Google is Keen for you to share your passion

Google has launched Keen, a competitor to Pinterest.

To be precise, Keen was created by Area 120 and PAIR at Google.

Area 120 is a ‘workshop for Google’s experimental products’. It’s where Googlers famously spend 20% of their time on passion projects.

PAIR is People and AI Research is a team at Google that is concerned with making sure that AI is built with people in mind.

Keen is itself an experiment.

Its aim is to offer users a new way to curate their interests.

A bit like you do on Pinterest.

With the help of Artificial Intelligence, Keen wants to improve on the recommendations it surfaces to users.

By using the Google Search Index (and presumably your Google Search history), Keen aims to expand your interests by showing you personalised recommendations.

Keen is available both via the browser and via an Android app.

A word of warning, the app does not get good reviews in Google Play.

Most of the negative feedback relates to the app crashing.

I have downloaded it and it has worked fine for me.

Once you create a profile, the more convenient option is with your Google profile, you can start building a ‘Keen‘ (a Pinterest board basically) or start following already existing ones.

After creating a ‘Keen‘, you can add collaborators to it and start adding resources that you have found around the web.

If you make the ‘Keen‘ ‘public’, it can be discovered via search and on Keen itself.

My first impression of ‘Keen‘ has been good.

I must admit I am not a Pinterest user and probably not the target user for Keen either.

Having said that I am curious about any machine learning input into the surfacing of interests that I may not come across in my daily browsing.

My main concern regards the longevity of this product.

If Keen does not meet whatever its objectives are in terms of user growth (or other relevant metric) what will happen to my ‘Keens’ if the product is discontinued?

Would I be wasting my time in building a ‘library’ only to lose it once someone in San Francisco pulls the plug?

The power of new media for distributing a message

Alexis Ohanian, founder of Reddit, recently made the news.

Within the context of protests across the United States, and indeed the world, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Alexis resigned from the Reddit board and suggested a black candidate should replace him.

Alexis Ohanian was asked by many media types for an interview.

Instead he gave an exclusive to Serena Williams on Instagram.

For those who don’t know, Alexis and Serena are married.

The topic of the discussion is obviously the main reason to watch the clip in its entirety.

And I thoroughly recommend you do.

I have found extremely enlightening.

Within the context of this blog, the intersection of digital platforms/marketing/publishing, what caught my eye was Alexis’choice in terms of the distribution of his message.

Serena Williams has, at time of writing, 12.4M followers on Instagram.

The video on IGTV has been viewed, so far,1.4 million times.

IGTV is the long form video offering from Instagram.

Why would Ohanian go to The New York Times (9.4M followers on Instagram), to The Washington Post (3.3M followers) or BBC News (13.5M followers)?

Serena Williams’ reach is comparable or a lot better to that of many of these major players in the news industry.

With Serena, gone are any issues of mistrust in the media and of how some outlets aim for a ‘gotcha’ moment.

The interview can be more constructive as both parties have discussed the issues for a long time before appearing on screen.

Serena offers the perspective of a global personality directly impacted for many, many years by this topic.

As such, the interview strikes a chord that might have been difficult to strike had the interviewer been, with respect, a less known individual.

Additionally, Serena’s followers and fans are likely to be more interested in a conversation between her and her husband than the average NYT or CNN follower.

The final result is, to me, a much more genuine and valuable conversation.

The sort of conversation that we should be having as a society.

Longer term, my belief is that Serena Williams will be a bigger media company than most of the current media companies.

How Facebook can help you call loved ones

Facebook has launched CatchUp.

It’s an experimental app aiming at making telephone calls easier.

Not in the sense of pressing a button.

In the sense that, according to Facebook, the reason people often don’t voice call family and friends is that they don’t know if they are available and they don’t want to disturb.

CatchUp solves the problem by showing when other users of the app are available to talk.

It also helps making group calls easier.

This app was developed by the NPE team at Facebook, “a small team experimenting with New Products and Experiences.”

CatchUp is being trialed in the US for a limited time on both iOS and Android.

