Paul Sutter walks us through the future of climate change—things aren’t great

Produced and directed by Corey Eisenstein. Transcript coming soon. (video link)

Our previous episode of Edge of Knowledge peeped back in time a few billion years to explore the origins of life on Earth, but now we aim our lens in a different direction. Rather than looking at the distant past to see how life began, this episode looks to the near future—specifically, at the ways in which Earth’s climate might change over the next few decades.

Dealing with it

First, let’s get this bit of inconvenient truth out of the way: anthropogenic climate change—that is, climate change caused by humans—is well-established science. The evidence is overwhelming, and attempted rebuttals are incomplete, flawed, or fabricated. The questions we need to be answering, as Paul points out in the video, aren’t “Is this even happening?” or “Should we do something?” The questions we’re now faced with are “How bad is it going to get?” and “What, exactly, do we need to be doing?”

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Exploring the counterintuitive mysteries of black holes with Paul Sutter

Produced and directed by Corey Eisenstein. Click here for transcript. (video link)

Of all the amazing and varied phenomena in the cosmological zoo, black holes are among the most mysterious. They are zombies—the all-devouring corpses of dead stars, made of trillions of tons of stellar ash compressed into an infinitely dense point called a “singularity.” The gravity exerted by the singularity is so intense that it warps space-time, preventing even light from escaping.

In many ways, to look at a black hole is to look at the inevitable future of our Universe, because there will come a time—many trillions of trillions of years from now, but inevitable nonetheless—where all the sky’s stars will have gone out, and black holes will be the Universe’s main attraction, still gobbling down any remaining free clumps of matter and acting as the only sources of light left. And perhaps most creepily of all, if proton decay turns out to be a thing, this future black hole era will be how our cosmos spends the majority of its life—dark, silent, and forbiddingly empty.

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Ars takes a closer look at Volkswagen’s ID Buzz electric van

Produced and directed by Sean Dacanay. Click here for transcript. (video link)

On Wednesday, Volkswagen used the South by Southwest festival to formally unveil the ID Buzz, the company’s forthcoming electric van. In the lead-up to that debut in Texas, VW gave Ars an hour with the gold-and-white show car to have a poke around.

You may have read our write-up on the car already, but we thought a video might be a better way to show off some of the quirky details of this new electric vehicle that’s causing a lot of buzz. (Not sorry.)

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Watch Sam Machkovech go hands-on with Valve’s Steam Deck

Produced by Sean Dacanay. Click here for transcript. (video link)

Valve’s portable Steam Deck has been released, and if you put in your preorder early enough, you might have one of the devices in your hot little hands this very minute. For the rest of us, though, we’re stuck waiting until inventory catches up to demand—and that could take a while. (Valve’s official Steam Deck ordering site is currently showing fulfillment for new purchases will probably happen during or after the second quarter of 2022, so that’s potentially months away.)

Ars’ portable gaming master, Sam Machkovech, was lucky enough to score a pre-release Steam Deck for testing and review, and you can read his comprehensive take—all 9,000-and-change words of it!—right here. However, if you don’t have time to wade into a deep-dive article, there’s a quicker way: instead of the article, you could peep the 10-minute review video at the top of this piece!

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Dr. Paul Sutter breaks down how hard it is to get to Mars—and then to live there

Produced and directed by Corey Eisenstein. Click here for transcript. (video link)

Welcome to the second episode of “Edge of Knowledge,” our science explainer series starring astrophysicist Paul Sutter. In part one, Paul took us on a journey to the edges of our galaxy and talked about dark matter, the strange stuff that appears to make up the majority of the Milky Way’s total mass—even though we can’t observe it or interact with it in any meaningful way. It’s odd, it’s counterintuitive, and yet it’s real. Dark matter is one of the current great unknowns of modern astrophysics.

This time, we’re focusing our science vision somewhat closer to home. A lot closer to home, in fact: we’re taking a look at our planetary next door neighbor, Mars.

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Missing mass? Not on our watch—Dr. Paul Sutter explains dark matter

Produced and directed by Corey Eisenstein. Click here for transcript. (video link)

Greetings, Arsians! We have something special for you today: the premiere of a new science series we’re creating, called Edge of Knowledge. We’ve recruited physicist and author Dr. Paul Sutter (Google Scholar link) to be our host and guide on an eight-episode romp through the mysteries of the cosmos, touching on topics that we at Ars find fascinating. This means we’ll have episodes on black holes, the future of climate change, the origins of life, and, one of my favorite topics for our premiere: dark matter.

Dark matter: The universal majority

As Ars readers, you’re all probably familiar with Douglas Adams’ “Space is big” opening to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but “big” only tells part of the story. You might assume that, as a corollary to all that bigness, space should also be generally vast and empty, with just an occasional stray hydrogen atom whipping its way through an otherwise perfect vacuum of nothingness—but nothing could be further from the truth.

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War Stories: How Deus Ex was almost too complex for its own good

Directed by James Herron, edited by Sean Dacanay. Click here for transcript. (video link)

Coming in under the wire here is our last video for 2021—and we tried to make it a fun one. If you play games, chances are you’ve played something that Warren Spector was involved in creating—with stints at Origin, Ion Storm, and Disney, he helped design and/or produce a whole giant pile of famous titles, including Wing Commander, various Ultimas, System Shock, and the title we’re focusing on today: the original Deus Ex.

But even for someone with Warren’s pedigree, and with an amazing and talented design team backing him up, Deus Ex was a challenge to pull off. The idea was to produce a game that enabled the player to approach things in whatever way the player wanted. If you’re playing a shooter like Doom and you run into a difficult section that you can’t get through, there often isn’t an alternate path that involves not shooting; similarly, if you’re playing a sneaker like Thief and you run into a difficult section of a heist where you keep getting detected, you can’t just pull out your sword and start whacking things. (Well, you can, but you’ll quickly wind up dead.) Frustrated by the gameplay linearity of most genres, Warren wanted to do things a different way and make a game where all play-styles were valid.

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Livestreams zur Bundestagswahl 2021: Verfolgen Sie den Wahlabend live bei ZEIT ONLINE

Kommen Sie gut informiert durch den Wahlabend – mit dem Livestream zur Bundestagswahl bei ZEIT ONLINE. Diskutieren Sie mit!

#video

#Brandneu – 5 neue Startups: Swaarm, Kezzel, avy, beyond shades, urlaubsverwaltung


deutsche-startups.de präsentiert heute wieder einmal einige junge Startups, die zuletzt, also in den vergangenen Wochen und Monaten an den Start gegangen sind, sowie Firmen, die zuletzt aus dem Stealth-Mode erwacht sind. Übrigens: Noch mehr neue Startups gibt es in unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar.

Swaarm
Das Berliner Startup Swaarm, das von Yogeeta Chainani und Alexandru Dumitru gegründet wurde, positioniert sich als “Operating System of Performance Marketing”.  In der Selbstbeschreibung heißt es: “Swaarm is an affordable, easy-to-use platform for successfully measuring, optimizing, and automating your marketing efforts”.

Kezzel
Der Kezzel soll ein Wasserkocher für Induktionsherde mit automatischer Abschaltung werden. “Komplett ohne Elektronik und eigene Heizung schont Kezzel wertvolle Ressourcen durch die Vermeidung von Elektroschrott und die Nutzung energieeffizienter Induktionstechnologie”, so heißt es auf der Webseite des Startups.

avy
Hinter avy health verbirgt sich eine Online-Lernplattform für mentale Gesundheit. “Das Konzept ist simpel: Die besten Ihres Faches teilen ihr Wissen und bringen Abonnent:innen in Video-Kursen bei, wie man mit Krisen umgeht, stressfrei arbeitet, bessere Beziehungen führt und vieles mehr”, schreiben die Macher:innen.

beyond shades
Das junge Münchner Startup beyond shades setzt auf Sonnenbrillen und Nachhaltigkeit. “Alle Sonnenbrillen werden aus Celluloseacetat handgefertigt, einem Kunststoff, der auf natürlichen und nachwachsenden Rohstoffen basiert”, teilt das junge Unternehmen mit. 

urlaubsverwaltung.cloud
Mit urlaubsverwaltung.cloud entwickelt das Karlsruher Unternehmen Focus Shift Software ein digitales Tool, mit der Firmen ihre Urlaubsverwaltung digital abwickeln können. Ganz egal, “ob unterwegs am Smartphone, im Home Office am Laptop, oder am Desktop-Computer im Büro”.

Tipp: In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über neue Startups. Alle Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der Startup-Szene. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar sofort abonnieren!

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#aktuell, #avy, #berlin, #beyond-shades, #bochum, #brandneu, #d2c, #e-health, #karlsruhe, #kezzel, #munchen, #ruhrgebiet, #swaarm, #urlaubsverwaltung-cloud, #video

Gillmor Gang: Off the Wall

Most of us count the golden age of Michael Jackson’s career with the Quincy Jones produced global smashes of Thriller and Bad. Fueled by the stream of videos and multi-single releases (5 on Bad), the records dominated the charts, radio, and MTV. But the real breakthrough came just before with Jackson’s first solo record Off the Wall.

Born in the thrall of the Disco Era, it wasn’t hip, a surrender to the feel of funk meets MGM. But in the mountains around Woodstock, we couldn’t pry this record off the turntable. Today, with a simple voice command to Siri, the mists evaporate and with them the pandemic, working, working, working day and night, the melting years. And the bass. My God but it drives us to Living Life off the wall.

