Prepare for a Post-Autoplay World

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‘We’re cleaning up the mess’: Publishers prepare for a post-autoplay world
OCTOBER 20, 2017 by Lucia Moses

Autoplay has become synonymous with publishers putting monetization ahead of user experience. The leading browsers, Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari are taking steps to block videos that play automatically with sound on. Publishers will have to post videos that people actually want to watch by choosing to start them.Publishers will insist their actions are ongoing and not in reaction to anything Google and its ilk are doing, but many have become more nuanced about their autoplay video usage.Time Inc. has taken steps in the past year to more clearly label click-to-play videos on its sites including Real Simple and Travel + Leisure, with markers like play button icons or the word “watch.” With click-to-play videos, the publisher also has been testing GIFs that give the user a preview of the video itself before deciding whether to click.

Advertisers are requiring these steps, and users want them, too, said Patty Hirsch, svp of digital at Time Inc. “We don’t want to alienate our users,” she said. “In general, especially with the shift to mobile, optimizing the experience for users is probably one of the foremost things we can do.”

The Washington Post has a team that can adapt advertisers’ ads to different screens and formats, such as sound-off or close-captioned in the case of video ads, and it has been experimenting to find the right balance between the ad and the user, whether it’s sound-off autoplay with captions, still images or text, said Jarrod Dicker, vp of commercial product and innovation at the Post.

“Now you’re seeing autoplay conversations where the assumption is that autoplay is a bad user experience,” Dicker said. “Autoplay sound on, where a lot of users are on mobile devices and don’t have their volume on, is oftentimes forcing through an experience that doesn’t best benefit the user. We’ve had a lot of success with autoplay volume off with close captioning. A lot of brands have leveraged it because it is a great experience with readers. It’s in line, and it’s not invasive.”

Google Chrome, the dominant browser, said its forthcoming version will permit autoplay video if there’s no sound or if the user has indicated an interest in the media site, based on behavior such as having frequently watched video on the site.

Still, autoplay, sound off or not, is falling out of favor with the ad market.

Digiday Research: Marketers lack confidence in their data-driven approaches

Advertisers are now paying ad rates for user-initiated video that  are two to three times higher than autoplay video, and the fill rate is about twice as high, said Brian Rifkin, co-founder of JW Player.

“Intent to watch is the buzzword of 2018,” said Rifkin. “That’s where the ad demand is. Autoplay sound off will continue, but the real growth will move to intent to watch. The rates people will play for click to play will continue to go up. Publishers are starting to see that, and you’re starting to see the trade desks saying, ‘That’s what I want.’”

Advertisers will welcome Google’s move against sound-on autoplay because when people initiate the sound themselves, it indicates intent, said Alex Stone, vp of digital investment at Horizon Media. Over time, he said, pricing will change to reflect this shift, with agencies paying more for video where the user initiated the sound and watched the video to the end, for example.

“We’re cleaning up some of the mess we’ve made, and some of it is through innovation,” he said. “With digital, it’s try quickly and fail quickly. Sometimes we’re trying in a live environment and sometimes the user experience suffers, and they’re trying to claw back on that.”

The shift to intent raises the bar for publishers. There will be more pressure to make sure their video is high quality in the first place and relevant to the story it’s paired with. Publishers will need to make sure that if the video player is set to play automatically, it reverts to click-to-play mode. If videos are going to be user-initiated, they’ll need a compelling image to get people to click.

“Today, you see someone who wrote an article about Trump signing some executive order and they don’t have a video of Trump doing that, so they find a video of Trump doing something a few days ago,” said Mike Green, vp at Brightcove. “That’s the game they’re playing to increase video on their site. If everything is click-to-play, it’ll be clear that video has nothing to do with the article.”

Facebook is broken (via TechCrunch)

The problem is this: Facebook has become a feedback loop which can and does, despite its best intentions, become a vicious spiral. At Facebook’s scale,..

by , Columnist

The problem is this: Facebook has become a feedback loop which can and does, despite its best intentions, become a vicious spiral. At Facebook’s scale, behavioral targeting doesn’t just reflect our behavior, it actually influences it. Over time, a service which was supposed to connect humanity is actually partitioning us into fractal disconnected bubbles.

The way Facebook’s News Feed works is that the more you “engage” with posts from a particular user, the more often their posts are shown to you. The more you engage with a particular kind of post, the more you will see its ilk. So far so good! It’s just showing you what you’ve demonstrated you’re interested in. What’s wrong with that?

The answer is twofold. First, this eventually constructs a small “in-group” cluster of Facebook friends and topics that dominate your feed; and as you grow accustomed to interacting with them, this causes your behavior to change, and you interact with them even more, reinforcing their in-group status … and (relatively) isolating you from the rest of your friends, the out-group.

