All posts in “stories”

YouTube rolls out Stories to creators with over 10,000 subscribers

YouTube is rolling out its own version of Stories to a larger number of creators today.
YouTube is rolling out its own version of Stories to a larger number of creators today.

Image: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The battle between YouTube and Instagram continues.

In a blog post, Google-owned YouTube announced on Thursday that it was expanding the rollout its Stories feature to all of the platform’s creators with over 10,000 subscribers.

YouTube’s Stories feature is very much like Stories over on Instagram and Snapchat. Creators who are eligible in the expanded rollout can use Stories to add text, filters, stickers, music, and more to their videos.

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But, there are some major areas where YouTube Stories differ from the rest. One big difference is how long it takes for them to disappear. YouTube Stories remain watchable in the mobile app for seven days before disappearing. Stories on platforms like Snapchat and Instagram last only 24 hours after posting. Viewers can also leave comments on YouTube’s version of Stories and creators have the ability to respond.

Stories show up on the YouTube mobile app, appearing at the top of the screen when you tap the Subscriptions tab. If you don’t subscribe to a specific channel, you can still view that channel’s stories in “Up Next” when you visit the channel page.

YouTube shared some samples of how its Stories feature works.

YouTube shared some samples of how its Stories feature works.

Image: COLIN AND SAMIR VIA YOUTUBE

YouTube first announced its Stories feature exactly one year ago. Prior to today, the video platform had only allowed select creators to test the Stories feature, formerly known as Reels. With the broader rollout, more YouTube users will certainly start to notice Stories if they hadn’t come across them already. However, with a minimum of 10,000 subscribers needed to use Stories, YouTube is still blocking a big chunk of its users from taking advantage of the feature.

As The Verge points out, YouTube Stories has created some controversy within the platform’s community. Users on Reddit have questioned whether the Stories model really fits the YouTube platform overall. Well-known YouTube creators like Philip DeFranco are criticizing the way in which YouTube’s version of Stories works.

While Snapchat is usually credited with creating the Stories concept, YouTube’s latest move in creating its own version of the feature really has more to do with Facebook-owned Instagram.

Over the summer, Instagram launched its own standalone video platform called IGTV. The app targeted creators and provided them with a way to share longform video content. And Facebook itself has its own video service, Facebook Watch. The social network has been experimenting with various video advertising options recently as it continues to try and encroach upon YouTube’s territory.

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YouTube rolls out Stories to creators with over 10K subscribers

A year ago, YouTube launched its own take on Stories, with the addition of a new short-form video format called Reels. The feature, which was rebranded as “YouTube Stories” at last year’s VidCon, was initially available only to select YouTube creators. But in June, YouTube said it would expand Stories to all creators with over 10,000 subscribers later in the year. Today, it has done just that.

Now, YouTube is beginning to roll out Stories to a wider set of creators, giving them access to the new creation tools that include the ability to decorate the videos with text, stickers, filters, and more.

The feature is very much inspired by rival social apps like Snapchat and Instagram – except that,  in YouTube’s case, Stories disappear after 7 days, not 24 hours.

The idea behind YouTube Stories is to give creators any easy way to engage with their fans in between their more polished and produced videos. Today’s creators are no longer simply turning a camera on and vlogging – they’re creating professional content that requires editing and a lot of work before publication, for the most part.

Stories let YouTube’s creators engage with fans in between videos or while on the go, offering behind-the-scenes access to their creation process, updates, sneak peeks at upcoming videos, and more.

Some early adopters of the format include FashionByAllyColin and SamirDR Oficial, ChannelFrederator, and Cassandra Bankson. The test group before today was small, and only included creators with over 70,000 subscribers, we understand.

Once enabled, YouTube creators can film a new Story by opening the YouTube app, tapping on the video camera icon, then selecting “Create Story.”

Also new today is the ability for fans to comment on the Stories.

