Twitter will crack down on automation and simultaneous actions across multiple accounts

(Reuters) — Twitter said on Wednesday it would no longer allow people to post identical messages from multiple accounts, cracking down on a tactic that Russian agents and others have allegedly used to make tweets or topics go viral.

The San Francisco-based social network also said it would not allow people to use software to simultaneously perform other actions such as liking or retweeting from multiple accounts. Continue reading “Twitter will crack down on automation and simultaneous actions across multiple accounts”

Facebook’s user engagement dips on News Feed tweaks, WhatsApp passes 1.5 billion monthly users

(Reuters) — Facebook said on Wednesday that time spent on the social network fell at the end of last year by about 50 million hours a day, even before the company made changes to its flagship News Feed that may further reduce user engagement.
On the Q4 2017 earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg announced that WhatsApp passed 1.5 billion monthly active users and sees 60 billion messages sent per day. Continue reading “Facebook’s user engagement dips on News Feed tweaks, WhatsApp passes 1.5 billion monthly users”

2017: Year of the podcast

The year 2017 will likely be remembered for many things across the technology spectrum, from major breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI) and milestone moments in autonomous vehicles to Amazon conceding that a major offline presence in groceries was needed to compete in retail.

But buried within the big headline-grabbing stories of the year were microtrends that sprang up almost by surprise. And one of those relates to the humble podcast. Continue reading “2017: Year of the podcast”

Germany: Facebook abuses dominance in the way it harvests and monetizes user data

(Reuters) — Germany’s cartel office has found that Facebook abused its dominant market position, in a ruling that questioned the U.S. social network’s model of monetizing the personal data of its 2 billion users through targeted advertising. Presenting preliminary findings of its 20-month-old probe, the Federal Cartel Office said Facebook held a dominant position among social networks – a characterization that Facebook repudiated as “inaccurate”. Continue reading “Germany: Facebook abuses dominance in the way it harvests and monetizes user data”

Facebook defends itself against social media critics

(Reuters) — Facebook Inc on Friday struck back against scientific researchers and tech industry insiders who have criticized the world’s biggest social media network and its competitors for transforming how people behave and express emotion. Facebook, in a corporate blog post, said that social media can be good for people’s well-being if they use the technology in a way that is active, such as messaging with friends, rather than passive, such as scrolling through a feed of other people’s posts. It was the second time this week that Facebook had published such a rebuttal, signaling a new willingness to defend a business model that translates users’ attention into advertising revenue. Continue reading “Facebook defends itself against social media critics”

Academics search for meaning in images of Mark Zuckerberg

The first edition of essays to examine ways Mark Zuckerberg has been depicted in mass media is now available. Released online today, the California Review of Images and Mark Zuckerberg contains a collection of writing dedicated to analysis of depictions of Facebook’s CEO either by news media, Facebook, or Zuckerberg himself at various stages in his life in the public eye.

Essays included in the first edition include “Neocolonial Intimacies,” a look back at an awkward hug between Zuckerberg and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi; and “Mark Zuckerberg’s Significant Insignificance,” a breakdown of Zuckerberg’s early Facebook profile photo. There’s also an essay that dives into this cringe-inducing, sweaty 2010 interview with Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg.

Authors whose work was included in the publication were paid a $300 stipend. A symposium for further examination of essays in the first edition of California Review of Images and Mark Zuckerberg may be held in San Francisco in early 2018, creator and editor Tim Hwang told VentureBeat in a phone interview.

Hwang made the publication in his free time, but his day job is director of the Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative, a $27 million venture to support research and projects that propel AI for the public good. From 2015 to 2017, Hwang served as AI and ML lead for Google’s public policy team.

Since Hwang floated the idea of the publication in a Medium post in late summer, much of the news surrounding Facebook has dealt with Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“We’re coming at this at kind of a strange time,” Hwang said. “We’ve had a call for more people who want to write articles, so we might very well do a Volume Two.”

As one of the best known people alive today, other examinations of Zuckerberg imagery could explore hacker-punk Zuckerberg, a deeper dive into his 50-state U.S. tour that convinced many he may run for president, or Zuckerberg in augmented reality, like his recent virtual tour of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico that raised some eyebrows.

