Facebook buys Vidpresso’s team and tech to make video interactive

Facebook buys Vidpresso’s team and tech to make video interactive

Zombie-like passive consumption of static video is both unhealthy for viewers and undifferentiated for the tech giants that power it. That’s set Facebook on a mission to make video interactive, full of conversation with broadcasters and fellow viewers. It’s racing against Twitch, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat to become where people watch together and don’t feel like asocial slugs afterward.

That’s why Facebook today told TechCrunch that it’s acqui-hired Vidpresso, buying its seven-person team and its technology but not the company itself. The six-year-old Utah startup works with TV broadcasters and content publishers to make their online videos more interactive with on-screen social media polling and comments, graphics and live broadcasting integrated with Facebook, YouTube, Periscope and more. The goal appears to be to equip independent social media creators with the same tools these traditional outlets use so they can make authentic but polished video for the Facebook platform.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it wouldn’t have taken a huge price for the deal to be a success for the startup. Vidpresso had only raised a $120,00 in seed capital from Y Combinator in 2014, plus some angel funding. By 2016, it was telling hiring prospects that it was profitable, but also that, “We will not be selling the company unless some insane whatsapp like thing happened. We’re building a forever biz, not a flip.” So either Vidpresso lowered its bar for an exit or Facebook made coming aboard worth its while.

For now, Vidpresso clients and partners like KTXL, Univision, BuzzFeed, Turner Sports, Nasdaq, TED, NBC and others will continue to be able to use its services. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that customers will work with the Vidpresso team at Facebook, who are joining its offices in Menlo Park, London and LA. That means Facebook is at least temporarily becoming a provider of enterprise video services. But Facebook confirms it won’t charge Vidpresso clients, so they’ll be getting its services for free from now on. Whether Facebook eventually turns away old clients or stops integrating with competing video platforms like Twitch and YouTube remains to be seen. For now, it’s giving Vidpresso a much more dignified end than the sudden shutdowns some tech giants impose on their acquisitions.

We’ve had a lot of false starts along the way . . . We finally landed on helping create high quality broadcasts back on social media, but we still haven’t realized the full vision yet. That’s why we’re joining Facebook,” the Vidpresso team writes. “This gives us the best opportunity to accelerate our vision and offer a simple way for creators, publishers, and broadcasters to use social media in live video at a high quality level . . . By joining Facebook, we’ll be able to offer our tools to a much broader audience than just our A-list publishing partners. Eventually, it’ll allow us to put these tools in the hands of creators, so they can focus on their content, and have it look great, without spending lots of time or money to do so.”

Facebook Live has seen 3.5 billion broadcasts to date, and they get six times as many interactions as traditional videos. But beyond public figures, game streamers, and the odd moment of citizen journalism, it’s become clear that most users don’t have compelling enough content to stream. Interactivity could take some pressure off the broadcaster by letting the audience chip in.

Facebook already has some interactive video experiments out in the wild. For users, it recently rolled out its Watch Party tool for letting Groups view and chat about videos together. It’s also trying new games like Lip Sync Live and a Talent Show feature where users submit videos of them singing. For creators, Facebook now let streamers earn tips with its new Stars virtual currency, and lets fans subscribe to donating money to their favorite video makers like on Patreon. And on the publisher side, Facebook Live has also built tools to help publishers pull in social media content. It’s even got an interactive video API that it’s developing to allow developers to launch their own HQ Trivia-game shows.

But the last line of Vidpresso’s announcement above explains Facebook’s intentions here, and also why it didn’t just try to build the tools itself. It doesn’t just want established news publishers and TV studios making video for its platform. It wants semi-pro creators to be able to broadcast snazzy videos with graphics, comments and polls that can aesthetically compete with “big video” but that feel more natural. This focus on creators over news outlets aligns with reports of Facebooks head of journalist relations Campbell Brown allegedly saying that Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t care about publishers and that “We are not interested in talking to you about your traffic and referrals any more. That is the old world and there is no going back.” Facebook has contested these reports.

