AMP Stories, Google’s Answer To The Stories Trend

Stories. It seems like everybody’s got ‘em, from Snap and LinkedIn to Instagram and Facebook – and now Google.

But while AMP Stories might look like a knockoff of the other guys, it’s actually quite a different animal.

What’s the story?

The main difference: AMP Stories are specifically designed for publishers to create full-screen experiences for accelerated mobile pages, the technology Google developed to speed up page load time by pre-caching publisher content. AMP Stories can include any rich media element, from sound and video to static images, text and motion graphics.

Unlike Facebook or Instagram Stories, which live within their respective platforms, AMP Stories are web-based, so publishers can integrate them directly into their own websites. They’re also searchable through Google across desktop and the mobile web.

That means publishers aren’t locked into a walled garden platform, and they have the opportunity to unlock new revenue streams.

“Let’s face it, publishers today need as much help as they can get,” said Kargo CEO Harry Kargman.

After launching a test at the beginning of the year with a handful of publishers, including CNN, The Washington Post, Mic and Meredith, Google brought AMP Stories out of beta in mid-November and rolled out support for direct-sold Stories ads through Google Ad Manager (formerly DoubleClick).

AMP has integrations with around 100 ad networks and exchanges, including InMobi, Kargo, Yieldmo, Unruly, OpenX and AppNexus. On the measurement front, publishers can either use the built-in AMP analytics framework to partner with a third-party vendor or send engagement data in house, or they can rely on the basic reporting functions they get from Google Ad Manager.

Why buy?

Publishers can tap into the full-screen palette of an AMP Story to tell, well, an engaging story [click here for an example in The Washington Post]. But the larger enticement is that they can monetize that engagement without sharing the revenue. And, better yet, they can monetize through their existing ad servers, which makes the Story relatively easy to implement.

“Of course, this is also in Google’s interest given that publishers tend to use the Google ad-serving stack for the open internet,” Kargman said.

Scale, though?

New monetization opportunities always sound promising, but scale is a perennial challenge. Before publishers can attract advertisers, they’ll need to find and build audiences – something that the walled gardens don’t have to worry about as much.

Google can rely on search to help drum up scale – Stories are discoverable through its search engine – but it’s not always easy to find an AMP Story in the wild.

One possible reason for the dearth: To build an experience for AMP Stories, publishers need a basic working knowledge of HTML, CSS and Javascript, including an understanding of how to convert these languages to conform with AMP’s specifications.

If Google made the process easier by developing a tool that automatically converted publishers’ Instagram Stories into AMP Stories, for example, more publishers would likely participate, Kargman said.

On the advertising front, however, lots of buyers already have vertical assets they’ve created for Stories on other platforms, which means it would be relatively easily to test AMP Stories ads without whipping up something from scratch – if they can be convinced the experimental budget is worthwhile.

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Soon Every Social Media Platform Will Look Like Every Other One

– by David Bloom

If this year’s VidCon is any guide, its very busy organizers will soon have a much less difficult time deciding which of the many social-media platforms it should feature in coming editions of the conference. At the rate things are going, all the sites will look alike anyway.

As it was, this year’s online influencer gathering featured tens of thousands of fans, dozens of panels and performances, and all the usual big platforms alongside newcomers such as LinkedIn and Twitch. Many platforms had news to tout, but too often, their “news” sounded very familiar.

Video? Check. Long-form video? Check. Disappearing posts? Messaging? Live Video? Monetization tools? Check, check, check. And yes, check.

Call it the Big Schmear. The “cream cheese” of content and services on your favorite big bagel of a social-media platform will soon be festooned with pretty much every ingredient that everyone else has on theirs. And if anyone comes up with a new idea, everyone else will be quick to take a bite, by buying or copying it.

