This Week in Social is a weekly digest of some of the biggest stories in social media marketing news. These stories are the show notes for the Brave Ad World Podcast. Each story is discussed at a deeper level on the podcast.
Zuckerberg States His Regulation Focus Areas
Mark Zuckerberg seems to have accepted regulation over social network as an inevitability, so instead of trying to stop it, the Facebook CEO is trying to influence how it will come about. His latest move is an op-ed in The Washington Post. There Zuckerberg laid out where he thinks regulators should focus, specifically: harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.
Zuckerberg argued social networks should closely monitor policies along with experts on what content shared by users constitutes protected speech and what falls more in line with “terrorist propaganda, hate speech and more.” Facebook has had a pretty rough record managing harmful content on its platform with inconsistent policies that really just address the fringes of extreme ideologies, so Zuckerberg handing the reins over to regulators really seems to be a way for Facebook to easily wash its hands of the matter.
Zuckerberg also came down on the side of legislation being “important for protecting elections.” He argues that Facebook has made strides in this area, but contends determining what content is political versus that which isn’t, is not always clear. Again, this is Zuckerberg passing on the responsibility to make a call and putting it in the hands of regulators.
The third issue Zuckerberg cited was privacy and data protection. Coming out of GDPR, Zuckerberg argues a global privacy infrastructure and policy would be welcomed. Facebook has the team and resources to comply with multiple privacy guidelines, but most of today’s tech startups do not. A consistent set of rules would be helpful for companies getting off the ground, but it would also allow Facebook to maintain its dominance as a data leader. If other companies are hindered by new regulations that Facebook wasn’t when it first started, it could give Facebook a way to maintain its leadership in the category.
Then there’s data portability. Zuckerberg argues users should be able to move their data from one platform to another, which certainly sounds great on paper. But it also allows Facebook to maintain an illusion of user choice when in actuality, it owns the biggest social networks in the world: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. Data portability allows Facebook to shake off its monopolistic perception while at the same time more fully integrating its social networks—something Zuckerberg has already stated he’d like to do when it comes to messaging.
There’s a lot of self serving in each of Zuckerberg’s stated focuses for regulators, and it sidesteps Facebook’s biggest revenue driver—advertising.
There’s also the issue of how influential Zuckerberg’s voice should be in the regulation conversation. Right now Facebook is under criminal investigation and faces multiple lawsuits, including one from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for discrimination practices in its advertising tools. All of that being said, Facebook may be the last one who should weigh in on regulation, which based solely on the fact that Zuckerberg wrote an op-ed addressing in the first place, seems more like an inevitability now than ever.
Zuckerberg Floats Idea of High-Quality News Section for Facebook
Mark Zuckerberg may be backtracking on his decision last year to feature less news on Facebook, according to an interview with Axel Springer. Instead, Zuckerberg has floated the idea of a section of Facebook dedicated to “high-quality news” from publishers Facebook would pay to create content for Facebook under a content licensing agreement. This would be content created for this dedicated section of Facebook.
Zuckerberg even took an indirect swipe at Apple’s newly launched news subscription service by stating, “This isn’t a revenue play for us… I think some of the other players in the space who view news as a way that they want to maximize their revenue.”
Facebook paying publishers would be a major shift for Facebook, which has relied on promising them an audience to entice them to share content on Facebook in the past. Nothing is confirmed at this time, including whether or not publishers would even be interested in going in on a deal with Facebook which has had an inconsistent track record in working with them.
Obviously, there’s a massive appetite by users for news on Facebook, and that appetite has been exploited in the past. A positive spin on Zuckerberg’s statement is if users want news from the social network, give them news that’s reliable from trusted publishers. That seems to be what Zuckerberg is envisioning, and if Facebook is able to help bankroll high-quality journalism, that’s certainly not a bad thing.
Snap Makes Big Announcements at Partner Summit
Snap held its first-ever equivalent to Facebook’s F8 or Google’s I/O this week with an event of its own called “Partner Summit.”
The event included a number of announcements for users, developers and advertisers, but perhaps the most immediate one for advertisers is the introduction of the Snap Audience Network. The Snap Audience Network will allow Snap to sell ads across a network of apps, enabling advertisers to work with Snap to reach a larger group of people than just Snapchat users.
Snapchat has been unable to grow its audience, so this move would allow Snap to compete with other advertising networks like those of Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. Questions remain on the move, such as what data is available for targeting within the Audience Network and what data is being collected. It also remains to be seen what about Snap’s offering is really differentiating from what else is out there or if Snap is really just trying to create a parity product.
A second big announcement is Snap is bringing Stories to other apps, including Houseparty and Tinder. This means user will be able to create Stories within Snapchat and share them on Tinder, for example. The move is definitely in line Snap positioning itself as a camera company, and it wants to take its camera technology to more apps. Snapchat may not have the users Instagram does, but it may be able to compete by allowing its core technology to be spread across more apps.