Every internet platform is wising up to the fact that web-native creators who grew up on their sites often create the most compelling content and the most fervent fan bases. Whichever video hub offers the best audience growth, creative expression tools and monetization options will become the preferred destination for creators’ work, and their audiences will follow. Vidpresso could help these creators look more like TV anchors than selfie monologuers, but also help them earn money by integrating brand graphics and tie-ins. Facebook couldn’t risk another tech giant buying up Vidpresso and gaining an edge, or wasting time trying to build interactive video technology and expertise from scratch.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Founder Zain Jaffer may be looking to take back control of Vungle

Founder Zain Jaffer may be looking to take back control of Vungle

Zain Jaffer may be gearing up for a fight to take back control of Vungle, the mobile ad company he founded.

Jaffer was removed from his role as CEO last fall following his arrest on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and performing a lewd act on a child.

However, a San Mateo County judge subsequently dismissed the charges. The district attorney’s office released a statement offering more context for the dismissal, saying that they did not believe there was any sexual conduct on the evening in question, and that “the injuries were the result of Mr. Jaffer being in a state of unconsciousness caused by prescription medication.”

So what’s next for Jaffer and Vungle? There are hints in a recent letter from Jaffer’s attorney, John Pernick, which was sent to current Vungle CEO Rick Tallman.

TechCrunch has obtained a copy of the letter, which requests access to Vungle’s records, specifically the names and addresses of company shareholders. Pernick’s letter suggests that this could be a prelude to further action (emphasis added):

Mr. Jaffer is considering various options with respect to Vungle and his shares of Vungle. He has considered selling some portion of his Vungle shares. However, he is also considering pursuing a leadership change at Vungle through calling for a shareholders meeting for the purpose of voting on a new board of directors and/or purchasing shares of additional Vungle stock. Communicating with Vungle shareholders with respect to their interest in purchasing or selling Vungle stock or in a change in the board of directors is an entirely proper purpose for Mr. Jaffer’s request to inspect the shareholder information that will enable him to make these communications.

When TechCrunch contacted Pernick, he confirmed the authenticity of the letter but declined to comment further. A spokesperson for Jaffer also declined to comment, and Vungle did not respond to our inquiries.

As you can see in the quote above, the letter indicates that Jaffer is considering multiple courses of action.

But if he decides to pursue a leadership change at Vungle, either by winning over existing shareholders or by purchasing a controlling stake in the company, it sounds like there are investors willing to back him — for starters, Jun Hong Heng at Crescent Cove Capital Management confirmed that his firm is working with Jaffer.

“We think Zain and Vungle have incredible potential,” Heng said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Zain and giving him the support he needs to help him regain control of his company.”

We also reached out to Anne-Marie Roussel, who recently resigned from Vungle’s board of directors. Roussel said via email that “the Vungle controversy is an interesting proxy for a much larger debate: the fuzziness surrounding ethical conduct in the tech industry.”

She added, “My personal prediction is that boards of tech companies will be held increasingly accountable for the ethics of the key decisions they make.” As for how that applies to Vungle, she said:

How does it reflect on ethical values when a CEO is dismissed based on presumption of guilt? Don’t we live in a democracy where one of the key legal right is “presumption of innocence” (as in a defendant is innocent until proven guilty). Upholding that principle by collaborating with his defense team was what led to my resignation from Vungle’s board.

Letter to Vungle by TechCrunch on Scribd

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Musical.ly investor bets on internet radio with $17M deal for Korea’s Spoon Radio

Musical.ly investor bets on internet radio with M deal for Korea’s Spoon Radio

One of the early backers of Musical.ly, the short video app that was acquired for $1 billion, is making a major bet that internet radio is one of the next big trends in media.

Goodwater Capital, one of a number of backers that won big when ByteDance acquired Musical.ly last year, has joined forces with Korean duo Softbank Ventures and KB Investment to invest $17 million into Korea’s Spoon Radio. The deal is a Series B for parent company Mykoon, which operates Spoon Radio and previously developed an unsuccessful smartphone battery sharing service.

That’s much like Musical.ly, which famously pivoted to a karaoke app after failing to build an education service.

