All posts in “Facebook”

Facebook downplays test banishing all Pages to buried Explore Feed


Facebook has caused a 60% to 80% drop in referral traffic to news outlets in six countries due to a test that removed Page posts from the News Feed and relocated them to a separate, hard-to-find Explore Feed. But now Facebook’s VP of News Feed Adam Mosseri writes that “We currently have no plans to roll this test out further.” But that doesn’t mean Facebook won’t move forward with implementing a similar change more widely if users prefer their News Feed just be post from friends.

Facebook recently launched its Explore Feed that shows posts from Pages you don’t follow, as well as other content like Events, Groups, Moments, and Saved items. It’s only accessible from the More tab for most users, making it relatively hidden. But Pages you do follow still had their best posts appear in your main News Feed.

But over the past week, Facebook tested a different version of the Explore Feed in Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Guatemala, and Cambodia. It took all non-ad Page posts out of the News Feed and put them in the much less visble Explore Feed. This led to some Pages receiving 4X less engagement than before. A selection of the top Facebook Pages in Slovakia lost 2/3s to 3/4s of their reach — the amount of users who see their posts, according to Facebook-owned analytics tool CrowdTangle says The Guardian.

Interactions on 60 biggest Slovak media Facebook pages. Facebook is testing Explore Feed since Thursday. Data via CrowdTangle, published by Dennik N’s Filip Struharik

As for how long the test will last, Mosseri tweeted “Likely months as it can take that long for people to adapt, but we’ll be looking to improve the experience in the meantime.”

Those months of Facebook drought could be ruinous for some publishers who’ve grown to rely on the social network for referral traffic, and that have hired staff to produce content funded by the ad views driven by Facebook referrals. Publishers trying to follow the trend of increased video watching on Facebook could also have problems if a News Feed change massively decreases the viewership of videos that are expensive to produce.

Mosseri writes:

“The goal of this test is to understand if people prefer to have separate places for personal and public content. We will hear what people say about the experience to understand if it’s an idea worth pursuing any further. . . As with all tests we run, we may learn new things that lead to additional tests in the coming months so we can better understand what works best for people and publishers.”

The situation highlights the massive influence Facebook has on the publishing world, the widespread impact its product tests and changes can have, and how publishers have left themselves vulnerable by becoming dependent on a platform that has clearly stated that it puts users first. As long as the users are happy, they keep coming, and Facebook keeps advertising. What makes those users happy — be it friends’ status updates, re-shared videos, or news directly from publishers — is interchangeable and inconsequential to Facebook as long as it keeps increasing engagement with the app as a whole.

This same situation has played out a half dozen times on Facebook, all to the detriment of third-party developers and publishers. Facebook saw users didn’t like viral game spam, so it turned off game virality and developers like Zynga imploded. Apps like BandPage let musicians stream music from the landing tab of their Facebook Pages, until Facebook banned landing tabs and BandPage lost 90% of its traffic in 3 months. It saw its Open Graph social reader apps were clogging the feed, so it removed most of their visibility and the apps plummetted. The desktop sidebar Ticker showed what friends were doing in third-party apps and was filled with Spotify listening activity, until Facebook muted the channel and eventually all-but-deleted it.

The lesson should be clear despite no one wanting to learn it. Facebook can be an incredible source of referral traffic and growth, but there’s no guarantee it will last. Publishers and developers are not Facebook’s priority. Users are.

Ruthlessly prioritizing the Facebook experience is what’s kept the News Feed at the center of the Internet despite changes from desktop to mobile, from text to photos to video. Only by putting users first does Facebook still have users. But everyone else needs to understand that Facebook’s favor is fickle.

You can now PayPal friends in Messenger and get help via chat


PayPal users in the U.S. will now be able to send and receive person-to-person payments over Facebook Messenger, the company announced this morning. The deeper integration with Messenger’s platform, which will also include PayPal’s first customer service bot for handling customer questions and requests for help, follows a series of tie-ups between the two companies.

Last year, Facebook and PayPal announced a deepened relationship that allowed customers in the U.S. to shop from online merchants using their Messenger chat bots, then transact in the messaging app via PayPal. Customers could also choose to link their PayPal account with Messenger in order to receive notifications and receipts from their online transactions within Messenger.

To date, over 2.5 million users have linked their PayPal account with Messenger, PayPal says, and that number is expected to grow with today’s news.

For starters, PayPal users can now pay their friends right inside Messenger – shifting some portion of PayPal’s $80 billion+ peer-to-peer payment volume to Facebook’s messaging app.

To be clear, this is an alternative to the existing payments feature that’s existed inside Messenger for a couple of years. The feature appeared, at first, to be Facebook’s own competitor to services like PayPal and PayPal-owned Venmo, Square, and others. But Facebook insisted it wasn’t aiming to build its own payments business – it largely saw the addition as something that just made Messenger better.

Earlier this year, Facebook added support for group payments, for example, but said it was still not taking a cut of transactions.