The third announcement is games. Zynga, ZeptoLabs and other developers are launching real-time multiplayer games for Snapchat, that users can initiate from the chat interface. The games will be paired with unskippable six-second ads later this year. Not only do these games give Snapchat more ad inventory; they also create a differentiator for Snapchat and a stickier experience for the app.
The next update is to AR lenses. Now, users can drop in “Landmarkers" into their Snaps. This means users can drop in things like the Eiffel Tower or US Capitol Building into any location. There are currently five “Landmarkers" available with more to come. They also updated Snapchat’s camera to suggest gifs for a Snap when users scan an object or solve a math equation by scanning it using the camera. Other updates include hand, body and pet tracking for lenses.
The final update was around original content. Snap already has a slate of original programs available on Discover that range in length from three to five minutes. Those shows were successful enough to warrant a slate of eight new shows ranging from a zombie apocalypse show to a documentary-series.
News Quick Hits
Hulu announced that it will limit ad breaks for shows to 90 seconds. This is about half as much as it had run previously, which were anywhere from 180 seconds to 240 seconds. Head of advertising sales at Hulu Peter Naylor stated, “…everybody saw it was in the best interest of the viewer and the companies to have a consistent ad load.” This means some shows won’t have more than 90 seconds, some won’t have less. Viewers won’t be surprised. Hulu’s user numbers have grown siginificantly in recent months (8 million subscribers in 2018 to reach 25 million), which has increased its ad inventory dramatically, making such a cut in ad loads a fairly easy decision.
Facebook is adding a new “Why am I seeing this post?” tool to user News Feeds. The tool will allow users to click any post to see why things like past interactions, video viewing behavior and so on influenced why the post was displayed. The tool is similar to the “Why am I seeing this ad?” that’s already available.
Twitter is now allowing video publishers to upload .SRT subtitle files with their videos. The feature has been requested for quite some time, considering videos on the platform automatically play without sound. The subtitles will display if users are watching on their mobile devices with the sound turned off or if they enable the “cc” toggle when viewing the videos on the web.
Instagram is testing a seek bar on videos in user feeds to let users control video playback by skipping ahead or rewinding. The feature is already available on IGTV, but it’s never been available in Instagram feeds.
Instagram is starting to tease out ways brands can sponsor content on IGTV. Nothing has been set in stone, but discussions revolve around potential series sponsorships, show integrations and shoutouts from content creators. There may also be live ad breaks. No timing on when such capabilities would rollout, but sources close to the matter say something could be coming in the next few months. IGTV could be Facebook’s way to compete more directly with YouTube for viewers by drawing them in using influencer content.
On April 2 Google+ officially shut down. Users stopped being able to create accounts in February, and now any existing pages have been shut down. Google+, we hardly knew ye… literally.
Twitter’s made it easier for users to flag tweets that may be in violation of Twitter’s guidelines, but it’s also making it easier for users to appeal when their tweets have been flagged from within the Twitter app. Now, when a user’s tweet is flagged, they’ll be taken to a screen when they open the app. From there, they can delete the tweet or appeal the violation. Appealing lets them explain why they disagree with the flag.
Snap’s working on some tweaks to the UI for Snap Map, according to a social app researcher. The updated UI would allow users to check into locations with their Bitmoji avatars. Once checked-in, users can share what they’re doing on the map. That status will remain for four hours if the user doesn’t update it on his or her own. The goal is to allow users to see what each other are up to, not just where they are. Users would also have access to a “Passport” that would list location activity. It’s basically Foursquare within the Snapchat app.
Facebook backtracked on a new email verification system it unrolled this week. It was asking users to provide their email addresses to confirm their email accounts as an option in addition to codes sent to phones or emails. Privacy concerns were raised immediately, and Facebook quickly backtracked on the practice. To be fair to Facebook, the password request was only for email services that don’t support OAuth, a certification that works with services like Gmail to authorize sites without an email password. Facebook also stated that email addresses were not stored.
UpGuard, a cybersecurity firm, uncovered two sets of data stored on public Amazon cloud servers containing Facebook user information. The information has since been secured. One set of data contained 540 million Facebook user identification numbers, comments, reactions and account names. The second set contained the names, passwords and email addresses of 22,000 people. The data was uploaded by third party app developers that Facebook allowed to obtain information on users. Facebook has since stopped sharing such information as a step following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but now, we’re seeing even more ramifications from the mishandling of personal user information. Facebook now prohibits the storing of information on public databases and worked with Amazon to remove the databases.
Jack Dorsey joined Mark Zuckerberg in supporting tech regulation, specifically citing the positive impact of GDPR. Dorsey was less specific in the extent of regulation he supports, but stated, “It’s the job of regulators to ensure protection of the individual and a level playing field."