“We decided to create a service, now known as Spoon Radio, that was inspired by what gave us hope when [previous venture] ‘Plugger’ failed to take off. We wanted to create a service that allowed people to truly connect and share their thoughts with others on everyday, real-life issues like the ups and downs of personal relationships, money, and work.

“Unlike Facebook and Instagram where people pretend to have perfect lives, we wanted to create an accessible space for people to find and interact with influencers that they could relate with on a real and personal level through an audio and pseudo-anonymous format,” Mykoon CEO Neil Choi told TechCrunch via email.

Choi started the company in 2013 with fellow co-founders Choi Hyuk jun and Hee-jae Lee, and today Spoon Radio operates much like an internet radio station.

Users can tune in to talk show or music DJs, and leave comments and make requests in real-time. The service also allows users to broadcast themselves and, like live-streaming, broadcasters — or DJs, as they are called — can monetize by receiving stickers and other virtual gifts from their audience.

Spoon Radio claims 2.5 million downloads and “tens of millions” of audio broadcasts uploaded each day. Most of that userbase is in Korea, but the company said it is seeing growth in markets like Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam. In response to that growth — which Choi said is over 1,000 percent year-on-year — this funding will be used to invest in expanding the service in Southeast Asia, the rest of Asia and beyond.

Audio social media isn’t a new concept.

Singapore’s Bubble Motion raised close to $40 million from investors but it was sold in an underwhelming and undisclosed deal in 2014. Reportedly that was after the firm had failed to find a buyer and been ready to liquidate its assets. Altruist, the India-based mobile services company that bought Bubble Motion has done little to the service. Most changes have been bug fixes and the iOS app, for example, has not been updated for nearly a year.

Things have changed in the last four years, with smartphone growth surging across Asia and worldwide. That could mean different fortunes but there are also differences between the two in terms of strategy.

Bubbly was run like a social network — a ‘Twitter for voice’ — whereas Spoon Radio is focused on a consumption-based model that, as the name suggests, mirrors traditional radio.

“This is mobile consumer internet at its best,” Eric Kim, one of Goodwater Capital’s two founding partners, told TechCrunch in an interview. “Spoon Radio is taking an offline experience that exists in classic radio and making it even better.”

Kim admitted that when he first used the service he didn’t see the appeal — he claimed the same was true for Musical.ly — but he said he changed his tune after talking to listeners and using Spoon Radio. He said it reminded him of being a kid growing up in the U.S. and listening to radio shows avidly.

“It’s a really interesting phenomenon taking off in Asia because of smartphone growth and people being keen for content, but not always able to get video content. It was a net new behavior that we’d never seen before… Musical.ly was in the same bracket as net new content for the new generation, we’ve been paying attention to this category broadly,” Kim — whose firm’s other Korean investments include chat app giant Kakao and fintech startup Toss — explained.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Samsung announces Spotify as its go-to music partner

Samsung announces Spotify as its go-to music partner
Samsung didn’t just unveil new devices like the Galaxy Home, the Galaxy Watch and of course the new Galaxy Note 9 at its Unpacked event this morning — it also announced a partnership with Spotify.
The goal is to create a seamless cross-device listening experience on Samsung devices, including the ones announced today. As demonstrated onstage, you should be able to start playing a song on your phone, then switch over to your TV, then over to your Galaxy Home.
This integration that will allow you to play Spotify on your Samsung Smart TV through the SmartThings app deepens the integration between Spotify and Samsung’s voice assistant Bixby, making Spotify the default choice whenever you ask Bixby to look for music.
In addition, Spotify will become part of the set-up experience on Samsung devices.

For Spotify, this  partnership should mean more visibility, making it the preferred music experience on Samsung devices. And for Samsung, it highlights one of its differences compared to Apple, which has been focusing on Apple Music as it rolls out new devices like the HomePod.
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek took the stage at Unpacked to talk about the partnership, which he also discussed in the official Spotify announcement.
“We believe that this significant long-term partnership will provide Samsung users across millions of devices with the best possible music streaming experience, and make discovering new music easier than ever – with even more opportunities to come,” Ek said.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

The NYT adds a personalized ‘news feed’ to its iOS app

The NYT adds a personalized ‘news feed’ to its iOS app

The New York Times announced on Friday how it’s adding its own take on Facebook-style News Feed to its mobile app. Yes, literally a news feed. The publication says it will now allow its iOS app users to customize their reading experience through a new feature called “Your Feed,” which consists only of those channels readers choose to follow. Some of those channels will pull stories from existing New York Times sections and columns, like Modern Love, while others, like Gender & Society, At War, Pop Culture, and more will pull news from across the paper’s sections. And others will include commentary from reporters and editors, and will feature worthy reads from outside The Times.