CatchUp Screenshots

WhatsApp payments: Brazilians celebrate as first in the world

WhatsApp has announced that Brazil will be the first country to get its digital payment functionality.

Users will now be able to send money to each other or to purchase from local businesses.

All from within a WhatsApp chat.

Crucially, this payment feature is enabled by Facebook Pay, paving the way for a future of digital payments across the Facebook ecosystem of apps.

Initially, users will need to use a debit or credit card issued by Banco do Brasil, Nubank, and Sicredi on the Visa and Mastercard networks.

WhatsApp is also partnering with Cielo, the leading payment processor in Brazil.

They are also making their system open so more partners can be on-boarded in the future.

Using the payment features is free for users while businesses pay a processing fee similar to what they are charged currently to process credit card payments.

This is a major step for digital payments outside of China.

Brazil is the second-largest market for WhatsApp with 120 million MAUs.

Small businesses can already publish their catalogs through the WhatsApp Business app. Users can therefore easily browse the catalog without having to leave WhatsApp.

Tips on how to generate amazing content

Hamish and Andy are two of the most popular entertainers in Australia.

Their career spans nearly two decades in radio and television.

During the interview featured in the video below, they share their experience of content ideation and production.

These are the main take-aways of the interview:

Don’t over-prepare content. Leave room for spontaneity. It’s about finding the balance between preparation and leaving enough room for spontaneity.

In every ad break they describe to each other using one sentence what they are going to talk about during the next five minutes of on-air time.

By placing ‘small bets’, you allow the ideas that best resonate to bloossom into big bets.

Otherwise you might stake too much on what seems to be a good idea but turns out not be one.

Don’t publicly state on overly ambitious goal at the beginning. This puts too much pressure on the experiment. Start small and see where the experiment takes you, if anywhere.

Also, the next idea shouldn’t play in the same arena of previously successful ideas. Otherwise you run the risk of the new idea constantly being compared with the old one (and unlikely to be a positive comparison).

The content of the future will be synthetic

A fascinating presentation by Amy Webb about Emerging Tech Trends for 2020.

What captures my imagination in particular is the section about synthetic content production.

The trend is towards digital twins. It will become easier and easier to produce a digital copy of yourself (or anyone else for the matter).

And not just a single copy but, being digital, infinite copies of yourself.

Already five years ago, a new member joined the Japanese pop group AKB48 and quickly became the most popular.

However Eguchi Aimi was not real and nobody realised for over a year.

She was an early version of synthetic media.

Synthetic media is created by using people, photos, videos, text, objects as inputs.

The output is a realistic-looking and sounding artificial digital content.

This allows for a wholly automatic generation of video and textual content at scale.

This is how the pandemic is impacting streaming

ComScore has released analysis on the performance of data-using media over the last few months.

Data usage was already trending up in January and February 2020.

Across the board, YOY usage was up 16%.

COVID-19 likely caused the further increase seen in March, April and May.

Smart TVs, phones and streaming boxes saw the biggest YOY increases post pandemic.

This is likely to be linked to more people staying at home and spending more time on the couch.

Within the ecosystem of streaming apps, who were the winners and who were the losers?

By using the February weekly average of total hours, Comscore reveals that Disney did particularly well. Of course, this is a relatively new service so new users may be a factor in its performance.

Amazon did well. The increase in online shopping may have had a positive impact on the number of Amazon Prime members. This in turn would increase the numbers of viewers of Amazon Video as it is part of the service.

Hulu on the other hand is the app the did not perform as well. Its index was flat in May versus its performance in February.

Top Streaming Apps by Total Hours

For all other content providers around the world the figures above can provide some guidance.

Each country will have its own set of data peculiar to the timing and extent of lock-down measures introduced.

However, if your performance is not at least 20% above February, as it’s in the case of the United States, you are probably losing market share of attention.

To other content providers but not necessarily directly competing against you.

It may be that your audience is migrating to TikTok…

Facebook introduces Facebook Shops

Facebook is introducing Facebook Shops.