Second, and substantially worse, because “engagement” is the metric, Facebook inevitably selects for the shocking and the outrageous.

The Problem Applies to All Social Networks

Of course this doesn’t just apply to Facebook. The first problem applies to all social networks with “smart” algorithmic feeds that optimize for engagement. Facebook is just the largest and most influential by far.

The second has been a problem with television for decades. Why have majorities or crazily large minorities of people believed, for many years, that violent crime just keeps getting worse, that their hometown mall might be bombed by terrorists at any moment, that Sharia law will come to their province/state any day now, that the rest of the world is a war-torn shambles only barely propped up by vast quantities of aid we can’t afford — despite the easily available, incredibly copious, clear evidence to the contrary? In large part because “if it bleeds, it leads.”

‘Fake news’ is far from new; it’s just become explicit rather than implicit. And I certainly don’t mean to suggest that Facebook singlehandedly caused the terrible trend of demonizing any and all people with whom one disagrees. Studies show that political polarization is more extreme in older people, who use social media less, than in the young. Whatever’s happening is far more complicated than just “Facebook is driving us apart.”

Still — we hoped the 21st century of Facebook would be better, more compassionate, more understanding, than the 20th century TV. But it’s not, and the ways in which it’s worse are far more personal. We hoped that making the world more open and connected would be good for us. Maybe it would be, if the metric that the connecting entity optimized for was something other than “engagement.” But it now seems fairly clear that engagement is negatively correlated with happiness for users, and moderately clear that this is, in fact, a causal relationship.

An Analogy to Global Warming

The analogy I like to use is global warming causing extreme weather: the more energy pumped into our atmosphere, the more it behaves in bizarre and erratic ways. Facebook is like a powerful greenhouse gas for our collective social atmosphere. TV was too, of course, but it was CO2 to Facebook’s methane.

I don’t want to get into Facebook’s privacy issues, hate–speech issues, ongoing rejection of all the principles of the open web, etc. I’m not suggesting that this is anyone’s fault, or even that anyone has done anything wrong. Nothing like Facebook has ever existed before. It is a company that is also a massive global experiment, one with some excellent outcomes.

But it would be good for us all if Facebook were to at least acknowledge the possibility that at least some of their experiment’s outcomes seem at best worrying — and maybe even alarming — and something should be done to try to mitigate them. As hard as that admission might be.

Are Things Looking Better?

I’m happy to report that this may well be happening. See Mark Zuckerberg’s recent comments to the effect that “Facebook is … working on a way to connect you with people that you should know like mentors.” I hope this is the harbinger of a new understanding that Facebook’s focus on optimizing for engagement is, in and of itself, harmful to its users … and an understanding that it’s always best to head off a backlash before it begins, rather than after it gathers steam.

Read More at the Source: TechCrunch

Why Live Streaming is Changing The Future of Social Content (via The Next Web)


Over the past year, it seems as though almost everyone is going “live.” You know, those notifications on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram giving us real-time looks or even exclusive, behind the scenes footage. Yes, this phenomenon on our social feeds has only increased to becoming almost a daily occurrence, meaning it’s not going away anytime soon.

While the practice of live streaming has been around longer than the webcam, the usage of it on social media is still in its infancy. Of course, a this evolution stems from the natural progression from simply taking short videos on mobile phones to broadcasting them on social networks. We now look towards social as one of our primary providers of news and entertainment, with live feeds giving us an immediate look at the world.

Whether it be a music festival or protest, we’re constantly seeing events as they unfold. And when we think back to the power that social media has brought on in the past, this is only going to add more fuel to the fire. The influence that live streaming is only going to get more powerful in the future, as people will find usage for it like we’ve never seen before. Even as much as it seemed like the next logical step, live streaming is an enormous step towards changing social media forever.

Live Streaming Has Exploded

If you’re on Facebook, then at some point today you’ll most likely receive a notification that some person or company is “Live.” It’s no secret why Facebook promotes these posts as they not only are happening in real time, but that immediate access plays a significant role in looking at our audience as well as when they’re participating.

And while Facebook has been one of the most prominent players in the world of live streaming, other social platforms have started to catch on to the wave as well. The current trend has shown YouTube and Facebook being tied almost neck-and-neck, with Snapchat closely behind.

One insight gleaned from this new trend is the growing relationship of streaming platforms, like Netflix and Hulu, opening the door for us to receive live content on social platforms. As we’ve gravitated away from our TV’s and more towards our phones, tablets, and computer, these outlets have become primary sources to receiving news and entertainment. In fact, this change has been occurring so rapidly that the most recent presidential debates were some of the most popular live streams in history. However, it’s not just news and media outlets taking part as brands have been entering the live streaming realm too.