Here’s how social video will evolve in 2018

Over the past few years, the internet has evolved from a text-based medium to the new TV. Cisco estimates that video accounts for 69 percent of all internet traffic in 2017. When the next-generation wireless network, 5G, hits in 2019 and 2020, we can expect that number to grow as more consumers are able to enjoy high-bandwidth video on their mobile devices.

With that growth comes complexity, though. Today’s marketers have to grapple with variables like video length, placement strategies, and ever-present threats from tech giants that traffic in video.

Looking ahead, marketers will face quite a bit of change in 2018 as the market evolves. Here are seven trends that will impact social video in 2018:

1. Six-second ads will gain more currency. Though advertisers have experimented with short-form ads for some time, Google gave its blessing to the format in January when it challenged advertisers to tell their stories in six seconds flat. Since then, Fox also began running six-second ads during NFL games. Talk all you want about decreasing attention spans, the real draw of six-second ads is that they are good for nudging consumers deep in the funnel towards making a purchase. A quick reminder ad can be all you need to get that consumer to take action. That’s why I expect to see a lot more of these ads next year.

2. More advertising on Netflix. Yes, there are ads on Netflix. The company began running promos for its shows this summer. In addition, Accenture has spoken about how it would like to use its digital product placement technology to infiltrate Netflix shows. (A Coke can be superimposed into Orange Is The New Black, for instance.) We’ll see a steady increase in advertising on Netflix in 2018 in part because Netflix is now creating shows at such volume (it planned to release 1,000 hours of new shows in 2017) that it will be hard to make viewers aware of such content without promoting it on the network. With around 52 million subscribers and possibly 100 million by 2020, it will be harder and harder to resist the lure of advertising in 2018. I predict at some point there will be two versions of Netflix: premium ad free and a cheaper iteration with ads.

3. More midroll. While Google got behind six-second ads, Facebook put its weight behind midroll — ads that run in the middle of a video à la TV. What took them so long? While preroll ads might prompt a viewer to flee, with midroll, you are reaching a viewer who is already engaged in the content. The interruptive nature of advertising can be mitigated via effective targeting. If you’re in the market for a new washing machine, then you really won’t mind seeing an ad for one. In addition to backing from Facebook, the reason we’ll see more mid-roll advertising in 2018 is because of consumers’ increasing resistance to ad messages. As more consumers turn to ad blockers and reject preroll, brands will see midroll as a vehicle to reach consumers who are already engaged in content and are more likely to sit through an ad message.

4. Continued consolidation of third-party verification of metrics. With so much ad fraud, marketers are right to be skeptical and ask for third-party verification. In the last year, I’ve seen more consolidation in this area as most have used Google’s DoubleClick, Moat (which is now part of Oracle), or Integral Ad Science. Overall, marketers will continue to be skeptical of their digital advertising partners. That’s a good thing, since such skepticism will weed out the charlatans and fraudsters and allow the ethical companies to prosper. The consolidation of third-party verifiers means that verification will improve and the industry can start winning back marketers’ trust.

5. Amazon will throw its weight around. Amazon has the best consumer data in the business, but advertising has always been a sideline because its main business — retail — has been so good. That’s changing. The company is looking to hire some 2,000 execs in its new New York Office, and most of those jobs will be in advertising. In addition, brands like Geico and Hyundai, who don’t sell their goods on Amazon, have recently come around to advertising during Amazon’s telecasts of Thursday Night Football. In October, the company also began inviting merchants to create product videos to run on to compete with YouTube this holiday season. The idea is to keep consumers from straying elsewhere to get product info. Expect Amazon to continue to tighten its grip next in 2018.

6. More personalization. Personalization is an ad industry mantra that’s more spoken about than executed upon. Video in particular has been tough to personalize since it isn’t customizable the way a banner is. But as addressability and video technology continue to improve, expect to see more efforts at personalizing content in 2018. That could mean more relevant videos or even videos addressed personally to you, like this ad for Alien Covenant on the UK’s Channel 4 that addressed consumers by name.