Starting today, Facebook is offering users the ability to choose PayPal as the funding source for peer-to-peer payments – and it can even be set as the default, PayPal tells us.

The new option is available by tapping the blue plus icon within Messenger, then selecting the green Payments button to send or request money. Here, you can select PayPal as the source when making a payment to a Messenger contact.

Beyond just being a simpler – and perhaps quicker – way to PayPal someone compared with using the native PayPal app, the addition will likely be used by those in Facebook’s buy-and-sell groups, including the local sales groups which are visited by some 450 million people monthly, according to data Facebook shared last fall.

While the Messenger integration will bring PayPal to a large audience, it’s not the first time PayPal has integrated with a messaging service – it’s already available via Apple’s iMessage, and can be launched through Siri.

When we asked PayPal if the plan was to offer a similar p2p option in other messaging apps in the future, PayPal COO Bill Ready said there was nothing to share right now.

“But I think this is part of a broader movement where we’re meeting the user in whatever context they’re in,” he added, noting that PayPal is also now available in services like Android Pay and Google Play, for example.

We also wondered if PayPal had plans to integrate Venmo into messaging experiences later on.

“There’s nothing we’re announcing with Venmo right now,” Ready replied. “But we really think about Venmo and PayPal as two interfaces that should get the user two common types of experiences,” he said. “Certainly, this general theme of users wanting to get p2p in new contexts – you see Venmo in iMessage and Siri – those types of things – we’re thinking [should be for] both PayPal and Venmo,” Ready said.

So…uh, yes, from the sounds of that.

PayPal’s new customer service bot

In addition to person-to-person payments, PayPal’s bot is gaining new capabilities, too. While it will still support notifications and receipts, PayPal users will now be able to get customer service help just by chatting with PayPal’s bot.

The automated system takes advantage of the natural language processing capabilities in Messenger’s platform to understand what people are saying.

That means, you can say something like “oh man, I totally forgot my password” and the bot should understand you need a password reset. The bot can also help answer questions about your PayPal transactions. But when the user’s request goes beyond the bot’s abilities, you’ll be connected with a live rep for help.

PayPal says it doesn’t have customer service staff dedicated to Messenger alone, but is using existing reps to handle in the incoming inquiries.

“The unique thing here is that Messenger has opened up a platform that allows us to not only have a one-to-one communication, but there’s a platform where we can go resolve things right inside of Messenger,” says Ready.

The Messenger bot and p2p payments option are going live today for Messenger users in the U.S., but PayPal expects to roll it out to its other supported global markets in time. Because of the size and scale of both companies, the feature will be rolled out gradually – which means you might not see it right away, but should soon.

The feature will initially launch on the web, with iOS and Android to follow.

Facebook attacks Pinterest with ‘Sets’ of posts


Identity is prismatic. You show different sides of yourself to different friends in your life. Now Facebook wants to let you share the niches of your interests while stealing thunder from Pinterest’s boards. Facebook is now testing a feature called Sets that lets you select several status updates, photos or videos and share them as a themed collection to everyone or specific friends.

Facebook confirms to TechCrunch that Sets are testing in a few countries and provided this statement: “We’re testing a way for people to create sets of specific posts, photos and videos for just the friends that want to follow along.”

Facebook has been toying with ways to compete with Pinterest more directly for years now. It tried Collection ads that let people save items to a Wishlist section of their profile. In April, Instagram launched a bookmarking feature that lets you save posts to private collections. In the following months, Facebook tried letting you follow specific niche interests in News Feed with Topics, and add status updates to photo Albums. But Facebook’s Sets are much more akin to Pinterest’s boards that can made visible to others, so you could make a wedding planning Set to share with your significant other, a vacation Set of memories with your family or a fashion Set to show off your style.

Sets were first spotted by tipsters Blake Tsuzaki and Taylor Lauren and reshared by Matt Navarra. Here’s how they work according to Facebook. Those with access will see the option to create a Set on their profile based around a theme of their choice. By default, Sets are visible to friends on your profile and in the News Feed. All your friends are defaulted to be “following” the Set so they’ll keep seeing updates about it, but they can unfollow so they’ll only see that Set on your profile and not in the News Feed. Facebook is also testing “Secret Sets” that default to only being visible to a private selection of friends you choose.

Sets could give people ways to express themselves beyond the traditional News Feed posts that can feel clumsy if one of your hobbies isn’t of widespread interest amongst your friends. While a post about a niche interest might not get enough Likes to reach the friends who might care, Sets are designed for more targeted sharing. Facebook could eventually monetize the feature by offering a special button on product ads that save a business’ items to your Sets.

Facebook has found success by building good-enough versions of competitors’ products, like Instagram Stories, and is currently assaulting other tech giants like YouTube with Facebook Watch and Yelp with its restaurant discovery and food ordering options. It’s unlikely that Sets will displace Pinterest, but if Facebook can stunt its growth while helping users with self-expression, that may be sufficient.

Featured Image: Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr and Kim Kulish/Corbis/Getty Images

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.