This additional context will only be found in this personalized Your Feed section, and is something the publication says is an experiment in terms of bringing another layer of insight to the news and stories. On the technical side, the commentary itself is actually pulled from The Times’ Slack, through the use of a bot built by backend engineer Brandon Hopkins. It basically turns Slack into the CMS for publishing these short posts to the Your Feed section of the app.

The design team equates the Your Feed reading experience to the way people tend to peruse a printed newspaper. Beyond reading the front page news, people will often pull out the sections they want to read, and then thumb through them – coming across other stories they want to read. And different readers will gravitate towards different sections and articles.

It says the idea for the feed came from its user research, where it found that many people wanted a separate place from the home page to follow a customized feed of content.

With The NYT outputting around 160 articles per day, it’s very difficult to be a comprehensive reader of the paper in its entirety, of course. But the app already allowed users to poke around in its many sections by tapping through its navigation. With the addition of a personalized feed – as on Facebook and on other social apps – there’s always the danger that people will begin to box themselves into their own news bubble. If the app’s users start skipping the front page and other key sections to hop into this own custom feed, they could potentially miss important news.

Hopefully, readers will choose to use the new Your Feed feature as something that’s additive to their overall news reading experience, and not as a stand-in for actually reading the paper itself.

Additionally, The NYT says the sections will be curated by its editors to ensure there’s a diverse selection of stories available. (Thankfully – news curation left up to A.I. and algorithms has proven time and again to be a disaster. So much so that Facebook finally gave up, and ditched its Trending news section altogether.) Plus, by having a human-programmed section, the editors can ensure not to overwhelm readers with stories.

To use the new feature, readers in the iOS app will be able to pick from one of 24 channels they want to follow – an idea that’s not too unlike the way users follow accounts on social apps like Twitter or Instagram. To then read through this section, there will now be a new space in the iOS app labeled Your Feed.

Going forward, The NYT says it will tweak the experience further by adjusting the channel selection, offering more ways to follow channels, and rolling out other features, while responding to user feedback and behavior to inform its design choices. It will also experiment with different versions of saving stories, notifications, and ways to better manage your interests in the app.

The feature is available in the The NYT iOS app on iPhone and iPad for the time being. User feedback will determine if it expands to more platforms, the publisher told us. Your Feed is available to 100 percent of users who already had the app installed, but only half of new app downloads will receive the feature, we understand.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Portal offers an easy way to pay creators for their content

Portal offers an easy way to pay creators for their content

Portal founder Jonathan Swerdlin is just the latest media pundit to point to advertising as the root cause of the industry’s problems. But he’s not content to diagnose the illness — he thinks he’s created a cure.

“Digital media has become toxic, in part, because of advertising,” Swerdlin said. “The unmet and unarticulated need is a peer-to-peer economy where you’re rewarded for creating value, rather than a quantity model” where a publisher or creator’s main economic incentive is to attract as many eyeballs as possible.

Naturally, that’s what Swerdlin is trying to offer in Portal. When you open the app, you follow creators and topics that interest you, then get presented with a feed of videos. During or after the video, you can tip the creator in Portal coins — the current price is 1 cent per coin, and individual payments can be anything from 10 to 10,000 coins.

This changes the equation for creators. If you’re monetizing a video with ads, 1,000 views would represent a negligible amount of ad revenue — but if 1,000 people like the video and are willing to pay a dollar, then then you’re starting to talk about real money.

Conversely, there’s no financial incentive to post a video on Portal that gets a million views if everyone’s going to think it’s a complete waste of their time.

