Category Archives: Instagram

Instagram plans to launch Snapchat Discover-style video hub

Instagram is preparing to unveil a home for longer-form video — a YouTube competitor and its take on Snapchat Discover. Instagram will offer a dedicated space featuring scripted shows, music videos, and more in vertically oriented, full-screen, high-def 4K resolution according to multiple sources. Instagram has been meeting with popular social media stars and content publishers to find out how their video channels elsewhere would work within its app. It’s also lining up launch partners for an announcement of the long-form video effort tentatively scheduled for June 20th.

The public shouldn’t expect Netflix Originals or HBO-level quality. This is not “InstaGame Of Thrones”.  Instead, the feature is more focused on the kind of videos you see from YouTube creators. These often range from five to fifteen minutes in length, shot with nice cameras and lighting but not some massive Hollywood movie production crew. Average users will be able to upload longer videos too, beyond the current 60-second limit.

Instagram intends to eventually let creators and publishers earn money off the longer videos, though it hasn’t finalized how accompanying ads like pre-rolls and mid-breaks or revenue splits would work. It is not paying creators up front for shows like Facebook Watch either. But the videos will each feature a swipe-up option to open a link, which creators can use to drive traffic to their websites, ecommerce stores, or event ticketing. Thanks to Instagram’s 800 million-plus users, the video section could be a powerful marketing tool beyond generating cash for creators directly.

The long-form video section will spotlight a collection of popular videos, and provide a ‘continue watching’ option since users might view long clips over the course of several sessions. Users will also see the long-form clips featured on authors’ profiles near the Stories Highlights bubbles. Creators won’t be able to shoot and post long-form videos, as the section will only allow pre-made video uploads.

Instagram has previously offered Spotlight Collections that assemble multiple videos into a non-stop viewing experience

This new information from TechCrunch’s sources comes after a brief initial report by The Wall Street Journal yesterday that Instagram was talking to content publishers about a vertical video feature. The WSJ’s article focused on the ability for average users to post up to hour-long clips, but the real story here is Instagram launching a professionally produced video entertainment hub. Instagram declined our request for comment.

It’s unclear what the new video feature will be named, or where it will appear. It could possibly live in the Explore tab, get its own tab, or even be spun out into a separate app. Our sources didn’t know how the videos would work with the main Instagram feed, where they could appear full-length or show up as previews to alert a publisher’s fans to their newest long-form clip. The announcement date or feature details could still potentially change.

Facebook’s Watch section of long-form video hasn’t proven popular

Facebook hasn’t had much luck with its own original long-form video section it launched in August 2017, Facebook Watch. Mediocre, unscripted reality shows and documentary clips haven’t proven a draw for the social network, which is now expanding into scripted programs and news shows. Instagram may prove a more natural home for lean-back entertainment content.

InstaTube

The Instagram long-form video section will be Facebook’s answer to two competing social video destinations it’s yet to successfully clone.

Snapchat’s Discover section offers exclusive, professionally produced vertical video shows from an array of publishers as an alternative to shaky user-generated Stories. But with sagging user growth endangering viewership, backlash to the redesign that buries Discover, and a policy shift to stop paying Discover publishers up front, Instagram and its massive user count may be able to seduce publishers to bring longer videos to its app instead.

YouTube is the stronger foe. Its ad revenue sharing agreements and massive engagement have made it the go-to platform for video makers. Still, creators are always looking to build their fanbases, earn more money, and promote their other online presences. Instagram’s wildfire growth and the familiarity of following people there could make the long-form video section worth embracing.

The feature has big potential as long as it’s not too interruptive of people’s entrenched feed-scrolling and Story-tapping behavior patterns. Instagram will also have to convince creators to shoot their content vertically or find ways to gracefully crop it, and some may be apprehensive if they typically shoot in landscape for traditional video players.

The Facebook family of apps might never be able to match the breadth and depth of YouTube’s video catalog. But Instagram has an opportunity here to skim the best content off the top of the sprawling creator/publisher ecosystem and curate it coherently for casual audiences. That could get us spending more time with Instagram, even if our friends are boring.

Facebook allows videos with copyrighted music, tests Lip Sync Live

Facebook users will no longer have their uploaded videos with copyrighted background music taken down thanks to a slew of deals with all the major record labels plus many indies.

Facebook is also starting to test a feature designed to steal users from teen sensation app Musically.  Facebook’s new Lip Sync Live lets users pick a popular song to pretend to sing on a Facebook Live broadcast. Hundreds of songs will be available to start, including “Havana” by Camila Cabello, “Welcome to The Jungle” by Guns N Roses, and “God’s Plan” by Drake.

