Study finds half of Americans get news on social media, but percentage has dropped

A new report from Pew Research finds that around a third of U.S. adults continue to get their news regularly from Facebook, though the exact percentage has slipped from 36% in 2020 to 31% in 2021. This drop reflects an overall slight decline in the number of Americans who say they get their news from any social media platform — a percentage that also fell by 5 percentage points year-over-year, going from 53% in 2020 to a little under 48%, Pew’s study found.

By definition, “regularly” here means the survey respondents said they get their news either “often” or “sometimes,” as opposed to “rarely,” “never,” or “don’t get digital news.”

The change comes at a time when tech companies have come under heavy scrutiny for allowing misinformation to spread across their platforms, Pew notes. That criticism has ramped up over the course of the pandemic, leading to vaccine hesitancy and refusal, which in turn has led to worsened health outcomes for many Americans who consumed the misleading information.

Despite these issues, the percentage of Americans who regularly get their news from various social media sites hasn’t changed too much over the past year, demonstrating how much a part of people’s daily news habits these sites have become.

Image Credits: Pew Research

In addition to the one-third of U.S. adults who regularly get their news on Facebook, 22% say they regularly get news on YouTube. Twitter and Instagram are regular news sources for 13% and 11% of Americans, respectively.

However, many of the sites have seen small declines as a regular source of news among their own users, says Pew. This is a different measurement compared with the much smaller percentage of U.S. adults who use the sites for news, as it speaks to how the sites’ own user bases may perceive them. In a way, it’s a measurement of the shifting news consumption behaviors of the often younger social media user, more specifically.

Today, 55% of Twitter users regularly get news from its platform, compared with 59% last year. Meanwhile, Reddit users’ use of the site for news dropped from 42% to 39% in 2021. YouTube fell from 32% to 30%, and Snapchat fell from 19% to 16%. Instagram is roughly the same, at 28% in 2020 to 27% in 2021.

Only one social media platform grew as a news source during this time: TikTok.

In 2020, 22% of the short-form video platform’s users said they regularly got their news there, compared with an increased 29% in 2021.

Overall, though, most of these sites have very little traction with the wider adult population in the U.S. Fewer than 1 in 10 Americans regularly get their news from Reddit (7%), TikTok (6%), LinkedIn (4%), Snapchat (4%), WhatsApp (3%) or Twitch (1%).

Image Credits: Pew Research

There are demographic differences between who uses which sites, as well.

White adults tend to turn to Facebook and Reddit for news (60% and 54%, respectively). Black and Hispanic adults make up significant proportions of the regular news consumers on Instagram (20% and 33%, respectively.) Younger adults tend to turn to Snapchat and TikTok, while the majority of news consumers on LinkedIn have four-year college degrees.

Of course, Pew’s latest survey, conducted from July 26 to Aug. 8, 2021, is based on self-reported data. That means people’s answers are based on how the users perceive their own usage of these various sites for newsgathering. This can produce different results compared with real-world measurements of how often users visited the sites to read news. Some users may underestimate their usage and others may overestimate it.

People may also not fully understand the ramifications of reading news on social media, where headlines and posts are often molded into inflammatory clickbait in order to entice engagement in the form of reactions and comments. This, in turn, may encourage strong reactions — but not necessarily from those worth listening to. In recent Pew studies, it found that social media news consumers tended to be less knowledgeable about the facts on key news topics, like elections or Covid-19. And social media consumers were more frequently exposed to fringe conspiracies (which is pretty apparent to anyone reading the comments!)

For the current study, the full sample size was 11,178 respondents, and the margin of sampling error was plus or minus 1.4 percentage points.

 

#americans, #computing, #facebook, #instagram, #like-button, #linkedin, #media, #news, #news-media, #pew, #pew-research, #reading, #reddit, #snapchat, #social, #social-media, #software, #tiktok, #twitch, #twitter, #united-states, #website, #world-wide-web, #youtube

Going after social commerce for sportspeople, Millions gets $10M

Millions.co, a social commerce platform geared towards professional and semi-professional athletes wanting help to monetize their fanbase by selling merch and/or on-demand video, has grabbed $10 million in funding led by Boston-based Volition Capital.

The round is being loosely pegged as a Series A as the seasoned team behind Millions self-funded the first wave of development to get the platform launched.

The founding team includes CEO Matt Whitteker, a boxing gym owner who co-founded the supply chain data management unicorn Assent Compliance and NoNotes.com; CMO Brandon Austin, co-founder of Go-Fish Cam; and, in advisor roles, Adrian Salamunovic, co-founder of DNA 11 and CanvasPop; Scott Whitteker (Fight For The Cure) and Bruce Buffer (a veteran sports announcer).

Millions‘ launched its fan engagement social commerce platform in April — with an initial three products for pro/semi-pro athletes to pitch at their followers: Namely custom merchandize (including a free design service); ask-me-anything personalized videos; and a pay-per-view streaming offering that lets fans pay to tune into a live stream of their favorite sportsperson.

The startup’s initial plan had been to build just an ecommerce and merchandising platform but, having built that component, Salamunovic says the team decided to bundle in video products — such as personalized videos and “‘democratiszing’ pay-per-view (PPV). 

“Our biggest advantage and differentiator is that we are strictly focused on the sports world and fan engagement,” he tells TechCrunch. “The obvious indirect competitors are Twitch (heavily focused on e-sports/gaming), Patreon (focused on creators), Represent.com (focused on merch drops for ‘influencers’), and even Onlyfans (we know who they focus on) but we’re laser focused on the multi-billion dollar sports market.”

“Cameo has a very similar product to our video ‘Ask Me Anything’ platform — but we don’t focus on birthday shout outs we focus on allowing fans to ask their favorite athletes questions around their training, their success, predictions (we’ve seen a lot of gamblers use our platform to get tips) and less on things like Shoutouts,” he adds. “We love Cameo, but we’re really different and focused on sports.”

“Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook are all great social media platforms that allow athletes to engage and interact with their fans but it’s not a great place to monetize your audience,” Salamunovic also argues. “We help athletes create a brand, build a merch line, sell video content (Personalized videos and watch parties all on a single platform). We’re not trying to replace any of these platforms, we’re complementing them by allowing the athletes to provide a single link and landing page for deeper interaction and monetization. The fans seem to love it too.”

At this stage, Millions only has around 300 athlete profiles live but says it has “thousands” who’ve registered interest across a variety of sports categories.

Its first focus — including for partnerships with agencies and sports leagues — has been on “combat sports and gyms”. But the platform has a long list of sports types in the search filter — from lacrosse to water polo to baseball or gymnastics — so the ambition is to go after a very broad funnel of pro/semi sportspeople. 

And for every Michael Jordan or Cristiano Ronaldo — aka, those top tier athletes who can command hundreds of millions in sponsorship fees by inking partnerships with top brands to promote their products and who you certainly won’t find selling hats on Millions — there are scores of athletes who aren’t able to cut such sweet deals and who will have far more modest fanbases.

It’s that broad field of players and performers who Millions hopes will flock to its platform — and take up its dedicated offer of social commerce tools and tech to engage with and monetize their followers.

Commenting on the funding in a statement, Sean Cantwell, managing partner at Volition Capital, suggested: “Athletes are always looking for ways to connect on a deeper level with fans, generate additional revenue streams and build their personal brands and Millions offers all of this on a single platform. We think that Millions is the future of fan engagement.”

To help grease the funnel of sportspeople it needs to drive eyeballs to its platform, Millions is offering athletes a “signing bonus” when they join and start selling — with a variety of tiers of bonus (of up to $5k) per sportsperson.

We initially wanted to stay hyper-focused on combat sports and not try to ‘boil the ocean’. Now we’re releasing new athletes profiles daily and introducing new sports like football, volleyball, golf and more,” notes Salamunovic. “Really, this platform is designed for any athlete who wants to reach their fans and create new monetization channels without having to put a ton of effort into things like page design, technology, design or logistics… we take care of all that so they can focus on engaging with their fans and most importantly on their sport and training.” 

“We’re looking to build the most important sports tech company in history,” he adds. “We’re going to be the Etsy (21B market cap) of sports. That’s an ambitious statement but it’s true. 98% of athletes NEED our product/platform.”

Chasing that scale is why Millions is raising now. And while the early focus has been on North America — where about 90% of the onboarded sportspeople hail from currently — it reckons there’s “huge growth potential” in Europe and Asia so is very much gunning to build a global business.

It says it’ll be splashing Series A cash on growing its product engineering team and recruiting to expand its team generally, as well as spending on marketing to get the word out to athletes and get more signed up to build their own brands and sell direct to fans. 

“I believe a powerful thing we’re doing, past just the product offering, is enabling athletes to have a team,” adds Austin. “With Millions, athletes get a marketing team, a personal account manager, and a design team that they can use to build their brand and product line, and to promote to, and further build, their fan base. We allow the athlete to focus on training, playing/fighting, and winning while we help take care of everything else, and coach them on how to brand and market themselves.” 

Millions’ business model is to take a 20% cut of all sales athletes make via the platform — with the split remaining the same for merchandise or video sales.

For the former, Millions is using a global network of print-on-demand suppliers to do the fulfilment.

While products the platform can customize for athletes to sell as their own brand merch include t-shirts, caps and hoodies.

#boxing, #fundings-exits, #millions-co, #patreon, #recent-funding, #social-commerce, #social-media-platforms, #sports, #startups, #twitch, #volition-capital

Twitch sues two users for harassing streamers with hate raids

Twitch filed a lawsuit late last week against two people on its own platform for running automated hate and harassment campaigns.

The harassment, often targeted at Black and LGBTQ streamers, manifests in a unique Twitch phenomenon as a “hate raid.” On Twitch, creators regularly point viewers toward another friendly account after their stream concludes to boost their audiences, a practice known as a “raid.” Hate raids invert that formula, sending swarms of bots to harass streamers who have inadequate tools at their disposal to block the influx of abuse.