Viewers can thumbs up and thumbs down comments and heart comments, as well. The same comment moderation tools that are available on YouTube’s video uploads are also available on Stories, the company says. Plus, creators can choose to respond directly to fans comments with photos or videos that the whole community can see.

During the week they’re live, YouTube Stories will show up to subscribers on the Subscriptions tab and non-subscribers on Home and in the Up Next list below videos.

Many YouTube creators point their fans to their Instagram for their short-form content and behind-the-scenes action – something that YouTube likely hopes to stem with its launch of Stories.

Today’s expansion brings Stories to a much wider group of creators than before, but YouTube hasn’t said if or when the feature will roll out to its entire user base.

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SoundCloud tracks can now be shared to Instagram Stories

Streaming service SoundCloud is making it easier for its users to share music from its service directly to Instagram . The company announced this morning a new feature that allows users to share tracks to Instagram Stories. However, there’s a big caveat here – the tracks are shared as a link that appears within Stories. To actually listen to the track, users have to click the “Play on SoundCloud” link, which then redirects them to the SoundCloud app to begin listening.

This offers a way for fans and artists to promote their music through Instagram’s hugely popular Stories platform, but it’s not quite the same as being able to actually share music via Instagram, as the listening takes place elsewhere.

Prior to this, people shared their SoundCloud discoveries via workarounds – like taking screenshots, for example.

To use the new feature, you first find the track you want to share, and tap the “Share” icon at the bottom of the screen. You then tap the Instagram icon or select “Share to Instagram Stories,” depending on whether you’re on an iOS or Android smartphone. The link to the track is then shared right in your Instagram Story. There’s a sticker label you can drag around to place on the screen. To listen, viewers click the “Play on SoundCloud” link at the top of the Instagram Story.

This sharing feature was actually first announced in May at Facebook’s F8 developer conference, alongside news of Instagram’s support for sharing from other third-party apps, like Spotify and GoPro, among others.

However, SoundCloud confirms that it simply hadn’t been implemented until now.

The sharing feature follows the recent launch of SoundCloud’s monetization program for artists, and serves as another means for musicians to reach their fans outside of the platform itself. However, because users have to click a link to listen, it’s not necessarily a way to expose friends to new music the way that Instagram’s own soundtracks feature can.

SoundCloud says sharing feature is live in the latest version of the SoundCloud iOS and Android app.

Skype rolls back its redesign by ditching stories, squiggles and over-the-top color

Just over a year after Skype introduced a colorful, Snapchat-inspired makeover which included its own version of “stories,” the company says it’s now going to refocus on simplicity – and it’s ditching stories along the way. The redesign had been met with a lot of backlash. Skype had clearly wanted to appeal to a more youthful demographic with its update, but in doing so, it cluttered the user experience with features no one had asked for or needed.

One of these was “Highlights,” a feature that was very much Skype’s own take on Snapchat’s or Instagram’s Stories. With Highlights, Skype users were able to swipe up to pull up their smartphone’s camera, then snap a photo or record a video that could be decorated with typed or handwritten text, as well as with Skype’s own set of stickers. This could then be shared with individual Skype users, groups, or posted to the Highlights section of the app.

Above: Skype on mobile

The company had argued at the time that the rise of stories across social media meant it was something that all social apps would adopt. And because it was the way people were used to interacting now, Skype needed to include the feature in its own app, too.

But stories, as it turns out, may not be as ubiquitous or as in-demand as a “news feed” interface – there are places it makes sense, and those where it does not. Skype is the latter.

In its announcement, Microsoft admitted that the changes it had introduced weren’t working.

“Calling became harder to execute and Highlights didn’t resonate with a majority of users,” wrote Peter Skillman, Director of Design for Skype and Outlook.

Instead, the app is introducing a simpler navigation model where there are now just three buttons at the bottom of the mobile app – Chats, Calls, and Contacts. Highlights and Capture are both gone. (If you actually used Highlights, you have until September 30 to download them to save them before the feature is removed).

