What If Facebook Actually Paid People For Content?

Like A Vision I know this sounds crazy, but what if authors and artists didn’t just pump their work into Facebook for free? Yeah, it built the pipes, but that doesn’t mean the water’s not worth money. The content keeps people coming back to Facebook’s News Feed, which is filled with expertly targeted ads. Right now, all creators get in return is referral traffic. For some content… Read More

Facebook wants to build a $1B data center facility in Fort Worth, Texas

The new data center facility Facebook is proposing in Fort Worth, Texas.

Social networking giant Facebook has submitted a proposal to build its fifth data center facility in the world, this time in Fort Worth, Texas.

Facebook has not yet announced the news. And Facebook did not immediately respond to VentureBeat’s requests for comment. But local and state documents suggest it’s Facebook.

The investment in the data center facility will total $1 billion, according to one property tax document (PDF) on file with the state of Texas that connects the provisional business entity Winner LLC DBA Ernst LLC with Facebook’s name.

The law firm representing the applicant, Fenwick & West, has previously represented Facebook on major deals like the Oculus VR and Instagram acquisitions. And the architectural (Sheehan Partners), structural engineering (Peoples Associates), and mechanical engineering (AlfaTech) firms listed on the project’s site plans, on file with the city of Fort Worth, have all worked on at least one Facebook data center in the past.

Publicly traded Facebook has picked up more and more users over the past several years, and along the way it’s built out data centers: in Prineville, Ore.; Forest City, N.C.; Altoona, Iowa; and Luleå, Sweden.

Equipment and entire buildings tuned to the needs of Facebook’s applications have helped save the company more than $2 billion over a span of three years.

Improvements over the years have even helped Facebook postpone the construction of additional data centers. But now it appears that Facebook is ready to start building again.

Hat tip to the Dallas Morning News for figuring out the connection between Winner LLC and Facebook. Incidentally, the rendering the paper obtained is exactly the same as the one VentureBeat published in an article about Facebook’s Iowa data center.

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Facebook Messenger games could goose its Payments business

The Facebook Messenger app.
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Facebook’s core users are going mobile, and they’re taking their money with them. Rumors this week suggest that the company may turn to mobile games inside Facebook Messenger to bring those dollars back.

Revenues from the company’s Payments division are stagnating, because the microtransactions that used to fuel that growth — especially for games — are now taking place more often on mobile platforms. The company’s first-quarter financials indicated a 5 percent year over year drop, which is a lot of money for a $1 billion-revenue division.

“Social gaming audiences have been moving to mobile for a while now,” said Joost van Dreunen, the chief executive of market analyst SuperData Research. “In response, companies throughout the ecosystem — including Facebook, Kabam, Zynga and King — have committed themselves to smartphones and tablets. This creates somewhat of a downward spiral [for desktop social gaming]: with a declining user base, content providers will be reluctant to invest and develop for the platform, thereby making it increasingly less relevant.”

Three-quarters of Facebook’s advertising revenue already comes from mobile, for example.

Enter Facebook Messaging. App Annie’s Top App Charts say this is the top downloaded app for both iOS and Google Play (more than the core Facebook app itself, which was the No. 2 spot). But the top-grossing apps are nearly all games, with Clash of Clans, Game of War, and Candy Crush Saga in the lead. Earlier this week, The Information magazine reported that Facebook is considering games for its Messenger app store.

Facebook representatives wouldn’t confirm that report, offering a prepared statement:

“Currently, we think Messenger Platform is best suited for apps that focus on content creation and curated content. But, one of the reasons we were excited to announce that Messenger Platform is open to all developers is to see what people build. From there, we’ll think about what else might make sense.”

Gaming apps absolutely would make sense for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the built-in audience, larger even than Facebook’s own app base, for social gaming on mobile platforms.

Facebook Payments is experimenting with free one-to-one cash transactions for individuals. That seems like a loss for the company, until you consider all those credit and debit cards stored in profiles that could make it easy for Messenger users to buy games or the microtransactions inside them. (To be fair, the same is true for other Messenger apps, which so far have been largely limited to emojis, video calling, chat alteration, and images.)