Permission is what we’re given. We need it. No matter what lies in store for us, the grooves capture the essence of our future, unlock our hopes and dreams, our intuition. Can we dare to think this way, the blend of vocals, horns, percussion, and the coursing basses? A Stevie Wonder track recharges the battery. The record fades out quietly, priming the pump for Side One.

Today we lost a nightclub comedian, as Norm MacDonald called himself in a YouTube clip. Like the best of them, his comedy spooled out of him like a 50’s cop show, methodical and faux stupid. You could see his genius in the faces of the funny people who had him on their shows — Letterman, Leno, Conan, an agonizingly hilarious Dennis Miller on his foul-mouthed HBO cable show. Talk about off the wall.

Miller defined this most selfish of dark arts, the joy of being funnier in the presence of funny. In a time of excruciating not funny, these strange warriors tilt with the vagaries of the laugh. MacDonald’s careful construction of his sleight of word was all the richer for his seemingly aimless pursuit of the sweet spot, where the punchline is so McGuffin-like for its inevitability.

As the world slowly recovers its focus, Apple has released a new iPhone that can adjust reality after the fact, Knowing this feat is not possible to recover what and who we’ve lost, I’m so grateful for the time we’ve had with these greats and their great moments. When the traveler reached the top of the mountain and asked the wise man for the secret of life, he replied, “Could you give me a sec, I’m on the phone.”

the latest Gillmor Gang Newsletter

__________________

The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Friday, August 27, 2021.

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

@fradice, @mickeleh, @denispombriant, @kteare, @brentleary, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang

Subscribe to the new Gillmor Gang Newsletter and join the backchannel here on Telegram.

The Gillmor Gang on Facebook … and here’s our sister show G3 on Facebook.

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Gillmor Gang: Life Goes On

When we imagine what it will be like when we exit the pandemic, what we’re really wondering is what we want from the digital transformation we’ve seen overturn our understanding of work and living safely. As much as we long for the days of the office and collaboration with our peers, some of that is about the mental space we achieve from the constant disruption of home life. Parenting has shifted from an arms-length affair to a therapeutic maintenance of burnout, over-saturation of news, and anxiety — and that’s just us. Our kids in many ways have already made the digital transition we are all now forced to endure.

They don’t see work from home as a choice because they’ve already defined it as how things work. The shift from meetings to asynchronous threads (texting only, please) has put work into a kind of binge streaming model. You don’t go to the movies — you check in to the situation the characters find themselves grappling with. Conversations overlap in group chats, solving existing problems while foreshadowing the next set. Overriding themes like what am I going to do in life and who are my real friends joust for interaction time.

Voice calls are fundamentally transactional. Video (FaceTime) is used for pitches and demos. And the flow is in both directions. Our kids want reassurance, a sense that wiser heads will prevail as we learn the rules of the new society. Parents want reassurance too, that they will be able to balance the competing needs of kids, grandparents, and the constant pressure of a notification grid filled with breaking news. Interruptions in this new environment are the single biggest cost of loss of focus and diminished productivity.

Turning off notifications often creates more problems than it solves. You trade protection from the immediate crisis for reduced ability to respond to a broader one. Answers to the next question prove more effective. The permissions and posting privileges of a messaging layer guide the information flow, bubble to the top, and anticipate the aggregate value of the channel in follows and subscriptions. The patterns of social metadata — @mentions, retweets, private messages, likes— can be separated from the content to prioritize the distribution of threads.

The appeal of the creator economy and its emerging suite of tools for disrupting traditional media is moving from personal to professional. Mom and pop businesses can project sophisticated services to evangelize, market, and fund growth of their products. The same contours of notification personalization become the valuable data streaming juggernauts like Netflix hoard to run their production and publishing businesses.

On this edition of the Gang, Frank Radice sees parallels to the television industry grappling with digital for the first time.

That’s exactly about the same time that NBC decided that they needed to get into digital. And we had this gigantic meeting in California with all the executives in one huge room with the doors closed and nobody was allowed to have their phone on them so that we could talk about what digital was going to be and what it was going to do and how we were going to use it and what we were going to make of it. And in the end, everybody walked out of there saying, you know, we don’t understand anything about this, but I’ll tell you, we know we need to be there. And I think a lot of it started that way.

The problem with transforming industries is that the collapsing business models are a habit that’s hard to quit. As Michael Markman remembers:

My friend Hardie Tankersley [colleague in the early days at Apple] predicted this a decade ago when he was working for Fox. And they said, ‘Yeah, we all know that. Just don’t bother us now. We’re still making money.’

This is the lesson the record companies learned the hard way, by waiting too long to absorb the Napster threat. Are newsletters and live streaming the tip of the spear to do the same to the media companies?

Michael adds a note of caution:

Zuckerberg did his own version of this. He’s using AR to give you the feeling you’re sitting in a room at a conference table with a bunch of other people. And I’m remembering back to my old time working for corporations. That was the worst part of work, sitting in a room at a conference table with other people.

As the Beatles say, la-la-la-la life goes on.

the latest Gillmor Gang Newsletter

__________________

The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Friday, August 20, 2021.

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

@fradice, @mickeleh, @denispombriant, @kteare, @brentleary, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang

Subscribe to the new Gillmor Gang Newsletter and join the backchannel here on Telegram.

The Gillmor Gang on Facebook … and here’s our sister show G3 on Facebook.

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Microsoft acquires video creation and editing software maker Clipchamp

Video editing software may become the next big addition to Microsoft’s suite of productivity tools. On Tuesday, Microsoft announced it’s acquiring Clipchamp, a company offering web-based video creation and editing software that allows anyone to put together video presentations, promos or videos meant for social media destinations like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. According to Microsoft, Clipchamp is a “natural fit” to extend its exiting productivity experiences in Microsoft 365 for families, schools, and businesses.

The acquisition appealed to Microsoft for a few reasons. Today, more people are creating and using video, thanks to a growing set of new tools that allow anyone — even non-professionals — to quickly and easily perform advanced edits and produce quality video content. This, explains Microsoft, has allowed video to establish itself as a new type of “document” for businesses to do things like pitch an idea, explain a process, or communicate with team members.

The company also saw Clipchamp as an interesting acquisition target due to how it combined “the simplicity of a web app with the full computing power of a PC with graphics processing unit (GPU) acceleration,” it said. That makes the software a good fit for the Microsoft Windows customer base, as well.

Clipchamp itself had built a number of online tools in the video creation and editing space, including its video maker Clipchamp Create, which offers features for trimming, cutting, cropping, rotating, speed control, and adding text, audio, images, colors, and filters. It also provides other tools that make video creation easier, like templates, free stock video and audio libraries, screen recorders, text-to-speech tools, and others for simplifying a brand’s fonts, colors and logos for use in video. A discontinued set of utilities called Clipchamp Utilities had once included a video compressor and converters, as well as an in-browser webcam recorder. Some of this functionality was migrated over to the new Clipchamp app, however.

After producing the videos with Clipchamp, creators can choose between different output styles and aspect ratios for popular social media networks, making it a popular tool for online marketers.

Image Credits: Clipchamp

Since its founding in 2013, Clipchamp grew to attract over 17 million registered users and has served over 390,000 companies, growing at a rate of 54% year-over-year. As the pandemic forced more organizations towards remote work, the use of video has grown as companies adopted the medium for training, communication, reports, and more. During the first half of 2021, Clipchamp saw a 186% increase in video exports. Videos using the 16:9 aspect ratio grew by 189% while the 9:16 aspect ratio for sharing to places like Instagram Stories and TikTok grew by 140% and the 1:1 aspect ratio for Instagram grew 72%. Screen recording also grew 57% and webcam recording grew 65%.

In July, Clipchamp CEO Alexander Dreiling commented on this growth, noting the company had nearly tripled its team over the past year.

“We are acquiring two times more users on average than we did at the same time a year ago while also doubling the usage rate, meaning more users are creating video content than ever before. While social media videos have always been at the forefront of business needs, during the past year we’ve also witnessed the rapid adoption of internal communication use cases where there is a lot of screen and webcam recording taking place in our platform,” he said.

Microsoft didn’t disclose the acquisition price, but Clipchamp had raised over $15 million in funding according to Crunchbase.

This is not Microsoft’s first attempt at entering the video market.

The company was recently one of the suitors pursuing TikTok when the Trump administration was working to force a sale of the China-owned video social network which Trump had dubbed a national security threat. (In order to keep TikTok running in the U.S., ByteDance would have needed to have divested TikTok’s U.S. operations. But that sale never came to be as the Biden administration paused the effort.) Several years ago, Microsoft also launched a business video service called Stream, that aimed to allow enterprises to use video as easily as consumers use YouTube. In 2018, it acquired social learning platform Flipgrid, which used short video clips for collaboration. And as remote work became the norm, Microsoft has been adding more video capabilities to its team collaboration software, Microsoft Teams, too.

Microsoft’s deal follows Adobe’s recent $1.28 acquisition of the video review and collaboration platform Frame.io, which has been used by over a million people since its founding in 2014. However, unlike Clipchamp, whose tools are meant for anyone to use at work, school, or home, Frame.io is aimed more directly at creative professionals.

Dreiling said Clipchamp will continue to grow at Microsoft, with a focus on making video editing accessible to more people.