7. The introduction of 5G. The next-generation wireless network will make its debut to the world during the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games in February and we’ll see sporadic 5G implementations throughout the year. The industry will need to prepare for a sea change, though, as higher-speed wireless’ long-term effects become evident. 5G will be a catalyst for everything from mobile VR to cord cutting to even greater consumption of mobile video. Smart marketers will spend 2018 laying the groundwork for 5G by boosting their VR efforts and taking advantage of the continued erosion of linear TV.

What else? It’s impossible to predict how much advances in AI will affect the marketing world and whether 2018 will be a breakthrough year for other game-changing technologies, like IoT. The only constants will be the continued evolution of technology overall and its effects on how consumers experience brands.

James G. Brooks is CEO and Founder of GlassView.

Google’s Chatbase bot analytics platform opens to all

Google’s chatbot analytics platform is now open to everyone, more than six months after its quiet debut during the company’s I/O developer conference. Called Chatbase, it’s intended to help developers better analyze and optimize their bots so they can improve conversion rates and accuracy — and avoid having users feel bots are useless.

Anyone can use Google’s Chatbase for free, similar to Google Analytics, and it’ll work across any platform, including Facebook Messenger, Kik, Slack, Viber, and Skype. But it’s more than messaging services where Chatbase could prove invaluable: With the rise of voice assistants like Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Samsung’s Bixby, and Apple’s Siri, understanding analytics will be important.

A product of Google’s Area 120 internal incubator, Chatbase currently has “hundreds” of companies using it, including Ticketmaster, HBO, and Viber. A spokesperson for the Rakuten-owned messaging service said in a statement: “We increased query volume by 35% for a popular stickers bot by optimizing queries with high exit rates. Chatbase has been immensely helpful … instead of combing through logs, we rely on its machine-learning capability to help prioritize required optimizations.”

Ofer Ronen, Chatbase’s team lead, told VentureBeat that since the platform’s early release, Google has learned that “building and analyzing bots can be challenging because the tools are relatively new and still maturing. Unlike websites and apps which are well understood, bot development is still establishing best practices.”

He went on to say: “An aspect that makes bots especially challenging is how open-ended they are: Users expect bots to handle a request containing any phrasing they choose. This is an area that Chatbase is especially focused on, by exposing popular requests to which a bot is not responding well.”

Google isn’t the only one in the analytics space for bots, as it competes against Dashbot, Botanalytics, BotMetrics, Manner, and others. But what might be an advantage to Google is what it’s done with Google Analytics, one of the top analytics tools for mobile and website developers. Ronen added that, besides the extensive array of things that could be tracked, Chatbot’s machine learning capabilities gives it leverage over the competition, clustering “similar problematic user messages. One example would be for finding and fixing ‘misses’, or alternate phrasing of supported actions that weren’t originally anticipated by the developer,” he said.

“Putting some of Google’s machine learning capabilities to work for our users is a clear differentiator, and our users are really excited about that.”

If Google is successful in positioning Chatbase as being platform-agnostic and the service becomes as widely used as its Analytics sibling, then the breadth of data that the company will receive around conversation, be it voice or text, will be enormous. That would not only allow Google to improve its bot ecosystem, but to see a significant boost in the machine learning space. Plus it may eventually lead to helping the company figure out ways to properly monetize bots — using a chatbot version of Google AdWords, perhaps?

Chatbase won’t give you the exact same metrics that you’d expect from a traditional analytics platform, although there are some overlaps. Among the data you’ll receive include the number of active users, sessions, and retention, while also comparing performance by platform.

Anyone can sign up for Chatbase. Those using Dialogflow, the service formerly known as, will automatically have access to Chatbase’s basic features within Dialogflow.

Facebook Messenger brings live chat and bots to websites

Facebook Messenger now has a plugin that lets visitors to a website engage in live chat with a human or bot without leaving that website. Called Customer Chat, the plugin is one in a series of major changes announced today as part of the release of version 2.2 of the Messenger Platform. The announcement was made by Messenger head of product Stan Chudnovsky on stage at Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. Continue reading “Facebook Messenger brings live chat and bots to websites”

Facebook Messenger will soon let all businesses send sponsored messages

Facebook today announced that sponsored messages are being rolled out to more businesses. The Messenger ads were initially made available to a small number of businesses but will become available to all businesses in the coming months, the company said in a blog post.

