Twitter Super Follows has generated only around $6K+ in its first two weeks

Twitter’s creator platform Super Follows is off to an inauspicious start, having contributed to somewhere around $6,000 in U.S. iOS revenue in the first two weeks the feature has been live, according to app intelligence data provided by Sensor Tower. And it’s made only around $600 or so in Canada. A small portion of that revenue may be attributed to Ticketed Spaces, Twitter’s other in-app purchase offered in the U.S. — but there’s no way for this portion to be calculated by an outside firm.

Twitter first announced its plans to launch Super Follows during its Analyst Day event in February, where the company detailed many of its upcoming initiatives to generate new revenue streams.

Today, Twitter’s business is highly dependant on advertising, and Super Follows is one of the few ways it’s aiming to diversify. The company is also now offering a way for creators to charge for access to their live events with Ticketed Spaces and, outside the U.S., Twitter has begun testing a premium product for power users called Twitter Blue.

Image Credits: Twitter

But Super Follows, which targets creators, is the effort with the most potential appeal to mainstream users.

It’s also one that is working to capitalize on the growing creator economy, where content creators build a following, then generate revenue directly through subscriptions — decreasing their own dependence on ads or brand deals, as a result. The platforms they use for this business skim a little off the top to help them fund the development of the creator tools. (In Twitter’s case, it’s taking only a 3% cut.)

The feature would seem to make sense for Twitter, a platform that already allows high-profile figures and regular folks to hobnob in the same timeline and have conversations. Super Follows ups that access by letting fans get even closer to their favorite creators — whether those are musicians, artists, comedians, influencers, writers, gamers, or other experts, for example. These creators can set a monthly subscription price of $2.99, $4.99, or $9.99 to provide fans with access to bonus, “behind-the-scenes” content of their choosing. These generally come in the form of extra tweets, Q&As, other interactions with subscribers.

Image Credits: Twitter

At launch, Twitter opened up Super Follows to a handful of creators, including the beauty and skincare-focused account @MakeupforWOC; astrology account @TarotByBronx; sports-focused @KingJosiah54; writer @myeshachou; internet personality and podcaster @MichaelaOkla; spiritual healer @kemimarie; music charts tweeter @chartdata; Twitch streamers @FaZeMew, @VelvetIsCake, @MackWood1, @GabeJRuiz, and @Saulsrevenge; YouTubers @DoubleH_YT, @LxckTV, and @PowerGotNow; and crypto traders @itsALLrisky and @moon_shine15; among others. Twitter says there are fewer than 100 creators in total who have access to Super Follows.

While access on the creation side is limited, the ability to subscribe to creators is not. Any Twitter iOS user in the U.S. or Canada can “Super Follow” any number of the supported creator accounts. In the U.S., Twitter has 169 million average monetizable daily active users as of Q2 2021. Of course, only some subset of those will be iOS users.

Still, Twitter could easily count millions upon millions of “potential” customers for its Super Follow platform at launch. Its current revenue indicates that, possibly, only thousands of consumers have done so, given many of the top in-app purchases are for creators offering content at lower price points.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Sensor Tower notes the $6,000 in U.S. consumer spending on iOS was calculated during the first two weeks of September (Sept. 1-14). Before this period, U.S. iOS users spent only $100 from August 25 through 31 — a figure that would indicate user spending on Ticketed Spaces during that time. In other words, the contribution of Tickets Spaces revenue to this total of $6,000 in iOS consumer spending is likely quite small.

In Canada, the other market where Super Follow is now available to subscribers, Twitter’s iOS in-app purchase revenue from September 1 through September 14 was a negligible $600. (This would also include Twitter Blue subscription revenue, which is being tested in Canada and Australia.)

Worldwide, Twitter users on iOS spent $9,000 during that same time, which would include other Ticketed Spaces revenues and tests of its premium service, Twitter Blue. (Twitter’s Tip Jar, a way to pay creators directly, does not work through in-app purchases).

Unlike other Twitter products that developed by watching what users were already doing anyway — like using hashtags or retweeting content — many of Twitter’s newer features are attempts at redefining the use cases for its platform. In a massive rush of product pushes, Twitter has recently launched tools for not just for creators, but also for e-commerce, organizing reading materials, subscribing to newsletters, socializing in communities, chatting through audio, fact-checking content, keeping up with trends, conversing more privately, and more.

Twitter’s position on the slower start to Super Follows is that it’s still too early to make any determinations. While that’s fair, it’s also worth tracking adoption to see if the new product had seen any rapid, of-the-gate traction.

“This is just the start for Super Follows,” a Twitter spokesperson said, reached for comment about Sensor Tower’s figures. “Our main goal is focused on ensuring creators are set up for success and so we’re working closely with a small group of creators in this first iteration to ensure they have the best experience using Super Follows before we roll out more widely.”

The spokesperson also noted Twitter Super Follows had been set up to help creators make more money as it scales.

“With Super Follows, people are eligible to earn up to 97% of revenue after in-app purchase fees until they make $50,000 in lifetime earnings. After $50,000 in lifetime earnings, they can earn up to 80% of revenue after in-app purchase fees,” they said.

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YouTube TV expands its live TV service with more Spanish-language networks

Google’s streaming TV service, YouTube TV, announced today it’s adding more Spanish-language networks to its base membership package and is preparing to launch an add-on package that will include even more Spanish-language content. Starting today, all subscribers will gain access to three new TV networks at no additional cost: Univision, UniMás, and Galavisión. These will join YouTube TV’s existing lineup of over 85 live TV channels, which today include top networks like Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and others, in addition to entertainment networks like those from Discovery and ViacomCBS.

The additions will bring to YouTube TV members a range of new Spanish-language content, including primetime series like “La Desalmada” and “Vencer El Pasado” arriving this fall, reality competition series “Nuestra Belleza Latina” on September 26, plus the 22nd Annual Latin Grammy Awards on November 18. The additions also bring sports programming like the Campeones Cup on September 29, and ongoing match-ups from Liga MX, UEFA Champions League, MLS, and the Mexican National Team, the company says.

Univision also noted that subscribers in top Hispanic markets, including Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, and others, will be able to access Univision and UniMás’ local news, weather, and other programming. Plus, YouTube TV will carry Univision’s video-on-demand content library at launch, and subscribers will be able to use their YouTube TV credentials to authenticate with the company’s “TV everywhere”-powered Univision app.

The companies did not disclose the financial terms of their new agreement, but the deal hasn’t come with a price increase. YouTube TV, however, has been steadily hiking prices since its debut. It increased the service’s pricing to $64.99 last summer, following the new additions of 14 ViacomCBS networks, for example. But last month, YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan said there would be no new price increases in the near-term.

While the new channels will reach all subscribers, YouTube TV also announced plans to introduce a new add-on package that will be available for an additional monthly cost. This will include other Spanish-language networks like Sony Cine, CNN Español, Discovery en Español, Estrella TV, Cinelatino, Fox Deportes, and others. YouTube TV is not yet sharing the full lineup nor the price of the add-on just yet, but said it would offer more details in the “coming months.”

The Spanish-language network Pantaya will also be offered in the weeks ahead for an additional $5.99 per month, providing access to Spanish-language movies and exclusive original series, all of which are on-demand.

“We are delighted to partner with YouTube TV to expand Univision’s robust portfolio of networks and stations to include YouTube TV,” said Hamed Nasseri, Univision Vice President, Content Distribution, in a statement. “Amid the popularity of streaming services as well as the growing influence of our Hispanic community, this is an important step to ensure that our audience has access to our leading Spanish-language news, sports, and entertainment wherever they consume content. We are excited for today’s launch and recognize YouTube TV’s continued commitment to serving our growing and influential Hispanic audience.”

YouTube TV is not the first streamer to cater to an audience looking for Spanish-language content. In 2018, Hulu added its own Spanish-language bundle called ‘Español,’ which now gives subscribers live programming from networks including ESPN Deportes, NBC Universo, CNN En Español, History Channel En Español, Discovery en Español, and Discovery Familia. Hulu, however, doesn’t carry Univision but does offer Telemundo. Fubo TV, meanwhile, offers Univision and Telemundo and provides an Español plan with dozens of Spanish-language channels.

If anything, YouTube TV had been behind in terms of catering to Spanish speakers until now, and this offering will make it more competitive with rival services.

 

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

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

Image Credits: App Annie

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

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

Image Credits: App Annie

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

Image Credits: App Annie

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

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

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

Image Credits: App Annie

Image Credits: App Annie

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

Image Credits: App Annie

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

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

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

Image Credits: App Annie

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

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

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

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

Image Credits: App Annie

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

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

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

Image Credits: App Annie

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full report is available here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romanian marketing expert Robert Katai explains how to get the most out of your content

There’s a lot of advice out there on how to grab people’s attention, but there’s one aspect of marketing that Robert Katai thinks isn’t talked about as often: maintaining their attention. The solution, he says, is a combination of content strategy and positioning.