So could Facebook Messenger games provide the boost that Payments needs? It definitely seems possible. The successful model is already on the market in the Far East.

“It’s a proven model in Asia to offer games on a messenger platform,” van Dreunen said. “A giant like Tencent makes a mint by both perpetuating viral user acquisition and monetizing this audience. If Facebook can follow this example, it could prove very valuable, especially as social gaming continues to lose momentum to mobile. The question, of course, will be whether or not this model will resonate with Western audiences.”

Hong Kong-based Tencent publishes games, but it also has hosted games as part of its QQ instant messaging platform, selling in-game goods for MMOs using an online currency called Q coins. QQ has 832 million monthly active users.

It’s fairly clear that Facebook is considering precisely that question: Will Western audiences respond the same way?

What is unclear is whether games via Messenger would use the app as a conduit for separate games, or whether you would actually play them inside the app. Apple and Google have some fairly strict rules for in-app transactions, and Facebook will have to tread carefully if Messenger appears to conflict with the giant business on Google Play or Apple’s App Store by being a sales platform competing with those stores.

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Mode Media races to become curated content hub — raises $30M more, exceeds $100M revenue

Mode blogger Meghan Rienks

Mode Media, the media and ad company that is building a video-centric hub for professional content producers, has raised $30 million more in financing.

Including this latest Series F round of equity, led by Hubert Burda Media, the company has now raised a total of $186 million.

Mode, formerly known as Glam, is trying to build itself into a destination platform where content producers go to promote their content, and get paid for it too. It hopes that its social features will give it an edge. By giving curators the ability to like stories — which in turn promotes those stories within specialized channels of feeds — Mode says it makes it easy for advertisers to target users according to taste.

Mode is making progress. The business is now generating more than $100 million in annual revenue, chief executive Samir Arora told VentureBeat in an interview. It has more than 10,000 editors, video producers and other professionals producing and curating content.

In its bid to build a new media platform, however, Mode faces some massive competitors, who are all bigger names and have formidable holds in their respective areas — from Facebook to YouTube to Yahoo’s Tumblr.

Yet each of those have their limitations for professional curators, Arora said. Facebook gives creators a place to promote themselves, but isn’t effective at letting them get get paid. And YouTube, while it is strong in video, doesn’t do well at leveraging personalized interests or other social clues to deliver content to readers. Mode wants to do just that, and sees personalized content as the way to deliver massive numbers of viewers to its professionalized curators. It points to the example of video blogger Meghan Rienks who got 1.8M views in five hours on its platform, more than she usually gets on YouTube.

At first blush, $156 million may seem like a lot of capital for a media company. It has raised much more than latest wave of media companies, such as Buzzfeed and Vox Media, which have raised $96 million and $108 million, respectively. Those companies are largely focused on content, however. Mode has also built out its own display advertising platform.

In its next move, the company aims to work with mainstream TV, music, magazine and newspaper companies to promote their content too, Arora said. The effort will start with a focus on U.S publications, and expand internationally, he said.

Mode boasted 152M unique visitors in April, according to Comscore, making it the 7th largest web property. It’s the only private company in the top 20 of comScore’s Media Matrix. It is just behind AOL’s 170M uniques.

Mode expressed its intent to go public a few years ago, but it has since curtailed those plans, and looks to be settling in for at least a couple of more years as a private company to consolidate around its new brand, Mode, and to become profitable. Part of the this most recent Series F round will also be used to retire some of the company’s debt.

Other past investors in Mode include Keating Capital, Information Capital, Accel Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Walden VC, DAG Ventures, Aeris Capital and Mizuho Capital.


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Mode Media races to become curated content hub — raises $30M more, exceeds $100M revenue

Mode blogger Meghan Rienks

Mode Media, the media and ad company that is building a video-centric hub for professional content producers, has raised $30 million more in financing.

Including this latest Series F round of equity, led by Hubert Burda Media, the company has now raised a total of $186 million.

Mode, formerly known as Glam, is trying to build itself into a destination platform where content producers go to promote their content, and get paid for it too. It hopes that its social features will give it an edge. By giving curators the ability to like stories — which in turn promotes those stories within specialized channels of feeds — Mode says it makes it easy for advertisers to target users according to taste.