The hate raids leverage Twitch’s new tagging system, which many transgender users had requested to make it easier to build community and to discover content that resonates. In May, Twitch added more than 350 new tags to help viewers sort streams by “gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, ability, mental health, and more.” Accounts spreading abuse now use those tags to target racist, sexist, transphobic and homophobic harassment toward streamers, another unfortunate misuse of a tool explicitly designed to give creators a boost.

In the suit, Twitch described hate raiders as “highly motivated” malicious individuals who improvise new ways to circumvent the platform’s terms of service. Twitch named two users, “CruzzControl” and “CreatineOverdose,” in the suit but the company was unable to obtain their legal names. The users are based in the Netherlands and Austria, respectively, and their activity began in August of this year. Twitch alleges that CruzzControl alone has been linked to 3,000 bot accounts involved in hate raids.

While it’s possible that Twitch won’t be able to identify the real identities of individuals behind the recent harassment campaigns, the lawsuit could act as a deterrent for other accounts directing waves of abuse on the streaming platform.

“While we have identified and banned thousands of accounts over the past weeks, these actors continue to work hard on creative ways to circumvent our improvements, and show no intention of stopping,” the lawsuit reads. “We hope this Complaint will shed light on the identity of the individuals behind these attacks and the tools that they exploit, dissuade them from taking similar behaviors to other services, and help put an end to these vile attacks against members of our community.”

“This Complaint is by no means the only action we’ve taken to address targeted attacks, nor will it be the last,” a Twitch spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Our teams have been working around the clock to update our proactive detection systems, address new behaviors as they emerge, and finalize new proactive, channel-level safety tools that we’ve been developing for months.”

Prior to Twitch’s legal action, some Twitch creators organized #ADayOffTwitch to protest the company’s failure to offer solutions for users targeted by hate raids. People participating in the protest demanded that Twitch take decisive actions toward protecting streamers from hate raids, including letting creators deny incoming raids and screen out chat participants with newly made accounts. They also drew attention to Twitch policies that allow unlimited accounts to be linked to a single email address, a loophole that makes it easy to create and deploy armies of bot accounts.

#content-creators, #content-moderation, #online-harassment, #social, #streaming-video, #tc, #twitch

Twitch sues users over alleged “hate raids” against streamers

Twitch sues users over alleged “hate raids” against streamers

Enlarge (credit: MikkelWilliam | Getty Images)

Since early August, Twitch has been wrestling with an epidemic of harassment, known as “hate raids,” against marginalized streamers. These attacks spam streamers’ chats with hateful and bigoted language, amplified dozens of times a minute by bots. On Thursday, after a month trying and failing to combat the tactic, Twitch resorted to the legal system, suing two alleged hate raiders [PDF] for “targeting black and LGBTQIA+ streamers with racist, homophobic, sexist and other harassing content” in violation of its terms of service.

“We hope this Complaint will shed light on the identity of the individuals behind these attacks and the tools that they exploit, dissuade them from taking similar behaviors to other services, and help put an end to these vile attacks against members of our community,” a Twitch spokesperson said in a comment to WIRED.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#abuse, #gaming-culture, #harassment, #hate-speech, #policy, #twitch

Apple Music is using Shazam to solve the streaming industry’s problem with DJ mixes

Apple Music announced today that it’s created a process to properly identify and compensate all of the individual creators involved in making a DJ mix. Using technology from the audio-recognition app Shazam, which Apple acquired in 2018 for $400 million, Apple Music is working with major and independent labels to devise a fair way to divide streaming royalties among DJs, labels, and artists who appear in the mixes. This is intended to help DJ mixes retain long-term monetary value for all creators involved, making sure that musicians get paid for their work even when other artists iterate on it. And, as one of Apple’s first major integrations of Shazam’s technology, it appears that the company saw value in

Historically, it’s been difficult for DJs to stream mixes online, since live streaming platforms like YouTube or Twitch might flag the use of other artists’ songs as copyright infringement. Artists are entitled to royalties when their song is played by a DJ during a live set, but dance music further complicates this, since small samples from various songs can be edited and mixed together into something unrecognizable.

Apple Music already hosts thousands of mixes, including sets from Tomorrowland’s digital festivals from 2020 and 2021, but only now is it formally announcing the tech that enables it to do this, even though Billboard noted it in June. As part of this announcement, Studio K7!’s DJ Kicks archive of mixes will begin to roll out on the service, giving fans access to mixes that haven’t been on the market in over 15 years.

“Apple Music is the first platform that offers continuous mixes where there’s a fair fee involved for the artists whose tracks are included in the mixes and for the artist making those mixes. It’s a step in the right direction where everyone gets treated fairly,” DJ Charlotte de Witte said in a statement on behalf of Apple. “I’m beyond excited to have the chance to provide online mixes again.”

Image Credits: Apple Music

For dance music fans, the ability to stream DJ mixes is groundbreaking, and it can help Apple Music compete with Spotify, which leads the industry in paid subscribers as it surpasses Apple’s hold on podcasting. Even as Apple Music has introduced lossless audio, spatial audio, and classical music acquisitions, the company hasn’t yet outpaced Spotify, though the addition of DJ mixes adds yet another unique music feature.

Still, Apple Music’s dive into the DJ royalties conundrum doesn’t necessarily address the broader crises at play among live musicians and DJs surviving through a pandemic.

Though platforms like Mixcloud allow DJs to stream sets and monetize using pre-licensed music, Apple Music’s DJ mixes will not include user-generated content. MIDiA Research, in partnership with Audible Magic, found that user-generated content (UGC) — online content that uses music, whether it’s a lipsync TikTok or a Soundcloud DJ mix — could be a music industry goldmine worth over $6 billion in the next two years. But Apple is not yet investing in UGC, as individuals cannot yet upload their personal mixes to stream on the platform like they might on Soundcloud. According to a Billboard report from June, Apple Music will only host mixes after the streamer has identified 70% of the combined tracks.

Apple Music didn’t respond to questions about how exactly royalties will be divided, but this is only a small step in reimagining how musicians will make a living in a digital landscape.

While these innovations help get artists compensated, streaming royalties only account for a small percentage of how musicians make money — Apple pays musicians one cent per stream, while competitors like Spotify pay only fractions of cents. This led the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) to launch a campaign in March called Justice at Spotify, which demands a one-cent-per-stream payout that matches Apple’s. But live events remain a musician’s bread and butter, especially given platforms’ paltry streaming payouts — of course, the pandemic hasn’t been conducive to touring. To add insult to injury, the Association for Electronic Music estimated in 2016 that dance music producers missed out on $120 million in royalties from their work being used without attribution in live performances.

#apple, #apple-inc, #apple-music, #apps, #artist, #audible, #audible-magic, #billboard, #computing, #disc-jockey, #entertainment, #media, #mixcloud, #music-industry, #online-content, #operating-systems, #shazam, #soundcloud, #spotify, #streaming, #streaming-media, #technology, #twitch

Driven by live streams, consumer spending in social apps to hit $17.2B in 2025

The live streaming boom is driving a significant uptick in the creator economy, as a new forecast estimates consumers will spend $6.78 billion in social apps in 2021. That figure will grow to $17.2 billion annually by 2025, according to data from mobile data firm App Annie, which notes the upward trend represents a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 29%. By that point, the lifetime total spend in social apps will reach $78 billion, the firm reports.

Image Credits: App Annie

Initially, much of the livestream economy was based on one-off purchases like sticker packs, but today, consumers are gifting content creators directly during their live streams. Some of these donations can be incredibly high, at times. Twitch streamer ExoticChaotic was gifted $75,000 during a live session on Fortnite, which was one of the largest ever donations on the game streaming social network. Meanwhile, App Annie notes another platform, Bigo Live, is enabling broadcasters to earn up to $24,000 per month through their live streams.

Apps that offer live streaming as a prominent feature are also those that are driving the majority of today’s social app spending, the report says. In the first half of this year, $3 out every $4 spend in the top 25 social apps came from apps that offered live streams, for example.

Image Credits: App Annie

During the first half of 2021, the U.S. become the top market for consumer spending inside social apps with 1.7x the spend of the next largest market, Japan, and representing 30% of the market by spend. China, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea followed to round out the top 5.

Image Credits: App Annie

While both creators and the platforms are financially benefitting from the live streaming economy, the platforms are benefitting in other ways beyond their commissions on in-app purchases. Live streams are helping to drive demand for these social apps and they help to boost other key engagement metrics, like time spent in app.

One top app that’s significantly gaining here is TikTok.

Last year, TikTok surpassed YouTube in the U.S. and the U.K. in terms of the average monthly time spent per user. It often continues to lead in the former market, and more decisively leads in the latter.

Image Credits: App Annie

Image Credits: App Annie

In other markets, like South Korea and Japan, TikTok is making strides, but YouTube still leads by a wide margin. (In South Korea, YouTube leads by 2.5x, in fact.)

Image Credits: App Annie

Beyond just TikTok, consumers spent 740 billion hours in social apps in the first half of the year, which is equal to 44% of the time spent on mobile globally. Time spent in these apps has continued to trend upwards over the years, with growth that’s up 30% in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period in 2018.

Today, the apps that enable live streaming are outpacing those that focus on chat, photo or video. This is why companies like Instagram are now announcing dramatic shifts in focus, like how they’re “no longer a photo sharing app.” They know they need to more fully shift to video or they will be left behind.

The total time spent in the top five social apps that have an emphasis on live streaming are now set to surpass half a trillion hours on Android phones alone this year, not including China. That’s a three-year CAGR of 25% versus just 15% for apps in the Chat and Photo & Video categories, App Annie noted.

Image Credits: App Annie

Thanks to growth in India, the Asia-Pacific region now accounts for 60% of the time spent in social apps. As India’s growth in this area increased over the past 3.5 years, it shrunk the gap between itself and China from 115% in 2018 to just 7% in the first half of this year.

Social app downloads are also continuing to grow, due to the growth in live streaming.

To date, consumers have downloaded social apps 74 billion times and that demand remains strong, with 4.7 billion downloads in the first half of 2021 alone — up 50% year-over-year. In the first half of the year, Asia was the largest region region for social app downloads, accounting for 60% of the market.