Jonathan Swerdlin

Swerdlin said removing advertising changes the incentives for Portal too, because the startup doesn’t benefit from promoting content just because it’ll get clicks.

In fact, he said Portal will pretty allow users to post anything, as long as it doesn’t violate community standards around things like pornography and hate speech. And it presents a purely reverse chronological feed of content based on what you follow — the question of surfacing interesting content in the feed will probably get more complicated as more users join the platform, but Swerdlin argued, “We don’t need algorithms to solve feed problems.”

“We’re not going to bury things that are not advertiser-friendly,” he added. “It’s a very different game. Portal is very much about people having a place to freely express themselves and not worry about being buried by an algorithm.”

Swerdlin acknowledged that these aren’t entirely new ideas or strategies — micropayments have been touted as a solution to media monetization for years, and he pointed to services like Netflix and Medium as offering models that help creators “break free of advertising.”

At the same time, Swerdlin said Portal’s approach to payments is truly offers “no friction” — it’s uses your App Store payment info, so you don’t even need to enter your credit information. He also said that by creating an app for content (rather than just a micropayment platform that plugs into existing websites), Portal can truly solving the problem by offering a media environment that’s “safe, it’s a healthy media diet, as opposed ot the juunk food.”

Currently, Portal’s content is limited to videos, but those videos cover a range of topics and genres like advice (personal- and business-related), comedy, music and personal vlogging. Over time, Swerdlin wants to expand to other content formats.

You also need an invite code to access the app, but if you want to try it out, feel free to use mine: “anthonyha”. (Don’t blame me; I didn’t choose it.)

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

YouTube’s dark theme has started gradually rolling out to Android

YouTube’s dark theme has started gradually rolling out to Android

A dark theme option for YouTube users on Android is in the early stages of rolling out to end users, Google confirmed to TechCrunch, following a number of reports and sightings of the dark mode showing up for users in the app’s settings. The feature has taken a bit longer to launch than expected – YouTube first announced a dark mode for its mobile app back in March, when it launched on iOS. At the time, the company said the dark theme for Android was coming “soon.”

Five months later, well, here it is.

Similar to its iOS counterpart, the dark theme is toggled on or off in the Android app’s Settings. When enabled, YouTube’s usual white background switches to black throughout the YouTube app experience as your browse, search and watch videos.

The dark theme has a variety of benefits for end users. It gives watching videos a more cinematic feel, for starters. And when you’ve been staring at your screen for a long time, it can help you to better focus on the content, and not the controls. It can also help to cut down on glare, and help viewers take in the true colors of the videos they watch, the company previously explained.

Plus, some tests have shown dark themes can save battery life – something that’s particularly useful for YouTube’s 1.8 billion monthly users, who are spending more than an hour per day watching YouTube videos on mobile devices.

Above: Image credits, Imgur user absinth92

YouTube first introduced a dark theme in May 2017, when it debuted a series of enhancements to its desktop website, including its simpler, Material Design-inspired look. At the time, it said a dark theme for mobile was a top request.

The YouTube app isn’t alone in catering to users’ desire for a dark mode. Other high-profile apps have gone this route as well, including Twitter, Reddit, Twitter clients like Tweetbot and Twitterific, Reddit clients like Beam, Narwhal, and Apollo, podcast player Overcast, calendar app Fantastical, Telegram X, Instapaper, Pocket, Feedly and others.

Google told us that the dark theme for YouTube on Android is still in the early phases of a gradual rollout, and it will have more updates about this launch in the “coming weeks.”

The change arrives alongside update a YouTube Community Manager shared in YouTube’s Help Forum about YouTube’s adaptive video player. The player on desktop now removes the black bars alongside 4:3 and vertical videos, by adjusting the viewing area accordingly, they said.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Why unskippable Stories ads could revive Facebook

Why unskippable Stories ads could revive Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

Stories, and Stories ads, are fundamentally different. They require big, tantalizing photos at a minimum, or preferably stylish video that lasts five to 15 seconds. That’s a huge upward creative leap for advertisers to make, particularly small businesses that’ll have trouble shooting that polished content themselves. Rather than displaying a splayed out preview of a link, users typically have to swipe up or tap a smaller section of a Story ad to click through.