Mode is making progress. The business is now generating more than $100 million in annual revenue, chief executive Samir Arora told VentureBeat in an interview. It has more than 10,000 editors, video producers and other professionals producing and curating content.

In its bid to build a new media platform, however, Mode faces some massive competitors, who are all bigger names and have formidable holds in their respective areas — from Facebook to YouTube to Yahoo’s Tumblr.

Yet each of those have their limitations for professional curators, Arora said. Facebook gives creators a place to promote themselves, but isn’t effective at letting them get get paid. And YouTube, while it is strong in video, doesn’t do well at leveraging personalized interests or other social clues to deliver content to readers. Mode wants to do just that, and sees personalized content as the way to deliver massive numbers of viewers to its professionalized curators. It points to the example of video blogger Meghan Rienks who got 1.8M views in five hours on its platform, more than she usually gets on YouTube.

At first blush, $156 million may seem like a lot of capital for a media company. It has raised much more than latest wave of media companies, such as Buzzfeed and Vox Media, which have raised $96 million and $108 million, respectively. Those companies are largely focused on content, however. Mode has also built out its own display advertising platform.

In its next move, the company aims to work with mainstream TV, music, magazine and newspaper companies to promote their content too, Arora said. The effort will start with a focus on U.S publications, and expand internationally, he said.

Mode boasted 152M unique visitors in April, according to Comscore, making it the 7th largest web property. It’s the only private company in the top 20 of comScore’s Media Matrix. It is just behind AOL’s 170M uniques.

Mode expressed its intent to go public a few years ago, but it has since curtailed those plans, and looks to be settling in for at least a couple of more years as a private company to consolidate around its new brand, Mode, and to become profitable. Part of the this most recent Series F round will also be used to retire some of the company’s debt.

Other past investors in Mode include Keating Capital, Information Capital, Accel Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Walden VC, DAG Ventures, Aeris Capital and Mizuho Capital.


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Facebook acquires and shuts down payment startup Tugboat Yards

The Bike Hugger Magazine page on Tugboat Yards.

Facebook has acquired Tugboat Yards, a startup with a tool that publishers and other groups could use to let fans make contributions in exchange for subscriptions and other services.

The Tugboat Yards service will stop accepting purchases and renewing subscriptions on July 1, although publisher account creation has already been turned off, according to a blog post the startup published today.

“Our initial reason for starting Tugboat — that there was a missing audience management platform for small to medium publishers — remains valid three years later,” cofounder and chief execuive Andrew Anker wrote in the blog post. “We are excited by the opportunity to work on solving these problems with a much broader scope at Facebook.”

The startup’s website and embeddable widgets gives people who made podcasts, magazines, and other content a way to receive tips and payments. Some thought that it could help content creators make a living without forcing them to build complex payment systems for their websites.

The site’s users include Deca, Let’s Make Mistakes, Maura Magazine, Offbeat Empire, Radio Silence, Scratch Magazine, and Wine for Normal People.

Anker suggested that the site’s users check out alternatives such as Memberful, Patreon, and TinyPass.

Tugboat Yards started in 2012 and was based in San Francisco. Investors included Andreessen Horowitz and Greylock Partners.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

(H/T: Pando)

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Facebook expands free Messenger video calling to almost every country

Facebook's video calling in Messenger.

Facebook has rolled out video calling on its Messenger app to more countries around the world, following the introduction of the feature in 18 countries last month.

“We’re happy to share we’ve now rolled out the capability globally, with the exception of a few countries we’re still working on improving quality for,” David Marcus, vice president of messaging products, announced in a Facebook post today. “So make sure you get the latest and greatest version for iOS and Android, give it a try, and as always… tell us how we can make it even better for you!”

In addition to working on iOS and Android, video calling also works on the Messenger website, messenger.com.

Marcus told a Facebook user in a comment on today’s post that Facebook “would love to offer the service in UAE, but operators are blocking it.” It’s not clear which other countries Facebook doesn’t yet support for free video calling in Messenger.