This is largely due to India, the top market by a factor of 5x, which surpassed the U.S. back in 2018. India is followed by the U.S., Indonesia, Brazil and China, in terms of downloads.

Image Credits: App Annie

The shift towards live streaming and video has also impacted what sort of apps consumers are interested in downloading, not just the number of downloads.

A chart that show the top global apps from 2012 to the present highlights Facebook’s slipping grip. While its apps (Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and Facebook) have dominated the top spots over the years in various positions, TikTok popped into the number one position last year, and continues to maintain that ranking in 2021.

Further down the chart, other apps that aid in video editing have also overtaken others that had been more focused on photos or chat.

Image Credits: App Annie

Video apps like YouTube (#1), TikTok (#2) Tencent Video (#4), Bigo Live (#5), Twitch (#6), and others also now rank at the top of the global charts by consumer spending in the first half of 2021.

But YouTube (#1) still dominates in time spent compared with TikTok (#5), and others from Facebook — the company holds the next three spots for Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, respectively.

This could explain why TikTok is now exploring the idea of allowing users to upload even longer videos, by increasing the limit from 3 minutes to 5, for instance.

In addition, because of live streaming’s ability to drive growth in terms of time spent, it’s also likely the reason why TikTok has been heavily investing in new features for its TikTok LIVE platform, including things like events, support for co-hosts, Q&As and more, and why it made the “LIVE” button a more prominent feature in its app and user experience.

App Annie’s report also digs into the impact live streaming has had on specific platforms, like Twitch and Bigo Live, the former which doubled its monthly active user base from the pre-pandemic era, and the latter which saw $314.2 million in consumer spend during H1 2021.

“The ability of social media users to communicate with each other using live video – or watch others’ live broadcasts – has not only maintained the growth of a social media app market, but contributed to its exponential growth in engagement metrics like time spent, that might otherwise have saturated some time ago,” wrote App Annie’s Head of Insights, Lexi Sydow, when announcing the new report.

The full report is available here.

#android, #app-annie, #apps, #asia, #asia-pacific, #bigo-live, #brazil, #china, #computing, #facebook, #head, #india, #indonesia, #instagram, #japan, #media, #messenger, #mobile, #mobile-applications, #mobile-software, #operating-systems, #saudi-arabia, #social, #social-media, #software, #south-korea, #tiktok, #twitch, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #video, #video-hosting, #youtube

Gamestry gets $5M to give games video creators a sweeter deal

Barcelona-based gaming video platform Gamestry has snatched up $5 million in seed funding, led by Goodwater Capital, Target Global and Kibo Ventures — turning investors’ heads with a 175x growth rate over the past 12 months.

While the (for now) Spanish-language gaming video platform launched a few years back, in 2018, last year the founders decided to shift away from an initial focus on curating purely learning content around gaming — allowing creators to upload and share entertainment-focused games videos, too.

The switch looks to have paid off as a growth tactic. Gamestry says it now has 4M monthly active users (MAUs) and 2,000 active creators in Spain and Latin America (its main markets so far) — and is gunning to hit 20M MAUs by the end of the year.

While Twitch continues to dominate the market for live-streaming games — catering to the esports boom — Gamestry, which says it’s focused on “non-live video content”, reckons there’s a gap for a dedicated on-demand video platform that better supports games-focused video creators and provides games fans with a more streamlined discovery experience than catch-all user-generated content giants like YouTube.

For games video creators, it’s dangling the carrot of a better revenue share than other UGC video platforms — talking about having “a fair ads revenue share model”, and a plan to add more revenue streams for creators “soon”. It also pledges “full transparency on how the monetization structure works”, and a focus on supporting creators if they have technical issues.

So, basically, the sorts of issues creators have often complained that YouTube fails them on.

For viewers, the pitch is a one-stop-shop for finding and watching videos about games and connecting with others with the same passion (gaming chat) — so the platform structures content around individual games titles.

The startup also claims to present viewers with better info about a video to help them decide whether or not to click on it (aka, tools to help them find “quality instead of clickbait”), beyond basics like title, thumbnail and videos. (Albeit to my admittedly unseasoned eye for assessing the calibre of games video content, there is no shortage of clickbaity-looking stuff on Gamestry. But I am definitely not the target audience here…). So the viewer pitch also sounds like another little dig at YouTube.

“Despite being the de-facto place for uploading content, YouTube is a generic platform that is not optimized for gaming and therefore doesn’t cater to the needs of gaming creators,” argue founders — brothers Alejo and Guillermo Torrens — adding: “Vertical or specialized platforms emerge whenever markets become large enough that current platforms can’t serve their users’ needs and we believe that’s exactly what’s happening today.”

Target Global’s Lina Chong led the international fund’s investment in Gamestry. Asked what piqued her interest here, she flagged the recent growth spurt and the platform having onboarded scores of highly engaged games content creators in short order.

“The problem Gamestry is addressing is that the vast majority of creators don’t make much money on those platforms because they are ads/eyeball driven businesses,” she told TechCrunch. “Gamestry provides a space where creators, despite audience size, can find new ways to engage with their audience and make a living. This problem among creators is so big that Gamestry now has over 2k highly engaged creators uploading multiple content pieces and millions of their viewers on the platform every month.”

It will surely surprise no one to learn that the typical Gamestry user is a male, aged between 18 and 24.

The startup also told us the “most trending” games on its platform are Minecraft, Free Fire, and Fortnite, adding that “IRL (In Real Life) content is also very successful”.

As well as YouTube Gaming, other platforms competing for similar games-mad eyeballs include Facebook Gaming and Booyah.

#barcelona, #europe, #fortnite, #fundings-exits, #games-video, #gaming, #goodwater-capital, #kibo-ventures, #latin-america, #lina-chong, #minecraft, #spain, #target-global, #twitch, #user-generated-content, #youtube

Streamers are boycotting Twitch today to protest the platform’s lack of action on ‘hate raids’

Over the last month, Twitch users have become increasingly concerned and frustrated with bot-driven hate raids. To protest Twitch’s lack of immediate action to prevent targeted harassment of marginalized creators, some streamers are going dark to observe #ADayOffTwitch today.

Per the protest, users are sharing a list of demands for the Amazon-owned Twitch. They want the platform to host a roundtable with creators affected by hate raids, allow streamers to approve or deny incoming raids, enable tools to only allow accounts of a certain age to chat, remove the ability to attach more than three accounts to one email address, and share a timeframe for when comprehensive anti-harassment tools will be implemented.

TechCrunch asked Twitch if it has plans to address these demands. Twitch responded with a statement: “We support our streamers’ rights to express themselves and bring attention to important issues across our service. No one should have to experience malicious and hateful attacks based on who they are or what they stand for, and we are working hard on improved channel-level ban evasion detection and additional account improvements to help make Twitch a safer place for creators.”

Twitch Raids are a part of the streaming platform’s culture — after one creator ends their stream, they can “raid” another stream by sending their viewers over to check out someone else’s channel. This feature is supposed to help more seasoned streamers support up-and-comers, but instead, it’s been weaponized as a tool for harassment.

In May, Twitch launched 350 new tags related to gender, sexual orientation, race and ability, which users requested so that they could more easily find creators that represent them. But at the same time, these tags made it easier for bad actors to harass marginalized streamers, and Twitch hasn’t yet added tools for streamers to deal with increased harassment. In the meantime, Twitch users have had to take matters into their own hands and build their own safety tools to protect themselves while Twitch works on its updates. Twitch hasn’t shared when its promised anti-harassment tools will go live.  

As recently as December, Twitch updated its policies on hateful content and harassment, which the platform said have always been prohibited, yet vicious attacks have continued. After facing targeted, racist hate raids on their streams, a Black Twitch creator RekItRaven started the #TwitchDoBetter hashtag on Twitter in early August, calling out Twitch for its failure to prevent this abuse. While Twitch is aware of the issue and said it’s working on solutions, many users find Twitch’s response to be too slow and lacking.

Along with streamers LuciaEverblack and ShineyPen, RekItRaven organized #ADayOffTwitch to put pressure on Twitch to make its platform safer for marginalized creators.

“Hate on the platform is not new,” Raven told WYNC’s The Takeaway. But bot-driven raid attacks are more difficult to combat than individual trolls. “I’ve had people come in with bots. It’s usually one or two people who program a bunch of bots, you bypass security measures that are put in place and just spam a broadcaster’s chat with very inflammatory, derogatory language.”

While Raven said they have since had a discussion with Twitch, they don’t feel that one conversation is enough.

As part of #ADayOffTwitch, some streamers are encouraging their followers to support them financially on other platforms through the #SubOffTwitch tag. Twitch takes 50% of streamers’ revenue, so creators are promoting their accounts on platforms like Patreon and Ko-Fi, which take a much smaller cut. Though competitor YouTube Gaming takes 30% of revenue, and Facebook Gaming won’t take a cut from creators until 2023, Twitch remains dominant in the streaming space. According to Streamlabs and Stream Hatchet, Twitch represented 72.3% of the market share in terms of viewership Q1 2021.

Still, popular creators like Ben Lupo (DrLupo), Jack Dunlop (CouRage), and Rachell Hofstetter (Valkyrae) have recently left Twitch for exclusive deals with YouTube Gaming. If Twitch remains unsafe for marginalized creators, others might be swayed to follow their lead, exclusive deals or not.

#apps, #bullying, #cyberbullying, #games, #gaming, #harassment, #hateful-content, #justice, #raids, #social-justice, #streamers, #streaming, #trolling, #twitch

Mindset, an artist-driven mental wellness audio platform, raises a $8.7M from Scooter Braun and others

Mindset, a platform featuring personal story collections from recording artists, announced today that it raised $8.7 million in seed funding.

As co-founders of the K-pop focused podcast production company DIVE Studios, brothers Brian Nam, Eric Nam and Eddie Nam noticed that the studio’s best performing content came from podcast episodes where stars discussed how they handle struggles in their personal lives. So, the Nam brothers came up with the idea for Mindset, an off-shoot of DIVE Studios.