Unlike other Messenger ads, sponsored messages that pop up on your Messenger home screen will not be marked as such. In fact, they look like all other conversations on Facebook Messenger.

As previously defined rules for advertising and marketing on Facebook Messenger state, promotional messages like the kind being rolled out now may only be sent once in a 24-hour period, and they can only be sent to a person who previously chatted with that business’ Facebook Messenger bot or account.

During the company’s third quarter earnings report on Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told investors that more than 20 million businesses use Facebook monthly to communicate with customers.

Advertisers interested in sending sponsored messages must create a Custom Audience, which can be used for retargeting ads at people who have done things like clicked a Messenger bot call to action or deleted a Messenger bot, or simply to target new Messenger bot users.

Advertising and business services through Facebook’s messaging apps have grown steadily in the second half of 2017 following questions about monetization this summer. In July, while onstage at MobileBeat, Facebook Messenger head of product Stan Chudnovsky announced the company will gradually bring ads to the Messenger home screen worldwide. In recent weeks, Facebook opened the Messenger objective for ad campaigns.

At the same time, verified WhatsApp business accounts and a paid WhatsApp customer service app have also opened up.

In August 2016, after initial restrictions on promotional material, Facebook Messenger opened to promotional and marketing material. Ads that appear in the Facebook News Feed and lead to a chat experience with a human or automated bot on Messenger have been available since the launch of Messenger Platform 1.3 in November 2016. Since then, those same ads have expanded to Instagram.

Both WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger garner more than 1 billion monthly active users around the world. They compete in the same space to connect businesses with customers as other chat apps with hundreds of millions of users, such as Skype, Apple’s iMessage, and Twitter.

Silicon Valley may have just began to come around to this form of conversational commerce, but it’s been a big part of business in Asia for a while now.

WeChat and Line have offered advertising in one form or another since 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Advertising has become the highest grossing sector of Line Corp, the company behind the Line app. According to earnings announced in late October, 47 percent of the $371 million in Line revenue in the past quarter came from advertising, up 40 percent compared to the same quarter last year.

Google launches Data GIF Maker to help storytellers convey information through animations

In an age of ubiquitous computing and high-bandwidth video streaming capabilities from our pockets, the fact that the humble GIF continues to thrive is a remarkable feat. But its success is testament to the 30-year-old file format’s continued support, and ability to convey information (and entertain) without requiring huge processing power.

Indeed, GIFs continue to be used for many purposes, which is why Google has launched the Data Gif Maker, a tool aimed at helping journalists and storytellers convey information visually through simple animations.

“Data visualizations are an essential storytelling tool in journalism, and though they are often intricate, they don’t have to be complex,” said Simon Rogers, data editor at the Google News Lab, in a blog post. “In fact, with the growth of mobile devices as a primary method of consuming news, data visualizations can be simple images formatted for the device they appear on.”

The Data GIF Maker is pretty simple to use, though it is fairly narrow in scope. It’s basically designed to help people show how two competing “things” compare to each other in terms of popularity, such as sales of a particular product, or the frequency of two items in search engines, and requires the user to manually enter the information and then download the GIF.

Above: Data GIF: Batman vs. Superman

The advent of the internet and big data has given birth to a number of businesses that serve to help people make sense of the deluge of information at their disposal and tell meaningful stories. For example, Latvian infographics and data visualization company Infogram offers a slick WYSIWYG editor that converts users’ data into infographics that can be published or embedded anywhere, and earlier this month it was acquired by Prezi.

Other companies are making moves to monetize GIFs specifically. Last month Tenor launched real-time analytics tool, designed to educate marketers on using GIFs.

Google’s GIF effort is limited in its ambitions for now, but as an experiment it could be turbo-charged in the future to enable GIFs with far greater detail and multiple data points.


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