All posts in “Social”

Facebook Messenger lets games monetize with purchases and ads


Facebook is finally giving developers a reason to build games for Messenger while also opening a new revenue stream for the chat app. After launching HTML5 ‘Instant Games’ inside Messenger like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Words With Friends Frenzy in November 2016, today Facebook is allowing developers to add in-app purchases as well as interstitial and rewarded video ads. Players get a virtual good or bonus life in exchange for watching rewarded videos.

Facebook will take a cut of the ads shown in Messenger games that are routed from its Facebook Audience Network, and they’ll begin appearing in some games on iOS and Android. In-app purchases will only start testing on Android, with Google Play taking its standard 30% cut.

Facebook was cagey about how much of a cut of in-app purchase revenue it plans to take, repeatedly giving this vague statement when asked: “Our early tests for IAP will follow the standard rev/share policy and transaction fees for Google Play In-App billing.” For now it seems that the remaining 70% goes to the developer, but Facebook will likely opt to take a portion of that when in-app purchases fully roll out.

Developers who want access to the monetization beta program as Facebook rolls it out more widely can sign up here, while advertisers who don’t want their Audience Network ads from appearing in games can opt out. Facebook plans to roll out ad measurement and optimization tools for game developers soon, plus ways to publish games to its directory more easily.

The move should attract higher quality games to the Messenger platform, as until now, devs could only hope to build an audience and monetize down the line. Now with cash able to flow in through the games, it’s worth pouring more development resources into the platform. Previously, the only real way to earn money off these games was indirectly through branding, as with titles like Valerian Space Run, Wonder Woman, and Lego Batman Bat Climb that promote movies.

Facebook seems to be taking Messenger Instant Games quite seriously after its desktop game platform withered and mobile game was dominated by the App Store and Google Play platforms. Facebook sees an opportunity to not only give people something to do between chat conversations and a way to challenge freinds, but also now to start squeezing more cash out of the 1.3 billion Messenger users without interrupting the traditional use cases as its inbox ads do.

Facebook is now testing paywalls and subscriptions for Instant Articles


A few months ago we reported that Facebook may begin testing paywalls and subscriptions for Instant Articles beginning in October. Well now it’s October, and surprise – Facebook has started testing subscription support for instant articles!

Here’s how it will work: Facebook will start with two paywalled options for publishers to choose from:

The first option is a metered model where everyone gets to read 10 free stories per month before needing to subscribe. The second is a freemium model where the publishers choose which articles to lock.

When someone who isn’t a subscriber hits one of these paywalls, they will be promoted to subscribe for full access to the publishers’ content.

One really interesting aspect – if you want to purchase a subscription Facebook will direct you to the publisher’s website to complete the transaction, meaning they process the payment directly and can keep 100% of the revenue and transaction data. The subscriptions will then also include access to the publisher’s full site, and existing subscribers can also authenticate within Instant Articles so they can get full access without paying twice.

Redirecting users away from Facebook to complete a transaction is a huge win for publishers. But not everyone is happy with the arrangement. Notably, Recode reports that Apple is balking at the subscription signup flow, saying it violates the company’s rules about subscriptions sold inside apps. Right now Apple gets up to 30% of all subscriptions sold inside 3rd-party iOS apps, so Facebook’s current signup method would strip them of this revenue.

For this reason the feature isn’t launching yet on Apple – only Android, which doesn’t have any restrictions on how subscriptions can be sold. There’s no timeline for when a deal could be made with Apple, with Facebook only saying that “this initial test will roll out on Android devices first , and we hope to expand it soon.”

Facebook says many of their partner publishers identified subscriptions as a top priority, and especially requested the ability to maintain control over pricing, offers, and all the revenue generated from each subscription.

The ten participating publishers at launch are Bild, The Boston Globe, The Economist, Hearst (The Houston Chronicle and The San Francisco Chronicle), La Repubblica, Le Parisien, Spiegel, The Telegraph, tronc (The Baltimore Sun, The Los Angeles Times, and The San Diego Union-Tribune), and The Washington Post.

The tool will roll out over the next few weeks, and one a publisher is on board paywalls and subscriptions will immediately be available to all users seeing those stories.

Obsessively checking social media during a crisis might harm your mental health

Survivors of three recent disasters — the northern California fires, the Las Vegas mass shooting, and Hurricane Maria — used social media and texting as lifelines to connect with loved ones, seek aid, and search for the latest developments. 

A new study, however, suggests that people who get updates during a major crisis from unofficial channels like random social media accounts are most exposed to conflicting information and experience the most psychological distress. 