“We found that this was a unique selling point people really wanted more of — so we started to think about ways to really double-down on that aspect,” said CEO Brian Nam. “How do we provide more of this valuable content to Gen Z and young millennial audiences? We decided that there wasn’t really the right kind of platform out there for this type of storytelling, so we decided to develop our own mobile platform to uniquely share these stories in an audio format.”

In its current format, Mindset features four audio collections from artists like Jae, Tablo, BM, and Mindset co-founder Eric Nam, who happens to be a K-pop star himself. Each collection has ten episodes of around ten to twenty minutes long — the introductory episode is free, but to gain access to the rest of an individual artist’s collection, users need to pay $24.99. The app also has free Boosters, which are Calm-like, five-minute clips of bedtime stories and motivational mantras.

“Up until now, the primary source of income, especially for musicians, has been touring, music streams, and then maybe some endorsement deals, but we’re able to unlock this fourth one, which is monetizing your stories,” Nam said. “The pricing is similar to how they might price a ticket, or how they would sell merchandise.”

Mindset isn’t meant to be a therapy app. “We’re not licensed therapists, we don’t try to act like we are,” Nam said. Rather, it’s a way for artists to share more intimate experiences with their fans to show that behind they music, they’re people too.

Mindset launched in an MVP (minimum viable product) version in February. Nam declined to share active user or revenue numbers, but said that the app gained enough traction that by May, it raised venture funding. The $8.7 million round is led by Union Square Ventures with strategic participants like record executive Scooter Braun (of TQ Ventures), who has more recently made headlines over the Taylor Swift masters controversy. Other backers include Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, Opendoor Co-Founder Eric Wu, and more.

“Scooter Braun was a strategic investor,” Nam told TechCrunch.

Braun has also worked with artists like Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and Demi Lovato.

“He’s really opened a lot of doors for us to branch out into the Hollywood and Western space, where we traditionally came from the K-pop space,” Nam added.

Mindset is putting its seed funding toward content creation, hiring, and product development. The app is currently available on iOS and Android, but it will officially launch on September 14. After that, Mindset will release another audio collection from an artist or actor every two weeks. Nam declined to share who these artists will be. 

#android, #apps, #ariana-grande, #artist, #ceo, #co-founder, #demi-lovato, #eric-wu, #funding, #justin-bieber, #kevin-lin, #minimum-viable-product, #opendoor, #psychology, #scooter-braun, #twitch, #union-square-ventures

Fortnite adds a new mode that’s basically Among Us

Fortnite now boasts its own version of one of the pandemic’s hottest games.

Fortnite-maker Epic just introduced into the game a new limited-time mode called Impostors; it follows the hit format that sent Among Us to Twitch’s front page — and Congress — during the pandemic’s earlier days.

Up to 10 people can play the new Impostors game mode simultaneously, divided into two competing factions: agents and… impostors. Eight agents work to complete tasks around the new map before the two impostors can sabotage their efforts by eliminating agents and undoing their work. And because it’s Fortnite, you can also teleport players randomly around the map and turn everyone into a banana.

The game takes place in a new interior map location that properly conjures the claustrophobic paranoia that makes the social deception-style game intense to play and fun to watch. During each round, the players come together to vote on who they think is secretly working against the agents, which generally leads to a lot of spicy conversation. Players can stick with a smaller group (by picking the private game mode) if they’d like to keep things intimate.

Happily, you can still try it out if you don’t have a group of friends to play with, though this kind of game works best with people you know. While public voice chat is off in the new mode, players in open matches can communicate through a quick chat box and the game’s emotes to vote on who they think has infiltrated the group.

It’s too early to say if Fortnite’s Among Us clone will take off in the same way as the game that inspired it, or how long it’ll stick around. But considering that Fortnite is still one of the most popular games in the world, a new hit whodunnit game mode that’s eminently streamable is just icing on the cake.

#among-us, #congress, #epic, #fortnite, #fortnite-battle-royale, #gaming, #social, #tc, #twitch, #video-games, #video-gaming

Medal.tv, a video clipping service for gamers, enters the livestreaming market with Rawa.tv acquisition

Medal.tv, a short-form video clipping service and social network for gamers, is entering the live streaming market with the acquisition of Rawa.tv, a Twitch rival based in Dubai, which had raised around $1 million to date. The seven-figure, all cash deal will see two of Rawa’s founders, Raya Dadah and Phil Jammal, now joining Medal and further integrations between the two platforms going forward.

The Middle East and North African region (MENA) is one of the fastest-growing markets in gaming and still one that’s mostly un-catered to, explained Medal.tv CEO Pim de Witte, as to his company’s interest in Rawa.

“Most companies that target that market don’t really understand the nuances and try to replicate existing Western or Far-Eastern models that are doomed to fail,” he said. “Absorbing a local team will increase Medal’s chances of success here. Overall, we believe that MENA is an underserved market without a clear leader in the livestreaming space, and Rawa brings to Medal the local market expertise that we need to capitalize on this opportunity,” de Witte added.

Medal.tv’s community had been asking for the ability to do livestreaming for some time, the exec also noted, but the technology would have been too expensive for the startup to build using off-the-shelf services at its scale, de Witte said.

“People increasingly connect around live and real-time experiences, and this is something our platform has lacked to date,” he noted.

But Rawa, as the first livestreaming platform dedicated to Arab gaming, had built out its own proprietary live and network streaming technology that’s now used in all its products. That technology is now coming to Medal.tv.

Image Credits: Medal.tv

The two companies were already connected before today, as Rawa users have been able to upload their gaming clips to Medal.tv, and some Rawa partners had joined Medal’s skilled player program. Going forward, Rawa will continue to operate as a separate platform, but it will become more tightly integrated with Medal, the company says. Currently, Rawa sees around 100,000 active users on its service.

The remaining Rawa team will continue to operate the livestreaming platform under co-founder Jammal’s leadership following the deal’s close, and the Rawa HQ will remain based in Dubai. However, Rawa’s employees have been working remotely since the start of the pandemic, and it’s unclear if that will change in the future, given the uncertainty of Covid-19’s spread.

Medal.tv detailed its further plans for Rawa on its site, where the company explained it doesn’t aim to build a “general-purpose” livestreaming platform where the majority of viewers don’t pay — a call-out that clearly seems aimed at Twitch. Instead, it says it will focus on matching content with viewers who would be interested in subscribing to the creators. This addresses on of the challenges that has faced larger platforms like Twitch in the past, where it’s been difficult for smaller streamers to get off the ground.

The company also said it will remain narrowly focused on serving the gaming community as opposed to venturing into non-gaming content, as others have done. Again, this differentiates itself from Twitch which, over the years, expanded into vlogs and even streaming old TV shows. And it’s much different from YouTube or Facebook Watch, where gaming is only a subcategory of a broader video network.

The acquisition follows Medal.tv’s $9 million Series A led by Horizons Ventures in 2019, after the startup had grown to 5 million registered users and “hundreds of thousands” of daily active users. Today, the company says over 200,000 people create content every day on Medal, and 3 million users are actively viewing that content every month.

#apps, #clips, #digital-media, #dubai, #exit, #gamer, #gamers, #games, #horizons-ventures, #livestreaming, #ma, #mass-media, #media, #mena, #middle-east, #mobile, #new-media, #player, #social-network, #startups, #streaming, #streaming-media, #twitch, #video, #video-clipping, #video-games

This Week in Apps: In-app events hit the App Store, TikTok tries Stories, Apple reveals new child safety plan

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place, with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try, too.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Top Stories

Apple to scan for CSAM imagery

Apple announced a major initiative to scan devices for CSAM imagery. The company on Thursday announced a new set of features, arriving later this year, that will detect child sexual abuse material (CSAM) in its cloud and report it to law enforcement. Companies like Dropbox, Google and Microsoft already scan for CSAM in their cloud services, but Apple had allowed users to encrypt their data before it reached iCloud. Now, Apple’s new technology, NeuralHash, will run on users’ devices, tatformso detect when a users upload known CSAM imagery — without having to first decrypt the images. It even can detect the imagery if it’s been cropped or edited in an attempt to avoid detection.

Meanwhile, on iPhone and iPad, the company will roll out protections to Messages app users that will filter images and alert children and parents if sexually explicit photos are sent to or from a child’s account. Children will not be shown the images but will instead see a grayed-out image instead. If they try to view the image anyway through the link, they’ll be shown interruptive screens that explain why the material may be harmful and are warned that their parents will be notified.

Some privacy advocates pushed back at the idea of such a system, believing it could expand to end-to-end encrypted photos, lead to false positives, or set the stage for more on-device government surveillance in the future. But many cryptology experts believe the system Apple developed provides a good balance between privacy and utility, and have offered their endorsement of the technology. In addition, Apple said reports are manually reviewed before being sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

The changes may also benefit iOS developers who deal in user photos and uploads, as predators will no longer store CSAM imagery on iOS devices in the first place, given the new risk of detection.

In-App Events appear on the App Store

Image Credits: Apple

Though not yet publicly available to all users, those testing the new iOS 15 mobile operating system got their first glimpse of a new App Store discovery feature this week: “in-app events.” First announced at this year’s WWDC, the feature will allow developers and Apple editors alike to showcase directly on the App Store upcoming events taking place inside apps.

The events can appear on the App Store homepage, on the app’s product pages or can be discovered through personalized recommendations and search. In some cases, editors will curate events to feature on the App Store. But developers will also be provided tools to submit their own in-app events. TikTok’s “Summer Camp” for creators was one of the first in-app events to be featured, where it received a top spot on the iPadOS 15 App Store.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

Apple expands support for student IDs on iPhone and Apple Watch ahead of the fall semester. Tens of thousands more U.S. and Canadian colleges will now support mobile student IDs in the Apple Wallet app, including Auburn University, Northern Arizona University, University of Maine, New Mexico State University and others.

Apple was accused of promoting scam apps in the App Store’s featured section. The company’s failure to properly police its store is one thing, but to curate an editorial list that actually includes the scams is quite another. One of the games rounded up under “Slime Relaxations,” an already iffy category to say the least, was a subscription-based slime simulator that locked users into a $13 AUD per week subscription for its slime simulator. One of the apps on the curated list didn’t even function, implying that Apple’s editors hadn’t even tested the apps they recommend.