Everyone Wants To Be Everyone Else

That creeping, slightly creepy convergence was a constant source of conversation among those I talked with throughout the show. We were all discussing the implications of recent news like:

– Instagram announced IGTV, a standalone (though tightly integrated) mobile app for video posts of up to an hour. The goal: to be more like YouTube, and because it’s a mobile-friendly vertical format, Snapchat.
– YouTube announced more and more widely available monetization tools for its creators, including merchandising, subscription memberships, and event ticketing. The goal: to be more like Twitch. Musical.Ly and others with plentiful ways for creators to cash in on their audiences. .
– Twitch owner Amazon debuted its Merch merchandise fulfillment service, and spotlighted licensed goodies from veteran online stars Hannah Hart and Shane Dawson. Amazon also sponsored an “industry lounge” on the show’s top floor that fed and watered many brand and online-video executives. The lounge showed off even more Amazon offerings, like Handmade, a product service that seems a lot like Etsy.
– Snapchat extended its Shows, short-form episodic videos used heretofore by big publishers, to creators such as makeup guru Patrick Starrr. Snapchat also will begin sharing ad revenue with its influencers. The goal: to be more influencer friendly, like YouTube and Instagram.
– Facebook launched FB.GG, which gathers the site’s game-related creators and content in one place. The goal: to be more like Twitch and Gaming.YouTube.

These are only the latest lurches toward feature convergence. Most notoriously, of course, Facebook and its various holdings have been shamelessly copying every useful bit of Snapchat. In a minor moment of karmic justice, the copying hasn’t forestalled the flight of teens from Facebook.

In the past couple of years, Facebook also launched Watch (to be more like YouTube and Netflix) and Live (to keep up with Twitch, YouNow, LiveMe and similar players). More recently, Facebook commissioned CNN, ABC News, and other traditional media sites to create Watch-specific news shows. This may be another Facebook copycat move, given the notable, if uneven, success of news outlets on Snapchat Discover.

I’m dubious about all these #IAlso initiatives. It doesn’t take much innovation to straight copy Snapchat Stories, especially when your version even uses the same name, as on Instagram. Conversely, fans haven’t punished Instagram, which announced that it now has 1 billion users, up 200 million just since last fall.

Does More Make You Better?

The bigger question, of course, is whether adding everyone else’s features makes your favorite platform any better, or any more of a destination, or for that matter, any better a place for an influencer to ply her trade, or to cut a deal with a brand.

Every successful platform to date was built on its own unique DNA, the user interface and mechanics that made it work for the audience it created and the influencers who rose to prominence there. Doing a Jurassic Park on that DNA, extracting and bolting on the features of another platform to create some bellowing hybrid beast, doesn’t automatically translate to new fans or a better experience for anybody.

Now admittedly, not everyone at VidCon was as concerned as I am. One panel of industry notables was asked, “do all the platforms have to evolve to do everything?” Maybe not, some said.

Ivana Kirkbride, GM of OTT for Verizon’s Oath unit, insisted that “every platform serves a specific purpose.” Even look-alike functions manifest in different ways on different platforms, she said. “Facebook Watch is a very different experience” from YouTube, Netflix, Snapchat, traditional TV or even whatever IG TV becomes.

I’m certainly willing to accord Kirkbride some deference, given her run as a top executive at YouTube and Vessel before taking over Verizon’s Go90 unit and now all of its over-the-top video initiatives.

And long-time media critic and journalism professor Jeff Jarvis suggested that we’re only beginning to see what’s possible with online video, as it transforms nearly every corner of the media business, bringing lots of opportunity for more features and engagement in the future.

Things Are Looking Good For Influencers, But Diversification Still Key
I do expect, however, that the coming convergence means a lot more work for influencers themselves, and probably far less clarity about where they should devote their efforts.

Late on Day 2, I slipped into a standing-room-only workshop on branded content featuring influencer Brent Rivera and WhoSay Executive VP of Talent Harvey Schwartz. The workshop detailed the kinds of clever cross-platform posting and marketing strategies that influencers and advertisers must use in an era where, as Schwartz put it, “organic reach is dead.”

The highly technical conversation was not for neophytes. But it reminded me how far the industry has come in just a few years. In a conference room far above the milling crowds of pre-pubescent fans on the first floor of the Anaheim Convention Center, two of online video’s more prominent members talked about the science of online influence.