“Few companies in tech have the legacy and reach that Microsoft has. We all grew up with iconic Microsoft products and have been using them ever since,” he explained. “Becoming part of Microsoft allows us to become part of a future legacy. Under no other scenario could our future look more exciting than what’s ahead of us now. At Clipchamp we have always said that we’re not suffering from a lack of opportunity, there absolutely is an abundance of opportunity in video. We just need to figure out how to seize it. Inside Microsoft we can approach seizing our opportunity in entirely new ways,” Dreiling added.

Microsoft did not say when it expected to integrate Clipchamp into its existing software suite, saying it would share more at a later date.

 

#biden-administration, #bytedance, #ceo, #collaboration-software, #computing, #exit, #facebook, #instagram, #ma, #microsoft, #microsoft-teams, #microsoft-windows, #mobile-software, #online-tools, #productivity-tools, #software, #technology, #tiktok, #trump, #trump-administration, #united-states, #video, #web-app, #webcam

Hulu is raising the price on its on-demand plans by $1 starting Oct. 8

Following last year’s price hike on its Live TV service, Hulu is now preparing to raise prices again. Starting on October 8, 2021, Hulu will raise the price for both its on-demand plans, Hulu and Hulu with No Ads. However, unlike the earlier price hike which had clocked in at $10 more per month for each of its two Live TV plans, the new price increase will be just $1.00.

That means the ad-supported version of Hulu will increase from $5.99 to $6.99 per month, while Hulu with No Ads will increase from $11.99 to $12.99 per month. This will apply to both existing and new subscribers. Hulu says none of the October increases will impact its Live TV service or any plan where Hulu is bundled with Disney+. (Disney took full control of Hulu after buying Comcast’s stake in 2019).

Today, Hulu is offered with Disney+ and ESPN+ for $13.99 per month. This subtle shift in pricing for Hulu’s standalone service may make that bundle look attractive to those not in the market for Hulu’s live TV.

Hulu’s on-demand service accounts for the majority of its subscriber base today. In Disney’s fiscal third quarter earnings, announced last month, Hulu’s subscription video on-demand business had grown 22% year-over-year to reach 39.1 million subscribers, while its Live TV service (which also include the on-demand offerings), had grown just 9% to reach 3.7 million subscribers. Combined, Hulu had 42.8 million total subscribers, up 21% compared to the same period from the prior year.

This is slower growth, however, than Disney+ — that service saw more than 100% year-over-year growth, jumping from 57.7 million subscribers as of Disney’s Q3 2020 to 116 million in Disney’s Q3 2021.

Including Disney’s EPSN+, the company’s direct-to-consumer business had a total of nearly 174 million subscribers by the end of the quarter, the company said.

However, although Hulu trails Disney+ in subscriber count, it’s ahead on average monthly revenue per user (ARPU).

In Q3, ARPU declined from $4.62 to $4.16 due to a higher mix of Disney+ Hotstar subscribers compared with the prior-year quarter, Disney said. Hulu’s on-demand service, meanwhile, saw ARPU climb from $11.39 to $13.15 year-over-year and its Live TV service (+SVOD) grew from $68.11 to $84.09.

Hulu’s on-demand business includes a combination of licensed content and original programming, like newer arrivals “Nine Perfect Strangers,” “Only Murders in the Building,” and “Vacation Friends.” The company also just added thousands of Hotstar Specials and Bollywood hits, as of September 1.

 

#companies, #disney, #disney-channel, #disney-plus, #espn, #hotstar, #hulu, #hulu-live-tv, #mass-media, #media, #streaming, #streaming-service, #svod, #tc, #television, #the-walt-disney-company, #tv, #video

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

War Stories: How Crash Bandicoot hacked the original PlayStation

Shot by Sean Dacanay, edited by Jeremy Smolik. Click here for transcript.

When you hear the name Crash Bandicoot, you probably think of it as Sony’s platformy, mascoty answer to Mario and Sonic. Before getting the full Sony marketing treatment, though, the game was developer Naughty Dog’s first attempt at programming a 3D platform game for Sony’s brand-new PlayStation. And developing the game in 1994 and 1995—well before the release of Super Mario 64—involved some real technical and game design challenges.

In our latest War Stories video, coder Andy Gavin walks us through a number of the tricks he used to overcome some of those challenges. Those include an advanced virtual memory swapping technique that divided massive (for the time) levels into 64KB chunks. Those chunks could be loaded independently from the slow (but high-capacity) CD drive into the scant 2MB of fast system RAM only when they were needed for Crash’s immediate, on-screen environment.

The result allowed for “20 to 30 times” the level of detail of a contemporary game like Tomb Raider, which really shows when you look at the game’s environments. Similar dynamic memory management techniques are now pretty standard in open-world video games, and they all owe a debt of gratitude to Gavin’s work on Crash Bandicoot as a proof of concept.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#ars-technica-videos, #feature, #gaming-culture, #video, #war-stories

Box, Zoom chief product officers discuss how the changing workplace drove their latest collaboration

If the past 18 months is any indication, the nature of the workplace is changing. And while Box and Zoom already have integrations together, it makes sense for them to continue to work more closely.

Their newest collaboration is the Box app for Zoom, a new type of in-product integration that allows users to bring apps into a Zoom meeting to provide the full Box experience.

While in Zoom, users can securely and directly access Box to browse, preview and share files from Zoom — even if they are not taking part in an active meeting. This new feature follows a Zoom integration Box launched last year with its “Recommended Apps” section that enables access to Zoom from Box so that workflows aren’t disrupted.

The companies’ chief product officers, Diego Dugatkin with Box and Oded Gal with Zoom, discussed with TechCrunch why seamless partnerships like these are a solution for the changing workplace.

With digitization happening everywhere, an integration of “best-in-breed” products for collaboration is essential, Dugatkin said. Not only that, people don’t want to be moving from app to app, instead wanting to stay in one environment.

“It’s access to content while never having to leave the Zoom platform,” he added.

It’s also access to content and contacts in different situations. When everyone was in an office, meeting at a moment’s notice internally was not a challenge. Now, more people are understanding the value of flexibility, and both Gal and Dugatkin expect that spending some time at home and some time in the office will not change anytime soon.

As a result, across the spectrum of a company, there is an increasing need for allowing and even empowering people to work from anywhere, Dugatkin said. That then leads to a conversation about sharing documents in a secure way for companies, which this collaboration enables.

The new Box and Zoom integration enables meeting in a hybrid workplace: chat, video, audio, computers or mobile devices, and also being able to access content from all of those methods, Gal said.

“Companies need to be dynamic as people make the decision of how they want to work,” he added. “The digital world is providing that flexibility.”

This long-term partnership is just scratching the surface of the continuous improvement the companies have planned, Dugatkin said.

Dugatkin and Gal expect to continue offering seamless integration before, during and after meetings: utilizing Box’s cloud storage, while also offering the ability for offline communication between people so that they can keep the workflow going.

“As Diego said about digitization, we are seeing continuous collaboration enhanced with the communication aspect of meetings day in and day out,” Gal added. “Being able to connect between asynchronous and synchronous with Zoom is addressing the future of work and how it is shaping where we go in the future.”

#apps, #artificial-intelligence, #box, #cloud-computing, #computing, #diego-dugatkin, #enterprise, #mobile-devices, #oded-gal, #remote-work, #saas, #tc, #telecommunications, #video, #web-conferencing, #zoom

Flip bags $28M to turn beauty, wellness social commerce on its head

Social commerce startup Flip is mixing live commerce mobile apps with real customer reviews to improve the buying experience and opportunity for the creator economy. Today, the Los Angeles-based company closed on a $28 million Series A led Streamlined Ventures.

Nooruldeen “Noor” Agha, a serial e-commerce entrepreneur, founded Flip in 2019 after emigrating to the United States from Iraq. He had previously lived in Dubai, where he built some companies in the e-commerce space.

It was while leading the companies that he realized that the vision of commerce was broken and that people had a fragmented path to purchase: They may start on social media, then move to video platforms and conclude on yet another site to make the purchase.

Agha believes the future of e-commerce will be driven by shoppers and the experiences they have with social media, so Flip is pulling all of those experiences into one app, mixing in user-generated reviews and live shopping shows for beauty, wellness and health brands. It then adds same-day shipping and back-end logistics, Agha told TechCrunch. Users post video reviews of their purchases and can see in real-time data how they did, as well as receive commissions from sales that resulted from their posts.

“It’s not only a social platform, it is the best post-purchase experience — shipping, rewards, returns — everything people love and in a two-click process,” he added. “Our app is like if TikTok and Amazon had a baby.”

Joining Streamlined Ventures in the latest round is Mubadala Capital Ventures, BDMI and a group of early backers and angel investors, including Ruby Lu, an early investor in Kuaishou, China’s leading social commerce platform. In total, Flip raised $31.5 million, which includes a small seed two years ago, Agha said.

He intends to use the new funding to scale the company and its creator ecosystem, while also expanding the end-to-end logistics part of the platform.

Live commerce originated in China, where McKinsey estimates the market reached $171 billion in 2020 and will jump to a valuation of $423 billion by 2022. Meanwhile, U.S. live commerce market is trailing behind, expecting to reach $11 billion by the end of 2021.

Flip is now signing an average of 20 new brands per week and has already gained partnerships with Unilever and Coty. Agha expects to hit 500 brands by this year’s holiday season. In addition, the company has 1 million downloads and in the last quarter shopped out 30,000 orders, which Agha predicts will double in coming months.