Tax changes hit the App Store. Apple announced tax and price changes for apps and IAPs in South Africa, the U.K. and all territories using the Euro currency, all of which will see decreases. Increases will occur in Georgia and Tajikistan, due to new tax changes. Proceeds on the App Store in Italy will be increased to reflect a change to the Digital Services Tax effective rate.

Game Center changes, too. Apple said that on August 4, a new certificate for server-based Game Center verification will be available via the publicKeyUrl.

Fintech

Robinhood stock jumped more than 24% to $46.80 on Tuesday after initially falling 8% on its first day of trading last week, after which it had continued to trade below its opening price of $38.

Square’s Cash app nearly doubled its gross profit to $546 million in Q2, but also reported a $45 million impairment loss on its bitcoin holdings.

Coinbase’s app now lets you buy your cryptocurrency using Apple Pay. The company previously made its Coinbase Card compatible with Apple Pay in June.

Social

An anonymous app called Sendit, which relies on Snap Kit to function, is climbing the charts of the U.S. App Store after Snap suspended similar apps, YOLO and LMK. Snap was sued by the parent of child who was bullied through those apps, which led to his suicide. Sendit also allows for anonymity, and reviews compare it to YOLO. But some reviews also complained about bullying. This isn’t the first time Snap has been involved in a lawsuit related to a young person’s death related to its app. The company was also sued for its irresponsible “speed filter” that critics said encouraged unsafe driving. Three young men died using the filter, which captured them doing 123 mph.

TikTok is testing Stories. As Twitter’s own Stories integrations, Fleets, shuts down, TikTok confirmed it’s testing its own Stories product. The TikTok Stories appear in a left-hand sidebar and allow users to post ephemeral images or video that disappear in 24 hours. Users can also comment on Stories, which are public to their mutual friends and the creator. Stories on TikTok may make more sense than they did on Twitter, as TikTok is already known as a creative platform and it gives the app a more familiar place to integrate its effects toolset and, eventually, advertisements.

Facebook has again re-arranged its privacy settings. The company continually moves around where its privacy features are located, ostensibly to make them easier to find. But users then have to re-learn where to go to find the tools they need, after they had finally memorized the location. This time, the settings have been grouped into six top-level categories, but “privacy” settings have been unbundled from one location to be scattered among the other categories.

A VICE report details ban-as-a-service operations that allow anyone to harass or censor online creators on Instagram. Assuming you can find it, one operation charged $60 per ban, the listing says.

TikTok merged personal accounts with creator accounts. The change means now all non-business accounts on TikTok will have access to the creator tools under Settings, including Analytics, Creator Portal, Promote and Q&A. TikTok shared the news directly with subscribers of its TikTok Creators newsletter in August, and all users will get a push notification alerting them to the change, the company told us.

Discord now lets users customize their profile on its apps. The company added new features to its iOS and Android apps that let you add a description, links and emojis and select a profile color. Paid subscribers can also choose an image or GIF as their banner.

Twitter Spaces added a co-hosting option that allows up to two co-hosts to be added to the live audio chat rooms. Now Spaces can have one main host, two co-hosts and up to 10 speakers. Co-hosts have all the moderation abilities as hosts, but can’t add or remove others as co-hosts.

Messaging

Tencent reopened new user sign-ups for its WeChat messaging app, after having suspended registrations last week for unspecified “technical upgrades.” The company, like many other Chinese tech giants, had to address new regulations from Beijing impacting the tech industry. New rules address how companies handle user data collection and storage, antitrust behavior and other checks on capitalist “excess.” The gaming industry is now worried it’s next to be impacted, with regulations that would restrict gaming for minors to fight addiction.

WhatsApp is adding a new feature that will allow users to send photos and videos that disappear after a single viewing. The Snapchat-inspired feature, however, doesn’t alert you if the other person takes a screenshot — as Snap’s app does. So it may not be ideal for sharing your most sensitive content.

Telegram’s update expands group video calls to support up to 1,000 viewers. It also announced video messages can be recorded in higher quality and can be expanded, regular videos can be watched at 0.5 or 2x speed, screen sharing with sound is available for all video calls, including 1-on-1 calls, and more.

Streaming & Entertainment

American Airlines added free access to TikTok aboard its Viasat-equipped aircraft. Passengers will be able to watch the app’s videos for up to 30 minutes for free and can even download the app if it’s not already installed. After the free time, they can opt to pay for Wi-Fi to keep watching. Considering how easy it is to fall into multi-hour TikTok viewing sessions without knowing it, the addition of the addictive app could make long plane rides feel shorter. Or at least less painful.

Chinese TikTok rival Kuaishou saw stocks fall by more than 15% in Hong Kong, the most since its February IPO. The company is another victim of an ongoing market selloff triggered by increasing investor uncertainty related to China’s recent crackdown on tech companies. Beijing’s campaign to rein in tech has also impacted Tencent, Alibaba, Jack Ma’s Ant Group, food delivery company Meituan and ride-hailing company Didi. Also related, Kuaishou shut down its controversial app Zynn, which had been paying users to watch its short-form videos, including those stolen from other apps.

Twitch overtook YouTube in consumer spending per user in April 2021, and now sees $6.20 per download as of June compared with YouTube’s $5.60, Sensor Tower found.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Spotify confirmed tests of a new ad-supported tier called Spotify Plus, which is only $0.99 per month and offers unlimited skips (like free users get on the desktop) and the ability to play the songs you want, instead of only being forced to use shuffle mode.

The company also noted in a forum posting that it’s no longer working on AirPlay2 support, due to “audio driver compatibility” issues.

Mark Cuban-backed audio app Fireside asked its users to invest in the company via an email sent to creators which didn’t share deal terms. The app has yet to launch.

YouTube kicks off its $100 million Shorts Fund aimed at taking on TikTok by providing creators with cash incentives for top videos. Creators will get bonuses of $100 to $10,000 based on their videos’ performance.

Dating

Match Group announced during its Q2 earnings it plans to add to several of the company’s brands over the next 12 to 24 months audio and video chat, including group live video, and other livestreaming technologies. The developments will be powered by innovations from Hyperconnect, the social networking company that this year became Match’s biggest acquisition to date when it bought the Korean app maker for a sizable $1.73 billion. Since then, Match was spotted testing group live video on Tinder, but says that particular product is not launching in the near-term. At least two brands will see Hyperconnect-powered integrations in 2021.

Photos

The Photo & Video category on U.S. app stores saw strong growth in the first half of the year, a Sensor Tower report found. Consumer spend among the top 100 apps grew 34% YoY to $457 million in Q2 2021, with the majority of the revenue (83%) taking place on iOS.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Gaming

Epic Games revealed the host of its in-app Rift Tour event is Ariana Grande, in the event that runs August 6-8.

Pokémon GO influencers threatened to boycott the game after Niantic removed the COVID safety measures that had allowed people to more easily play while social distancing. Niantic’s move seemed ill-timed, given the Delta variant is causing a new wave of COVID cases globally.

Health & Fitness

Apple kicked out an app called Unjected from the App Store. The new social app billed itself as a community for the unvaccinated, allowing like-minded users to connect for dating and friendships. Apple said the app violated its policies for COVID-19 content.

Google Pay expanded support for vaccine cards. In Australia, Google’s payments app now allows users to add their COVID-19 digital certification to their device for easy access. The option is available through Google’s newly updated Passes API which lets government agencies distribute digital versions of vaccine cards.

COVID Tech Connect, a U.S. nonprofit initially dedicated to collecting devices like phones and tablets for COVID ICU patients, has now launched its own app. The app, TeleHome, is a device-agnostic, HIPAA-compliant way for patients to place a video call for free at a time when the Delta variant is again filling ICU wards, this time with the unvaccinated — a condition that sometimes overlaps with being low-income. Some among the working poor have been hesitant to get the shot because they can’t miss a day of work, and are worried about side effects. Which is why the Biden administration offered a tax credit to SMBs who offered paid time off to staff to get vaccinated and recover.

Popular journaling app Day One, which was recently acquired by WordPress.com owner Automattic, rolled out a new “Concealed Journals” feature that lets users hide content from others’ viewing. By tapping the eye icon, the content can be easily concealed on a journal by journal basis, which can be useful for those who write to their journal in public, like coffee shops or public transportation.

Edtech

Recently IPO’d language learning app Duolingo is developing a math app for kids. The company says it’s still “very early” in the development process, but will announce more details at its annual conference, Duocon, later this month.

Educational publisher Pearson launched an app that offers U.S. students access to its 1,500 titles for a monthly subscription of $14.99. the Pearson+ mobile app (ack, another +), also offers the option of paying $9.99 per month for access to a single textbook for a minimum of four months.

News & Reading

Quora jumps into the subscription economy. Still not profitable from ads alone, Quora announced two new products that allow its expert creators to monetize their content on its service. With Quora+ ($5/mo or $50/yr), subscribers can pay for any content that a creator paywalls. Creators can choose to enable a adaptive paywall that will use an algorithm to determine when to show the paywall. Another product, Spaces, lets creators write paywalled publications on Quora, similar to Substack. But only a 5% cut goes to Quora, instead of 10% on Substack.

Utilities

Google Maps on iOS added a new live location-sharing feature for iMessage users, allowing them to more easily show your ETA with friends and even how much battery life you have left. The feature competes with iMessage’s built-in location-sharing feature, and offers location sharing of 1 hour up to 3 days. The app also gained a dark mode.

Security & Privacy

Controversial crime app Citizen launched a $20 per month “Protect” service that includes live agent support (who can refer calls to 911 if need be). The agents can gather your precise location, alert your designated emergency contacts, help you navigate to a safe location and monitor the situation until you feel safe. The system of live agent support is similar to in-car or in-home security and safety systems, like those from ADT or OnStar, but works with users out in the real world. The controversial part, however, is the company behind the product: Citizen has been making headlines for launching private security fleets outside law enforcement, and recently offered a reward in a manhunt for an innocent person based on unsubstantiated tips.

