel format that can point users to external websites. Facebook declined to share screenshots as it says the exact design is still evolving. Facebook may expand search ads to more countries based on the test’s performance.

The reintroduction of search ads could open an important new revenue stream at a time when Facebook’s revenue growth is quickly decelerating as it runs out of News Feed ad space, the Stories format that advertisers are still adapting is poised to overtake feed sharing on social apps, and users shift their time elsewhere. In Q3 2018, revenue grew 33 percent year-over-year, but that’s far slower than the 49 percent YOY gain it had a year ago, and the 59 percent from Q3 2016. Opening up new ad inventory for search could reinvigorate the sagging revenue growth rate that, combined with Facebook’s privacy and security scandals, has put intense pressure on Facebook’s leaders Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg.

“We’re running a small test to place ads in Facebook search results, and we’ll be evaluating whether these ads are beneficial for people and businesses before deciding whether to expand it” Facebook product manager Zoheb Hajiyani to TechCrunch in a statement. The announcement of the search ads comes as Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai is under fire from Congress over data privacy, though the move could help Google look less like it has a monopoly in search. Facebook’s share of the $279.56 billion total worldwide digital ad market will grow to 19.5 percent this year, trailing #1 Google which has 31.5 percent.

Back in 2012, Facebook desperately sought extra revenue streams following its botched IPO. Sponsored Results let game companies, retailers, and more inject links to their Facebook apps, Pages, and posts as ads in the search typeahead results. Since advertisers could target searches for specific other Pages and apps, brands and game developers often tried to swoop in and steal traffic from their competitors. For example, dating app Match.com could target searches for competitor OkCupid and appear above its results. Facebook isn’t allowing advertisers to be quite as cutthroat with this test.

Facebook’s 2012 Sponsored Results ads let competitors swoop on each other’s traffic

Advertisers with access will be able to simply extend their existing Newss Feed ads to the new “Search” placement through the Facebook Ads Manager, similar to how they’d pick Facebook Audience Network or Instagram. No videos ads will be allowed. For now, advertisers won’t pick specific keywords to advertise agains, and instead may appear in search terms related to auto or retail topics. Ads will featured a “Sponsored” tag, and are subject to the same transparency controls around “Why Am I Seeing This?” Facebook plans to evaluate the benefits for users and advertisers in order to determine whether to roll out the ads to more countries and categories.

One major concern is that Facebook already collects as much information as possible about people and their behavior to target its ads. With the reintroduction of search ads, it’s even more incentivized to gather what we do online, what we buy offline, and who we are.

Facebook will have to balance the injection of the ads with remaining an easy way to search for friends, content, businesses and more. Search is far from the core of Facebook’s offering, where users typically browse the News Feed for serendipitous content discovery rather than go looking for something specific. The most common searches are likely for friends’ names which won’t be great ad candidates. But given how accustomed users are to search ads on Google, this new revenue stream could help Facebook boost its numbers without too much disruption to its service.

Coffee Meets Bagel goes anti-Tinder with a redesign focused on profiles, conversations

How do other dating apps compete with Tinder? By further distancing themselves from Tinder’s “hot-or-not” user interface design to focus on differentiating features – like conversation starters, commenting, and richer profiles. Today, another anti-Tinder app is doing the same. On the heels of its $12 million Series B announced earlier this year, the oddly named app Coffee Meets Bagel is today announcing a significant makeover, which includes a change to the way the app works.

Its cleaner, lightweight and more modern design does away with bright, competing colors and other outdated features, the company says. But more notably, it has ditched the big “Pass” or “Connect” buttons – its earlier variation on Tinder’s “like” and “dislike” buttons, which nearly all dating apps have now adopted.

Instead, Coffee Meets Bagel’s new interface puts more emphasis on user profiles – showcasing more of the text, and giving users the option to “heart” the profile or now, even comment.

Before a match takes place, users can tap a new commenting button that allows them to respond to the user’s profile directly, before making a connection. This could help potential matches break the ice or even spark a connection that may not have otherwise happened.

The feature is similar, to some extent, to the commenting feature in Hinge, a relationship-focused app that allows users to directly comment on some aspect of another user’s profile.

Coffee Meets Bagel says that during its beta testing, members who sent comments to their matches had a 25 percent higher chance of getting liked back. And when comments led to conversations, there was a 60 percent increase in total messages exchanged.

Focusing on enabling better conversations is a good way for other dating apps to combat Tinder, which leaves communication up to the users to initiate, without much guidance. This leads to inboxes filled with “hi’s” and nothing much else to say. By integrating commenting into profiles, however, users will be prompted to start conversations based on something they’ve read – allowing people to connect based on more than just their photos.

The app has also revamped its Discover and Suggested sections to offer seamless scrolling and better navigation, respectively. These sections are less cluttered than before, too, in keeping with the more minimalist spirit. Even the Coffee Meets Bagel logo has gotten a makeover, where the C and B now meet in the shape of heart.

The company’s anti-Tinder stance is shaping up in its social content, too. While Tinder has more recently embraced hook-up culture and the single life with its online publication “Swipe Life,” CMB is instead creating content that’s more inspiring, it says.

“We’re taking a stance against online dating conventions, like ghosting and treating people like profiles. We’re expanding the conversation to the self: self-reflection, self-discovery, and self-love,” the company explains in its announcement.

Coffee Meets Bagel has raised just under $20 million since launching back in 2012, but it’s faced threats from Tinder, which has challenged its model head-on with Tinder Picks – a curated selection of matches for Tinder Gold subscribers, similar to Coffee Meets Bagel’s curated daily picks.

The company’s app has close to 7 million installs to date, according to data from Sensor Tower, and more than $25 million in gross revenue. The revenue is growing over time, the firm also found, with users spending approximately $900,000 in the app last month, up 30% from November 2017.