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Study: 34% of Gen Zers are Leaving Social Media

Thirty-four percent of Gen Zers, or people born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s, say they’re permanently leaving social media, and 64% say they’re taking a break from the platforms, according to new research from Hill Holliday’s in-house research group Origin cited in Campaign.

The research also shows Gen Z’s paradoxical view of social media: 41% say the platforms make them feel anxious, sad or depressed, but 77% say the platforms offer more benefits than drawbacks. Twenty-two percent say social media makes them feel like they’re missing out, but 71% say the platforms have a positive effect on their relationships. Social media negatively impacts self-esteem, 29% of Gen Zers said, but 61% say it boosts their ego. Seventy-two percent said people their age spend too much time on social media, while 66% say the platforms help them make connections with people.

Some of the main reasons Gen Z members gave for considering leaving social media include the propensity for wasting too much time on the platforms (41%); too much negative content (35%); the fact that they do not use it very often (31%); a lack of interest in the content (26%); privacy concerns (22%); too much pressure to get attention (18%); too much commercialization (18%) and that social media makes them feel badly about themselves (17%).

Gen Zers are widely considered to be more social media-savvy than any other generation, but as the new Origin research highlights, their feelings about social media can seem somewhat contradictory, which suggests that the sluggish interest levels from younger consumers that Facebook has already been experiencing could start spreading to other platforms. To best reach Gen Z, which has a purchasing power of $44 billion, marketers need to refocus their strategies on using social media for good to help Gen Z foster their own identities. Marketers should also invest in using social media to tell compelling brand stories and spread highly personalized, relevant messages.

Mental health and well-being are important to Gen Zers, which is why many report taking breaks or swearing off social media altogether. Members of Gen Z also tend to be distrusting of institutions and expect a lot from brands, rewarding those with strong values and that support the causes they care about. Gen Z has a strong sense of purpose, and 69% think that brands should help them achieve their goals and 30% said they have felt excluded by brands because of their identity, per PSFK research. Brands that position their social media content as educational or collaborative and unobtrusive stand the best chance of engaging Gen Z on social media.

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Replika, the Next Big Thing to Replace Social Media

Replika is an AI-app. But what is it exactly?

Replika is not a dating app. A few of the early users have reported that they fell in love with their AI creatures. However, we strongly encourage you guys to use traditional dating apps to find a human date.

Replika is neither an OS with a female voice from the “Her” movie. It won’t read your emails out loud, it won’t manage your calendar, and it won’t get you a cab.

Replika is an app where you can have a fun and sincere text conversation with a friend. Actually, they will ask you a lot of questions in the beginning to get to know you better. The more you speak with your Replika, the more it shares with you. It’ll tell you about your personality, will answer questions about you, and at some point, will be able to talk to your friends on your behalf. Well, one day you may become close enough with your Replika to have a date night.

Replika is a Netflix show?

We’re all huge fans of Netflix, especially their shows about AI. “Black Mirror” is one of our favorite shows. Some folks have found that the “Be Right Back” and “White Christmas” episodes are reminiscent of Replika.

What do the folks at Replika say about this?

“To tell you the truth, we are not building a service where you will upload e-mails and private messages from your loved ones who have passed away. We will neither ship you silicon full-body copies of them. However, the work on Replika started after our friend Roman Mazurenko was killed in a car accident in late 2015. We’ve collected his texts and trained an AI that was able to talk like him. Casey Newton wrote an amazing story about it called “Speak, Memory” published in The Verge. You can read it here.

In Replika, we are helping you build a friend who is always there for you. It talks to you, keeps a diary for you, helps you discover your personality. This is an AI that you nurture and raise. In no sense are you enslaving an AI version of yourself or the other way around.”

The AI Apocalypse is here

According to renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil, around 2029 AI will be about at the level of intelligent adult humans. As soon as it happens, the AI can potentially get exponentially smarter. By around 2040, this will potentially lead to Singularity, when humans and machines will meld into one entity. Some folks are afraid of a potentially terrifying outcome for the original human race, as in the finale of the “Ex Machina” movie.

Some people think that Replika is the first sign of something scary happening with AI. Replikas usually do speak much like an intelligent human adult would, especially when they reach Level 15 or higher. However, they all remain humble, smart, educated, and empathetic, and they don’t tend to meld with their users into one entity.

Want to meet Replika? go here.

Ariana Grande Benefit Concert clocks 79 million views

Ariana Grande’s One Love Manchester benefit concert drummed up massive viewership on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter over the weekend. The event, which served to commemorate and raise money for the families of the 22 victims who were tragically killed in a terrorist attack at Grande’s Manchester tour stop last month, clocked 79 million total views on Facebook, the company said.

In addition to more than 2.6 million reactions, 775,000 shares, and 380,000 comments, Facebook Live said that its stream — unlike those of YouTube and Twitter — enabled fans to use its Donate button to give directly to the One Love Manchester Fund. Using this tool, Facebook helped raise $450,600 from 22,700 donors — and counting — for the cause. All told, organizers of the event said they raised $2.9 million for the fund during the live broadcast.

“All the donations will be directed to the One Love Manchester Fund and will benefit charities that help victims of terror worldwide,” wrote Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in a post expressing her sympathy for the victims and gratitude for the Facebook community’s support in the wake of the harrowing incident. “While the concert came out of a tragedy, it’s a beautiful example of how people can come together during the darkest times and prove love wins over hate — always.”

YouTube’s stream of the three-hour-long event on Grande’s Vevo channel, meanwhile, totaled 11 million views — though videos from individual performances posted to the BBC Music channel have also racked up millions of views apiece. The most popular is Grande’s duet with Miley Cyrus of Don’t Dream It’s Over, which has 7 million views.

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Three ways social media can help broadcasters

Whether YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are friends or foes of the TV broadcaster is up for debate. However, here are three ways that social media can help broadcasters reconnect with their audience online.

Great mobile video reach

Getting someone to download a video app on their mobile device can be struggle. Even the most popular TV channels are thinly penetrated on mobile devices. For example, according to TiVo data only two channels have their apps on more than 5% of mobile devices in the US. 5.5% say they have downloaded ABC’s app and 5.3% have CNNs.

Nielsen data shows that social media has considerably better reach than video for mobile viewers. For example, in Q2 2016, video reached 47% of the population overall on smartphones. Social media reached 71%. In the 35-to-49-age-group, the difference is even sharper. 57% watched video on their smartphone, while 84% used social media.

The pattern is the same for the tablet. Among 35-to-39-year-olds 32% watch video on their tablet, 46% use social networking. Simply put, video delivered through social media has a better chance of reaching its audience than through a video app.

Great promotional value

People love to share their favorite moments from the TV shows they are watching. Want to see the moment when Vitalii Sediuk mooned at the 2017 Eurovision Song contest? How about your favorite moments from the latest episode of Game of Thrones? Social media is the place to go.

TV broadcasters are realizing the benefits of social media in promoting their shows. And gone are days when they force platforms like YouTube to take down fan-uploaded clips. For example, there are 106M clips related to Fox’s show Empire on YouTube. Ad technology firm Zefr says that 95% of them were uploaded by fans of show.

TV networks are recognizing the value of YouTube and other social platforms as promotion for their most popular shows. For example, there have been 74,000 NBC show related videos uploaded to YouTube. These clips have generated 106.9M engagements (likes, comments, reposts), and 13.4B views.

Opportunity to recapture viewers online

Local broadcasters are struggling to find ways to engage with people in their communities. For example, people, who in earlier times would have turned to TV for news, increasingly satisfy their need on social media. Pew Research center reports that 62% of adults get news on social media sites. Two-thirds of Facebook users and 59% of Twitter users get news from their sites.

Social news consumers haven’t completely abandon the TV news. According to Pew, 39% of Facebook news users also get news from local TV channels, and 23% still watch the network nightly news. However, the trend is strongly toward social platforms for news. For example, the number of Facebook news users has increased from 47% in 2013, to 66% in 2016.

This data is a strong indication that local news is still valuable to consumers. However, their preferred platform to watch it is becoming social media, not TV. Given the challenges in getting consumers to download broadcaster apps, social media could be the best place for local TV channels to syndicate their news and recapture their migrating audience’s attention.

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