Based in Romania, Katai is known for his podcasts and speeches covering the gamut of content marketing. A product manager at online graphic design platform Creatopy, he also works with clients as a freelance content strategist, and it is in this capacity that he was recommended to TechCrunch via our growth marketer survey. (If you have growth marketers to recommend, please fill out the survey!)

Katai was recommended by multiple Romanian clients and contacts who vouched for his content strategy prowess, so we were curious to know more. Who is he? And is his advice applicable beyond borders?

The short answer is yes. In a freewheeling interview, Katai spoke about how content marketing should integrate with users’ daily lives, and how content can be repurposed across multiple formats. He also shared some insights on the booming Romanian startup ecosystem.

Editor’s note: The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

TC: How do you help your clients as a freelancer?

Robert Katai: One of the two things I’m doing is that I’m helping clients with creating their content strategy based on their objective. You can get web traffic, but you can also create a message and build the brand. You don’t have to start at the beginning; You can rebuild the brand later.

For instance, I’m working with a Romanian outsourcing company that started in 1993. They pioneered this industry in our city of Cluj-Napoca, but lately they started to realize that they should be more attractive from a sales as well as from an employee perspective. So I worked with them to perform an internal audit to see why employees love the company, why they leave, why they stay and what they want from the company.

Robert Katai

Image Credits: Robert Katai.

From there, I got to the idea that they needed to reshape their brand to not just have people notice them but to also maintain their attention. And here comes the content: I started an ambassador program, because there are people outside of the company who love it.

I also recommended they create an internal print magazine. It’s a very well-designed magazine that their 200 to 300 employees can take home and read. It’s not just about the job; it’s also about their hobbies, things to do in the city and some thought leadership articles that can inspire them to have a better life.

What’s the second way you are helping clients?

Apart from content strategy, I’m working with clients on their positioning for their audience, community and market, but also sometimes in terms of employer branding. Content can be a bridge between the two ways I am helping clients, because I’m using a lot of content marketing here and not focusing only on performance or growth marketing hacks. I’m helping them understand that if they want to establish a memorable, long-lasting brand in the market, they have to make content marketing part of their life.

If they want to reposition themselves in the industry, they need to say: Okay, these are the kinds of content we have to create for our goals; who will amplify the content, who will connect with us, and who will consume the content. Today, content creation is free — everybody can do it. The hard part is how you distribute and amplify that. And here’s how I can help the startups: Make a big piece of content and repurpose it in several small pieces; get it in front of people so that the brand is on their minds.


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How can brands achieve that top-of-mind status?

We all know that there are four kinds of content: Text, video, pictures and audio. These four formats never die. The platform can change, but the format will stay the same. A video can be an Instagram Reel, a documentary or something else, but it’s a video. The same goes for a photo. So the content strategy I’m working with is how brands can use that content ecosystem.

When I work with my clients — and also with Creatopy where I’m a product marketer — I recommend them to use content to build their brand and be visible to their users every day in their feeds. Every morning, when their customers are waking up and checking their phones, they don’t open a newspaper. They will open Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, and maybe then when they get out of the bathroom and make coffee, they will open YouTube and connect with Alexa.

I really believe that brands should create content that can just be in the mind of the user. Snackable content, Reels, TikTok … It doesn’t matter what we call it.

You also talked about repurposing content. Can you explain that?

Let’s take the interview you’ve done with Peep Laja. You could have recorded it as a video. And he covered several topics, so you could have several short videos — 30 seconds, three minutes, whatever. You can publish them daily on your site or social media channels with a comment that says, “Here’s the link to the full article.” But remember that on LinkedIn, that link will need to go into the comments section, not the post itself.

You can also have a longer video that you can publish on social media or on Wistia, asking people to give their email — so now you also have subscribers.

Then the second type of content you can create is audio. You already have it from the recording. You don’t have to publish the full 45-minute conversation, but you can have a five-minute audio clip, and again link to the articles.

Now we have video and audio, but what if you also designed quotes with his headshot and messaging? If it’s part of a series, you should also give it a name.

And it’s not just motivational; it’s educational, too, so you should take these quotes and create carousels for Instagram and LinkedIn. The first slide should grab attention — it can be a question. The second slide can be a link to the interview so that even if people don’t click it, it will be on their minds. Then you can have slides with insights.

The last slide will always be a call to action: Asking people to share, comment or save it for later — it’s the new currency on Instagram! And once you have your Instagram carousel, you create a PDF and publish it on LinkedIn.

So now you have five formats of content from one piece of content.

Wow, how much do we owe you?! Just kidding, we actually do some of that for the Equity podcast, for instance. Now, what other advice do you have for startups?

I’m a big advocate of documenting the process. Just imagine if Mark Zuckerberg had done that and you could read how he launched Facebook and so on. Noah Kagan is doing that right now. I think startup founders should do it, not just from the PR and marketing perspective, but for their audience. Even if your audience is not paying for your product right now, they are staying with you and giving your brand an essence in the industry.

Just think about what Salesforce is doing right now: They launched Salesforce+, which is like Netflix for B2B. It’s to get the attention of professionals and also maintain it, and I believe this is the currency of the big companies today: People’s attention.

Do you work with any startups in Romania? And do you have any impressions to share on the Romanian startup ecosystem?

Yes, I help a few Romanian startups with their content marketing and positioning. Sometimes other startups email me with questions, so I help them, too, but I don’t charge for email advice. I work with the ones that are looking for a long-term or project-based collaboration.

Startup founders here in Romania are curious, and very courageous to experiment even if it won’t necessarily work. And Romanian startups are very smart. For instance, Planable is doing a great job with content, social media and positioning. We also have social media analytics company Socialinsider, which this year launched virtual events, and TypingDNA, which wants to get rid of needing to log in with passwords and was founded by a former colleague.

I also found that the founders here work harder than their teams and don’t just leave others do the work — at least the ones I have met. We have several startup events in Romania: How to Web, and Techsylvania here in Transylvania.

I don’t like this name, but people say that Cluj-Napoca is the “Silicon Valley of Romania.” Lots of startups have been launched here, but the city that is getting more and more traction is Oradea, where the bet on education is paying off.

(If you are a tech startup founder or investor in Cluj or Oradea, fill in TechCrunch’s European Cities Survey 2021.)

#brand-management, #content-marketing, #growth-marketers, #growth-marketing, #instagram, #marketing, #robert-katai, #romania, #social-media, #social-media-analytics, #social-media-marketing, #startups, #tc, #verified-experts, #youtube

YouTube to roll out Picture-in-Picture viewing for all U.S. iOS users, starting with Premium subscribers

Though YouTube has supported picture-in-picture viewing on Android devices since 2018, YouTube told TechCrunch today that it plans to launch the feature to all iOS users in the U.S. on both iPhone and iPad. For now, YouTube is inviting Premium subscribers to test this feature, which lets users watch picture-in-picture videos in a mini player while browsing other apps. The testing period for Premium users ends on October 31, but YouTube does not have a timeline to share on when all U.S. iOS users will gain access to the feature.

Though this is a mobile feature, Premium subscribers must enable the ability to test it via the YouTube experiments website on the desktop. Last year, YouTube made opting into experiments a Premium perk.

If you scroll down on the experiments website, you’ll see “Picture-in picture on iOS” with the option to try it. Then, if you watch a video on the YouTube app, you should see a picture-in-picture display of the video when you navigate out of the app.

Once viewing a video via picture-in-picture, you can adjust where the video appears on your screen and how big it is. When you tap on the video, you’ll return to the YouTube app. If you lock your phone, the video will pause.

Some users have reported that you might need to delete and reinstall the YouTube app to get it to work.

This feature is different from existing picture-in-picture functionality on the YouTube iOS app because it allows you to continue watching a video even while navigating elsewhere on your phone. Similar features already exist on streaming apps like Netflix.

#apps, #entertainment, #ios, #picture-in-picture, #streaming, #youtube

YouTube has removed 1 million videos for dangerous COVID-19 misinformation

YouTube has removed 1 million videos for dangerous COVID-19 misinformation since February 2020, according to YouTube’s Chief Product Officer Neal Mahon.

Mahon shared the statistic in a blog post outlining how the company approaches misinformation on its platform. “Misinformation has moved from the marginal to the mainstream,” he wrote. “No longer contained to the sealed-off worlds of Holocaust deniers or 9-11 truthers, it now stretches into every facet of society, sometimes tearing through communities with blistering speed.”

At the same time, the Youtube executive argued that “bad content” accounts for only a small percentage of YouTube content overall. “Bad content represents only a tiny percentage of the billions of videos on YouTube (about .16-.18% of total views turn out to be content that violates our policies),” Mahon wrote. He added that YouTube removes almost 10 million videos each quarter, “the majority of which don’t even reach 10 views.”

