Week Two: Facebook reckoned with its power
Welcome to week two. I’ve curated what I think is the most important bits of news in the industry in the past week. There has been so much chopping and changing it is hard to keep up.
Facebook knows it played a major role in the US elections. Facebook’s algorithm is designed to show you stuff you are likely to like. If the algorithm was designed to show you posts you don’t like the elections would have had a different result.
But would Facebook still be Facebook in that situation? If people logged in and saw stuff they disliked would they continue to use Facebook? Would they not, in the age of the internet, find another bubble to feel comfortable and reinforce their views?
My view is that some people would have, and that the time people spend on Facebook would decrease. This is human nature. So is this Facebook’s problem? Or one of human nature?
Also, it feels a little strange to me that Facebook argues that it is the most powerful digital advertising platform in terms of impact, and that it had no influence in the elections.
Coby’s team took full advantage of the ability to perform massive tests with its ads. On any given day, Coby says, the campaign was running 40,000 to 50,000 variants of its ads, testing how they performed in different formats, with subtitles and without, and static versus video, among other small differences. On the day of the third presidential debate in October, the team ran 175,000 variations. Coby calls this approach “A/B testing on steroids.” The more variations the team was able to produce, Coby says, the higher the likelihood that its ads would actually be served to Facebook users.
For publishers, Facebook video and Facebook Live video will now be included in Nielsen’s Digital Content Ratings (DCR) to provide third-party verification for video metrics. Inclusion in DCR means publishers will be able to provide comparable metrics for digital and TV in Nielsen’s Total Audience Measurement
As a result of the correction, Facebook says the de-duplicated 7-day summary will be 33 percent lower on average and the 28-day summary will be 55 percent lower. All data in other fields is unaffected. “This bug has been live since May; we will be fixing this in the next few weeks. It does not affect paid reach,” the company said.
Facebook is updating how it reads video length, and says the change may lead to roughly a 35 percent increase in in that metric reporting.
Another example: the description of video views metrics (3, 10, and 30 seconds) now includes the term “aggregate” to more clearly explain it is based on aggregate view time of at least the specified number of seconds.
and “video views” is changing to “3-second video views”.
For now, the product update appears to be centered on the notification experience, which has been a minefield for victims of serial harassment on the platform. While a mute feature has long been called for by those targeted by Twitter’s brutish underbelly, it's also largely cosmetic — it hides abuse instead of fixing it. Although expanded mute tools will attempt to shield users from a deluge of unwanted interactions, the feature will do little to stop the underlying harassment itself.
As such, Twitter also announced it will add a new “hateful conduct” reporting option (when users report an “abusive or harmful” tweet, they’ll now see an option for “directing hate against a race, religion, gender, or orientation”). Similarly, the company is adding new “extensive” internal training for its support teams that deal with hateful harassment. According to the company, its Safety team support staff will undergo “special sessions on cultural and historical contextualization of hateful conduct” as well as refresher programs that will track how hate speech and abuse evolve on the platform (a necessary step, as many trolls have begun to create their own hateful code language with which to bypass traditional censors and filters).
Recently, a few researchers have claimed that Google and Facebook are taking all of the upside in the digital ad industry’s growth, while the rest is actually shrinking. But it’s important to note that these researchers use different methodologies, which to one degree or another, favor large public companies and underestimate the long tail. Another issue is that most of these researchers only track where money starts and not where it ends up. Put simply, lots of money going to Google, and to a lesser extent Facebook, ends up in the pockets of publishers.
But it’s really difficult to calculate not only if the net revenue splits are correct, but also where that money is going. Just on YouTube alone, there are thousands of content-creator partners, Utreras said.
Although it would be simplistic to hang the global surge of nationalism and far-right thinking on Facebook’s algorithms alone, it is undeniable how fast these nationalist far-right political movements are growing, thanks to some key changes Facebook made to its News Feed in 2014.
Two years ago, Facebook announced that it was tweakingthe algorithm, ironically, in an effort to defeat clickbait, to favor things like time spent on your News Feed. That meant comments and engagement mattered more than they used to, which meant content that favored identity became even more valuable. It was a watershed moment for Facebook’s ecosystem — its first aggressive step toward resembling apps like Instagram and Snapchat.
News Corp, the New York Times and Axel Springer are backing Scroll, a subscription service from the former CEO of Chartbeat
The idea isn’t to compete with subscription services that some publishers already sell. Instead, he thinks it will appeal to a swath of readers who don’t want to buy individual subscriptions, but want to sample lots of stuff, in what he promises will be a “great content experience.”
And not all advertisers may mind being on such sites. Readers of these sites are consumers, too. After all, nearly 61 million people voted for Donald Trump, and a site like Breitbart attracted 19.2 million unique visitors in October, according to comScore.
Mic’s Instagram team is a big investment for the publisher; it’s second in size only behind its Facebook video team, which numbers about 14. The Instagram team is as big as some publishers’ Snapchat teams, and like Snapchat, the content is designed specifically for Instagram and isn’t repurposed for Facebook or other platforms.
This is a big move for an organisation the size of Mic. But this says more about Instagram than Mic. Instagram is aggressively upping its game in a way publishers understand/can utilise more.
More websites were viewed on mobile devices and tablets than desktops for the first time ever this month
If you’re not mobile native, why are you even in this industry?
BuzzFeed is raising another $200 million at a valuation of $1.5 billion, the same valuation it had last year, according to documents from CB Insights.
The flat valuation might signal that a report by the Financial Times earlier this year, which said BuzzFeed had missed revenue targets, bears some truth.
“This is a historic day for the BBC, as we announce the biggest expansion of the World Service since the 1940s,” said BBC Director General Tony Hall. “The BBC World Service is a jewel in the crown — for the BBC and for Britain.”
Explore is a new video-focused hub within Pinterest that will deliver content from the media partners and show video ads. Explore is similar to Snapchat Discover, which gives premium publishers a place to post content and draw revenue from the app.
They seem a little late to the party.
Snapchat has an enormous user base, but they are not using their algorithm to push content or personalize the experience in any way. That’s a mistake.
Rival Instagram (owned by Facebook) recently changed its newsfeed from chronological to algorithmic. The result? Nike’s most viewed Snap on Snapchat got 66,000 views while the company’s Instagram story racked up a whopping 800K views in its first 24 hours.
Put simply, companies that use algorithms to learn from their users and harness that intelligence to improve their service are the most successful in the world.
You don’t need spectacles to see the future belongs to the algorithm — and Snap Inc are already losing focus.