This is a major announcement in light of the struggles that many businesses are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even when, depending on the nation, shops are allowed to re-open, they are likely to be facing restrictions on how to operate.

This might mean the inability of having the same foot traffic as before COVID-19.

For some shops, retail before COVID-19 was already challenging.

On top of this, some customers may be reluctant to go back to a somewhat crowded environment and stay away from physical shops as much as possible.

The transition to online shopping, already underway, is likely to accelerate.

Facebook has historically been a place for, amongst other things, buying and selling.

Maybe in an informal way when posting a picture of a chair with the words ‘for sale’ in the post description.

More recently, using Marketplace to get rid of that coffee table that does not suit your style any longer.

Similarly, Instagram has been used by brands to showcase their latest range and use the power of influencers to sell products.

With Facebook Shops, a business can set up a single shop on both Facebook and Instagram.

The process appears to be relatively easy and straightforward.

The owner can select what product of their catalog to display.

The look and feel of the shop can be customized in line with their brand imagery.

Below is an introductory message when seeing a Shop for the first time.

Below is the shop itself.

When the user selects a product the option to go the company’s website is available as well as the ability to complete the purchase.

Users can find the shop via the business’ Facebook page or Instagram profile.

Crucially, discovery by Facebook and Instagram users is facilitated by ads on both platforms.

Users can be then directed to the business’ own website or complete the transaction within the social platform if the business has enabled checkout in the US.

From a users’ privacy perspective, Facebook says that activity related to Shops will not be shared with friends unless the user chooses to.

Shops will have access to users’ activity on their shop at an aggregated level

Facebook has also announced the addition of a number of partners to its Shop ecosystem.

The likes of Shopify and Woo Commerce will be more easily integrated into the whole shopping experience for brands that use such platforms to host their retail presence.

Another important innovation is the ability for the users to communicate with the business using the full suite of Facebook messaging platforms: Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram Direct.

Also, the user will be able to purchase from within the messaging app.

An intriguing upcoming feature is the ability for shop owners to tag products from their catalogs prior to live streaming. Watchers will be able to buy the product in real-time as the shop owners ‘sells’ the product on the live stream.

Finally, Facebook has also announced the testing of loyalty programs linked to Facebook Shops.

This announcement by Facebook has certainly the potential to disrupt the online shopping world.

With over 2 billion daily users of Facebook’s suite of platforms and the power of word of mouth from family and friends, this might turn out to be a crucial moment in (digital) history.

Personally I think that the ability for customers and shops to communicate (and purchase/sell) across messaging platforms is a game-changer.

A risk for larger retail companies is losing website traffic.

If users start seeing Facebook and Instagram as their primary online shopping destination, retailers will suffer.

If a company struggles to convince shoppers to go to their primary online presence, they become hostage to Facebook.

As usual, becoming too dependent on somebody else’s platform is very risky and seldom a good strategy.

Instagram, Snapchat leave Facebook behind

eMarketer is forecasting that the COVID-19-influenced growth of social networks will benefit Instagram and Snapchat more than Facebook.

The most recent update of the forecast sees Instagram adding more time spent by users than Snapchat while Facebook lags behind.

Facebook is still leading with 34 minutes of average daily usage by US users.

Instagram is now estimated to be at nearly 30 minutes while Snapchat is at 29.5 minutes.

In other words, the gap is narrowing.

Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat: Growth in Average Time Spent per Day by US Social Network Users, 2020 (% change, Nov 2019 vs. April 2020)

Rogan moves to Spotify

Major news from the world of podcasting.

Joe Rogan is moving to Spotify.

From September 1st the podcast will be available on Spotify and all other platforms.

From the end of the year though, all the content will be available exclusively on Spotify as part of a licensing deal that The Wall Street Journal reports as being worth more than $100 million.

This announcement has major implications for the future of podcasting.

Platform exclusivity goes against the (up until now) openness of podcasting as a medium.

A great take on the topic can be found on ‘The open podcast ecosystem is dying — here’s how to save it.’ by Nathan Baschez.