When users upload videos with music with the new rules in effect, they’ll be quickly notified if that song is allowed via the deals and fine to share, or if their video will be muted unless they submit a dispute to the copyright holder who then okays it through Facebook’s Rights Manager tool. Facebook will compensate artists and labels whose music is used, but it wouldn’t disclose the rates or whether they’re calculated by upload or video view.

The launch is separate from the Sound Collection feature Facebook announced in December that only lets users add sound effects or no-name music to their videos. Facebook won’t be offering a tool, at least not yet, that lets users select popular copyrighted music to add to their videos — a feature TechCrunch has been calling for and that was recently prototyped for Instagram.

That’s unfortunate, as most users don’t have the editing tools to add music before uploading a video, especially not from their phone. But at least if there’s a song playing on a stereo in the background, users won’t get their videos blocked like before. Luckily, Facebook says in the coming months it plans to “start testing options for adding the music you love to Facebook Stories.” That could use the same design as the Instagram feature we reported.

Instagram’s unlaunched music stickers prototype lets users add popular songs to their Stories.

Today’s announcement is a big step in right direction for Facebook as it seeks ways to encourage original sharing. A shaky, off-the-cuff video from a friend can be tough to watch in the feed, particularly if it’s longer than the 15 second clips people now add to their Stories. But with the right soundtrack, a boring clip becomes epic, or a nice one becomes truly sentimental. Music-equipped videos could boost watch time and engagement on Facebook without relying on viral pap the company has demoted in service of users’ mental well-being.

Facebook Vs Musically

Facebook has had a tough time keeping teens on its social network, as evidenced by declines in popularity amongst the demographic according Pew’s survey data. Though teens trying to look cool might say they use Facebook less than they actually do, the responses reveal a downward trend for the app amongst the youth.

One app that’s had no problem recruiting them is lip syncing app Musically . It’s rife with concerning, possibly Child Online Protection Act-violating videos of tween girls dancing to risqué pop songs. But the opportunity to perform without necessarily having singing talent and the easy to grasp content prompts have grown the app to 200 million registered and 60 million monthly active users.

Facebook wants to hook those kids as soon as they’re 13 so they become lucrative lifetime users. So Facebook is now testing Lip Sync Live in several markets. Users first go to broadcast Live, select the Lip Sync Live option, select a song, mouth the words while adding filters and effects during the stream, and then can permanently share the resulting video. The Live With feature for co-streaming with a friend lets people duet on their favorite jam. Viewers can tap on titling for the song and artist to follow that musician on Facebook, though I think there should be a way to tap through to hear the song on Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube Music.

It’s going to be tough for Facebook to suddenly become cool enough for kids to enthusiastically lip sync, especially since it requires going Live which notifies their friends. That plea for attention could make some users too shy to strut their stuff on camera. Lip syncing might work better for static videos where people can be sure they looked good enough before sharing, or within Stories that friends have to actively go watch.

Music is one of the most core ways human share and connect. It’s actually surprising Facebook has stayed at arm’s-length from the record industry for so long.

iLike’s music streaming app was one of the most popular on v1 of Facebook’s platform, but the tech giant moved in a different direction. It also shut down landing tabs in 2012 that bands used to stream music from their Pages with apps like BandPage. And though Spotify got its big break in America through viral distribution in Facebook’s now defunct desktop sidebar ticker, Facebook never made a move to invest in or acquire the startup that’s since gone public.

At least, it’s good to see Facebook concentrating on the social side of music now that it has label deals in place rather than trying to build a Spotify competitor of its own. If it can legally build a way for anyone to add soundtracks to their videos, we might watch a lot more of them. Not only would that acclimate us to more video ads, but it could let friends express a different side of themselves with the emotional power of pop music.

Girl took cardboard cutout of Danny DeVito to prom so he took her cutout to Paddy’s Pub

Danny DeVito's cardboard cutout game is strong.

After a hardcore fan, Allison Closs, took a cardboard cutout of the actor as her escort to prom, DeVito responded in the best way — by making a cardboard cutout of the teen and bringing it to set with him.

Rob McElhenney, DeVito's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia co-star, shared photographic evidence of the cardboard cutout on Instagram, writing, "Hey Allison- I heard you took cardboard Danny to Prom. What a coincidence. He took cardboard Allison to Paddy's..."

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Instagram reveals the secret sauce powering its algorithm

Instagram is chill with the decision it made two years ago to ditch the chronological feed in favor of an algorithm. The older way of showing you your follow list's shares isn't coming back.

Ever since the change, though, the algorithm has been something of a mystery. Shares surface in your feed without any apparent rhyme or reason, and Instagram has kept quiet on exactly how those under-the-hood decisions are made... until now.

During a recent media tour at its headquarters in San Francisco, the Facebook-owned company laid out the various factors that are weighed before an Instagram post appears in your personal feed (h/t TechCrunch). It comes down to three primary considerations: Interest, recency, and relationship. Read more...