Facebook recently made a similar argument about content on its platform. The social network published a report last week that claimed that the most popular posts are memes and other non-political content. And, faced with criticism over its handling of COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation, the company has argued that vaccine misinformation isn’t representative of the kind of content most users see.

Both Facebook and YouTube have come under particular scrutiny for their policies around health misinformation during the pandemic. Both platforms have well over a billion users, which means that even a small fraction of content can have a far-reaching impact. And both platforms have so far declined to disclose details about how vaccine and health misinformation spreads or how many users are encountering it. Mahon also said that removing misinformation is only one aspect of the company’s approach. YouTube is also working on “ratcheting up information from trusted sources and reducing the spread of videos with harmful misinformation.”

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Engadget.

#column, #covid-19, #misinformation, #tc, #tceng, #youtube

Bright raises $15M for its live video platform that lets you Zoom with top creators

Bright, a live video platform that lets fans Zoom with their favorite creators and celebs, has raised $15 million in new funding, the company announced today. The round was co-led by co-founder and talent manager Guy Oseary’s Sound Ventures, the fund he founded with Ashton Kutcher. RIT Capital and Regah Ventures also co-led.

Other investors in the new round include Marc Benioff’s TIME Ventures, Globo Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Shawn Mendes & Manager Andrew Gertler’s AG Ventures, as well as Jeff Lawson, CEO and co-founder of Twilio.

In addition, a number of artists, performers, actors and other celebrities also invested, Bright says, including Rachel Zoe, Drew and Jonathan Scott, Judd Apatow, Ashton Kutcher, Amy Schumer, Bethenny Frankel, and Ryan Tedder. Meanwhile, Jessica Alba, Kane Brown and Maria Sharapova are joining the company as advisors.

Bright, which first debuted in May, was co-founded by Madonna and U2 talent manager Guy Oseary along with early YouTube product manager Michael Powers, who had previously launched the YouTube Channels feature while at Google. The startup’s premise is to tap into the growing creator economy in a way that allows creators to better monetize their success outside of ad-supported networks, like YouTube, so they can grow their own business.

The platform itself is built on top of Zoom — a choice that not only saves Bright from starting from scratch for its real-time video technology, but also one that leverages the broad adoption Zoom has since seen due to the pandemic.

At launch, Bright announced a lineup that included over 200 prominent creators who were set to host ticketed online events where they share their stories or expertise, engage in interviews, offer advice and more. Today, Bright says now over 300 notable names have joined the service to engage with fans and continue to build their brand. The list includes Madonna, Naomi Campbell, D-Nice, the D’Amelio Sisters, Laura Dern, Deepak Chopra, Lindsey Vonn, Diego Boneta, Jason Bolden, Yris Palmer, Cat & Nat, Ronnie2K, and Chef Ludo Lefebvre, and others. Even more are on board to host future sessions.

Unlike social media creator tools, Bright is focused on knowledge-sharing rather than just gaining likes or follows. For example, one the first sessions featured actor Laura Dern speaking about personal growth, while another featured streamer and online creator Ronnie2K hosting a series about building a career in gaming. In other words, Bright doesn’t only showcase Hollywood entertainment or top artists — it’s open to anyone whose fan base would be willing to pay to hear them talk.

Today, there are sessions across a variety of interests and topics, organized into areas like craft, home, money, culture, body and mind.

Image Credits: Bright session example

Bright itself generates revenue by taking a 20% commission on creator revenue, which is somewhat lower than the traditional marketplace split of 30/70 (platform/creator) but higher than some of the newer platforms available today, like Clubhouse and its commission-free direct payments.

The startup says the funding is being used to help roll out Creator Studio, a new suite of creator tools for managing learning sessions, audience communication, and revenue performance. These sorts of analytics and tools are aimed at serving creators who are working to build a business through live sessions, in addition to growing their fan base. The funds will also help Bright to add new interactive features, like instant polls and the ability to share learning materials with attendees, it says.

These features could potentially help Bright to stand out from a growing number of competitors looking to serve online creators, which today includes major tech companies, like YouTube, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter. However, Oseary’s ability to leverage his personal network to pull in big names is, for now, the more notable differentiator.

“As a believer in lifelong learning, I’m proud to be investing in a platform like Bright, offering audiences the unique opportunity to learn directly from the artists and experts they admire the most,” said new investor, director and producer, Judd Apatow, in a statement. “Through Bright, I can directly connect and share my knowledge with fellow writers, aspiring directors and lovers of comedy,” he added.

“It’s inspiring to have the support of incredible investors as well as these notable artists and entrepreneurs. All our partners share Bright’s vision that people want to level up their lives by learning directly from those they admire,” Bright CEO Michael Powers said, in an announcement. “Through Bright, talent can better engage authentically with audiences by sharing their own knowledge and bringing their many interests and passions to the foreground. We are excited to roll out our new features to continue elevating our platform and mission” he said.

#advisors, #amy-schumer, #apps, #articles, #ashton-kutcher, #chef, #creator-studio, #creator-tools, #deepak-chopra, #google, #guy-oseary, #jeff-lawson, #jessica-alba, #marc-benioff, #media, #michael-powers, #norwest-venture-partners, #online-creators, #online-events, #product-manager, #recent-funding, #social, #social-media, #software, #startups, #time-ventures, #twilio, #twitter, #video-hosting, #youtube

OnlyFans’ explicit content ban should spark a conversation about a creators’ bill of rights

OnlyFans’ decision to ban sexually explicit content is reigniting an important and overlooked conversation around tech companies, content guidelines and sex work. However, the implications of this discussion go beyond just one platform and one marginalized group.

It’s indicative of a broken ecosystem for content creators where platforms have outsized control over the ways in which creators are allowed to share content and engage with their followers and fans. In response, creators are decentralizing, broadening their reach to multiple platforms and taking their audiences with them.

In doing so, creators also have the opportunity to define what rights they want to be built into these platforms.

History repeats itself

Creators being shut out of the individual platforms is nothing new. Many are comparing OnlyFans’ policy change to Tumblr’s move to ban adult content in 2018. This has been an ongoing issue for YouTube as well — several communities, including a group of LGBTQ YouTubers, have accused the platform of targeting them with their demonetization algorithm.

Many of these platforms, including OnlyFans, point to their payment partners’ policies as a barrier to allowing certain forms of content. One of the earliest major controversies we saw in this arena was when PayPal banned WikiLeaks in 2010.

While each of these events have drawn the ire of creators and their followers, it’s indicative of an ecosystemwide problem, not necessarily an indictment of the platforms themselves.

After all, these platforms have provided the opportunity for creators to build an audience and engage with their fans. But these platforms have also had to put policies in place to shield themselves from regulatory and reputational risk.

The core of the issue is that creators are beholden to individual platforms, always vulnerable to changing policies and forced to navigate the painful migration of their audiences and monetization from platform to platform.

That doesn’t mean that that all guidelines and policies are bad — they play a role to foster and govern a positive and safe community with thoughtful guidelines — but it should not come at the cost of harming and de-platforming the creators who fuel these platforms with content and engagement. The core of the issue is that creators are beholden to individual platforms, always vulnerable to changing policies and forced to navigate the painful migration of their audiences and monetization from platform to platform.

And, at the end of the day, it takes away from their ability to create meaningful content, engage with their communities and earn a reliable living.

As creators have lost more and more control to platforms over time, some have begun exploring alternative options that allow independent and direct monetization from their audience in a distributed way.

Decentralizing, monetizing

The direct-to-fan monetization model is already displacing the traditional ad-based, platform-dictated model that creators relied on for years. During my time at Patreon, I saw how putting control and ownership in the hands of creators builds a more sustainable, fair and vibrant creator economy. Substack has given writers a similarly powerful financial tool, and over the past few years, there has been an ever-growing number of companies that serve creators.

The challenge is that many of these companies rely on the existing systems that hamstrung the platforms of the past, and have business models that require take rates and revenue shares. In many ways, the creator economy needs new infrastructure and business models to build the next phase of creator and fan interaction.

With the right application, crypto can help rewrite the playbook of how creators monetize, engage with their fans and partner with platforms. Its peer-to-peer structure reflects the direct-to-fan relationship and allows creators to own the financial relationship with their audience instead of relying on tech giants or payment partners as middlemen. Beyond that, crypto allows creators to maintain ownership and control over their brands and intellectual property.

Additionally, many crypto projects allow participants to have a voice in the value proposition, strategic direction, operational functions and economic structures of the project via DAOs or governance tokens. In this way, creators can join projects and set the direction in a way that aligns with how they want to engage with their communities.

