Narrative: Facebook's Power
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Narrative: Facebook’s Power (Jan 24, 2017)
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Facebook has Sprawling, Unfocused Plans for Marketplace (Aug 18, 2017)
Right after both Business Insider and Mashable posted sourced stories about it launching tomorrow, Facebook appears to have decided to take the wraps off its new video tab today instead. That this was coming was widely reported, and now we just know a few more details – the new tab in Facebook is called Watch, and will showcase lots of different kinds of videos, although the focus appears to be on personality-driven stuff of the sort that dominates the more popular YouTube channels. In general, the model here feels very YouTube-like, with a subscription model, though Facebook’s apps for TV platforms in recent months have signaled the broad structure and interface, with a combination of videos recommended or liked by friends, things you’ve saved, things that are popular on the platform, and so on. What I don’t see much of in Facebook’s announcement today is the longer form, more produced stuff that’s supposed to be coming too, probably because it’s not ready yet. There will be some other content in there too including the live MLB coverage Facebook acquired rights to a while back starting next season, but in general this is a hub for all kinds of video on Facebook, from professionally produced stuff to the stuff your friends share. Simply calling out video into its own tab, though, is going to raise its profile and thereby push people to spend more time in videos, where they’ll see ads only every few minutes, as opposed to scrolling through the News Feed, where they’ll see ads every few seconds. I’m more and more convinced that’s a risky move for Facebook, because all the anecdotal evidence I’ve seen so far suggests people are really put off by interruptive ads in Facebook videos (I certainly am too), and this whole effort could end up backfiring. That’s something I’m hoping to write about soon. Update: Variety has a listing of additional shows from professional producers which wasn’t in Facebook’s blog post.
Facebook has begun inserting posts from local elected officials into users’ News Feeds in the app as part of a test it’s running, the latest in a set of moves over the past year to increase the visibility of political and election-related content on Facebook. This is one of those things that simultaneously feels like a great idea and fraught with problems. On the one hand, allowing local officials to communicate more effectively with their constituents at a time when news consumption is becoming more polarized, thanks in part to Facebook itself, seems like a great idea. On the other hand, local officials are also candidates in what sometimes seem like permanent election seasons in the US, at least for certain offices, and if Facebook only promotes posts from elected officials without promoting those of their opponents and rivals in elections, that’s an enormous issue. Of the two screenshots in the Recode piece linked below, one feels relatively apolitical while the other is clearly more political in nature, and a user who was shown only that one and not also something from a representative of a different political party would be getting only one perspective in a way that would be almost impossible for others to address without resorting to paid advertising on Facebook. The approach would massively favor incumbents over their challengers, something the US political system already does to a great extent. So although the effort seems like it has worthwhile elements, it feels like the potential for harm is significant, and I would guess that there will be a big backlash from politicians who feel they’ve been discriminated against if this test moves to a widespread rollout.
Facebook has made a small acquisition in the content identification space, buying Source3 and bringing on board its technology and people. The company majored on identifying copyright-infringing material, especially in user-generated content, something that Facebook has been working on for some time but clearly hasn’t cracked yet. As with YouTube in its early days, albeit at a very different scale, Facebook appears to have put growing its video business ahead of its ability to monitor that content for IP infringements, and is now scrambling to catch up. Copyright infringements are a big issue for Facebook, which has been accused of not doing enough to stop it in not just recorded video but live video, so it needs acquisitions like this one to speed up its progress in this area. This one seems likely to have been small – the company had only raised $4 million in venture funding, so it’s likely that it went for some low multiple of that, making it eminently affordable in Facebook terms.