The study, published in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, surveyed 3,890 students whose campus was locked down after a shooter fired on people. Since it’s difficult, if not impossible, to begin a scientific study during a life-threatening disaster or crisis, the researchers asked students about their experience a week after the incident and analyzed five hours of Twitter data about the shooting. (Details about what happened were anonymized at the university’s request.) 

“If random people you don’t know are tweeting information that seems really scary, that’s anxiety-provoking.” 

“If random people you don’t know are tweeting information that seems really scary — and, in particular, if you’re in a lockdown and someone is tweeting about multiple shooters — that’s anxiety-provoking,” says Nickolas M. Jones, the study’s lead author and a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Irvine. 

While nearly everyone said they turned to officials like school authorities and the police, some people reported seeking more information from other sources, including social media, family, and friends. The researchers found that the people who most sought and believed updates from loved ones and social media encountered the most misinformation. They also said they felt more anxiety; heavy social media users who trusted online information, in particular, felt extreme stress. People who relied more on traditional media sources like radio and television didn’t have the same experience.

Jones says that people might turn to social media to feel more control in the midst of a crisis, especially if authorities aren’t sharing regular updates. But that sense of control just might be an illusion if someone instead sees rumors and conflicting information and feels more anxious as a result. 

“You’re going to feel something no matter what because you’re a human being,” says Jones. “Where you go from there to mitigate anxiety is what really matters.”

In other words, it’s perfectly normal to seek information from any available source and to have an emotional response to rapidly unfolding events. But people who feel helpless during a crisis may be primed to see patterns where none exist, making rumors and misinformation particularly dangerous. Their ability to process and scrutinize information may also be diminished. 

While Jones and his co-authors only surveyed those affected first-hand by the lockdown, he believes the public might experience a similar dynamic during crises. Think, for example, of the last time you scrolled through social media during a disaster and tried to sort through confusing accounts and rumors. It’s probably not that hard to recall a sense of creeping anxiety. 

Part of the broader problem is that the public now seems to expect fast and frequent updates thanks to the speed of social media, but authorities often still operate with tremendous caution. In the campus shooter case, 90 minutes transpired between two official updates from the police. During the entire incident, Jones and his co-authors found that a handful of false rumors were retweeted hundreds of times, including information about multiple shooters and what they were wearing. 

The study’s authors recommend that emergency management officials stay in regular contact with people. Even if they don’t have new information, they can still send messages that help alleviate anxiety and uncertainty by addressing the situation and reassuring the public. They should also monitor social media for rumors and “tackle them head on,” says Jones.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, for example, compiled a list of debunked rumors regarding Hurricane Maria recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. The city of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County, both of which were devastated by fires in Northern California last week, posted tweets to address rumors. Efforts like these are crucial. It’s equally important to ensure people can actually access official websites, social media pages, and text message updates in the midst of a disaster. 

But the bottom line, says Jones, is learning to seek news carefully: “For anybody who’s turning to social media to get critical updates during a crisis, I think they just need to be skeptical about some of the information they’re seeing from unofficial sources.” 

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Truffle now lets you share your food tips via iMessage


While you’ve already got Yelp and other apps to help you figure out where to eat, Truffle is designed specifically for sharing recommendations with friends and other people you know.

A new update should make that sharing even easier. The big addition is an iMessage app, which means (you guessed it) that Truffle is now integrated with iMessage. When you’re texting with someone, you can just tap on the Truffle icon and bring up a list of your favorites from the app, or run a Truffle search.

When you find what you’re looking for, you can send the link to your friend. If they tap on it, they’ll bring up the relevant listing in Truffle (if they have the app installed) or they’ll be asked to install Truffle (if they don’t).

That might sound pretty straightforward, but it puts Truffle in a new context. Instead of just swapping recommendations while inside the app, you can now bring them up during any other iMessage conversation.

Truffle iMessage

Let’s say, for instance, you’re just randomly texting with Tom Limongello, the CEO of Truffle, and he wants to meet up. Then one of you can just pull up your favorites and recommend a convenient coffee shop without having to leave the chat.

By the way, it’s been a year since I first wrote about Truffle, and it’s still iOS only. But perhaps an Android version is getting closer, because when we discussed it, Limongello said, “I wanted to get the iPhone right before we scaled it out.”

To him, this iMessage integration was a big part of getting it right. And yes, he can envision other integrations too — he said he’d “love to be in dating apps,” and he pointed to the partnership between Airbnb and Resy as a sign of “how important restaurants are for travel.”

The internet is very confused by Ariana Grande’s album cover

Twitter is hilariously attempting to recreate Ariana Grande’s album cover for ‘My Everything.’ The challenge started when @McJesse on Twitter questioned just how Grande balanced her entire body on a small stool. Other people followed after, posting photos of them trying the same pose.