Creators are especially positioned to benefit from community-governed projects given their ability to motivate and engage their own communities. We are in the early phases of crypto adoption, and creators have a huge opportunity to shape the future of this paradigm shift. With social tokens, creators can mint their own cryptocurrencies that allow for a shared economy that creators and fans can grow together and use to transact directly across different platforms.

NFTs are another category that have exploded in popularity this year, but the industry is just scratching the surface of the utility that they will have. Creators and crypto projects are figuring out ways to make NFTs go beyond collectibles; NFTs provide an engaging and functional digital tool for creators to give their fans their time (through video calls or AMAs) or access to other exclusive benefits.

Creators are just beginning to discover the power that crypto provides. As the user experience of crypto-based platforms continues to become more intuitive, crypto will become ubiquitous. Before that point, creators should think about what rights they need (and can demand) from the decentralized services they use.

A creators’ bill of rights

Be it within crypto or not, creators finally have the leverage to determine their rights. While I believe that creators should be the ones leading this conversation, here are a few jumping off points:

  • Ability to move freely across platforms: Reliance on individual platforms is at the heart of many of the issues that creators face. By allowing creators to take their fans with them wherever they go, many of the problems we’ve seen even with direct-to-fan monetization can be solved.
  • Direct financial relationships between creators and fans: At the heart of the OnlyFans matter is creators’ inability to own their financial relationships with fans. Even if direct financial relationships aren’t feasible on every platform, creators should have options to own those relationships and dictate their own terms.
  • Creator-led decision-making: Historically, platforms have given creators minimal control over platformwide decisions and policies. Creators should have direct input and even be able to vote on various platformwide measures.
  • Quality over quantity: Platforms and their algorithms are structured to reward quantity and force creators down a path of burnout and hyperspeed content creation. Both creators and fans are looking for a more deep and engaging interaction and incentivizing this behavior will ensure a more vibrant and sustainable creator ecosystem.
  • Low (or zero) take rates: Big tech platforms take nearly 100% of revenue from creators. Creators (and their fans) should be earning the majority of platform revenue.
  • Equity access or revenue sharing: Big tech platforms have built empires on the labor of creators. Instead of dictating ad revenue payout to creators, decentralized platforms should allow creators to have true “skin in the game” by being able to own a piece of the pie outright or benefit from the overall growth of the ecosystem. This alignment of interests will be a major shift from the capital-labor split we see today.
  • Transparency and consultation: Creators should have full view into what they can or can’t do and a seat at the table as policies are being created and adapted. Platforms’ content moderation decisions and the algorithms behind demonetization are often opaque, broadly applied and decided without consulting the creators they will impact. They should also have visibility into the size of the overall revenue pie and their share.
  • Ability for reform and rehabilitation: We are all human, and there might be moments that a creator knowingly or unknowingly goes outside of the guidelines set by a platform. Creating a space for creators to rehabilitate their content will create a more trusting and collaborative relationship between creators and platforms.

We’ll leave it to creators to dictate their terms — they’ve been cut out of this conversation for far too long. That said, I’m confident that Rally and many other key participants in the Web 3.0 ecosystem would be open to supporting this effort to create an environment that works for creators and their fans.

#column, #cryptocurrency, #e-commerce, #media, #online-advertising, #onlyfans, #opinion, #patreon, #payments, #paypal, #peer-to-peer, #substack, #tumblr, #video-hosting, #websites, #world-wide-web, #youtube

A mathematician walks into a bar (of disinformation)

Disinformation, misinformation, infotainment, algowars — if the debates over the future of media the past few decades have meant anything, they’ve at least left a pungent imprint on the English language. There’s been a lot of invective and fear over what social media is doing to us, from our individual psychologies and neurologies to wider concerns about the strength of democratic societies. As Joseph Bernstein put it recently, the shift from “wisdom of the crowds” to “disinformation” has indeed been an abrupt one.

What is disinformation? Does it exist, and if so, where is it and how do we know we are looking at it? Should we care about what the algorithms of our favorite platforms show us as they strive to squeeze the prune of our attention? It’s just those sorts of intricate mathematical and social science questions that got Noah Giansiracusa interested in the subject.

Giansiracusa, a professor at Bentley University in Boston, is trained in mathematics (focusing his research in areas like algebraic geometry) but he’s also had a penchant of looking at social topics through a mathematical lens, such as connecting computational geometry to the Supreme Court. Most recently, he’s published a book called How Algorithms Create and Prevent Fake News to explore some of the challenging questions around the media landscape today and how technology is exacerbating and ameliorating those trends.

I hosted Giansiracusa on a Twitter Space recently, and since Twitter hasn’t made it easy to listen to these talks afterwards (ephemerality!), I figured I’d pull out the most interesting bits of our conversation for you and posterity.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Danny Crichton: How did you decide to research fake news and write this book?

Noah Giansiracusa: One thing I noticed is there’s a lot of really interesting sociological, political science discussion of fake news and these types of things. And then on the technical side, you’ll have things like Mark Zuckerberg saying AI is going to fix all these problems. It just seemed like, it’s a little bit difficult to bridge that gap.

Everyone’s probably heard this recent quote of Biden saying, “they’re killing people,”in regards to misinformation on social media. So we have politicians speaking about these things where it’s hard for them to really grasp the algorithmic side. Then we have computer science people that are really deep in the details. So I’m kind of sitting in between, I’m not a real hardcore computer science person. So I think it’s a little easier for me to just step back and get the bird’s eye view.

At the end of the day, I just felt I kind of wanted to explore some more interactions with society where things get messy, where the math is not so clean.

Crichton: Coming from a mathematical background, you’re entering this contentious area where a lot of people have written from a lot of different angles. What are people getting right in this area and what have people perhaps missed some nuance?

Giansiracusa: There’s a lot of incredible journalism, I was blown away at how a lot of journalists really were able to deal with pretty technical stuff. But I would say one thing that maybe they didn’t get wrong, but kind of struck me was, there’s a lot of times when an academic paper comes out, or even an announcement from Google or Facebook or one of these tech companies, and they’ll kind of mention something, and the journalist will maybe extract a quote, and try to describe it, but they seem a little bit afraid to really try to look and understand it. And I don’t think it’s that they weren’t able to, it really seems like more of an intimidation and a fear.

One thing I’ve experienced a ton as a math teacher is people are so afraid of saying something wrong and making a mistake. And this goes for journalists who have to write about technical things, they don’t want to say something wrong. So it’s easier to just quote a press release from Facebook or quote an expert.

One thing that’s so fun and beautiful about pure math, is you don’t really worry about being wrong, you just try ideas and see where they lead and you see all these interactions. When you’re ready to write a paper or give a talk, you check the details. But most of math is this creative process where you’re exploring, and you’re just seeing how ideas interact. My training as a mathematician you think would make me apprehensive about making mistakes and to be very precise, but it kind of had the opposite effect.

Second, a lot of these algorithmic things, they’re not as complicated as they seem. I’m not sitting there implementing them, I’m sure to program them is hard. But just the big picture, all these algorithms nowadays, so much of these things are based on deep learning. So you have some neural net, doesn’t really matter to me as an outsider what architecture they’re using, all that really matters is, what are the predictors? Basically, what are the variables that you feed this machine learning algorithm? And what is it trying to output? Those are things that anyone can understand.

Crichton: One of the big challenges I think of analyzing these algorithms is the lack of transparency. Unlike, say, the pure math world which is a community of scholars working to solve problems, many of these companies can actually be quite adversarial about supplying data and analysis to the wider community.

Giansiracusa: It does seem there’s a limit to what anyone can deduce just by kind of being from the outside.

So a good example is with YouTube, teams of academics wanted to explore whether the YouTube recommendation algorithm sends people down these conspiracy theory rabbit holes of extremism. The challenge is that because this is the recommendation algorithm, it’s using deep learning, it’s based on hundreds and hundreds of predictors based on your search history, your demographics, the other videos you’ve watched and for how long — all these things. It’s so customized to you and your experience, that all the studies I was able to find use incognito mode.

So they’re basically a user who has no search history, no information and they’ll go to a video and then click the first recommended video then the next one. And let’s see where the algorithm takes people. That’s such a different experience than an actual human user with a history. And this has been really difficult. I don’t think anyone has figured out a good way to algorithmically explore the YouTube algorithm from the outside.

Honestly, the only way I think you could do it is just kind of like an old school study where you recruit a whole bunch of volunteers and sort of put a tracker on their computer and say, “Hey, just live life the way you normally do with your histories and everything and tell us the videos that you’re watching.” So it’s it’s been difficult to get past this fact that a lot of these algorithms, almost all of them, I would say, are so heavily based on your individual data. We don’t know how to study that in the aggregate.