Funding and M&A

🤝 Square announced its acquisition of the “buy now, pay later” giant AfterPay in a $29 billion deal that values the Australian firm at more than 30% higher than the stock’s last closing price of AUS$96.66. AfterPay has served over 16 million customers and nearly 100,000 merchants globally, to date, and comes at a time when the BNPL space is heating up. Apple has also gotten into the market recently with an Affirm partnership in Canada.

🤝 Gaming giant Zynga acquired Chinese game developer StarLark, the team behind the mobile golf game Golf Rival, from Betta Games for $525 million in both cash and stock. Golf Rival is the second-largest mobile golf game behind Playdemic’s Golf Clash, and EA is in the process of buying that studio for $1.4 billion.

💰  U.K.-based Humanity raised an additional $2.5 million for its app that claims to help slow down aging, bringing the total raise to date to $5 million. Backers include Calm’s co-founders, MyFitness Pal’s co-founder and others in the health space. The app works by benchmarking health advice against real-world data, to help users put better health practices into action.

💰 YELA, a Cameo-like app for the Middle East and South Asia, raised $2 million led by U.S. investors that include Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen and Sean Rad, general partner of RAD Fund. The app is focusing on signing celebrities in the regions it serves, where smartphone penetration is high and over 6% of the population is under 35.

💰 London-based health and wellness app maker Palta raised a $100 million Series B led by VNV Global. The company’s products include Flo.Health, Simple Fasting, Zing Fitness Coach and others, which reach a combined 2.4 million active, paid subscribers. The funds will be used to create more mobile subscription products.

🤝 Emoji database and Wikipedia-like site Emojipedia was acquired by Zedge, the makers of a phone personalization app offering wallpapers, ringtones and more to 35 million MAUs. Deal terms weren’t disclosed. Emojipedia says the deal provides it with more stability and the opportunity for future growth. For Zedge, the deal provides🤨….um, a popular web resource it thinks it can better monetize, we suspect.

💰 Mental health app Revery raised $2 million led by Sequoia Capital India’s Surge program for its app that combines cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia with mobile gaming concepts. The company will focus on other mental health issues in the future.

💰 London-based Nigerian-operating fintech startup Kuda raised a $55 million Series B, valuing its mobile-first challenger bank at $500 million. The inside round was co-led by Valar Ventures and Target Global.

💰 Vietnamese payments provider VNLife raised $250 million in a round led by U.S.-based General Atlantic and Dragoneer Investment Group. PayPal Ventures and others also participated. The round values the business at over $1 billion.

Downloads

Mastodon for iPhone

Fans of decentralized social media efforts now have a new app. The nonprofit behind the open source decentralized social network Mastodon released an official iPhone app, aimed at making the network more accessible to newcomers. The app allows you to find and follow people and topics; post text, images, GIFs, polls, and videos; and get notified of new replies and reblogs, much like Twitter.

Xingtu

@_666eveITS SO COOL FRFR do u guys want a tutorial? #fypシ #醒图 #醒图app♬ original sound – Ian Asher

TikTok users are teaching each other how to switch over to the Chinese App Store in order to get ahold of the Xingtu app for iOS. (An Android version is also available.) The app offers advanced editing tools that let users edit their face and body, like FaceTune, apply makeup, add filters and more. While image-editing apps can be controversial for how they can impact body acceptance, Xingtu offers a variety of artistic filters which is what’s primarily driving the demand. It’s interesting to see the lengths people will go to just to get a few new filters for their photos — perhaps making a case for Instagram to finally update its Post filters instead of pretending no one cares about their static photos anymore.

Tweets

Facebook still dominating top charts, but not the No. 1 spot:  

Not cool, Apple: 

This user acquisition strategy: 

Maybe Stories don’t work everywhere: 

#adt, #afterpay, #alibaba, #android, #ant-group, #api, #app-maker, #app-store, #apple, #apps, #australia, #automattic, #beijing, #biden-administration, #canada, #china, #cloud-services, #coinbase, #coinbase-card, #computing, #day-one, #dragoneer-investment-group, #driver, #dropbox, #duolingo, #emojipedia, #eta, #facebook, #fintech-startup, #food-delivery, #game-center, #game-developer, #general-atlantic, #general-partner, #georgia, #gif, #google, #hyperconnect, #instagram, #ios, #ios-devices, #ipad, #iphone, #italy, #itunes, #jam-fund, #justin-mateen, #kuaishou, #kuda, #law-enforcement, #london, #ma, #maine, #meituan, #microsoft, #middle-east, #mobile, #mobile-app, #mobile-applications, #mobile-devices, #online-creators, #onstar, #operating-system, #palta, #playdemic, #quora, #sean-rad, #sensor-tower, #sequoia-capital, #smartphone, #snap, #snapchat, #social-network, #social-networking, #software, #south-africa, #south-asia, #spotify, #stories, #target-global, #tc, #this-week-in-apps, #tiktok, #twitch, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #valar-ventures, #viasat, #vnv-global, #wi-fi, #wordpress-com, #zedge, #zynga

Livestream e-commerce: Why companies and brands need to tune in

What comes to mind when you think of livestreaming? In the U.S., most people would name their favorite celebrity leading a Q&A on Instagram or a gamer doing a speedrun on Twitch.

In China, it’s shopping, streamed live.

Livestream e-commerce has taken off in China in the last few years and is expected to yield more than $60 billion this year. In 2019, 37% of online shoppers in China (a cool 265 million people) made purchases on livestreams — and that was well before quarantine. In 2020, it’s estimated to have reached around 560 million people.

During Taobao’s annual Single’s Day Global Shopping Festival in 2020 (China’s Black Friday), livestreams accounted for $6 billion in sales — nearly doubled from a year earlier.

Starting to see a trend? The big U.S. companies have noticed, and they’re jumping on the bandwagon faster than you can say, “Swipe up to buy now!”

Last December, Walmart livestreamed shopping events on TikTok. Amazon released a live platform where influencers promote items and chat with customers. Instagram launched a Shop feature that encourages users to browse and buy within the app. Facebook also kicked off Live Shopping Fridays for the beauty and fashion categories.

“It’s an entertaining way for shops to tell the story behind their products. It brings buyers closer than ever to their favorite creators and allows them to have a voice in the conversation.”

Startups are growing fast to keep up with the heavy hitters — PopShop.Live raised $20 million to let people buy everything from books and toys to jewelry from sellers who livestream their offerings, and Whatnot raised a $50 million Series B, largely to expand its livestream commerce infrastructure. There’s also a burgeoning category of SaaS tools such as Bambuser, which is working with brands like Klarna to test native livestream shopping directly within branded apps.

At this pace, retailers will all welcome livestream commerce teams like they have influencer partnerships in recent years. It’ll just be part of the digital equation to stay competitive and relevant in the future of marketplaces and e-commerce.

From B.C. to 5G: The evolution of shopping

What is old is new again. Your grandparents spent years watching QVC because it balanced the experience of speaking with an associate with the convenience of their retirement community’s TV room. Livestream is today’s version of “shoptainment,” where hosts showcase products dynamically, interact with their audiences and build urgency with short-term offers, giveaways and limited-edition items.

Now, with livestream commerce, hosts can form deeper customer connections and answer questions in real time. It’s a new standard of communication that holds a longstanding truth from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar to smartphones: People shop to kill time and are more likely to buy when they feel connected with a salesperson.

#bambuser, #china, #column, #ec-column, #ec-ecommerce-and-d2c, #ecommerce, #influencer-marketing, #instagram, #klarna, #livestreaming, #marketing, #omnichannel, #social, #social-media, #startups, #twitch, #walmart

Trouble in fandom paradise: Tumblr users lash out against its beta subscription feature

The Tumblr community often refers to itself as the Wild West of the internet, and they’re not wrong. A text post with over 70,000 notes puts it best: “Tumblr is my favorite social media site because this place is literally uninhabitable for celebrities. No verification system, no algorithm that boosts their posts, it’s a completely lawless wasteland for them.”

But like any social media company, Tumblr needs to keep itself afloat in order for its users to continue sharing esoteric fan art, incomprehensible shitposts, and overly personal diary entries hidden beneath a “Read More” button. Yesterday, Tumblr announced the limited beta test of its Post+ subscription feature, which — if all goes as planned — will eventually let Tumblr users post paywalled content to subscribers that pay them $3.99, $5.99 or $9.99 per month.

Image Credits: Tumblr

Tumblr is far from the first social media platform to seek revenue this way — Twitter is rolling out Super Follows and a Tip Jar feature, and this week, YouTube announced a tipping feature too. Even Instagram is working on its own version of Twitter’s Super Follows that would let users create “exclusive stories.” But on a website with a community that prides itself as being a “completely lawless wasteland” for anyone with a platform (save for Wil Wheaton and Neil Gaiman, who are simply just vibing), the move toward paywalled content was not welcomed with open arms.

Monetization is a double-edged sword. It’s not considered uncool for a Tumblr artist to link to a third-party Patreon or Ko-fi site on their blog, where their most enthusiastic followers can access paywalled content or send them tips. So Post+ seems like an obvious way for Tumblr to generate revenue — instead of directing followers to other websites, they could build a way for fans to support creators on their own platform while taking a 5% cut. This isn’t unreasonable, considering that Twitter will take 3% revenue from its new monetization tools, while video-centric platforms like YouTube and Twitch take 30% and 50%, respectively. But Tumblr isn’t Twitter, or YouTube, or Twitch. Unlike other platforms, Tumblr doesn’t allow you to see other people’s follower counts, and no accounts are verified. It’s not as easy to tell whether the person behind a popular post has 100 followers or 100,000 followers, and the users prefer it that way. But Post+ changes that, giving bloggers an icon next to their username that resembles a Twitter blue check.