Where Brands Fit In

Brands usage of live streaming has entered the market in a variety of different ways. From product launches to social campaigns, live streams have provided brands with an opportunity to connect with their audiences in real-time in a way we haven’t seen before.

Viewers can now react as an event is happening, giving marketers immediate feedback into gauging the response of a campaign or product. More, this can help curb “social media” disasters as if the video is getting a poor response; then they can cut the cord immediately. In yet, so far the responses have been great, giving marketers and brands a leg up in terms of creating more engagement within their community.

With New Trends, The Tech Is To Follow

As live streaming has become more ubiquitous, tech companies have followed suite in creating new ways to be able to stream. Not only have we found ways for drones to live stream, that foundation has also transformed into more companies entering the market as well.

For example, companies like Freecast are setting the bar regarding innovation within the live streaming industry. Freecast offers users the ability to stream straight from their camera onto any platform. This is not only the first instance of being able to broadcast HDMI-enabled footage but additionally being able to have multiple cameras and angles all on the same feed. While they’re still an early one to market, it’s showing that live streaming is here to stay, and with it will only come more and more changes in how we digest media.

Read More at the Source: The Next Web

How Instagram pictures the world (via PBS NewsHour)

A startup no longer, Instagram boasts 700 million monthly active users and counting. As it grows, the free, photo-sharing mobile app is grappling with how to innovate and stay relevant, as well as how to foster a safe community. But with 95 million uploads a day, monitoring is a tall order. Judy Woodruff reports from California.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Next: the rapid rise of one of the world’s biggest social media networks, Instagram.

It’s building up steam, with 700 million people now using it each month, and it just took four months to pick up its latest 100 million new accounts.

But along the way, the company has faced concerns over how it can be used, and even some criticism for the way it essentially copied ideas from its rival, Snapchat.

Judy Woodruff recently got an inside look during her trip to Silicon Valley.

JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the first things that greets you inside Instagram is, no surprise, a place to take pictures. The free photo-sharing mobile app was born in 2010 with its first post, a foot in a flip-flop alongside a stray dog.

Turns out it was taken in Mexico by co-founder Kevin Systrom.

KEVIN SYSTROM, CEO and Co-Founder, Instagram: It’s a mixture of teams. So, we have got design teams, we have got partnership teams, we have got a community team, and then a bunch of engineers. We don’t really have an organization.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Systrom showed us around Instagram’s new offices in Menlo Park, California, designed to accommodate an ever-expanding staff.

You moved here six months ago; is that right?

KEVIN SYSTROM: Yes, six months ago, we moved from the original campus. And we designed this entire experience inside here to be cleaner, and a little bit more Instagrammy. So we have got the hip wood walls, and the polished concrete floors. It’s very start-uppy, but it’s in an Instagram way.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A start-up no longer, Instagram was acquired by Facebook in 2012 for a cool billion dollars. Then, the company had 13 employees. Now it has more than 600 to keep up with a rapidly growing user base, 700 million monthly active users and counting, 80 percent of them outside the United States.

How do you explain the phenomenal, rapid growth of this?

KEVIN SYSTROM: On Instagram, very early on, you would post an image, and anyone anywhere in the world could see that image, and understand what you were trying to say without speaking your language.

So, we like to say that Instagram was one of the first truly international networks in the world. And I think that’s what’s allowed it to scale to the hundreds of millions of people that use it every day today.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It still is a pretty extraordinary growth rate, isn’t it?


JUDY WOODRUFF: I mean, even with that rational explanation, it’s hard for people to understand how it happened.

KEVIN SYSTROM: Yes. You know, back in the day, if you started a company, you would have to rent a warehouse, you would have to hire a bunch of employees. But, you know, with very, very few people sitting here in this building today, we’re able to scale it to hundreds of millions of people around the world, because of the innovations that we are built up upon.

And that’s the cool thing about running a company today, is how many people you can touch how quickly.

JUDY WOODRUFF: For a company founded on images, the walls here are adorned with some of the best, culled from Instagram users around the world.

KEVIN SYSTROM: Well, not to invoke the common saying, but a picture is worth 1,000 words. And that’s kind of like the phrase that this company is built on. It’s just something that’s unlike traditional texts and traditional media. And I think it allows you to see a different side of people, maybe a more raw and human emotional side of people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Celebrities have embraced the app. Singer Selena Gomez has the most followers, more than 118 million. And Beyonce has the distinction of having the most-liked image in the history of Instagram, 10.9 million and climbing, for this photo that announced she’s pregnant with twins.