And it’s not just that me or anyone else on the outside who has trouble because we don’t have the data. It’s even people within these companies who built the algorithm and who know how the algorithm works on paper, but they don’t know how it’s going to actually behave. It’s like Frankenstein’s monster: they built this thing, but they don’t know how it’s going to operate. So the only way I think you can really study it is if people on the inside with that data go out of their way and spend time and resources to study it.

Crichton: There are a lot of metrics used around evaluating misinformation and determining engagement on a platform. Coming from your mathematical background, do you think those measures are robust?

Giansiracusa: People try to debunk misinformation. But in the process, they might comment on it, they might retweet it or share it, and that counts as engagement. So a lot of these measurements of engagement, are they really looking at positive or just all engagement? You know, it kind of all gets lumped together?

This happens in academic research, too. Citations are the universal metric of how successful researches is. Well, really bogus things like Wakefield’s original autism and vaccines paper got tons of citations, a lot of them were people citing it because they thought it’s right, but a lot of it was scientists who were debunking it, they cite it in their paper to say, we demonstrate that this theory is wrong. But somehow a citation is a citation. So it all counts towards the success metric.

So I think that’s a bit of what’s happening with engagement. If I post something on my comments saying, “Hey, that’s crazy,” how does the algorithm know if I’m supporting it or not? They could use some AI language processing to try but I’m not sure if they are, and it’s a lot of effort to do so.

Crichton: Lastly, I want to talk a bit about GPT-3 and the concern around synthetic media and fake news. There’s a lot of fear that AI bots will overwhelm media with disinformation — how scared or not scared should we be?

Giansiracusa: Because my book really grew out of a class from experience, I wanted to try to stay impartial, and just kind of inform people and let them reach their own decisions. I decided to try to cut through that debate and really let both sides speak. I think the newsfeed algorithms and recognition algorithms do amplify a lot of harmful stuff, and that is devastating to society. But there’s also a lot of amazing progress of using algorithms productively and successfully to limit fake news.

There’s these techno-utopians, who say that AI is going to fix everything, we’ll have truth-telling, and fact-checking and algorithms that can detect misinformation and take it down. There’s some progress, but that stuff is not going to happen, and it never will be fully successful. It’ll always need to rely on humans. But the other thing we have is kind of irrational fear. There’s this kind of hyperbolic AI dystopia where algorithms are so powerful, kind of like singularity type of stuff that they’re going to destroy us.

When deep fakes were first hitting the news in 2018, and GPT-3 had been released a couple years ago, there was a lot of fear that, “Oh shit, this is gonna make all our problems with fake news and understanding what’s true in the world much, much harder.” And I think now that we have a couple of years of distance, we can see that they’ve made it a little harder, but not nearly as significantly as we expected. And the main issue is kind of more psychological and economic than anything.

So the original authors of GPT-3 have a research paper that introduces the algorithm, and one of the things they did was a test where they pasted some text in and expanded it to an article, and then they had some volunteers evaluate and guess which is the algorithmically-generated one and which article is the human-generated one. They reported that they got very, very close to 50% accuracy, which means barely above random guesses. So that sounds, you know, both amazing and scary.

But if you look at the details, they were extending like a one line headline to a paragraph of text. If you tried to do a full, The Atlantic-length or New Yorker-length article, you’re gonna start to see the discrepancies, the thought is going to meander. The authors of this paper didn’t mention this, they just kind of did their experiment and said, “Hey, look how successful it is.”

So it looks convincing, they can make these impressive articles. But here’s the main reason, at the end of the day, why GPT-3 hasn’t been so transformative as far as fake news and misinformation and all this stuff is concerned. It’s because fake news is mostly garbage. It’s poorly written, it’s low quality, it’s so cheap and fast to crank out, you could just pay your 16-year-old nephew to just crank out a bunch of fake news articles in minutes.

It’s not so much that math helped me see this. It’s just that somehow, the main thing we’re trying to do in mathematics is to be skeptical. So you have to question these things and be a little skeptical.

#algorithms, #artificial-intelligence, #deep-learning, #disinformation, #facebook, #government, #gpt-3, #machine-learning, #media, #misinformation, #policy, #social-media, #youtube

YouTube upgrades search with chapter previews and better recommendations for translated videos

YouTube announced two feature updates today to make it easier for people to find the content they’re looking for on the platform. This includes visual search features and easier discovery of foreign language videos that have captions in the user’s local language.

On desktop, YouTube users can hover over a video’s thumbnail and watch a brief clip play. This functionality will now extend to mobile with the added ability to browse the chapters within a video. From the search page, users can jump directly to the chapter they’re most interested in.

chapters appear in youtube search

“Let’s say you’re looking for a good sourdough recipe and want to work on your kneading technique. With these new search results, you can see all the steps in the video, from feeding the starter to pulling the bread out of the oven — and skip right to the chapter on kneading,” wrote Pablo Paniagua, director of Product Management, in a blog post.

The other product update recommends videos in other languages to the user, so long as the video has captioning available in their language. So, to extend YouTube’s sourdough example, if you speak Icelandic and can’t find a good sourdough tutorial in your language, YouTube might recommend an English-language tutorial with Icelandic subtitles. To start, YouTube will supplement search results with English-language videos, but it plans to expand to more languages.

an example of non-native language subtitles on a video

Image Credits: YouTube

In India and Indonesia, YouTube is also testing a feature to complement search results with links to other sites from Google Search.

“Not all searches may have enough high-quality or relevant video content to fully address what you’re looking for,” Paniagua explained.

Google Search already had a feature that let users skip to select moments in a video. Even late last year, Google (parent company to YouTube) experimented with a mobile search feature that would recommend short-form videos from TikTok and Instagram. But, the video would open within the search engine to keep users on Google, rather than opening the TikTok or Instagram apps.

Image Credits: YouTube (screenshot by TechCrunch)

These updates to YouTube’s search feature emerge in the midst of ongoing controversy around the platform’s search algorithm. Last month, Mozilla published research suggesting that YouTube’s algorithm continued to promote “bottom-feeding” content. Mozilla crowd-sourced data from participants who used a browser extension called RegretsReporter, which asks users to self-report YouTube videos they wish they didn’t watch. Mozilla found that YouTube regrets were 60% higher in countries where English isn’t the primary language. Still, a representative from YouTube said that features that might potentially mitigate this — for example, recommending foreign videos with local language captions — were not developed in response to the Mozilla report.

“Our teams have been working on these features for months with the goal of helping users find what they’re looking for, from how-tos to DIYs,” a spokesperson from YouTube said.

#apps, #google, #google-search, #search-engine, #search-results, #youtube

Rand Paul, Marjorie Taylor Greene suspended from social media for COVID disinfo

Rand Paul, Marjorie Taylor Greene suspended from social media for COVID disinfo

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images (Tom Williams / Drew Angerer))

Two lawmakers have received temporary account suspensions from YouTube and Twitter over their repeated posting of COVID-19 disinformation, yet videos from both espousing similar disinformation remain on Facebook.

On Tuesday, YouTube removed a video posted by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in which he falsely claimed that masks were not effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Also yesterday, Twitter suspended Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) for one week after she falsely claimed that neither vaccines nor masks reduce the spread of COVID. Both masks and vaccines do work, in fact, and there’s ample evidence that wearing masks slows the spread of the disease.

Paul and Greene are suspended from YouTube and Twitter, respectively, for one week. Paul’s suspension was handed down because YouTube had to remove another one of his videos last week. As this is his second offense, his account will be unable to publish for seven days. Greene is now on her fourth strike on Twitter, meaning that another violation could result in her being banned from the platform permanently.

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#covid-19, #covid-19-vaccines, #disinformation, #policy, #social-media, #twitter, #youtube

Google to introduce increased protections for minors on its platform, including Search, YouTube and more

Weeks after Instagram rolled out increased protections for minors using its app, Google is now doing the same for its suite of services, including Google search, YouTube, YouTube Kids, Google Assistant, and others. The company this morning announced a series of product and policy changes that will allow younger people to stay more private and protected online and others that will limit ad targeting.

The changes in Google’s case are even more expansive than those Instagram announced, as they span across an array of Google’s products, instead of being limited to a single app.

Though Congress has been pressing Google and other tech companies on the negative impacts their services may have on children, not all changes being made are being required by law, Google says.

“While some of these updates directly address upcoming regulations, we’ve gone beyond what’s required by law to protect teens on Google and YouTube,” a Google spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Many of these changes also extend beyond any single current or upcoming regulation. We’re looking at ways to develop consistent product experiences and user controls for kids and teens globally,” they added.

In other words, Google is building in some changes based on where it believes the industry is going, rather than where it is right now.

On YouTube, Google says it will “gradually” start adjusting the default upload setting to the most private option for users ages 13 to 17 in the weeks ahead, which will limit the visibility of videos only to the the users and those they directly share with, not the wider public. These younger teen users won’t be prevented from changing the setting back to “public,” necessarily, but they will now have to make an explicit and intentional choice when doing so. YouTube will then provide reminders indicating who can see their video, the company notes.

YouTube will also turn on its “take a break” and bedtime reminders by default for all users ages 13 to 17 and will turn off autoplay. Again, these changes are related to the default settings  — users can disable the digital well-being features if they choose.

On YouTube’s platform for younger children, YouTube Kids, the company will also add an autoplay option, which is turned off autoplay by default so parents will have to decide whether or not they want to use autoplay with their children. The change puts the choice directly in parents’ hands, after complaints from child safety advocates and some members of Congress suggested such an algorithmic feature was problematic. Later, parents will also be able to “lock” their default selection.

YouTube will also remove “overly commercial content” from YouTube Kid, in a move that also follows increased pressure from consumer advocacy groups and childhood experts, who have long since argued that YouTube encourages kids to spend money (or rather, beg their parents to do so.) How YouTube will draw the line between acceptable and “overly commercial” content is less clear, but the company says it will, for example, remove videos that focus on product packaging — like the popular “unboxing” videos. This could impact some of YouTube’s larger creators of videos for kids, like multi-millionaire Ryan’s Toy Review.

youtube kids laptop red1

Image Credits: YouTube

Elsewhere on Google, other changes impacting minors will also begin rolling out.

In the weeks ahead, Google will introduce a new policy that will allow anyone under the age of 18, or a parent or guardian, to request the removal of their images from Google Image search results. This expands upon the existing “right to be forgotten” privacy policies already live in the E.U., but will introduce new products and controls for both kids and teenagers globally.

The company will make a number of adjustments to user accounts for people under the age of 18, as well.

In addition to the changes to YouTube, Google will restrict access to adult content by enabling its SafeSearch filtering technology by default to all users under 13 managed by its Google Family Link service. It will also enable SafeSearch for all users under 18 and make this the new default for teens who set up new accounts. Google Assistant will enable SafeSearch protections by default on shared devices, like smart screens and their web browsers. In school settings where Google Workspace for Education is used, SafeSearch will be the default and switching to Guest Mode and Incognito Mode web browsing will be turned off by default, too, as was recently announced.

Meanwhile, location history is already off by default on all Google accounts, but children with supervised accounts now won’t be able to enable it. This change will be extended to all users under 18 globally, meaning location can’t be enabled at all under the children are legal adults.

On Google Play, the company will launch a new section that will inform parents about which apps follow its Families policies, and app developers will have to disclose how their apps collect and use data. These features — which were partially inspired by Apple’s App Store Privacy Labels — had already been detailed for Android developers before today.

Google’s parental control tools are also being expanded. Parents and guardians who are Family Link users will gain new abilities to filter and block news, podcasts, and access to webpages on Assistant-enabled smart devices.

For advertisers, there are significant changes in store, too.

Google says it will expand safeguards to prevent age-sensitive ad categories from being shown to teens and it will block ad targeting based on factors like age, gender, or interests for users under 18. While somewhat similar to the advertising changes Instagram introduced, as ads will no longer leverage “interests” data for targeting young teens and kids, Instagram was still allowing targeting by age and gender. Google will not. The advertising changes will roll out globally in the “coming months,” the company says.

All the changes across Google and YouTube will roll out globally in the coming weeks and months.

 

#android, #app-developers, #assistant, #computing, #congress, #google, #google-play, #google-search, #instagram, #operating-systems, #search-results, #software, #spokesperson, #tc, #web-browsers, #youtube, #youtube-kids

Microsoft’s Windows 11 outreach efforts aren’t going very well

Microsoft Program Manager Aria Carley answers Microsoft Tech Community users’ questions about Windows 11 upgrades once the new OS version reaches general availability.

In a July 21 livestream, Microsoft Program Manager Aria Carley answered Microsoft Tech Community users’ questions about the final hardware requirements to upgrade to Windows 11. Although hardware requirements—including but not limited to TPM 2.0 support—aren’t enforced for the Windows 11 alpha images available now, Carley confirmed that the “hardware floor” would be real for final versions.

“So we talk about this new hardware floor of what devices are eligible and which aren’t,” Carley said, adding “we know that it sucks that some aren’t going to be eligible for Windows 11.” She went on to state that Microsoft is imposing the unpopular hardware floor “to keep devices more productive, have a better experience, and most importantly have better security than before so they can stay protected in this new workforce.”

Despite acknowledging that the situation “sucks” for affected users, Carley doubled down on the inflexibility of the hardware floor in response to a later question, saying “group policy will not enable you to get around hardware enforcement for Windows 11. We’re still going to block you from upgrading your device… to make sure your devices stay supported and secure.”

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#microsoft, #tech, #windows-11, #youtube

If YouTube’s algorithms radicalize people, it’s hard to tell from the data

Images of rioters attacking police at the US Capitol.

Enlarge / YouTube’s recommendation algorithm probably didn’t send them to Washington, DC. (credit: Brent Stirton / Getty Images)

We’ve all seen it happen: Watch one video on YouTube and your recommendations shift, as if Google’s algorithms think the video’s subject is your life’s passion. Suddenly, all the recommended videos—and probably many ads—you’re presented with are on the topic.

Mostly, the results are comical. But there has been a steady stream of stories about how the process has radicalized people, sending them down an ever-deepening rabbit hole until all their viewing is dominated by fringe ideas and conspiracy theories.

A new study released on Monday looks at whether these stories represent a larger trend or are just a collection of anecdotes. While the data can’t rule out the existence of online radicalization, it definitely suggests that it’s not the most common experience. Instead, it seems like fringe ideas are simply part of a larger self-reinforcing community.

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#behavioral-science, #radicalization, #science, #youtube

YouTube’s $100 million Shorts Fund to challenge TikTok goes live

YouTube earlier this year announced its plans to significantly invest in original creator content for its TikTok competitor, YouTube Shorts, with the introduction of a $100 million YouTube Shorts Fund. The fund will reward creators for their most engaging and most viewed short-form videos over the course of 2021 to 2022, with the goal of quickly scaling creator activity on YouTube’s new short-form video platform, Shorts, to better rival TikTok. Today, YouTube announced the fund is officially launching and creators will begin to receive their first payouts in August.

Image Credits: YouTube

Every month, YouTube will invite thousands of eligible creators to claim a payment from the fund. These payouts may range anywhere from $100 to $10,000, based on viewership and engagement with their Shorts videos. Reached for comment, YouTube declined to share the exact viewership thresholds creators will have to reach to earn the payouts, saying that those numbers may change from month to month.

The company told TechCrunch it will determine how it calculates the thresholds by analyzing the best-performing channels and then calculating their bonus based on a number of factors, which includes views, where their audience is located and more. The company also said it wanted to make sure it was rewarding as many creators as possible, which is why it set a minimum payment of $100.

To qualify, creators must produce original content — not videos that were re-uploaded from other channels or those with watermarks from other social services. That was a problem that Instagram’s TikTok competitor Reels has faced — creators often re-used the same content they’re sharing on TikTok when they publish to Reels. To fight the problem, Instagram even had to adjust its algorithm to downrank the recycled content.

While there are plenty of tools that allow creators to strip the watermark from a video, as well as those that let you edit videos for upload to multiple short-form video platforms, YouTube says it will be using a combination of automation and human reviewers to ensure creators meet its guidelines around original content.

Creators will also need to be 13 or older in the U.S., or the age of majority in other countries and regions, to quality. Those ages 13 to 18 will also need to have a parent or guardian set up their AdSense account, link it to the creator’s channel and accept the terms, as this is where payments will be directed. All of a creator’s Shorts videos will count toward their bonuses each month they receive views — not just the month they were uploaded, YouTube notes.

The channels also need to have uploaded at least one eligible Short in the last 180 days and must follow YouTube’s Community Guidelines, copyright rules and monetization policies. While YouTube Partner Program members can participate in the fund, creators don’t have to already be monetizing on YouTube to quality for the new Shorts bonuses.

At launch, the fund will support creators in the U.S., Brazil, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Over time, it will expand to more markets.

Image Credits: YouTube

The company also told us it’s not looking for any specific types of video to reward, as the fund gets off the ground. Instead, it’s only looking at the metrics, like the total monthly performance a channel’s Shorts received.

On the one hand, not specifying any video categories or subject matter to lean into gives creators a lot of freedom to experiment when producing Shorts. But on the other, it could also lead creators to simply make more TikTok-like content, but publish it to YouTube instead in hopes of cashing in. That could result in YouTube Shorts feeling a lot like the TikTok clone that it is, rather than allowing it to differentiate itself by the nature of its content.

For comparison, other TikTok rivals, like Pinterest’s Idea Pins or Snapchat’s Spotlight aim to leverage what makes their platform unique and deliver that as short-form, public videos. Pinterest’s Idea Pins are often focused on tutorials or recipe-making, which are popular searches on its service. Spotlight, meanwhile, can feature Snaps — including those from private accounts, not professionals. That makes some Spotlight videos feel less polished and produced, compared with TikTok or Reels, which fits in with its more casual aesthetic.

YouTube says it will begin reaching out to creators starting next week to let them know if they’ve qualified for a bonus. The company will send a notification in the YouTube app, which includes the amount of the bonus and details on how to claim it. Creators will then have until the 25th of the month to claim the bonus payment before it expires.

Image Credits: YouTube

TikTok’s growth and popularity has encouraged a number of social platforms to invest directly in the creator community in hopes of winning back some of their audience. Facebook recently announced its own $1 billion-plus bonus system for videos across both Facebook and Instagram through the end of 2022, including but not limited to Reels videos. Snap initially said it would distribute $1 million per day through the end of 2020 for top Snaps on Spotlight, but later dialed that back. Pinterest announced a much smaller ($500,000) creator fund that runs through 2021.

And to counteract all the challenges, TikTok last month introduced a $200 million fund for U.S. creators.

With the official launch of the Shorts Fund, YouTube notes it now has 10 ways creators can make money on its platform, including ads, YouTube Premium subscription revenue shares, channel memberships, Super Chat, Super Thanks, Super Stickers, merchandise, ticketing and YouTube BrandConnect.

 

#social, #tc, #youtube, #youtube-shorts

YouTube’s “Premium Lite” trial offers ad-free YouTube for €7 a month

The YouTube play-button logo duplicated numerous times on a white background.

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto/Getty Images)

YouTube Premium is $12 a month, and the service offers ad-free videos, background play on phones, and downloading videos (both for YouTube and Google’s Spotify competitor, YouTube Music). What if you don’t care about music and all that extra functionality, though? What if you just want to not see ads?

Google is now trialing a service for that, and it’s called “YouTube Premium Lite.” For €7 a month ($8.31), you would get ad-free YouTube and nothing else—no background play, video downloads, or Music Premium access.

The Verge got an official statement from Google on the project, and the company calls the service a “test offering” currently available in “Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden.” Here’s Google’s statement:

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#subscription, #tech, #youtube, #youtube-premium

Alphabet crushes Q2 earnings estimates as Google Cloud cuts losses, grows 54%

Today after the bell amidst a deluge of major technology company earnings reports, Alphabet reported its own second-quarter performance. The search-and-services company posted revenues of $61.9 billion in the June 30, 2021 quarter, net income of $18.5 billion, and earnings per share of $27.26. Those figures work out to top-line growth of 62%, and net income expansion of 166%. Naturally Google is currently being compared to pandemic-impacted Q2 2020 results, but its gains are noteworthy regardless.

The Android-maker’s results trounced expectations, with the street only expecting Google’s parent company to post $56 billion in total top line and $19.14 in earnings per share. Notably Alphabet shares are up around a single percentage point after hours, mirroring a similarly muted market reaction to better than officially anticipated earnings results from Microsoft.

Alphabet is a company with a number of moving parts, so let’s unpack the numbers a little bit.

YouTube’s reported revenue of $7 billion is up 84% year over year. This feels like a strong result, frankly, given YouTube’s age. That said, your humble servant wonders how much heavier the ad load can get on YouTube before a rival service steals some of its oxygen. In a separate note, YouTube disclosed that its YouTube Shorts product has “surpassed 15 billion global daily views,” up 131% from the 6.5 billion global daily views that it detailed in March. (Everyone wants to eat TikTok, it seems.)

Google Cloud reported revenue of $4.6 billion, up 54% year over year. That growth rate is slightly above what Microsoft posted for its Azure cloud unit. However, as the Microsoft effort is considered to be larger than Google’s own in revenue terms, investors might have anticipated a larger growth ∆ than what Mountain View just detailed. Google Cloud cut its operating loss from $1.4 billion in the year-ago Q2 to a far more modest $591 million deficit in its most recent quarter. That’s honestly rather good.

On the Other Bets side of things, revenues rose! But so did losses. The skunkworks group at Alphabet posted $192 million in revenue, up from $148 million in the year-ago period. But the collection of trials and errors lost $1.4 billion in the quarter, up from $1.1 billion in the corresponding year-ago period.

Naturally with operating income of $19.4 billion inclusive of its Other Bets cost center, Alphabet can well afford to continue spending on what projects that may in time generate material future revenues.

Still, everything at Alphabet that is not Google’s core offerings (search, YouTube, etc.) lost money in the quarter:

Image Credits: Alphabet

The real story, however, is in the epic gains that Alphabet posted in operating income from Q2 2020 to Q2 2021. Just look at that acceleration in operating income! It’s a somewhat befuddling result in terms of its quality.

What else to take note of? Google’s share repurchase program has been modified some, but not in a manner that should impact regular investors. So we can leave Alphabet’s quarter content that the company did well enough to defend its market cap of just over $1.75 trillion, even if it did not manage to add too much to the figure in after-hours trading thus far.

It’s a great time to be a huge tech company.

#alphabet, #android, #earnings, #google, #microsoft, #tc, #youtube

Instagram now supports 60-second videos on Reels, its TikTok clone

Haven’t you heard that Instagram is no longer a photo-sharing app? Today, Instagram announced that users can now upload 60-second videos on Reels, the platform’s TikTok competitor.

This update also adds functionality for a captions sticker on Reels, which transcribes audio to text. Instagram previously teased this sticker for Reels when they added it to Stories, making the platform more accessible for Deaf or hard of hearing users, as well as people who want to use the app without sound. Right now, the caption sticker is only available in a handful of English-speaking countries, but Instagram says they plan to expand to additional countries and languages soon. TikTok already has a similar feature.

Previously, Instagram only supported Reels of up to 30 seconds, while TikTok recently made it possible for users to create videos up to three minutes long. Still, the ability to post 60-second reels is especially useful for creators who want to re-post their existing content from TikTok or other competitor apps to grow their following across multiple platforms. More creators are making a living on social media than ever, but with so many platforms available to them (even Pinterest is investing in short-form video), it’s smart to cross-post content. So, this feature benefits Instagram creators who also have a following on TikTok, but it makes sense for the platform itself as well — the more eyes on Reels, the better. Instagram’s algorithm doesn’t promote content with a TikTok watermark, but savvy users have figured out how to recycle their videos without it.

Currently, YouTube Shorts and Snapchat’s Spotlight also support videos of up to 60 seconds. In May, YouTube Shorts launched a $100 million creator fund to distribute among top Shorts creators over the course of 2021 and 2022; Snapchat distributed $1 million per day to viral Spotlight creators between its launch at the end of November through the end of 2020. Facebook and Instagram have also committed to investing in digital creators.

To access this feature, navigate to create a new Reel, then press the down button on the left side of the screen to reveal the menu. Tap “length” to toggle among options to create a 15-second, 30-second, or 60-second Reel. Not all creators have access to 60-second Reels just yet, but it should roll out to all users soon.

#apps, #bytedance, #computing, #instagram, #mobile-applications, #pinterest, #snapchat, #social-media, #software, #tiktok, #video-hosting, #youtube

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

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

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

Image Credits: Tumblr

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

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

A Tumblr Post+ creator profile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credits: SimilarWeb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YouTube to pilot test shopping from livestreams with select creators

YouTube will begin pilot testing a new feature that will allow viewers to shop for products directly from livestream videos. The feature will initially launch with just a handful of creators and brands, the company says, and is an expansion of the integrated shopping experience YouTube began beta testing earlier this year.

That feature was designed only for on-demand videos, and allowed viewers to tap into the “credibility and knowledge” of trusted creators in order to make informed purchases, the company explained at the time. It said it would roll out to more creators over the course of 2021.

More recently, YouTube tested livestreamed shopping with a one-day shopping event focused on small businesses.

YouTube’s video platform, for years, has been a powerful tool for product discovery, as its over 2 billion logged-in users per month turn to the service to watch product reviews, demos, unboxings, shopping hauls, and other content that could inspire future purchases. But creators who wanted to sell from their YouTube videos would often have to promote affiliate links to online stores through the video’s description or in-video elements, like cards or end screens.

In more recent years, YouTube also introduced a merch shelf that would allow viewers to shop a set of specific products the creator selected.

The integrated shopping experience, meanwhile, allows viewers to shop the products shown in the video itself by tapping on a “view products” button, which brings up a list of the items being featured.

Image Credits: YouTube

This feature allows YouTube to better compete with the growing number of video shopping experiences becoming available from both startups and competitors, including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok Pinterest, Amazon, and Snapchat. Many of those include support for livestream videos, too.