A Tumblr Post+ creator profile

Tumblr rolled out Post+ this week to a select group of hand-picked creators, including Kaijuno, a writer and astrophysicist. The platform announced Post+ on a new blog specific to this product, rather than its established staff blog, which users know to check for big announcements. So, as the most public user who was granted access, the 24-year-old blogger was the target of violent backlash from angry Tumblrites who didn’t want to see their favorite social media site turn into a hypercapitalist hellscape. When Kaijuno received death threats for beta testing Post+, Tumblr’s staff intervened and condemned harassment against Post+ users.

“We want to hear about what you like, what you love, and what concerns you. Even if it’s not very nice. Tell us. We can take it,” Tumblr wrote on its staff blog. “What we won’t ever accept is the targeted harassment and threats these creators have endured since this afternoon. […] all they’re doing is testing out a feature.”

Before making their post, a representative from Tumblr’s staff reached out to Kaijuno directly to check in on them regarding the backlash, but there’s only so much that Tumblr can do after a user has already been threatened for using their product.

“I felt like the sacrificial lamb, because they didn’t announce Post+ beforehand and only gave it to a few people, which landed me in the crosshairs of a very pissed off user base when I’m just trying to pay off medical bills by giving people the option to pay for content,” Kaijuno told TechCrunch. “I knew there’d be some backlash because users hate any sort of change to Tumblr, but I thought that the brunt of the backlash would be at the staff, and that the beta testers would be spared from most of it.”

Why do Tumblr users perceive monetization as such a threat? It’s not a question of whether or not it’s valuable to support creators, but rather, whether Tumblr is capable of hosting such a service. Multiple long-time, avid Tumblr users that spoke to TechCrunch referenced an incident in late 2020 when people’s blogs were being hacked by spam bots that posted incessant advertisements for a Ray-Ban Summer Sale.

“Tumblr is not the most well-coded website. It’s easy to break features,” Kaijuno added. “I think anything involving trusting Tumblr with your financial information would have gotten backlash.”

Tumblr users also worried about the implications Post+ could have on privacy — in the limited beta, Post+ users only have the ability to block people who are subscribed to their blog if they contact Tumblr support. In cases of harassment by a subscriber, this could leave a blogger vulnerable in a potentially dangerous situation.

“Ahead of our launch to all U.S.-based creators this fall, Post+ will allow creators to block subscribers directly,” a Tumblr spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Still, the Extremely Online Gen Z-ers who now make up 48% of Tumblr know that they can’t expect the platform to continue existing if it doesn’t pull in enough money to pay for its staff and server fees. In 2018, Tumblr lost almost one-third of its monthly page views after all NSFW content was banned — since then, the platform’s monthly traffic has remained relatively stagnant.

Image Credits: SimilarWeb

A former Tumblr employee told TechCrunch that the feature that became Post+ started out as a Tip Jar. But higher-ups at Tumblr — who do not work directly with the community — redirected the project to create a paywalled subscription product.

“I think a Tip Jar would be a massive improvement,” said the creator behind the Tumblr blog normal-horoscopes. Through the core audience they developed on Tumblr, they make a living via Patreon, but they don’t find Post+ compelling for their business. “External services [like Patreon] have more options, more benefits, better price points, and as a creator I get to choose how I present them to my audience.”

But a paywalled subscription service is different in the collective eyes of Tumblr. For a site that thrives on fandom, creators that make fan art and fanfiction worry that placing this derivative work behind a paywall — which Post+ encourages them to do — will land them in legal trouble. Even Archive of Our Own, a major fanfiction site, prohibits its users from linking to sites like Patreon or Ko-Fi.

“Built-in monetization attracts businesses, corporate accounts, people who are generally there to make money first and provide content second,” said normal-horoscopes. “It changes the culture of a platform.”

Across Tumblr, upset users are rallying for their followers to take Post+’s feedback survey to express their frustrations. The staff welcomes this.

“As with any new product launch, we expect our users to have a healthy discussion about how the feature will change the dynamics of how people use Tumblr,” a Tumblr spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Not all of this feedback will be positive, and that’s ok. Constructive criticism fuels how we create products and ultimately makes Tumblr a better place.”

Tumblr’s vocal community has been empowered over the years to question whether it’s possible for a platform to establish new revenue streams in a way that feels organic. The protectiveness that Tumblr’s user base feels for the site — despite their lack of faith in staff — sets it apart from social media juggernauts like Facebook, which can put ecommerce front and center without much scrutiny. But even three years after the catastrophic porn ban, it seems hard for Tumblr to grow without alienating the people that make the social network unique.

Platforms like Reddit and Discord have remained afloat by selling digital goods, like coins to reward top posters, or special emojis. Each company’s financial needs are different, but Tumblr’s choice to monetize with Post+ highlights the company’s lack of insight into its own community’s wishes.

#apps, #artist, #automattic, #facebook, #instagram, #neil-gaiman, #operating-systems, #post, #select, #social, #social-media, #social-network, #software, #spokesperson, #tumblr, #twitch, #twitter, #video-hosting, #wordpress, #world-wide-web, #writer, #youtube

YouTube’s newest monetization tool lets viewers tip creators for their uploads

YouTube announced its latest feature, Super Thanks, on Tuesday. This is YouTube’s fourth Paid Digital Good, which is what the platform calls any product that lets fans directly pay creators. So far, these tools include Super Chat, Super Stickers, and channel subscriptions — but Super Thanks is YouTube’s first of these features that allows fans to tip creators for individual uploaded videos, rather than livestreams.

If a viewer wants to show extra appreciation for a video, they can pay creators with one of four pre-set amounts, ranging between $2 and $50 in their local currency. When viewers buy Super Thanks, they can leave a message, which will appear highlighted in the comments section.

YouTube’s previous tools for direct payments to creators seemed like a way to play catch-up with Twitch, but the platform is now differentiating itself with Super Thanks. Even Instagram has features that let users tip creators when they go Live, like Badges, but lacks a way for creators to receive a one-time payment for a post or a reel. Instead, Instagram has pivoted hard to e-commerce, which feels like a less organic or direct way for fans to engage with creators than a product like Super Thanks.

An animation showing how Super Thanks works on YouTube

Image Credits: YouTube

Last year was YouTube’s biggest for Paid Digital Goods — in 2020, over 10 million users purchased either a Super Chat, Super Sticker, or channel subscription for the first time on the platform. The number of channels that earned a majority of their revenue from these products in 2020 was more than 3x in 2019.

“In my spare time, I’m a YouTube creator,” said Barbara Macdonald, YouTube’s Product Manager for Paid Digital Goods. “I’m fortunate enough that my insights as a creator have been able to help myself and my team create better products for our users on YouTube.”

Since 2019, Macdonald and her team have been working with a group of YouTube creators to pilot this feature, originally called “applause,” as beta testers. These creators provided feedback and suggestions on the product, which YouTube took into consideration — they suggested changing the name from “applause,” adding higher pricing options to maximize revenue potential, and differentiating a Super Thanks message from other comments. YouTube takes 30% of revenue from fans’ payments to creators, while competitor Twitch takes 50% of streamers’ subscription revenue.

Starting today, Super Thanks functionality will expand to thousands creators of creators in 68 countries who are members of the YouTube Partner Program. The expansion is randomized, Macdonald told TechCrunch, but will roll out to all eligible creators in the YouTube Partner Program by the end of this year.

So now, maybe instead of YouTubers ending each video with a reminder to “like, comment, and subscribe,” it’ll be, “like, comment, subscribe, and Super Thanks.” 

#apps, #digital-media, #e-commerce, #google, #livestreaming, #mass-media, #social-media, #twitch, #video-hosting, #youtube

Twitch streamers rake in millions with a shady crypto gambling boom

A slot machine

Enlarge / We just assume this is what the slots in an online cryptocurrency casino look like, but I guess we can see them in action on Twitch. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Tyler Niknam was getting out of Texas. Niknam, 30, is a top streamer on Twitch, where he’s better known as Trainwrecks to his 1.5 million followers. For hours on end, Niknam was hitting the slots on Stake.com, an online cryptocurrency casino and his most prominent Twitch sponsor, to live audiences of 25,000. He’d been winning big, sometimes as much as $400,000 in crypto in one fell swoop, and he never seemed to go broke. The problem? It wasn’t allowed.

If you visit Stake on a US-based browser, a message will quickly pop up on the site: “Due to our gaming license, we cannot accept players from the United States.” Though Stake doesn’t possess a gambling license in any state, Nikam and other US gamblers easily circumvent this by using VPNs. Promoting gambling sites that cannot operate in the US and making money by referring US residents to them may constitute promoting illegal gambling, legal experts told WIRED.

“Canada needs to happen asap,” Niknam wrote in a private Discord DM to Felix “xQc” Lengyel, 25, Twitch’s number two streamer. Lengyel briefly streamed slots but stopped in June. “You cannot show you’re on Stake at all.” A few days later, Niknam arrived in Canada, where he settled into a routine—gambling in a mostly empty apartment, sometimes more than a dozen hours a day. (Niknam and Lengyel did not respond to WIRED’s requests for comment.)

Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#gaming-culture, #twitch

Streamlabs launches Crossclip, a new tool for sharing Twitch clips to TikTok, Instagram and YouTube

The company behind ubiquitous livestreaming software Streamlabs is introducing a new way for streamers to share their gaming highlights to platforms well beyond Twitch. Streamlabs calls the new tool Crossclip, and it’s available now as an iOS app and as a lightweight web tool.

With Crossclip, creators can easily convert Twitch clips into a format friendly to TikTok, Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts and Facebook videos. Adapting a snippet from Twitch that you’d like to share is as simple as putting in the clip’s URL and choosing an output format (landscape, vertical or square) and a pre-loaded layout.

Crossclip iOS app

You can crop the clip’s length within Crossclip, blur part of the background and choose from a handful of layouts that let you place the frames in different places (to show the facecam view and the stream view together in vertical orientation, for example).

Crossclip’s core functionality is free, but a premium subscription version ($4.99/month or $49.99/year) removes a branded watermark and unlocks exports in 1080/60fps, larger uploads, added layers and pushes your edits to the front of the processing queue.