“We were hiding on purpose so we could build out everything and be done when we launched,” he added. “We focused on onboarding brands instead of pushing for growth, but now we expect to have a grand launch at the end of September where we start aggressively pushing growth.”

Ullas Naik, founder and general partner of Streamlined Ventures, said his firm does a lot of investment in e-commerce and marketplaces and was one of the first investors in DoorDash and also backed Rappi.

Commerce has evolved over the past 20 years in a meaningful way, he said. During that time, spend shifted from retail and online, while the quality of the experience has also evolved. He has seen evidence of similar models in other geographies, particularly in China when they have “had massive success.”

“We are most intrigued with how live commerce intersects with social networking to create enhanced shopping experiences,” Naik said. “When I met with Noor and he told me he was going to start with beauty and cosmetics, I thought he was building a unique experience and wanted him to be in a broad range of categories, not just beauty. With what he is building on the back end, with the logistics piece, he is creating a super experience and I’m intrigued by what can be built.”

#advertising-tech, #apps, #bdmi, #ecommerce, #flip, #funding, #mubadala-capital-ventures, #nooruldeen-noor-agha, #recent-funding, #retailers, #social-commerce, #social-media, #social-networking, #startups, #streamlined-ventures, #supply-chain-management, #tc, #ullas-naik, #video

Gillmor Gang: Half a Loaf

When Salesforce announced its streaming platform Salesforce+, the CRM Playaz’ Paul Greenberg and Brent Leary interviewed Colin Fleming, SVP of Global Brand Experiences at the CRM company (disclosure: I work at Salesforce). Later, I asked Brent about his show on this episode of the Gang.

Brent: With all the things going on with data privacy and cookies going away, companies are going to have to figure out a way to get first—and that third party, but first party data in a clean way.
Me: Can you describe the difference?
Well, a third party, you go to a website and this website has partners that you have nothing to do with, and all of a sudden you land on a website and the next thing you know, you might be getting hit up with an ad or an email from a company you didn’t even expect, you don’t have a relationship with. But that company has a relationship with the website owner. So all of this stuff, all of these interactions or nuisance breakup of your day because of ads and notifications you’re getting, you’re getting it not because you had a direct relationship, but you landed on a site that has potentially thousands of relationships with other companies that want to get at you.
And that’s the third party cookies way of doing things. Well, that’s going away. And one of the things that [Fleming] pointed out is that what Salesforce wants to do is create great content in order to be able to build a direct relationship and not have to depend on the traditional third party backroom deals. And I thought that was really great. I was really excited to hear that part of it, because I think it’s another way of forcing people to actually get away from this third party stuff and and be more direct about what their intentions are and what they’re trying to do.

I asked Keith Teare how quickly third party data is going to go away.

Keith: Well, it’s already starting to go away because of Apple’s implementation on iOS blocking things. Microsoft’s browser [market share] is quite small these days, but it also blocks things. So you’re moving from these common pools, lakes of data, to what you could think more of as a walled garden data, meaning first person data. Companies can’t rely on targeting through the network anymore unless they themselves know the users and then they can.
So that leads to this big question, which is: what is the right balance between content marketing (which is what I really think Salesforce is doing) where you’ve got a direct audience, versus advertising, where you pay somebody to show an ad? The targeting on ads is going to deteriorate and content marketing, which is what you could think of as earned media—that is to say, you work to get the attention—is going to grow. So this is really a fairly major shot in the arm of what some people call the creator economy and spreading it out into the enterprise. Every enterprise is going to have to become a creator in this world.

Denis Pombriant added:

Denis: I read an interesting report this week. It was the seventh edition of the Salesforce Marketing Survey. The first half of it was very positive about using new technology to support work from anywhere and a variety of other things that free you from the office. But the second part of it had some very interesting data about where investments were going by corporations into new marketing. In about a dozen categories, no category had more than a 50 percent response. Basically saying, yeah, we’re investing enough or we’re actively pursuing this. So the conclusion I draw from is that everything we seem to be doing about being more tech savvy out on the Web and addressing customers and colleagues and cohorts or whatever it is, is somewhat lagging and will lag until organizations invest in the skills and the people to support some of the new things like content development, audio content development, video content development, AI, and quite a few other things as well.

I think that’s right. It’s not whether there’s a creator economy or not. The investments made by vendors, while significant and market-making, depend on the market expanding beyond its roots. Blogs and podcasts began as a kind of extension of the mainstream media, but foundered when readers and listeners moved to social authority as a measure of credibility. Newsletters and livecasting suffer when the value proposition of the ad hoc media looks too much like the mainstream media it hopes to replace. Instead, we turn the mute button on and eventually escape to fictionalized stories where good triumphs over evil or the reverse.

The creator economy has produced a kind of vaudeville, where talent bubbles up to feed a hungry niche. Where real success comes is when that consensus of what is right for the emotional center mitigates the extremes of the partisan groups and the controversy that drives the current mainstream model. The Rachel Maddow negotiations and the lumbering infrastructure deals suggest a progress of moderate success. Maddow is moving toward a weekly show with creator spinoffs yet to be defined, and Congress is developing a half a loaf plus a little legislative strategy to carve up an unachievable agenda into small successes loosely joined. Not too left, not too right, but enough to beat back the assault on voter rights while protecting the middle. Half a loaf is better than none.

the latest Gillmor Gang Newsletter

__________________

The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Friday, August 13, 2021.

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

@fradice, @mickeleh, @denispombriant, @kteare, @brentleary, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang

Subscribe to the new Gillmor Gang Newsletter and join the backchannel here on Telegram.

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Popcorn’s new app brings short-form video to the workplace

A new startup called Popcorn wants to make work communication more fun and personal by offering a way for users to record short video messages, or “pops,” that can be used for any number of purposes in place of longer emails, texts, Slack messages, or Zoom calls. While there are plenty of other places to record short-form video these days, most of these exist in the social media space which isn’t appropriate for a work environment. Nor does it make sense to send a video you’ve recorded on your phone as an email attachment, when you really just want to check in with a colleague or say hello.

Popcorn, on the other hand, lets you create the short video and then send a URL to that video anywhere you would want add a personal touch to your message.

For example, you could use Popcorn in business networking scenario, where you’re trying to connect with someone in your industry for the first time — aka “cold outreach.” Instead of just blasting them a message on LinkedIn, you could also paste in the Popcorn URL to introduce yourself in a more natural, friendly fashion. You could also use Popcorn with your team at work for things like daily check-ins, sharing progress on an ongoing project, or to greet new hires, among other things.

Videos themselves can be up to 60 seconds in length — a time limit designed to keep Popcorn users from rambling. Users can also opt to record audio only if they don’t want to appear on video. And you can increase the playback speed if you’re in a hurry. Users who want to receive “pops” could also advertise their “popcode” (e.g. try mine at U8696).

The idea to bring short-form video to the workplace comes from Popcorn co-founder and CEO Justin Spraggins, whose background is in building consumer apps. One of his first apps to gain traction back in 2014 was a Tinder-meets-Instagram experience called Looksee that allowed users to connect around shared photos. A couple years later, he co-founded a social calling app called Unmute, a Clubhouse precursor of sorts. He then went on to co-found 9 Count, a consumer app development shop which launched more social apps like BFF (previously Wink) and Juju.

9 Count’s lead engineer, Ben Hochberg, is now also a co-founder on Popcorn (or rather, Snack Break, Inc. as the legal entity is called). They began their work on Popcorn in 2020, just after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the rapid shift to remote work that’s come in the days that followed could now help Popcorn gain traction among distributed teams. Today’s remote workers may never again return to in-person meetings at the office, but they’re also are growing tired of long days stuck in Zoom meetings.

With Popcorn, the goal is to make work communication fun, personal and bite-sized, Spraggins says. “[We want to] bring all the stuff we’re really passionate about in consumer social into work, which I think is really important for us now,” he explains.

“You work with these people, but how do you — without scheduling a Zoom — how do you bring the ‘human’ to it?,” Spraggins says. “I’m really excited about making work products feel more social, more like Snapchat than utility tools.”

There is a lot Popcorn would still need to figure out to truly make a business-oriented social app work, including adding enhanced security, limiting spam, offering some sort of reporting flow for bad actors, and more. It will also eventually need to land on a successful revenue model.

Currently, Popcorn is a free download on iPhone, iPad and Mac, and offers a Slack integration so you can send video messages to co-workers directly in the communication software you already use to catch up and stay in touch. The app today is fairly simple but the company plans to enhance its short videos over time using AR frames that let users showcase their personalities.

The startup raised a $400,000 pre-seed round from General Catalyst (Nico Bonatsos) and Dream Machine (Alexia Bonatsos, previously editor-in-chief at TechCrunch.) Spraggins says the company will be looking to raise a seed round in the fall to help with hires, including in the AR space.

#alexia-bonatsos, #app-store, #apps, #business, #chat, #computing, #funding, #general-catalyst, #instagram, #iphone, #mobile, #mobile-applications, #operating-systems, #popcorn, #recent-funding, #short-form, #slack, #social, #software, #startups, #video, #video-apps, #work

Gillmor Gang: Cryptonomics

Twitter seems on an aggressive path to putting pedal to the metal. From its earliest days as a failwhale generator and a ransacker of third party successes, the company under Jack Dorsey’s stewardship has become an acquirer of tools to support the creators it hosts. Twitter Spaces, its Clubhouse clone, has steadily improved its UI with integration of relevant tweets at the top of a space and Twitter graph awareness of listeners. When I most recently joined a Kara Swisher spacecast, my icon appeared at the top of the window right after the host and invited speakers. But next to me on the listener list was Dan Farber, my Salesforce colleague and frequent Gillmor Gang member over the years.