There were already some hints Microsoft was planning to dial back its design changes. It recently announced it was keeping Skype Classic (Skype 7) around for an extended period of time, after its plans to shut the app down was met with overwhelming user outcry. It said then that it would gather more feedback to find out what it is that people wanted before forcing the upgrade to Skype 8.0.

With the new desktop version of Skype, the company now says it’s moving the Chats, Calls, Contacts, and Notifications to the top left of the window to make it easier for long-time Skype users to understand.

Skype also toned down its over-the-top use of color in the app and introduced a Skype “Classic” blue theme adjusted for contrast and readability. It yanked out some of its goofier decorative elements, as well, like the notifications with a squiggle shape cut out, which it admits “weren’t core to getting things done.” (Ya think?)

Below: Squiggles 

While it’s good that Skype is now listening to users – it says it’s testing new prototypes across global markets and it launched a UserVoice site – it’s concerning that it had not done enough listening beforehand. If it had, it wouldn’t have released a version of its app that bombed.

Skype should embrace its “classic” status, and not feel the need to play catch-up with teen chat apps like Snapchat, or social media trends like stories. People use Skype to get things done – calling faraway friends, placing work calls, and even recording podcasts. Being a simple and stable voice and video calling app is one that can retain loyal users over time, and attract those who need to communicate across platforms without all the fluff found elsewhere.

The latest design is available in Skype version (8.29) for Android, iOS, OS X, Linux, and Windows 7, 8 & 8.1 operating systems.

Why unskippable Stories ads could revive Facebook

Prepare for the invasion of the unskippables. If the Stories social media slideshow format is the future of mobile TV, it’s going to end up with commercials. Users won’t love them. And done wrong they could pester people away from spending so much time watching what friends do day-to-day. But there’s no way Facebook and its family of apps will keep letting us fast-forward past Stories ads just a split-second after they appear on our screens.

We’re on the cusp of the shift to Stories. Facebook estimates that across social media apps, sharing to Stories will surpass sharing through feeds some time in 2019. One big reason is they don’t take a ton of thought to create. Hold up your phone, shoot a photo or short video, and you’ve instantly got immersive, eye-catching, full-screen content. And you never had to think.

Facebook CPO Chris Cox at F8 2018 charts the rise of Stories that will see the format surpass feed sharing in 2019

Unlike text, which requires pre-meditated reflection that can be daunting to some, Stories are point and shoot. They don’t even require a caption. Sure, if you’re witty or artistic you can embellish them with all sorts of commentary and creativity. They can be a way to project your inner monologue over the outside world. But the base level of effort necessary to make a Story is arguably less than sharing a status update. That’s helped Stories rocket to over 1.3 billion daily users across Facebook’s apps and Snapchat.

The problem, at least for Facebook, is that monetizing the News Feed with status-style ads was a lot more straightforward. Those ada, which have fueled Facebook’s ascent to earning $13 billion in revenue and $5 billion in profit per quarter, were ostensibly old-school banners. Text, tiny photo, and a link. Advertisers have grown accustomed to them over 20 years of practice. Even small businesses on a tight budget could make these ads. And it at least took users a second to scroll past them — just long enough to make them occasionally effective at implanting a brand or tempting a click.

Stories, and Story ads, are fundamentally different. They require big, tantalizing photos at a minimum, or preferably stylish video that lasts five to fifteen seconds. That’s a huge upward creative leap for advertisers to make, particularly small business who’ll have trouble shooting that polished content themselves. Rather than displaying a splayed out preview of a link, users typically have to swipe up or tap a smaller section of a Story ad to click through.

And Stories are inherently skippable. Users have learned to rapidly tap to progress slide by slide through friends’ Stories, especially when racing through those with too many posts or that come from more distant acquaintances. People are quick with the trigger finger the moment they’re bored, especially if it’s with an ad.

A new type of ad blindness has emerged. Instead of our eyes glazing over as we scroll past, we stare intensely searching for the slightest hint that something isn’t worth our time and should be skipped. A brand name, “Sponsored” label, stilted product shot, or anything that looks asocial leads us to instantly tap past.

This is why Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg scared the hell out of investors on the brutal earnings call when she admitted about Stories that “The question is, will this monetize at the same rate as News Feed? And we honestly don’t know.” It’s a radically new format advertisers will need time to adopt and perfect. Facebook had spent the past year warning that revenue growth would decelerate as it ran out of News Feed ad inventory, but it’d never stressed the danger as what is was: Stories. That contributed to its record-breaking $120 billion share price drop.

The shift from News Feed ads to Stories ads will be a bigger transition than desktop ads to mobile ads for Facebook. Feed ads looked and worked identically, it was just the screen around them changing. Stories ads are an entirely new beast.

Stories Ads Are A Bigger Shift Than Web To Mobile

There is one familiar format Stories ads are reminiscent of: television commercials. Before the age of TiVo and DVRs, you had to sit through the commercials to get your next hit of content. I believe the same will eventually be true for Stories, to the tune of billions in revenue for Facebook.

Snapchat is cornered by Facebook’s competition and desperate to avoid missing revenue estimates again. So this week, it rolled out unskippable vertical video ads it actually calls “Commercials” to 100 more advertisers, and they’ll soon be self-serve for buyers. Snap first debuted them in May, though the six-second promos are still only inserted into its longer-form multi-minute premium Shows, not user generated Stories. A Snap spokesperson said they couldn’t comment on future plans. But I’d expect its stance will inevitably change. Friends’ Stories are interesting enough to compel people to watch through entire ads, so the platforms could make us.

Snapchat is desperate, and that’s why it’s already working on unskippable ads. If Facebook’s apps like Instagram and WhatsApp were locked in heated battle with Snapchat, I think we’d see more brinkmanship here. Each would hope the other would show unskippable ads first so it could try to steal their pissed off users.

But Facebook has largely vanquished Snapchat, which has seen user growth sink significantly. Snapchat has 191 million daily users, but Facebook Stories has 150 million, Messenger Stories has 70 million, Instagram Stories has 400 million, and WhatsApp Stories (called Status) leads with 450 million. Most people’s friends around the world aren’t posting to Snapchat Stories, so Facebook doesn’t risk pushing users there with overly aggressive ads except perhaps amongst US teens.

Instagram’s three-slide Stories carousel ads

That’s why I expect we’ll quickly see Facebook start to test unskippable Stories ads. They’ll likely be heavily capped at first, to maybe one to three per day per user. Facebook took a similar approach to slowly rolling out auto-play video News Feed ads back in 2014. And Facebook’s apps will probably only show them after a friend’s story before your next pal’s, in between rather than as dreaded pre-rolls. Instagram already offers carousel Stories ads with up to three slides instead of one, so users have to tap three times to blow past them.

An Instagram spokesperson told me they had “no plans to share right now” about unskippable ads, and a Facebook spokesperson said “We don’t have any plans to test unskippable stories ads on Facebook or Instagram.” But plans can change. A Snap spokesperson noted that unlike a full thirty-second TV spot, Snapchat’s Commercials are up to six seconds, which matches an emerging industry trend for mobile video ads. Budweiser recently made some six second online ads that it also ran on TV, showing the format’s reuseability that could speed up adoption. For brand advertisers not seeking an on-the-spot purchase, they need time to leave an impression.

By making some Stories ads unskippable, Facebook’s apps could charge more while making them more impactful for advertisers. It would also reduce the creative pressure on businesses because they won’t be forced to make that first split-second so flashy so people don’t fast-forward.

If Facebook makes the Stories ad format work, it has a bright future that contrasts with the doomsday vibes conjured by its share price plummet. Facebook has over 5X more (duplicated) Stories users across its apps than its nearest competitor Snapchat. The social giant sees libraries full of Stories created each day waiting to be monetized.