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How Instagram’s algorithm works

Instagram users were missing 70 percent of all posts and 50 percent of their friends’ posts before the app ditched the reverse chronological feed for an algorithm in July 2016. Despite backlash about confusing ordering, Instagram now says relevancy sorting has led to its 800 million-plus users seeing 90 percent of their friends’ posts and spending more time on the app.

Yet Instagram has never explained exactly how the algorithm chooses what to show you until today. The Facebook-owned company assembled a group of reporters at its under-construction new San Francisco office to take the lid off the Instagram feed ranking algorithm.

Instagram product lead Julian Gutman explains the algorithm

Instagram’s feed ranking criteria

Instagram relies on machine learning based on your past behavior to create a unique feed for everyone. Even if you follow the exact same accounts as someone else, you’ll get a personalized feed based on how you interact with those accounts.

Three main factors determine what you see in your Instagram feed:

  1. Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, with higher ranking for what matters to you, determined by past behavior on similar content and potentially machine vision analyzing the actual content of the post.
  2. Recency: How recently the post was shared, with prioritization for timely posts over weeks-old ones.
  3. Relationship: How close you are to the person who shared it, with higher ranking for people you’ve interacted with a lot in the past on Instagram, such as by commenting on their posts or being tagged together in photos.

Beyond those core factors, three additional signals that influence rankings are:

  • Frequency: How often you open Instagram, as it will try to show you the best posts since your last visit.
  • Following: If you follow a lot of people, Instagram will be picking from a wider breadth of authors so you might see less of any specific person.
  • Usage: How long you spend on Instagram determines if you’re just seeing the best posts during short sessions, or it’s digging deeper into its catalog if you spend more total time browsing.

Instagram mythbusting

Instagram’s team also responded to many of the most common questions and conspiracy theories about how its feed works. TechCrunch can’t verify the accuracy of these claims, but this is what Instagram’s team told us:

  • Instagram is not at this time considering an option to see the old reverse chronological feed because it doesn’t want to add more complexity (users might forget what feed they’re set to), but it is listening to users who dislike the algorithm.
  • Instagram does not hide posts in the feed, and you’ll see everything posted by everyone you follow if you keep scrolling.
  • Feed ranking does not favor the photo or video format universally, but people’s feeds are tuned based on what kind of content they engage with, so if you never stop to watch videos you might see fewer of them.
  • Instagram’s feed doesn’t favor users who use Stories, Live, or other special features of the app.
  • Instagram doesn’t downrank users for posting too frequently or for other specific behaviors, but it might swap in other content in between someone’s if they rapid-fire separate posts.
  • Instagram doesn’t give extra feed presence to personal accounts or business accounts, so switching won’t help your reach.
  • Shadowbanning is not a real thing, and Instagram says it doesn’t hide people’s content for posting too many hashtags or taking other actions.

Today’s Instagram whiteboard session with reporters, its first, should go a long way to clearing up misunderstandings about how it works. When people feel confident that their posts will reach their favorite people, that they can reliably build a public audience, and that they’ll always see great content, they’ll open the app more often.

Yet on the horizon looms a problem similar to what Facebook’s algorithm experienced around 2015: competition reduces reach. As more users and businesses join Instagram and post more often, but feed browsing time stays stable per user, the average post will get drowned out and receive fewer views. People will inevitably complain that Instagram is trying to force them to buy ads, but it’s a natural and inevitable consequence of increasingly popular algorithmic feeds.

The more Instagram can disarm that problem by pushing excess content creation to Stories and educating users about how the feed operates, the less they’ll complain. Facebook is already uncool, so Instagram must stay in our good graces.

Dwayne Johnson and John Krasinski did the Murph Challenge together

Two fit friends, John Krasinski and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, spent Memorial Day working out together for a good cause.

The pals took part in the Murph Challenge, a workout and annual fundraiser in honor of Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a Navy Seal who died during combat in 2005.

The challenge begins with a one-mile run, followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and a second one-mile run. On top of al that, participants are encouraged to wear a 20-pound vest to get the full effect of a Navy Seal workout.

Krasinski shared a video of himself ahead of the challenge where he took the time to thank all the men and women serving the U.S., and to introduce his friend "Dave," also known as The Rock. Read more...

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Please enjoy this Instagram account that hilariously reimagines your favorite album covers

With every photo, there's always more than meets the eye. 

Thankfully, there are good folks like Russian-based artist Igor Lipchanskiy who are here to help us expand what we think we know — at least when it comes to album covers. 

Lipchanskiy takes the album art of artists like Prince or will.i.am and adds his own interpretation of what exactly might be happening beyond the perimeters of the square image. 

The first album posted on Lipchanskiy's Instagram account is from June 2017, in which he recreates the cover for the Arctic Monkey's album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm NotRead more...

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