For teens, the quest for more and more likes and followers, plus the pressure for perfection as portrayed by some mega-popular users, is raising concerns among parents. Not only body image, but also bullying have become issues for some younger users.

And Instagram is grappling with how to foster a safe community, free from abusive behavior.

So, when you started Instagram seven years ago in 2010, did you have any idea you were going to be spending time, a lot of time now, thinking about protecting the people who use it?

KEVIN SYSTROM: No, I would say, every day at Instagram is not only the most complicated day of my career, but also the most interesting.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you prepare yourself for this kind of responsibility? I mean, what are you, 32 years old?

KEVIN SYSTROM: Thirty-three.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thirty-three.



That’s a lot of responsibility, isn’t it?


And there are a lot of parents here at Instagram who think deeply about a world in which their children are going to grow up online, and what kind of product they want to create, and what kind of legacy they want to leave.

I don’t yet have kids, but in a world where I do have kids, I want to make sure that the world they grow up in is one that is safe online, and that Instagram led the way to create that world.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But with 95 million uploads a day, monitoring is a tall order. New guidelines are aimed at blurring out questionable material before the user even sees it, with a screen labeled “sensitive content.”

There’s also a reporting function for content about self-harm or suicide. Systrom says the company’s work is far from over.

KEVIN SYSTROM: This is a constant process. This is about making sure that we continue to evolve the way we attack the problem. This isn’t about getting to an eventual future where it is absolutely gone.

That being said, it doesn’t mean that we can’t make real progress on it, and, more importantly, show the leadership that I think our company can and should, so that other tech companies do as well.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The pressure in Silicon Valley to lead, innovate and stay relevant is intense. And Instagram has come under criticism for its outright and successful copying of rival Snapchat’s video stories feature

Instagram Stories, you have openly said was copied, in effect, from Snapchat. Is that what happened?

KEVIN SYSTROM: The way things work in Silicon Valley is that companies will think up ideas, and, if they’re good, they will stick. And, often, they spread to other companies. And if we can learn from other companies that do it really well, we’re going to continue to do that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Advertising on the app is also growing and reaping rewards. There are one million active advertisers, a 400 percent increase from last year.

How have you changed your advertising philosophy over time?

KEVIN SYSTROM: Yes, there were two major changes, I think, to our advertising philosophy over time. The first was just to have advertising at all.


KEVIN SYSTROM: That was a big one. But we always knew we were going to be a business, and that’s how we were going to be a business, was advertising.

The second shift was going from a world where we had a small number of advertisers doing very refined ads to now, where we have many, many millions of advertisers on Facebook able to buy Instagram ads.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We ended where we began, in front of Instagram’s wall of photo-ops, where Systrom shares credit for how far the company has come.

KEVIN SYSTROM: It was the right time, it was the right idea, and then it was the right team. You need a lot of things to go well to get to this point. So I feel very lucky.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The business practices and decisions made by Instagram and, much more broadly, by Facebook are increasingly under scrutiny. We will have a closer look at that issue later this week.

Read More at the Source: PBS NewsHour


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Youtube and the Dark Mode


After more than a year of testing, YouTube will finally let you opt in to the Material Design version on desktop without requiring a URL workaround. YouTube said the goal of the redesign is to make the desktop experience more synonymous with its mobile counterpart, fitting in a simpler look to better highlight content on the site.

The new design brings infinite scrolling, end-to-end user profile banner, and a larger hero video on a user’s profile page. In theater mode, the search bar at the top of the page also turns black to better match the rest of the screen. Lastly, Dark Mode can be enabled by simply clicking under the user icon and changing it in settings.

The below image slider lets you compare YouTube on Material Design versus the classic version. The update (left) features more white space, a lighter color search bar, and aligns the YouTube username under videos with current views.

While the preview is open to YouTubers across the globe, it will only be available to a limited amount of users. Once a certain percentage of YouTube users have opted in, the team may close preview to better monitor user feedback.

Manuel Bronstein, VP of product management at YouTube, tells The Verge that the redesign will happen automatically for about 1 percent of users, with plans to increase rollouts every few weeks. “Roughly 1 to 3 percent of users got Material Design during our testing period,” he told us of the trial from last year. If demand is high, the team says they will work as quickly as they can to fully implement the change. “From a tech and performance standpoint, there’s a lot going on under the hood that we need more time… We hope it’s [ready] in a matter of months, we don’t want to be sitting on this for a year.”

To opt in to YouTube’s Material Design preview, head to If you happen to not like the change, you can also revert back by hitting “Restore class YouTube” under your accounts menu.

Read More at the Source: