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Main article: Video

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Facebook is creating a news section in Watch to feature breaking news

03:50 | 13 February

Facebook is going to create a new news section in its video streaming platform Facebook Watch to feature breaking news stories.

The move, which Campbell Brown, the company’s year-old head of news partnerships, announced onstage at the Code Media conference in Huntington Beach, is part of a broader evolution of Facebook’s news strategy.

Facebook launched the Watch platform in August as a way to compete more directly with other video distribution platforms online.

As my colleague Josh Constine wrote when Facebook first launched the product:

Facebook has a new home for original video content produced exclusively for it by partners, who will earn 55 percent of ad break revenue while Facebook keeps 45 percent. The “Watch” tab and several dozen original shows will start rolling out to a small group of U.S. users tomorrow on mobile, desktop and Facebook’s TV apps.

By hosting original programming, Facebook could boost ad revenue and give people a reason to frequently return to the News Feed for content they can’t get anywhere else.

Watch features personalized recommendations of live and recorded shows to watch, plus categories like “Most Talked About,” “What’s Making People Laugh” and “Shows Your Friends Are Watching.” Publishers can also share their shows to the News Feed to help people discover them. A Watchlist feature lets you subscribe to updates on new episodes of your favorite shows. Fans can connect with each other and creators through a new feature that links shows to Groups.

The company had created a video tab as early as 2016, but only hosted generic videos that were being shared by friends and family. With Watch, Facebook was trying to own and control original content that it distributes itself exclusively on its own channel.

Competitors like YouTube and Snap also have their own original content, but with Watch — and the news focus — it’s taking a big step forward.

The social media giant has struggled in recent years to manage the quality of news content that’s being shared on the platform and how news is being consumed by the massive Facebook audience. That said, Campbell continued to recite the Facebook line of self-effacement with the company’s involvement in the media landscape.

“People don’t come to Facebook for news, they come to Facebook for friends and family,” Brown said onstage.

While that may be true, much of what friends and family are sharing — especially in this news cycle — is news.

Facebook is focusing on local news publishers rather than big national outlets to change the conversation and focus on utility of the platform.

“I don’t think our focus on false news and integrity morphed into time well spent,” says Adam Mosseri, VP of news feed. “For those set of issues, stuff that violates community standards or false news, those things need to be confronted head on. You have to assume that you’re dealing with an adversary who’s sophisticated and their strategy will change over time, so the work never ends.”



Gillmor Gang: Dead Flowers

18:00 | 11 February

The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Denis Pombriant, Doc Searls, Keith Teare, and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Saturday, February 10, 2018.

G3: Promises Promises — Mary Hodder, Elisa Camehort Page, Lisa Padilla, and Tina Chase Gillmor. Recorded live Thursday, February 8, 2018.

@stevegillmor, @dsearls, @kteare, @DenisPombriant, @fradice

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

Liner Notes

Live chat stream

The Gillmor Gang on Facebook

G3: Promises Promises

G3 chat stream

G3 on Facebook



YouTube suspends ads on Logan Paul’s channels after “recent pattern” of behavior in videos

14:50 | 9 February

More problems and controversy for Logan Paul, the YouTube star who caused a strong public backlash when he posted a video of a suicide victim in Japan. Google’s video platform today announced that it would be pulling advertising temporarily from his video channel in response to a “recent pattern of behavior” from him.

This is in addition to Paul’s suspensions from YouTube’s Preferred Ad program and its Originals series, both of which have been in place since January; and comes days after YouTube’s CEO promised stronger enforcement of YouTube’s policies using a mix of technology and 10,000 human curators.

In response to Logan Paul’s recent pattern of behavior, we’ve temporarily suspended ads on his channels.

— YouTube Creators (@YTCreators) February 9, 2018

Since coming online again after a one-month break from the service in the wake of the Japanese video, in addition to the usual (asinine) content of his videos, Paul has tasered a rat, suggested swallowing Tide Pods, and, according to YouTube, deliberately tried to monetize a video that clearly violated its guidelines for advertiser-friendly content (we’re asking if we can get a specific reference to which video this might be — they all seem pretty offensive to me, so it’s hard to tell).

“After careful consideration, we have decided to temporarily suspend ads on Logan Paul’s YouTube channels,” a spokesperson said to TechCrunch in an emailed statement elaborating on the Tweet. “This is not a decision we made lightly, however, we believe he has exhibited a pattern of behavior in his videos that makes his channel not only unsuitable for advertisers, but also potentially damaging to the broader creator community.”

Yesterday, during a series of “Fake News” hearings in the U.S. led by a Parliamentary committee from the UK, YouTube’s global head of policy Juniper Downs said that the company had found no evidence of videos that pointed to Russian interference in the Brexit vote in the UK, but the platform continues to face a lot of controversy over how it vets content on its site, and how that content subsequently is used unscrupulously for financial gain. (YouTube notably was criticised for taking too long to react to the Japanese video that started all of Paul’s pain.)

This is a contagion problem for YouTube: not only do situations like his harm public perception of the service — and potentially have an impact on viewership — but it could impact how much the most premium brands choose to invest on ads on the platform.

Interestingly, as YouTube continues work on ways of improving the situation with a mix of both machine learning and human approaches, it appears to be starting to reach beyond even the content of YouTube itself.

The Tide Pod suggestion came on Twitter — Paul wrote that he would swallow one Tide Pod for each retweet — and appears to have since been deleted.

Generally, YouTube reserves the right to hide ads on videos and watch pages — including ads from certain advertisers or certain formats.

When a person makes especially serious or repeated violations, YouTube might choose to disable ads from the whole channel or suspend the person from its Partner program, which is aimed at channels that hit 4,000 watch hours in 12 months and 1,000 subscribers, and lets the creators make money from a special tier of ads and via the YouTube Red subscription service. (This is essentially where Paul has fallen today.)

Since YouTube is wary of getting into the censorship game, it’s leaving an exit route open to people who choose to post controversial things anyway. Posters can turn off ads on individual videos. From what we understand, Paul’s channel and videos will get reevaluated in coming weeks to see if they meet guidelines.

It’s not clear at all how much Paul has made from his YouTube videos. One estimate puts his YouTube ad revenue at between $40,000 and $630,000 per month, while another puts it at $270,000 per month (or around $3.25 million/year). To note, he’d already been removed from the Preferred program and the Originals program, so that would have already dented his YouTube income.

And you have to ask whether suspending ads really fixes the bigger content issues on the platform. While an advertising suspension might mean a loss of some revenue for the creator, it’s not really a perfect solution.

Logan Paul, as one example, continues to push his own merchandise in his videos, and as a high-profile figure who has not lost his whole fan base, he will still get millions of views (and maybe more now because of this). In other words, the originally violating content (and a viable business model) is still out there, even if it doesn’t have a YouTube monetizing element attached to it.

On the other hand, SocialBlade, one of the services providing analytics on YouTube creators, notes that Paul’s views have dropped 41 percent, and subscribers are down 29 percent in the last month, so maybe there is a god.

Featured Image: YouTube Kavos



Gillmor Gang: Day Zero

01:40 | 5 February

The Gillmor Gang — Denis Pombriant, Esteban Kolsky, Keith Teare, Gené Teare, and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Saturday, February 3, 2018.

G3: BlameThrower — Halley Suitt Tucker, Francine Hardaway, Elisa Camehort Page, Denise Howell, and Tina Chase Gillmor. Recorded live Thursday, February 1, 2018.

@stevegillmor, @ekolsky, @kteare, @DenisPombriant, @geneteare

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

Liner Notes

Live chat stream

The Gillmor Gang on Facebook

G3: BlameThrower

G3 chat stream

G3 on Facebook



Apple reportedly under investigation by SEC and DOJ for phone slowdown

22:50 | 30 January

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are jointly investigating Apple’s communications about the software update that slowed down older models of the iPhone, Bloomberg is reporting.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, the government has reportedly requested details on the company’s communications about the software update.

The Bloomberg report indicates the two agencies are in very early stages of their investigation.

We’ve reached out to Apple, the SEC and the DOJ for comment and will update when we hear back.

For background, Apple got into a lot of trouble with customers who noticed that the performance of their older model phones was degrading over time. Apple was pushed to disclose that it had issued a software update that privileged power management over performance in older devices that had degraded batteries.

There was, unsurprisingly, some pushback, and Apple was forced to apologize for the way it handled the update.

The U.S. isn’t the only country where people are pressing Apple for more information. Consumer advocacy groups around the world — from Europe to Asia — are pressing for an investigation into the slowdown.



‘Shadow of the Colossus’ PS4 remake exceeds the original

18:41 | 30 January

Shadow of the Colossus is one of those games I’ve purchased multiple times on multiple platforms, because the original was about as unique and satisfying a video game experience as you can find. But the new PlayStation 4 remake of the Team ICO standout, which recreates the game in stunning 4K HDR, is that rare remake that proves a better and more satisfying experience than the original – even in the face of the enhancing gloss of pleasant memory and nostalgia.

I was not prepared for what Bluepoint Games managed to achieve with this remake when I booted it up for the first time. The textures, environments, lighting, facial and character detail all look stunning. Your horse, Argo, looks better than he’s ever looked, and traversing the huge, lonely landscape is made even more awe-inspiring than it was back when SOTC first came out, thanks to virtually unmatched grass, water and foliage animation effects.

What’s truly outstanding, however, is that this still feels familiar, in that way that defies explanation when you pick up an old favorite game for the first time. Controlling the hero, Wander, and battling the giant colossi feels like it did when played in its much lower resolution, with the same messy, realistic physics and the same tense feeling as giant monsters try to shake you free with gradual crescendos of frenzied motion.

That’s down to the remake employing the same code for the motion and control of the colossi, Argo and Wander as did the original, with subtle but significant tweaks to improve performance in a way that aligns with rose-colored memories of what it was like to play the first version, rather than the sometimes frustrating truth of what it was actually like in reality.

If you’ve never actually played ‘Shadow of the Colossus,’ then you’re in for a real treat. This game feels now in this re-released format like something that could’ve been released as brand new IP, with a rewarding experience that more than merits its remake-aligned $50 price point. It’s a top-tier must-play in every way, and a real justification for owning a PlayStation 4 Pro and a 4K TV if you have those, too.

On the actual Sony 65″ Bravia 4K OLED HDR TV. Hard to do it justice in photos but this gets close.

Personally, I was playing on a Sony Bravia 65-inch 4K OLED HDR TV (the XBR65A1E if you’re looking for specific) and it was easily one of the most satisfying visual experiences in gaming I’ve ever had. While the original did what it could in terms of available graphics power and display hardware, there’s no denying that this new version exceeds it in every possible way, aesthetically. If you doubt me, see if you can deny that that’s true after you grip the highly detailed, naturally flowing fur of the first Colossus you encounter in-game.

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Despite all the upgrades and visual treats, the best part about this remake might be that its moody atmospherics, underlying sense of unease and questions about the task at hand all remain. It feels like a culmination of something long in progress, in fact, rather than something simply revisited.

Simply put, if you have a PlayStation 4 you should also own this game, and even if you don’t yet have a PS4, this is a game worth picking one up to play.



Instagram won’t comment on rumored video calling feature

05:15 | 30 January

Instagram copied the ‘Snap’ and now it might be going after the ‘chat’. A video calling feature was spotted in an non-public version of Instagram by WhatsApp industry blog WABetaInfo. It would let users who’ve begun an Instagram Direct message thread to video chat with each other. That could let users spend even more time in the app, but by actively communicating, rather that passively browsing which Facebook has come to admit isn’t good for people’s well-being.

For now, though, Instagram it’s refusing to comment. When asked about the feature, a spokesperson told TechCrunch “We don’t comment on rumors and speculation”. That’s different than it’s more affirmative boilerplate statement given when it does confirm tests of forthcoming features, “we’re always testing new experiences for the Instagram community.” That’s what the company told us earlier this month when we reported Instagram’s partnership with Giphy for Stories GIFs…which launched a week later. This video calling feature might never launch.

But Instagram already lets people call in via video to each other’s Live Stories like they’re on a TV talk show, and send short ephemeral video clips over Direct. Instagram recently launched a standalone Direct messaging app. And video calling has become one of the most popular features of Instagram parent Facebook’s Messenger app — with 17 billion video chats occurring in 2017, up 2X from 2016.

So given that Instagram has the capability, interest, and infrastructure to add video calling, why wouldn’t it? WABetaInfo spotted the video call button in the top right of the chat screen, with it only available when messaging with people who’ve already accepted your Direct request.

Leaked usage data from The Daily Beast’s Taylor Lorenz outed how Snapchat Stories sharing has stopped growing, in part because of competition from Instagram Stories, but users are still addicted to Snapchat’s chat feature. Snapchat offers audio and video calling as well as photo, audio clip, video clip, and text messaging, effectively making it an alternative to one’s phone itself.

Messaging is the center of the mobile experience, generating the most device opens and time spent. As Facebook tries to shift the behaviors it instills from harmful, zombie-like scrolling to real interpersonal interaction, doubling down on messaging is a clear path. And Facebook’s apps are always hungry for younger users who might not have phone numbers or bountiful mobile plans, and therefore might especially benefit from this new feature.

Now we’ll have to wait and see whether soon you’ll be calling friends on the Insta-phone. Or is it the Phonogram?



Facebook lets you tip game live streamers $3+

22:01 | 26 January

Facebook Live is launching monetization for video gameplay streamers, allowing users to tip creators a minimum of $3 via the desktop site. Right now, the contributor of the tips doesn’t get any special call-out or privileges, though Facebook tells me it’s considering different options for creators and gamers. For instance, it could have a special emoji Reaction float across the stream as a way to thank the fan who gave money.

The amount Facebook will keep from these tips that it calls “fan support” isn’t clear yet, but the company tells me that it’s safe to assume there will be a revenue share. Apparently it’s too early to lock any percentage in, though Facebook has taken a 30 percent cut from game developers in the past, and currently takes a 45 percent share of ad revenue from people who place ad breaks in the videos, so it could be in that ballpark.

The monetization opportunity comes as part of Facebook’s new gaming creator pilot program, that tomorrow will start admitting a slew of influencers with high follower counts. Goals of the program include helping gamers of all fame levels grow meaningful and engaged communities of followers across Facebook, Instagram and Oculus, plus providing monetization tools.

Gamers who want to join the program and gain access to tipping on their streams can sign up to apply here. There’s also a big site full of best-practices for gamers who want to grow their audience amidst Facebook’s ever-changing News Feed algorithm.

Facebook hopes to pull game streamers away from YouTube and Twitch where they have ad revenue, tipping and subscription options to monetize. For reference, YouTube takes a 30 percent rake from its Super Chat tipping and Sponsorships subscription payments options, while Twitch also takes 30 percent from its Cheering tipping option.

The push aligns with Facebook’s recent overhaul of its News Feed with a focus on well-being and active interaction over passive media consumption. Game streams often see viewers chiming in about what they want the creator to do next while debating tactics and joking around with fellow viewers. That gives people a better sense of connection than just watching random eye-catching throwaway videos in the feed. It’s the same reason Facebook just inked exclusive deals to stream big esports tournaments, like CS:GO.

If Facebook can lure creators with its 2 billion-plus user audience and virality, plus its new payment system, it could develop a wide array of video content for video game enthusiasts to watch. It’s a highly monetizable demographic that watches a ton of video, so Facebook could use gaming as a way to pull them into its wider content ecosystem.



PUBG takes the Chicken Dinner with 4 million players on Xbox alone

21:44 | 25 January

People like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, the game where you basically re-enact a version of Battle Royale with you as one of the contestants in the human survival game. It had huge success in alpha prior to its full launch on PC, and now we know that console gamers also love the heck out of it – despite reports of buggy experiences with the Xbox One version.

Bugs aside, Xbox One’s PUBG player community now exceeds four million people. That’s a really big number, especially considering that PUBG for Xbox One only came out last month, and that the total number of console sales to date for the Xbox One is somewhere around 30 million based on current estimates.

If you read this because you don’t know what the heck ‘PUBG’ is, then now is the time to find out: Microsoft just pushed an update for the game with a bunch of bug fixes and content additions, and it’s giving people who buy the game before the end of this month bonus in-game credits to dress up your character.



CNN shuts down Casey Neistat’s Beme, but some of its digital news tech will live on

19:25 | 25 January

CNN’s attempt at expanding its digital news business by bringing in a top YouTube creator has failed. According to a confirmed report from BuzzFeed, CNN is closing down YouTube star Casey Neistat’s video business, Beme, which it bought for a reported $25 million back in 2016. In addition, the YouTuber and his co-founder, Matt Hackett, are also leaving the company.

Neistat spoke to BuzzFeed about his inability to figure out a strategy for “Beme News,” which CNN had hoped would become a central part of its digital news business. The channel he created under CNN’s brand, Beme News, has over 269,000 YouTube subscribers, but has only put out a few dozen videos to date.

CNN said it will work to find some different roles for some of the 22-person Beme team, but others would be let go with severance. It will also continue to develop some of the products under the Beme umbrella, including a yet-to-launch live news app called Wire, BuzzFeed reports.

Hackett, in an unpublished blog post, detailed the team’s efforts while at CNN and revealed more about its products’ future.

“This is not the story of the aging conglomerate that couldn’t innovate and rejected the young startup blood. CNN left us genuinely independent post-acquisition, with a financial, editorial, and technological leash as long as we could wish for,” he said.

“Over the past year, we’ve experimented wildly in technology-enabled news, an area where the world needs experimentation. We built two products and a YouTube channel I’m very proud of. Ultimately, while we have built some valuable things, we didn’t hit the escape velocity the business needed to exist independently,” Hackett added.

Some of the things the Beme team built will continue to live on following the shutdown, including Wire, which BuzzFeed had noted, as well as an app called Panels, and the Beme News video channel.

Hackett described Wire as a machine-learning powered platform for journalists who cover live news, and said this will become a “key part of what CNN is building for mobile.”

Meanwhile, Beme Panels, which is live on iOS, offers a way for real people to give their feedback about the news in a social format. This will be incorporated into CNN’s core experience, Hackett said.

Above: Beme Panels

Beme could have been something of CNN’s answer to the live-streamed business news network Cheddar, in terms of attracting a younger audience who doesn’t necessarily watch – or even own a TV – but who get their news online and through streaming video.

This is an area a number of media companies are today exploring, including most recently Bloomberg, which launched a Twitter news network TicToc. Even BuzzFeed itself is finding new ways to distribute its news content, like through its partnership with Spotify in the music app’s new Spotlight feature.

Beme’s closure is not CNN’s first failure in digital news expansions, we should note. The company has been attempting to target a more millennial audience through a variety of initiatives, including a Snapchat news show that launched shortly after NBC’s. But while NBC still claims decent viewership (“tens of millions”) for its short-form news series on Snapchat, CNN killed its Snapchat news show only four months after its debut.

The social app Beme had already been shut down ahead of Neistat’s exit, and the closure of the Beme News division at CNN.

CNN’s failure should be a warning to the rest of the industry hoping to buy their way into millennial success by teaming up with YouTube stars. While social media superstars may be knowledgeable about growing their own subscriber base, they’re not necessarily poised to translate that success to aid another brand – especially in the news business, when they don’t have a background in reporting.

Featured Image: Noam Galai/WireImage/Getty Images


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