What I think is going on is a personalization based on my Twitter social graph. A subtle touch, but much more interesting to me than some sort of global Twitter ranking that factors in celebrities and other signals not as relevant as what the feature reflects, an algorithm of, to borrow a phrase, influencer rank. Not influence at a social level, but guided by my own internal algorithm, that if I was looking for friends in a space of over a thousand people, Dan is now a simple direct message away when I click on his icon.

There are other tweaks in Spaces, but the most important one may turn out to be integration of Spaces metadata in the new Twitter API v2. In effect, this capability could be harnessed by third party developers to create their own algorithms around Space dynamics and listener uptake by host, speakers, topics, and scheduled events. Other contiguous projects include a pilot to wire up your Twitter profile to your Revue newsletter. Clicking on the link takes you to a page detailing recent newsletters and links to joining as a subscriber. Twitter, which bought Revue to compete with Substack, is extending clever integration points like Revue’s RSS-enabled drag and drop support for feeds you can mine for citations as you build your newsletter.

A few weeks or months ago, I wouldn’t have paid much attention to the growing conversation around crypto. That would include Jack Dorsey’s moves in his companies Square and Twitter to promote the possibilities of the blockchain and growing attention from Congress and regulatory agencies. Eye opening was the impact on the bipartisan Infrastructure bill, where an anti-crypto tax-related amendment threatened to slow down Senate adoption before failing. But Twitter’s success at consolidating various assets around the growth of the subscription and social audio sectors makes me think at least twice about other things being connected. On this Gillmor Gang episode, Keith Teare and the Gang rehash the same ground about the viability of crypto. But it’s hard to argue that, whether or not anyone can answer the question of what problem crypto solves, it may factor into a surprising variety of solutions.

the latest Gillmor Gang Newsletter

__________________

The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Friday, July 23, 2021.

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

@fradice, @mickeleh, @denispombriant, @kteare, @brentleary, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang

Subscribe to the new Gillmor Gang Newsletter and join the backchannel here on Telegram.

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Adobe buying Frame.io in $1.28B deal

Adobe announced today it is acquiring Frame.io, a video review and collaboration platform used by over a million customers, for $1.275 billion.

Founded in 2014 by the owner of a post-production company Emery Wells and technologist John Traver, New York-based Frame.io was created to solve the workflows challenges filmmakers faced in their daily lives. 

Today, the Frame.io platform helps creative professionals streamline the video creation process by centralizing media assets, including dailies, scripts, storyboards, work-in-progress, and more, while also allowing for frame-accurate feedback and comments, annotations, and real-time approvals. The company additionally touts faster upload speeds than other cloud hosting services, like Vimeo, Box, Dropbox, and others.

Frame.io has raised $90 million in venture funding over its lifetime, and in November 2019, announced a $50 million Series C led by Insight Partners that included participation from Accel, FirstMark, SignalFire, and Shasta Ventures. Accel led the company’s seed and Series A rounds in 2015.

Adobe said the combination of its creative software, including Premiere Pro and After Effects video editing products, and Frame.io’s review and approval functionality would “deliver a collaboration platform that powers the video editing process.” The Frame.io web platform was designed to be a part of its customer’s existing processes, by integrating with non-linear editing systems (NLEs) such as like Adobe Premiere Pro. Such integrations allow editors to upload directly to Frame.io, then organize and share their products both internally and with external clients.

“Whether it’s the latest binge-worthy streaming series, a social media video that sparks a movement, or a corporate video that connects thousands of remote workers, video creation and consumption is experiencing tremendous growth,” Adobe said in a statement. “…Today’s video workflows are disjointed with multiple tools and communication channels being used to solicit stakeholder feedback. Frame.io eliminates the inefficiencies of video workflows by enabling real-time footage upload, access, and in-line stakeholder collaboration in a secure and elegant experience across surfaces.”

The deal is expected to close during the fourth quarter of Adobe’s 2021 fiscal year, and is subject to regulatory approval and customary closing conditions. Once the deal closes, Well and Traver will join Adobe. Wells will continue to lead the Frame.io team, reporting to Scott Belsky, Adobe’s chief product officer and EVP of Creative Cloud.

#adobe, #apps, #cloud, #frame-io, #fundings-exits, #ma, #video

Gillmor Gang: Who’s On First

On this edition of the Gillmor Gang, Brent Leary shows off his new wireless adaptor for his live streaming studio. The result is a captivating view of his console as he switches between closeups and incoming feed from the rest of the Gang, all captured in a widescreen cinematic view. The underlying message is that live realtime video production has become accessible to virtually anyone as streaming becomes ubiquitous at the so-called citizen level.

Trailblazers like Brent and his CRMPlayaz partner in crime Paul Greenberg have been way out on the bleeding edge of this stuff; now we’re seeing something similar to what’s going on in the creator boom. Newsletters are becoming a baked in feature of the major social platforms, as is live audio streaming a la Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces. This week, Salesforce announced its Salesforce+ streaming network, and celebrated its completion of the Slack acquisition with several new enterprise spins on live audio (Huddles) and cross-company collaboration via Slack Connect.

Roll this up with the first wave of work from anywhere efforts to get back to school and the office, streaming as a service may be a key feature of the ongoing hybrid approach to fighting off the pandemic. The political struggle with vaccinations and masking seems destined for the long haul. How the tech community responds should be a more hopeful sign of progress.At the professional level, Disney and Scarlet Johannsen are trading lawsuit threats as month-old contracts are ripped up. Newsletter deals are chasing a dwindling population of hit authors as the New York Times puts most of their star-driven publications behind the paywall. The more things transform, the more familiar they seem.

Even the Gang newsletter sports a link to Om Malik’s post on Nam June Paik, the experimental video pioneer. I was his TA at California Institute of the Arts, and “borrowed” his associate Abe’s 3 Sony black and white portapacks to film a Firesign Theatre writing session. Civilization ho.

from the Gillmor Gang Newsletter

__________________

The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Friday, July 23, 2021.

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

@fradice, @mickeleh, @denispombriant, @kteare, @brentleary, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang

Subscribe to the new Gillmor Gang Newsletter and join the backchannel here on Telegram.

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There could be more to the Salesforce+ video streaming service than meets the eye

When Salesforce announced its new business video streaming service called Salesforce+ this week, everyone had a reaction. While not all of it was positive, some company watchers also wondered if there was more to this announcement than meets the eye.

If you look closely, the new initiative suggests that Salesforce wants to take a bite out of LinkedIn and other SaaS content platforms and publishers. The video streaming service could be a launch point for a broader content platform, where its partners are producing their own content and using Salesforce+ infrastructure to help them advertise to and cultivate their own customers.

The video streaming service could be a launch point for a broader content platform, where its partners are producing their own content and using Salesforce+ infrastructure to help them advertise to and cultivate their own customers.

The company has, after all, done exactly this sort of thing with its online marketplaces and industry events to great success. Salesforce generated almost $6 billion in its most recent quarterly earnings report. That mostly comes from selling its sales, marketing and service software, not any kind of content production, but it has lots of experience putting on Dreamforce, its massive annual customer event, as well as smaller events throughout the year around the world.

On its face, Salesforce+ is a giant, ambitious and quite expensive content marketing play. The company reportedly has hired a large professional staff to produce and manage the content, and built a broadcasting and production studio designed to produce quality shows in-house. It believes that by launching with content from Dreamforce, its highly successful customer conference, attended by tens of thousands people every year pre-pandemic, it can prime the viewing pump and build audience momentum that way, perhaps even using celebrities as it often does at its events to drive audience. It is less clear about the long-term business goals.

#cloud, #crm, #ec-cloud-and-enterprise-infrastructure, #ec-media, #ec-news-analysis, #enterprise, #saas, #salesforce, #streaming-video-service, #tc, #video

Reddit is quietly rolling out a TikTok-like video feed button on iOS

From Instagram’s Reels to Snapchat’s Spotlight, most social media platforms are looking toward the TikTok boom for inspiration. Now, even Reddit, a discussion-based forum, is making short-form video more pronounced on its iOS app.

According to Reddit, most iOS users should have a button on their app directly to the right of the search bar — when tapped, it will show a stream of videos in a TikTok-like configuration. When presented with a video, (which shows the poster who uploaded it and the subreddit it’s from), users can upvote or downvote, comment, gift an award, or share it. Like TikTok, users can swipe up to see another video, feeding content from subreddits the user is subscribed to, as well as related ones. For instance, if you’re subscribed to r/printmaking, you might see content from r/pottery or r/bookbinding.

The user interface of the videos isn’t new — Reddit has been experimenting with this format over the last year. But before, this manner of watching Reddit videos was only accessible by tapping on a video while scrolling through your feed — rather than promoting discovery of other communities, the first several videos recommended would be from the same subreddit.

Images of new Reddit features

Image Credits: Reddit, screenshots by TechCrunch

“Reddit’s mission is to bring community and belonging to everyone in the world, and subsequently, Reddit’s video team’s mission is to bring community through video,” a Reddit spokesperson told TechCrunch, about the new addition. “Over the course of the last year, our goal was to build a unified video player, and re-envision the player interface to match what users (new and old) expect when it comes to an in-app video player — especially commenting, viewing, engaging, and discovering new content and communities through video,” they noted.

Reddit doesn’t yet have a timeline for when the feature will roll out to everyone, but confirmed that this icon first appeared for some users in late July and has continued to roll out to almost all iOS users. But by placing a broader, yet still personalized video feed on the home screen, Reddit is signaling a growing curiosity in short form video. In December 2020, Reddit acquired Dubsmash, a Brooklyn-via-Berlin-based TikTok competitor. The terms of the deals were undisclosed, but Facebook and Snap also reportedly showed interest in the platform, which hit 1 billion monthly views in January 2020.

Reddit declined to comment on whether or not its new video player is using an algorithm to promote discovery of new subreddits based on user activity. However, a Reddit spokesperson confirmed that the company will use Dubsmash’s technology to develop other features down the road, though not for this particular product, they said.

Reddit first launched its native video platform in 2017, which allows users to upload MP4 and MOV files to the site. Then, in August 2019, it launched RPAN (Reddit Public Access Network), which lets people livestream to the r/pan subreddit — the most popular live streams are promoted across the platform. Reddit currently attracts 50 million daily active visitors and hosts 100,000 active subreddits.

#apps, #dubsmash, #mobile, #reddit, #reels, #short-form-video, #social, #spotlight, #tiktok, #video

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

Salesforce wants Salesforce+ to be the Netflix of biz content

Salesforce just closed a $28 billion mega-deal to buy Slack, generating significant debt along the way, but it’s not through spending big money.

Today the CRM giant announced it was taking a leap into streaming media with Salesforce+, a forthcoming digital media network with a focus on video that, in the words of the company, “will bring the magic of Dreamforce to viewers across the globe with luminary speakers.” (Whether that’s a good thing or not is in the eye of the beholder.)

Over the last year, Salesforce has watched companies struggle to quickly transform into fully-digital entities. The Slack purchase is part of Salesforce’s response to the evolving market, but the company believes it can do even more with an on-demand video service providing business content around the clock.

Salesforce president and CMO Sarah Franklin said in an official post that her company has had to “reimagine how to succeed in the new digital-first world.” The answer apparently is involves getting the larger Salesforce community together is a new live, and recorded video push.

In a Q&A with Colin Fleming, Salesforce’s senior vice president of Global Brand Marketing, he sees it as a way to evolve the content the company has been sharing all along. “As a result of the pandemic, we looked at the media landscape, where people are consuming content, and decided the days of white papers in a business-to-business setting were no longer interesting to people. We’re staring at a cookie-less future. And looking at the consumer world, we reflected on that for Salesforce and asked, “Why shouldn’t we be thinking about this too,” he said in the Q&A.

The company’s efforts are not small. Axios reports that there are “50 editorial leads” aboard the project to help it launch, and “hundreds of people at Salesforce currently working on Salesforce+” more broadly.

Notably Salesforce does not have near-term monetization plans for Salesforce+. The service will be free, and will not feature external advertising. Salesforce+ will launch in September in conjunction with Dreamforce and include four channels: Primetime for news and announcements, Trailblazer for training content, Customer 360 for success stories and Industry Channels for industry-specific offerings.

The company hopes that by combining the announcement with Dreamforce, it will help drive interest in what Salesforce has cooked up. After the Dreamforce push, Salesforce+ will enter into interesting territory. How much do Salesforce customers, and the larger business community really want what the company describes as “compelling live and on-demand content for every role, industry and line of business,” and “engaging stories, thought leadership and expert advice”?

Salesforce is considered the most successful SaaS-first company in history, and as such may have an opinion that people are interested in hearing. In its most recent quarterly earnings report in May, the company disclosed $5.96 billion in revenue, up 23% compared to the year-ago quarter, putting it close to a $25 billion run rate. The company also generates lots of cash. But being cash-rich doesn’t absolve the question of whether this new streaming effort will prove to be a money pit, costing buckets of cash to produce with limited returns.

The service sounds a bit like your LinkedIn feed brought to life, but in video form. At the very least, it’s probably the largest content marketing scheme of all time, but can it ever pay for itself either as a business unit or through some other monetization plans (like advertising) down the road?

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM essentials says that he could see Salesforce eyeing advertising revenue with this venture and having it all tie into the Salesforce platform. “A customer could sponsor a show, advertise a show, or possibly collaborate on a show. And have leads generated from the show directly tied to the activity from those options while tracking ROI, and it’s all done on one platform. And the content lives on with ads living on with them,” Leary told TechCrunch.

Whether that’s the ultimate goal of this venture remains to be seen, but Salesforce has proven that there is market appetite for Dreamforce content at least in the physical world with over a hundred thousand people involved in 2019, the last time the company was able to hold a live event. While the pandemic shifted most traditional conference activity into the digital realm, making Dreamforce and related types of content available year-round in video format makes some sense in that context.

Precisely how the company will justify the sizable addition to its marketing budget will be interesting; measuring ROI from video products is not entirely straightforward when it is not monetized directly. And sooner or later it will have to have some direct or indirect impact on the business or face questions from shareholders on the purpose of the venture.

#cloud, #crm, #dreamforce, #enterprise, #marc-benioff, #marketing, #saas, #salesforce, #slack, #streaming-media, #tc, #video

Gillmor Gang: Time Delay

Writing our way out of the place we’re in is tricky. The words come easily enough, each measured for its emotional weight in the stream of issues we face. It’s possible this paragraph will disappear as I find my ground. Mandates, Cuomo, Olympic mental gymnastics, where we were two weeks ago and how it relates to right now. Let’s triangulate: forget Trump. Forget the Republicans and progressive Democrats who together slow down passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Forget the evasions and half truths, the talking points to fill up the airtime until the actual rubber meets the road.

Don’t forget the brave athletes who dare to fail for the greater safety of their colleagues. Celebrate the public servants and the difficult personal choices that lead us to honesty, empathy, resolute choices that will draw distinctions between malignant fraud and real outcomes at the ballot box. If politicians refuse to answer questions, draft laws to weed them out of the process itself. Hold the media to the fire they pretend to examine in their choices of coverage, debate, and commercial breaks.

We’ve been having an argument about the time delay between recording a show and releasing it here on Techcrunch in a post-produced fashion with music added, Sneak Peeks produced to promote the show, and a post somehow related to the context of the show two or so weeks ago. In generating the text, I’ve noticed the time delay serves a useful purpose of diluting the realtime urgency of the conversation with what ends up being a healthy dose of context derived from what actually happened. The news is always rendered as the first draft of history, but the constant need for ratings creates this underlying pressure to convert stories from insight to controversial clickbait.

Marshalled through this take-the-foot-off-the-gas filter, the black and white becomes more shades of gray, less subject to the attitudes of the individual Gang members and more attuned to the sense of the group as a whole. Take the perennial struggle between social media giants and antitrust pressure to regulate the worst aspects of the social storm. One side decries attempts to rein in the success of these companies in building audiences and unparalleled power in the marketplace — a version of “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” The other side says it is indeed broke, and needs to be fixed by breaking up these new monopolies born of user satisfaction with the stream of commentary, sarcasm, and family news. Or perhaps the battle lines are drawn around individual rights versus the collective good, as with the struggle to get COVID under control via vaccination mandates. In the middle between these hard-coded partisan stances is potentially something gentler than being right and more powerful in its sense of compromise.

In the case of mandates, the subject comes up every show. The immediate news may be New York City’s new rules governing vaccinated access to indoor restaurants, gyms, and entertainment events, but the larger abstraction is the divide between the federal government’s lack of power to effect a countrywide mandate and the politics of governors in the Red states pushing back on any mandates, most egregiously outlawing local governments from protecting their citizens from the impact of the unvaccinated. Two weeks ago, nothing seemed possible to alleviate any aspect of the crisis. Today, the New York move may encourage more people to act now to protect themselves; the data shows a doubling of new vaccinations in the most impacted states. In turn, the media includes this promising data in their stories, pushing the more partisan memes to the edges of the coverage. The net result is a more flexible narrative that speaks to the old fashioned idea that government can actually get some things done, which in turn helps promote less of the distrust that fuels many of the vaccine hesitant.

Getting back to the new normal drives most of the mandate discussion. The pandemic’s acceleration of digital transformation seems to reflect a growing understanding that we’re not going back to post pandemic anytime soon. Instead, there’s the realization that what we’re thinking of as survival is a foreshadowing of how we’ll live both at work and at home. We talk about our creative heroes on the show, many of whom became household names streaming through the stages of public performance and media networks. Streaming has roiled both Hollywood and the news networks, whose business models and value propositions are under attack from the tech social networks. Facebook talks of video now consuming more than 50 percent of time on its network. Amazon’s advertising revenue is growing rapidly as a counter to Google and Facebook’s control of the advertising markets. Digital advertising is consuming the linear broadcast Upfronts marketplace.

We talk often about the creator economy, a self-important waving of the media red flag in the face of the mainstream media’s bull. The Information, a subscription-fueled tech journal, looks like what the newsletter startups Substack and Twitter Revue will look like when or if they grow up. The social audio Clubhouse clones offer a similar promise of escaping the long tail into viable competition for the Fox, CNN, and MSNBCs of the realigning media companies. On each end of the spectrum, the promise of success runs into the overblown reality of too many hours in search of useful differentiation or unrealistic odds of escaping the noisy underbelly of unprofessional media.