Over the past year, for example, startups like Bambuser, Popshop Live, Talkshoplive, Whatnot, and others have raised multi-million dollar rounds to invest in their own live video shopping businesses. Meanwhile, Facebook recently launched Live Shopping Fridays to test live shopping within the beauty, fashion and skincare space. And Walmart partnered with TikTok on livestream shopping events on multiple occasions.

YouTube’s own interest in this space has been heating up, as well, as just this week the company announced it was acquiring Indian video shopping app Simsim — an indication of Google’s interest in further integrating video shopping experiences into its own platform. Google also integrated video shopping into its Shopping search business, which included one effort from Shoploop, a video shopping product that graduated from Google’s in-house incubator, Area 120.

The expansion of YouTube’s integrated video shopping experience was announced today alongside other new Google Shopping features, including the addition of new section that organizes deals and sales on Google’s Shopping tab, which will be free for merchants who want to list.

#creators, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #google, #google-shopping, #live-shopping, #marketing, #merchandising, #online-stores, #search, #shopping, #social, #video, #video-hosting, #video-shopping, #youtube

Pink Floyd drummer invests in Disciple Media, a platform aimed at the creator economy

Much has been made of the rise of the “creator economy” in the last year. With the Pandemic biting, millions flooded online, looking for a way to make money or promote themselves. The podcasting world has exploded, and with it platforms like Patreon, Clubhouse, and many others. But the thorny problem remains: Do you really own your audience as a creator, or does the platform own you? Companies like Mighty Networks, Circle and Tribe have tried to address this, giving creators greater control than social networks do over their audiences. Now another joins the fray.

Disciple Media bills itself as a SaaS platform to enable online creators to build community-led businesses. It’s now raised $6 million in funding in what it calls a ‘large Angel round’. It already claims to have garnered 2 million members and 500 communities since launching in 2018. Investors include Nick Mason (drummer in Pink Floyd), Sir Peter Michael (CEO of Cray Computers, founder of classic FM, Quantel and Cosworth Engineering), Rob Pierre (founder and CEO of Jellyfish), and Keith Morris (ex. chairman Sabre Insurance). It’s also announced a new Chairman, Eirik Svendsen, a expert in online marketplaces, SaaS and the publishing and media industry.

On its communities so far it has American country star and American Idol judge Luke Bryan, Gor Tex, and Body by Ciara. The platform is also available on iOS and Android and comes with community management tools, a CRM, and monetization options. The company claims its creators are now “earning millions in revenue each year.”

Benji Vaughan, Founder and CEO said: “The scale and rapid growth of the creator economy is extraordinary, and today that growth is being driven by entrepreneurial creators looking to build independent businesses outside of Youtube and the social networks.”

Vaughan, a Techno DJ and artist-turned-entrepreneur, says he came up with the idea after building similar communities for clients. He says the data created on Disciple communities is owned entirely by the host who built the network, “removing third-party risk and allowing insights to be actioned immediately”.

He told me: “We are moving from a position of effectively having ‘gig economy workers for social networks’ to owners of businesses who use social networks for their needs, not the other way around. Therefore, these people are starting to leave social networks to build their businesses and using social networks as marketing channels, as the rest of the world does. Once that migration happens where they move away from social networks as their prime platform, they need a hub where their data is going to get pulled together, they have an audience, which we see as a community that connects with itself as much as they do with the host.”

He thinks the equivalent of Salesforce or HubSpot in the creative economy is going to be a community platform: “That’s where they’re going to aggregate all the information about their valuable audience or community engagement. So, we are looking to, over time, to build out something very akin to what HubSpot sites they have for tech companies or SaaS businesses: a complete package, a complete platform to manage your engagement with your users, grow your user base and then convert that into revenue.”

Rob Pierre, founder and CEO Jellyfish said: “Creating and engaging with your community digitally has never been more important. Disciple allows you to do both of those things with a fully functional, feature-rich platform which requires very little upfront capital expenditure. It also provides numerous options to monetize your community.”

#american-idol, #android, #ceo, #chairman, #cloud-applications, #computing, #crm, #europe, #founder, #hubspot, #jellyfish, #marketing, #mighty-networks, #online-creators, #online-marketplaces, #patreon, #pink-floyd, #sabre, #salesforce, #search-engine-optimization, #social-networks, #software, #software-as-a-service, #tc, #tribe, #united-states, #youtube

Instagram adds new controls for limiting sexual and violent content in the Explore tab

Instagram is giving its users a tiny bit more power to see what they want — and not see what they don’t want — in its content discovery hub. The company introduced a new toggle called “Sensitive Content Control” on Tuesday that allows anyone to screen posts that it thinks could be offensive, hiding them from the Explore tab.

The new feature appears in the settings menu and lets users choose to either allow more content that could be “upsetting or offensive,” limit that content or “limit even more.” The phrasing is kind of weird but it acknowledges that the company’s moderation efforts aren’t perfect, and that’s realistic at least.

“You can think of sensitive content as posts that don’t necessarily break our rules, but could potentially be upsetting to some people – such as posts that may be sexually suggestive or violent,” Instagram explained in the announcement.

TechCrunch asked the company to expand on what kinds of posts are screened out under each category and if human or algorithmic moderation determines what is sensitive but did not receive a response.

We also asked if the company has any plans to create separate toggles for violence and sexual content, considering that a lot of people comfortable with the latter might be less inclined to see violence bubble up among the app’s makeup tutorials and influencer junkets.

On Instagram, “sensitive” content is a massive catch-all category for stuff it allows but doesn’t want to be seen as directly promoting. In its own guidelines on content it recommends, Instagram states that sexually suggestive content like “pictures of people in see-through clothing” aren’t eligible for the Explore tab. Instagram’s definition of sensitive content also includes dangerous forms of content like “exaggerated health claims” and posts promoting weight loss supplements.

Instagram is notorious for over-policing content that the platform deems to be sexual. A campaign from Black plus-size model Nyome Nicholas-Williams successfully pressured the platform into relaxing one of its overly restrictive nudity rules last year.

Instagram contextualized the new content controls part of a new effort to give users more power to determine what shows up in their feed. “We believe people should be able to shape Instagram into the experience that they want,” the company wrote in a blog post, noting that recent changes like being able to disable comments also give users more choice.

While the company is giving users more control over its algorithm in some small ways, it’s also considering giving them less. Last month, Instagram began testing algorithmic suggestions mixed into the main feed, a design choice that would let the company inject the platform with even more of what it wants you to see.

#content-moderation, #instagram, #like-button, #mobile-software, #operating-systems, #social, #social-media, #social-software, #software, #tc, #youtube

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

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

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

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

An animation showing how Super Thanks works on YouTube

Image Credits: YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vyrill, winner of the TC Early Stage pitch-off, helps brands discover and leverage user-generated video reviews

Vyrill helps brands discover and leverage video reviews created by authentic customers and users. The company presented its product at TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing and Fundraising, where it beat out nine other companies, winning the pitch-off. The judges were impressed with Vyrill’s novel approach and innovative technology around discovering and filtering relevant videos.

This is a struggle for companies of every size. User-generated content is highly sought after as its authenticity is often apparent and therefore powerful. But the challenge is finding the ideal video quickly and efficiently. Right now, that usually involves searching for a video based on its title and then screening the entire video — a process that’s haphazard and labor-intensive.

As Vyrill’s CEO Ajay Bam stressed during his presentation, brands increasingly turn to ordinary people for video advertising. Instead of slick marketing videos, brands are more often licensing and marketing content created by real-life product users. But discovery is challenging and the search tools built into video platforms only parse the text in the title and description. Vyrill claims to have the solution. For example, with Vyrill’s technology, L’Oreal can match millions of YouTube videos to their entire product catalog, organizing each video to the appropriate product category. This enables L’Oreal to identify and utilize the best user-generated videos for the company’s marketing purposes. In addition, with Vyrill’s system, L’Oreal can dig down and identify user-generated content specific to a particular product.

Vyrill’s system analyzes the videos and parses the video’s text, audio, and images against a handful of filters, including diversity, subject matter, engagement, and more. According to Vyrill, this system is the secret sauce, enabling brands to discover the best videos quickly. The system also helps brands connect with the content creators by displaying profiles and email addresses.

CEO Ajay Bam said during his presentation the company currently has 40 companies on its platform, and it’s doubling month over month. Bam and co-founder and CTO Dr. Barbara Rosario started the company in 2015 and raised a $2.1 million pre-seed round in 2018. The company is currently fundraising a seed round with $1.2 million already raised.

Watch Vyrill’s pitch-off presentation here.

#ceo, #collective-intelligence, #computing, #digital-media, #loreal, #marketing, #new-media, #social-media, #tc, #user-generated-content, #video-advertising, #video-hosting, #youtube