Discovery on Twitch is tough. Established streamers grow their audiences easily but anybody just getting started usually has to slog through long stretches of lonely Stardew Valley sessions with only the occasional viewer popping in to say hi. The idea behind Crossclip is to make it easier for streamers to build audiences on other social networks that have better discoverability features, subcommunities and tags to make that process less grueling.

“For a creator, making your content more discoverable is a huge advantage,” Streamlabs Head of Product Ashray Urs told TechCrunch. “When you consider the most popular Twitch streamers, you will notice that they have extremely popular YouTube channels and actively post on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok. If you aren’t sharing content and building your audience with different platforms, you’re making things more difficult for yourself.”

Urs notes that creators are increasingly using TikTok’s algorithmic discovery abilities to grow their audiences. TikTok’s recent addition of longer, three-minute videos is a boon for many kinds of creators interested in leveraging the platform, including gamers and other Twitch streamers.

Anyone with an established audience will find Crossclip a breeze to use too, making it dead-simple to share gaming highlights or Just Chatting clips wherever they’re trying to build up a following. The average clip conversation takes two to three minutes and is a simple one-click process. There are a few tools out there that have similar functionality, independent web tool StreamLadder probably being the most notable, but Streamlabs takes the same idea, refines it and adds a mobile app.

Streamlabs, now owned by Logitech, has released a few useful products in recent months. In February, the company launched Willow, its own link-in-bio tool with built-in tipping. In May, Streamlabs deepened its relationship with TikTok — an emerging hub for all kinds of gaming content — adding the ability to “go live” on TikTok into its core livestreaming platform, Streamlabs OBS.

#computing, #digital-media, #facebook, #instagram-reels, #livestreaming, #logitech, #social, #social-networks, #software, #stardew-valley, #streamlabs, #tc, #tiktok, #twitch, #video-hosting, #willow, #youtube

A bank for the creator economy, Karat Financial raises $26M in Series A funding

The creator economy is changing the way that people earn a living, whether you’re an Instagram influencer or a freelance graphic designer. But traditional banks haven’t caught up.

Take Alexandra Botez for example. The Stanford graduate earns six figures playing chess on Twitch, where she has 877,000 followers. But when she tried to apply for a business credit card, she was rejected twice. Meanwhile, when the creator behind TierZoo, a YouTube channel with 2.7 million subscribers, tried to rent an apartment, he was rejected because his landlord didn’t see his business as legitimate.

Eric Wei noticed this disconnect while he was a Product Manager at Instagram, where he helped build Instagram Live. With co-founder Will Kim, a previous investor with seed fund Lucky Capital, Wei launched Karat Financial, a better banking system for digital creators. Today, Karat Financial announced a $26 million Series A round led by Union Square Ventures with participation from GGV Capital and SignalFire.

“Banks need to understand you in order to trust you, and it’s only when they trust you that they’re willing to give you credit, process your payments, and hold your money,” Wei told TechCrunch. “If Alexandra Botez has 800,000 followers, and let’s say a tenth of them are paying a monthly subscription fee on Twitch, you can actually back into what these creators’ income streams are, and develop a better underwriting model than what the banks have today.”

But Karat isn’t solving a problem exclusive to the 1% of digital creators. Even for someone like a self-employed small business owner or a gig worker, it can be challenging to find a landlord that will rent an apartment without a proof of employment letter and regular paystubs. But the creator economy remains a fast-growing sector — more than two million creators make over $100,000 per year, and according to VC firm SignalFire, over 46.7 million people have enough of a following to monetize their content part-time.

“This whole industry exploded,” said Kim. “If it’s a flash in the pan, it’s a fifteen-year-old flash.”

Wei and Kim founded Karat in 2019, then earned a spot in Y Combinator’s Winter 2020 accelerator. By June 2020, Karat launched its first product, the Karat Black Card, a credit card for creators, and earned $4.6 million in seed funding from investors like Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin.

Image Credits: Karat

“Our vetting process is we try to evaluate creators as the businesses they are,” Wei said. The Karat Black Card doesn’t charge interest or fees, and only turns a marginal profit off of bank interchange fees. Karat will also advance credit for sponsorship payments at no cost to the creator. So if you’re an influencer and get paid $1,000 to make a video sponsored by a clothing company, it could take months to get paid. Karat will give you that $1,000 now, so long as you pay them back once the clothing company pays you.

Karat proved its concept with 50% growth from month to month and eight figures in transactions since launch last year. More than 30 creators have invested in Karat, including Jared Leto, 3LAU, Nas Daily, and Josh Richards — that’s all without any spending on influencer marketing.

“It turns out that when you do a good job for creators, they share you around with other people,” Wei said.

Since then, their portfolio of investors has grown to include YouTube co-founder Steven Chen, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Former TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer, and Former Wealthfront CEO Adam Nash, among others.

But Karat’s ultimate ambition isn’t to give creators a line of credit. They started out with the credit card to prove their concept, but in the long term, they hope to create a financial infrastructure for creators. That means helping them launch merchandise lines, incorporate their business, get a mortgage, take out business loans, and file their taxes. Wei says that would come after the company’s Series B, opening a more lucrative income stream than collecting bank interchange fees.

“We decided to roll Karat out with the same tried and true fintech playbook,” Wei said. “Start out with something simple before wedging and scaling into those other products. So for us, the card is just a means to an end. Our whole model is, we use the cards to develop our underwriting model and gain trust from creators, and eventually, we can build to be Square for creators.”

Already, Wei and Kim are getting texts from their internet celebrity clients, asking them to be their de-facto financial advisors.

“We’re just like, oh my gosh, we love you, but we’re not building those products yet,” Wei said. “We’ll do that when we hit our Series B, and yes, we’ll charge you fees, because we’re going to provide you with better service than what’s out there now.”

With the newly announced Series A round, Karat plans to double its staff with new hires and begin looking toward new product development.

#adam-nash, #articles, #banking, #ceo, #co-founder, #credit-card, #financial-infrastructure, #flash, #funding, #gig-worker, #jared-leto, #karat, #kevin-lin, #kevin-mayer, #merchant-services, #signalfire, #stanford, #steven-chen, #tiktok, #twitch, #union-square-ventures, #wealthfront, #y-combinator, #you, #youtube

Happs raises $4.7 million for a multicast livestream platform creator community

Happs, an app that lets creators stream live video simultaneously across social platforms, has raised $4.7 million in a post-seed round. The product originally began as a platform for independent journalists, but expanded its mission last year to offer tools to all online creators while connecting them through a new social network.

The funding was led by Bullpen Capital and Crosslink, Goodwater, Corazon, Rob Hayes of First Round Capital and Bangaly Kaba, previously at Instagram and Sequoia, also participated.

What sets Happs apart from some established competitors in the space is the team’s desire to not only build tools that help video creators produce professional-looking online streams, but to cultivate a kind of meta-community that brings people together from across other social media sites.

“We kind of view this as the essence of what the creator economy is all about,” Happs CEO Mark Goldman told TechCrunch. “The idea of locking creators into an individual platform is a very traditional way of thinking about content creation.”

Happs app multistreaming

Like Goldman, the other co-founders, David Neuman and Drew Shepard, come from the media world. Goldman was the founding COO of Current TV, an experimental TV channel that dabbled in user-generated content and eventually sold to Al Jazeera in 2013.

“The whole idea was to democratize media and open it up,” Goldman said of his time working on Current TV, which he connects directly to his interest in building Happs. “[We] loved the creativity unleashed by that.”

Online creators tend to be siloed within the app where they’ve built the biggest community, but Happs wants to empower them to reach as many followers as possible in a platform-agnostic way. For creators, the appeal with multistreaming is maximizing reach while making content efficiently. There’s a risk of alienating YouTube followers at the expense of your Twitch community if you don’t play your cards right, but some savvy content creators have turned toward the model to grow their audiences.

Happs connects people across platforms in a few ways. For one, Happs users can broadcast live to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Twitch simultaneously. The app also collects live comments from all supported social media sites and beams them into its own interface where they appear in a continuous cross-platform stream.

The integrated comment feature is nice built-in option for anyone who’s straddled comments across multiple devices simultaneously while livestreaming, which is no easy feat. When you’re streaming live you can feature a comment so that followers can see it on the screen no matter what platform they’re watching on.

Other companies in the space like OBS, Streamlabs and Restream are focused on the tools part of the equation, offering power users a useful backend for pushing out multi-streamed live video. Streamyard also offers multistreaming to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other platforms through a simple browser interface.

Unlike those services, Happs feels more like a social network, with familiar features like user profile photos, follower counts and a feed next to a “go live” button. Anyone can use the multi-streaming platform through its iOS or Android apps or a web interface, whether they’re a creator signing up for the tools or a fan looking to support the content they love.

Happs lacks some of its competitors’ bells and whistles, stuff like fancy customized graphics and lower-thirds, but has a few interesting tricks of its own. While streaming live on Happs, you can invite someone else on the app to join your feed for a real-time collaboration. The social networking elements are meant to encourage cross-platform creativity, so a YouTuber and a Twitch personality could hang out together and boost both of their reaches, all while streaming to a bunch of other apps.

Happs also offers users monetization tools from the get-go, with no requirements before they can start making money. That speaks to the app’s appeal for creators who might be less established or just starting out. Happs could be a much harder sell for a popular creator deeply invested in a platform like Twitch, which has rules against multi-streaming for most accounts that are allowed to monetize.

There are a few different ways to monetize. One lets anyone on Happs sponsor a broadcaster through regular monthly payments. The other is a one-off option that lets you chip in an award for any livestream, or to the VOD (video on demand) after the fact. The in-app currency is a virtual coin that users can buy or earn through doing stuff on the app. There are no plans for ads (yet, anyway).

The company will take 30% cut of subscription earnings, though according to Goldman they’ll be waiving those fees for an unspecified period of time to attract people to the platform.

“We raised this round to really build up product and tech team [and] to make the platform much more stable and reliable,” Goldman said. The company is looking forward to leveraging the new resources to “really go out now and get in front of creators so they know Happs exists.”

#bullpen-capital, #current-tv, #first-round-capital, #mobile, #online-creators, #social, #social-network, #streaming, #tc, #twitch, #video-on-demand