If the numbers don’t seem to add up for the creators, neither do they for the social networks. Once the feature wars settle down, you’ll see a fragmented array of star writers on Substack and Facebook and very little outlet for influencers and talent to bubble up. Corporate adoption of these tools might prove a growth opportunity for enterprise versions. Is that enough to keep tech in the game? Maybe two weeks from now we’ll know.

from the Gillmor Gang Newsletter

__________________

The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Friday, July 23, 2021.

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

@fradice, @mickeleh, @denispombriant, @kteare, @brentleary, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang

Subscribe to the new Gillmor Gang Newsletter and join the backchannel here on Telegram.

The Gillmor Gang on Facebook … and here’s our sister show G3 on Facebook.

#brent-leary, #denis-pombriant, #frank-radice, #keith-teare, #michael-markman, #steve-gillmor, #tc, #video

Match Group to add audio and video chat, including group live video, to its dating app portfolio

Dating app maker and Tinder parent, Match Group, said during its Q2 earnings it will bring audio and video chat, including group live video, and other livestreaming technologies to several of the company’s brands over the next 12 to 24 months. 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 Group has been relatively quiet about its specific plans for Hyperconnect’s tech or its longer-term strategy with the operation, although Tinder was briefly spotted testing a group video chat feature called Tinder Mixer earlier this summer. The move had seemed to signal some exploration of social discovery features in the wake of the Hyperconnect deal. However, Tinder told us at the time the company had no plans to bring that specific product to market in the year ahead.

On Tuesday’s earnings, Match Group offered a little more insight into the future of Hyperconnect, following the acquisition’s official close in mid-June.

According to Match Group CEO Shar Dubey, who stepped into the top job last January, the company is excited about the potential to integrate technologies Hyperconnect has developed into existing Match-owned dating apps.

This includes, she said, “AR features, self-expression tools, conversational A.I., and a number of what we would consider metaverse elements, which have the element to transform the online meeting and getting-to-know-each-other process,” Dubey explained, without offering further specific details about how the products would work or which apps would receive these enhancements.

Many of these technologies emerged from Hyperconnect’s lab, Hyper X — the same in-house incubator whose first product is now one of the company’s flagship apps, Azar, which joined Match Group with the acquisition.

Dubey also noted that the work to begin these tech integrations was already underway at the company.

By year-end, Match Group said it expects to have at least two of its brands integrated with technologies from Hyperconnect. A number of other brands will implement Hyperconnect capabilities by year-end 2022.

In doing so, Match aims to transform what people think of when it comes to online dating.

To date, online dating been a fairly static experience across the industry, where apps focus largely on profiles and photos, and then offer some sort of matching technique — whether swipes or quizzes or something else. Tinder, in more recent years, began to break out of that mold as it innovated with an array of different experiences, like its choose-your-own-adventure in-app video series, “Swipe Night,” video profiles, instant chat features (via Tinder’s product, Hot Takes), and others. But it still lacked some the real-time elements that people have when meeting one another in the real world.

This is an area where Match believes Hyperconnect can help to improve the online dating experience.

“One of the holy grails for us in online dating has always been to bridge the disconnect that happens between people chatting online and then meeting someone in person,” Dubey said. “These technologies will eventually allow us to build experiences that will help people determine if they have that much elusive chemistry or not… Our ultimate vision here is for people to never have to go on a bad first date again,” she added.

Of course, Match Group’s positioning of the Hyperconnect deal as being more interesting because the innovation it brings — and not just the standalone apps it operates — also comes at a time when those apps have not met the company’s expectations on revenue.

In the second half the of 2021, Match Group said it expects Hyperconnect to contribute to $125 to $135 million in revenue — a financial outlook that the company admits reflects some pullback. It attributed this largely to Covid impacts, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region where Hyperconnect’s apps operate. Other impacts to Hyperconnect’s growth included a more crowded marketplace and Apple’s changes to IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers), which has impacted a number of apps — including other social networking apps, like Facebook.

While Match still believes Hyperconnect will post “solid revenue growth” in 2021, it said that these new technology integrations into the Match Group portfolio are now “a higher priority” for the company.

Match Group posted mixed earnings in Q1 with revenue of $707.8 million, above analyst estimates, but earnings per share of 46 cents, below projections of 49 cents a share. Paying customers grew 15% to 15 million, up from 13 million in the year-ago quarter. Shares declined by 7% on Wednesday morning, following the earnings announcement.

#a-i, #app-maker, #apps, #hyperconnect, #live-audio, #live-video, #livestreaming, #match-group, #mobile, #social, #social-networking, #social-software, #tinder, #video

Gillmor Gang: Social Climbing

Fear is back with the deadly combination of pandemic politics and a vicious variant. The good news is that if enough people took the shots we could cut the damage to something manageable. The other good news is progress on the twin issues of Trump and social media. In both cases some semblance of balanced rationality is seeping in to the public discourse.

First is the former president, who has already done about as much damage as he can. Joe Biden is doing a good job of wrestling Congress into some degree of productivity. As the Gang talks about on this and the next episode, it appears increasingly likely there will be a bipartisan infrastructure bill. Republicans and particularly Mitch McConnell can still shut the whole thing down, but Democrats hold the budget reconciliation process as a hole card to prompt a semi-partisan bill across the two parties. The Biden strategy is to not only force the right to accommodate some center victory but forestall a significant cave by the centrist Democrat Joe Manchin on the filibuster. This may have some value if Congress puts its foot down on voting rights or the effort to destroy them .

Something similar may be playing out on the social side. Facebook and Twitter seem to be circling each other as Congress forces some antitrust positioning. With the courts giving Facebook a little running room on the operational description of what a monopoly is, Twitter reported strong numbers that beat the Street and make Jack Dorsey’s feint toward bitcoin and the creator economy easier to swallow when the smoke clears. The newsletterization of media is giving social media some street cred as Congress tries to force Facebook to grow up. Block an MGM deal here and a Section 530 carveout there seems possible although more likely just the beginning of negotiations.

The big battle is over the shape of post COVID work and lifestyle negotiations. Vaccination reluctance is a five alarm fire, but the 2022 midterms may well be fought over the intersection of climate change and the speed of recovery led by the accelerated digital economy. I don’t believe that it’s a coincidence that back to work and a manageable ecology are deeply related. Silicon Valley can talk all it wants about inventing the future, but desperate consumers are looking for real answers from tech leaders who understand the future to come in a constantly unstable weather crisis that turns a burning West Coast into a choking rest of the country.

Vaccine mandates are a fierce predictor of what’s to come. In a country under constant threat of a constitutional crisis over voter fraud by one of the two major parties, the federal response may be constrained but not the rules at the workforce level. These are serious issues of privacy and human rights, but in the short term the moves toward practical mandates will be swift at the state and company level, and supported by healthy polling. Do you think some version of work from anywhere will be tied to double vaccination? As a mandate, it’s not a done deal; as a choice it seems like a popular way of reducing the crisis from the current 35% to something approaching a too-high but winter-ready time frame of 15% where hospitals and state economies need help, red or blue. And those numbers may become the difference between major crisis and economy-crushing lockdowns if an even more egregious variant emerges.

This is also where social and safety meet at a crossroads. Are we willing to cede a Facebook unimpeded from fueling the misinformation plague, or are we going to look for help from the creator economy to bypass the fallow mainstream media stuck in their controversy-fueled business model rather than a fact-based scientific approach to breaking the back of this turgid political cycle? We can see the outline of newsletter-framed social media courage, coupled with stakeholder-aware ethical values and economic leverage.

Less obvious is the path for Clubhouse and its competitors. The Andreessen Horowitz-backed mobile app came out of invite-only beta and added an internal instant messaging layer to manage moderators, speakers, listener questions, room onboarding and feedback. But the big problem remains why does this mere feature of a live streaming podcast app buttress the high valuation of the startup. And this from Michael Markman:

I’ve largely lost interest in Clubhouse. This may not be a significant data point, but I’m no longer fascinated…. The thing is, I sometimes find myself in rooms where I was learning something or getting points of view that hadn’t occurred to me. But usually I was listening to very frustrating conversations that led nowhere.

Yeah, that would do it. But the bigger problem is the refusal to allow recording as a feature of the UI. Twitter Spaces won’t do it, Facebook is really a winner-take-all newsletter subscriber model (Substack) grafted on, and Spotify already has recording enabled on Anchor, its podcasting tool. Building one app is probably where Spotify will go, but then they have the problem that podcasting is considered only an audio product. So then what? Add video multi-platform streaming like ReStream to the hybrid social audio/podcast/recorder/newsletter and we got something. What’s the holdup?

No recording started as a nod to privacy, a differentiator between the creators and the listeners. The idea was to create a unique quality of serendipity, discovery, and credibility. It’s reminiscent of the theater’s fourth wall, where characters step out of their circumstances to talk directly to the audience. It’s exhilarating to experience, a hybrid between writing and improvisation which is largely an illusion. Illusions are no less valuable just because they elegantly transcend their apparent boundaries. Clubhouse spoke directly to our sense that we had lost our way in the insidious virus of both science and truth.

In the decay of the Clubhouse model, we sense that the creator economy is all hat and not enough cowboy. Brent Leary:

I see this as just another way to accelerate the few getting most of everything with everybody else getting scraps. You’re going to hear all these stories about all the folks, all the people that make it big, but they’re going to be like an infinitesimal fraction of everybody else trying to do the same thing and not being able to do it.

There’s just so much attention that you can give. And the people who know how to use this stuff and put a nice process together and find a way to really create a well oiled process machine; they have the chance of being in that top echelon of creators that get most of the money. But everybody else is going to be there trying and spinning their wheels because it’s just a continuation of what we’ve always had.

Recording and a calendar page will make a difference if only to bring a vote to the floor. Is this something to look forward to, a social version of Andrea Mitchell or Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC, a system of record for issues that matter in the anywhere, creator, or thought leader economies. Markman’s question about Clubhouse viability is a broader hedge against the tendency of social media to add to the problems rather than alleviate them. Recording is really a timeshifting tool for user control, and a driver for leaderboard metadata to annotate a calendar either live or personally maintained. In theory Clubhouse should work, but in practise without recording it could be labeled another do-nothing congress.

from the Gillmor Gang Newsletter

__________________

The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Friday, July 16, 2021.

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

@fradice, @mickeleh, @denispombriant, @kteare, @brentleary, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang

Subscribe to the new Gillmor Gang Newsletter and join the backchannel here on Telegram.

The Gillmor Gang on Facebook … and here’s our sister show G3 on Facebook.

#brent-leary, #denis-pombriant, #frank-radice, #keith-teare, #michael-markman, #steve-gillmor, #tc, #video

Amazon’s Fire TV Cube now supports Zoom calls on your TV

Late last year, Amazon launched support for two-way calling that worked with its Fire TV Cube devices. The feature allowed consumers to make and receive calls from their connected TV to any other Alexa device with a screen. Today, the company is expanding this system to enable support for two-way calling with Zoom.

Starting today, Fire TV Cube owners (2nd gen.) will be able to join Zoom work meetings or virtual hangouts via their Fire TV Cube.

To take advantage of the new feature, you’ll need Amazon’s Fire TV Cube, its hands-free streaming device and smart speaker that has Alexa built in, as well as a webcam that supports USB Video Class (UVC) with at least 720p resolution and 30fps. But for a better experience, Amazon recommends a webcam with 1080p resolution and a 60-90 degree field of view from 6 to 10 feet away from the TV. It doesn’t recommend 4K webcams, however.

Amazon suggests webcams like the Logitech C920, C922x, C310, or the Wansview 101JD, for example.

You’ll then connect your webcam to your Fire TV Cube using a Micro USB to USB adapter.

For best results, you’ll want to attach the webcam above the TV screen, Amazon notes.

Once everything is set up and connected, you’ll need to download and install the Zoom app from the Fire TV Appstore. When joining meetings, you can either sign in as a guest or use an existing Zoom account, per the on-screen instructions.

Thanks to the Alexa integration, you can join your meetings hands-free, if you prefer, by way of a voice command like “Alexa, join my Zoom meeting.” Alexa will respond by prompting you for the meeting ID and passcode. Alternately, you can choose to use the remote control to enter in this information.

An optional feature also lets you sync your calendar to Alexa to allow the smart assistant to remind you about the upcoming meetings it finds on your calendar. If you go this route, Alexa will suggest the meeting to join and you’ll just have to say “yes” to be automatically dialed in.

Amazon first announced it was bringing video calling support to its Fire TV platform last fall — a significant update in the new era of remote work and schooling, driven by the pandemic. However, it’s not the only option on the market. Google also last year brought group video calls to its Hub Max devices, and later added support for Zoom calls. Meanwhile Facebook Portal devices have offered video calling of a more personal nature, and last year updated to support Zoom, too.

In other words, Amazon is playing a bit of catch-up here. And its solution is a little more unwieldy as it requires consumers to buy their own webcam, while something like Portal TV offers a TV with a smart camera included.

To use the new feature, you’ll need the latest Fire TV Cube software update to get started, Amazon notes.

#alexa, #amazon, #amazon-fire-tv, #fire-tv, #fire-tv-cube, #hardware, #logitech, #media, #multimedia, #teleconferencing, #telework, #video, #video-conference, #webcam, #zoom, #zoom-calls, #zoom-video-calls

Class, a Zoom-only virtual classroom, nears unicorn status after SoftBank check

Class, a virtual classroom that integrates exclusively with Zoom, announced today that it has raised $105 million in a financing led by SoftBank Vision Fund II. The 10-month old startup has now raised a total of $146 million in known venture funding to date, which eclipses the amount of capital raised by founder Michael Chasen’s now-public previous company, Blackboard.

Despite its infancy, Class is rapidly nearing unicorn status, confirming that it currently sports a post-money valuation of $804 million. Other investors in Class include GSV Ventures and Emergence Capital, who led the startups’ pre-seed round, as well as top U.S. edtech funds including Reach Capital, Owl Ventures, Insight Partners and Learn Capital.

Class, formerly Class for Zoom, uses management and instruction tools to bolster the video conferencing call experience. Since launch, Class has integrated exclusively with the videoconferencing giant, which rose to household name prominence during the initial months of the pandemic and continues to be a mainstay in synchronous communication. It’s part of a wave of Zoom alternatives and enhancements that have launched over the past year – and to date has over 250 customers.

Today’s announcement of the SoftBank stamp of approval means that Class is making two statements: one, that it’s taking global expansion seriously, and two, I’d argue that it’s signaling that it is not looking to be just an acquisition target for Zoom.

Globalization of edtech

SoftBank likes to back what it views as “winner” in one sector and throw millions into it to help it foothold international markets. Earlier this month, the Japanese conglomerate put millions into Clearco, formerly Clearbanc, to help the alternative financing startup grow into new geographies beyond Europe, Canada and the United States. At this point, I imagine SoftBank is looking for opinionated startups that are naturally pulled internationally, and then funds the heck out of them.

Class is no different. Chasen explained how international demand for the product has been high since Class announced its seed round. Schools from Europe, the Middle East and Japan reached out before Class had rolled out general availability. Now, with Class’ general availability rolled out on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android and Chromebook, Chasen is focusing on turning those on the waitlist into customers.

Class’ international expansion will see it build up local teams in target regions such as the UK and Ireland, EMEA, Latin American and APAC. The startup is expecting to add 100 new team members across the world to its already 200-person team.

 

Chasen estimates that 65% of the financing will fuel Class’ internationalization and that the remaining will be allocated toward product development. One critique of Class is that the platform offers the same experience to a second grade class as it does to a higher-ed class. Chasen agreed that the startup needs to add more specificity to its product – perhaps gamification for K-12 and exam proctoring for higher ed – in future versions.

“V1 gives you what we believe is the bare minimum you need to teach online,” he said, noting features such as testing and grade trackers. “Right now, we need a product that works well across every market, and in the future we’ll make enhancements that are specific for the markets.”

And so far, users are paying for it. Class said that its revenue grew almost 4X quarter over quarter in 2021.

Friends with Zoom benefits

While there’s a numbing effect around big rounds and flashy valuations, Class’ recent raise could squash questions around whether it’s teeing itself up for an eventual acquisition by Zoom.

When TechCrunch first spoke to Chasen, he said that Zoom is focused more on scale than the sort of in-depth specialization that Class wants to provide.

Still, the company was in kahoots with Zoom’s earliest investors and acted as a Zoom reseller in multiple markets, suggesting that consolidation wouldn’t be too wild of an assumption down the road. After today, though, it’s clear Class views itself as a standalone business. Startups don’t just raise nine-figure funding rounds from savvy investors unless they have ambitions to be bigger than an integration.

Going forward, Class may use some of those millions to establish its brand as the go-to option for schools or institutions that want a classroom-friendly Zoom environment. Per Class’ careers page, marketing is its most aggressive hiring focus right now. The company has six open roles in the marketing team, which include an international marketing manager and a content marketing manager.

Class’ closest competitor is Engageli, which last raised a $33 million Series A in May 2021. Engageli’s co-founder and COO, Jamie Farrell, left in February 2021 for another edtech startup, and the company doesn’t appear to be hiring too aggressively via online job boards. While the details are anecdotal, Engageli may face steeper competition in terms of bandwidth and marketing now that Class has fresh capitalization – and a growing team of global employees.

#class, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #edtech, #education, #michael-chasen, #remote-school, #tc, #video, #zoom

Pinterest rolls out new features that let creators make money from Pins

Pinterest today is increasing its investment in the creator community by introducing new tools that will allow creators to make money from their content. Now, creators will be able to tag products in their Idea Pins — a video-first feature the company first launched this spring — to make their content “shoppable.” They’ll also now be able to earn commissions through affiliate links and partner with brands on sponsored content, much like on other social platforms like Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.

Despite its general focus on turning product inspiration into clicks and purchases, Pinterest has been slower to embrace the creator community which today is responsible for driving a significant amount of interest in new products among online shoppers. Over the past several years, brands have increased their influencer marketing budgets from $1.7 billion in 2016 to now $13.8 billion in 2021. However, Pinterest offered few tools for creators to tap into that market on its own site, until its more recent debut of Idea Pins in May.

These Pins are somewhat like Pinterest’s take on TikTok, mixed with Stories, as they offer a way for creators to produce content that combines music, video, and other interactive elements. The videos in Idea Pins can be up to 60 seconds per page, with up to 20 total pages per Pin. Creators can also add other features to their Pins, like stickers or music, and tag other creators with their @username.