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

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

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

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

Stories ads are a bigger shift than web to mobile

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

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

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

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

Instagram’s three-slide Stories carousel ads

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

An Instagram spokesperson told me they had “no plans to share right now” about unskippable ads, and a Facebook spokesperson said “We don’t have any plans to test unskippable stories ads on Facebook or Instagram.” But plans can change. A Snap spokesperson noted that unlike a full 30-second TV spot, Snapchat’s Commercials are up to six seconds, which matches an emerging industry trend for mobile video ads. Budweiser recently made some six-second online ads that it also ran on TV, showing the format’s reuseability that could speed up adoption. For brand advertisers not seeking an on-the-spot purchase, they need time to leave an impression.

By making some Stories ads unskippable, Facebook’s apps could charge more while making them more impactful for advertisers. It would also reduce the creative pressure on businesses because they won’t be forced to make that first split-second so flashy so people don’t fast-forward. Employing unskippable ads could also create an incentive for people to pay for a hypothetical ad-free Facebook Premium subscription in the future.

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

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

MoviePass borrowed $5M to end yesterday’s outage

MoviePass borrowed M to end yesterday’s outage

More bad news for subscription movie ticket service MoviePass, which acknowledged yesterday that there was an unidentified issue preventing people from using their MoviePass credit cards to get tickets.

A regulatory filing from parent company Helios & Matheson offers more insight about what happened. The filing (first spotted by Business Insider) announces a “demand note” of $6.2 million, including $5 million in cash that the company borrowed. It goes on to explain:

The $5.0 million cash proceeds received from the Demand Note will be used by the Company to pay the Company’s merchant and fulfillment processors. If the Company is unable to make required payments to its merchant and fulfillment processors, the merchant and fulfillment processors may cease processing payments for MoviePass, Inc. (“MoviePass”), which would cause a MoviePass service interruption. Such a service interruption occurred on July 26, 2018.

In other words, it looks like MoviePass wasn’t able to pay one of its service providers, which led to the outage. In order to make those payments, it borrowed $5 million.

This doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in MoviePass’ finances. A Helios & Matheson filing from earlier this month suggested that the company was looking to raise up to $1.2 billion in equity and debt financing to fund MoviePass’ operations and growth.

Meanwhile, although the service is best-known for offering access to unlimited movie tickets for $9.95 per month, the specifics of the pricing model have been changing pretty frequently.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Maisie Williams shows off Daisie, an app for artistic collaboration

Maisie Williams shows off Daisie, an app for artistic collaboration

Maisie Williams, who’s best-known for playing Arya Stark on Game of Thrones, announced earlier this year that she’s founding a startup called Daisie. With the app set to launch on August 1, Williams and her co-founder Dom Santry came by the TechCrunch New York office to discuss her plans for the company.

Daisie will offer a way for filmmakers, musicians, visual artists, writers and other creators to showcase their work and find collaborators. The startup has already picked an initial 100 creators to kick things off.

Williams and Santry also gave us a quick runthrough of the app. At first glance, it might look like other social media services, but there are no follower counts, as Williams (who has no shortage of followers) explained: “If you have follower counts it then becomes about a competition, like a popularity contest between who can get the most.”

In addition, she noted that social media followings are generally one-sided, whereas Daisie is all about enabling “chains” of users who aren’t just viewing your profile, but can actually view your projects and contribute.

“A chain is where you reach out to someone who is in your area — or maybe even not,” she said. “So connecting with someone you’re inspired by, reaching out to them and saying, ‘Hey, I have this 30-second video of me singing the song, but I realized I’m actually a better lyricist than I am a songwriter, a musician. And I really love what you play, I wonder if you could make me a melody and we could sort of work together on this.’”

Ultimately, Williams is hoping that people’s Daisie profiles becomes an “online résumé or portfolio of work that they’re really proud of, that can be shown to the world.” And that, in turn, could help them find paying work, ideally on their own terms.

“We want to basically give the power back to the creator,” Williams said. “Instead of them having to market themselves to fit someone else’s idea of what their job would be, they can let their art speak for themselves.”

Source: Mobile – Techcruch