The expansion of video calling in Messenger follows the introduction of free voice calling to Facebook’s other messaging app, WhatsApp.

Messenger had more than 600 million monthly active users at the end of March.


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Where are the most valuable video views?

most-valuable-video-views
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There is so much innovation taking place in the video space, which makes it equal parts exciting to be a part of and exhausting to keep up with. It would seem to suggest that video marketing strategies should be rewritten every week.

For instance, here’s what occurred over a couple of days at the beginning of this month: Snapchat debuted 10-second video ads for 2 cents; Spotify’s plans to stream video in addition to music were revealed; and Reddit created a new video division. This comes just weeks after the launches of Vessel, an early-access, $3-a-month video service, and Periscope, Twitter’s new live-streaming app. What’s behind this hot streak of video innovation?

For one thing, it’s where the money is flowing. Video marketing is an arrow marketers are pulling from their quiver with greater frequency: In 2014, advertising spending on online video increased for the fifth consecutive year, and that trend is expected to continue this year. There’s a reason for that; video is an outstanding medium for building a brand.

A data analysis by Nielsen found that the moment a video is viewed (even before one second), significant lift occurs across ad recall, brand awareness, and purchase intent. Video is such a powerful delivery mechanism that it can build awareness within a second.

These are the metrics that are most meaningful to brands. However, too much emphasis is currently being placed on views. The view, or variations of it (e.g. loops in Vine), is a convenient, universal metric that gives an instant measure of how popular a video is. You should certainly care about them — but not very much. Views are a means to an end, and that end is building a brand.

If I were to rank the various video offerings for building a brand, it would go in the following order:

YouTube

Going with Goliath might not be the unconventional answer you were hoping for, but YouTube is simply the best place on the Internet to build a brand using video. It’s not popular to go with the mainstream platform, but that’s exactly why you should — YouTube is where the most eyeballs and attention can be captured.

One of the best video marketing tools — and a huge reason why YouTube is No. 1 in my books — is YouTube’s TrueView In-Stream ads (i.e. the ads that play before a video that are skippable after 5 seconds). These ads count the view at 30 seconds and don’t charge you for anything less than that. If, as established, you can create significant lift across ad recall, brand awareness, and purchase consideration within a second, think of how much stronger a connection you can build in 30 – and you don’t even have to pay for it.

For those viewers who do stick around long enough to make you pay for a view, you want to make sure they’re compelled to watch the whole video. My short rule for creating memorable content is: If you’re not laughing out loud at something that’s supposed to be funny or tearing up at something that’s supposed to be emotional, don’t publish it.

I’ll close with what we tell every company that works with us: Don’t rip up your video marketing strategy every time a new, shiny video service arrives. You’ll only end up with mediocre content and minimal impact if you spread yourself thin across every platform. It’s not sexy, but start and stick with YouTube.

Facebook

Facebook is next, but it’s a distant second. It’s easier to accumulate views on Facebook, since a view is registered after just three seconds. Facebook also auto-plays videos as they come up in someone’s News Feed, which has undoubtedly helped the company reach four billion native video views per day so quickly. That means, however, that a lot of the “views” are from those who aren’t engaged at all — even though, as research has indicated, that limited exposure can still drive lift.

While by this point we all expect an ad to precede a YouTube video, video still feels like a stranger to the News Feed. In my own experience, since I’m accustomed to static content when browsing Facebook, I typically brush by videos. Plus, the auto-play factor can make the video feel pushy and intrusive — two words you definitely don’t want associated with your brand. (YouTube recently updated the settings to have videos play automatically, but it’s one button press to turn it off — Facebook buries the auto-play toggle deep in its settings.)

What does Facebook have on YouTube? Better targeting. Facebook can go granular where YouTube can’t. For example, one of our clients needs to target people who are self-employed. On Facebook, you can target people who self-identify as self-employed. On YouTube, Google doesn’t know who self-identifies as self-employed. We have to target interests and topics that we believe will have a high number of self-employed people in them, but still there are people who aren’t self-employed who end up watching the ad.

Another reason why I’m bullish on Facebook is that it’s committed to building a solid video product and driving continual improvements, such as the just-announced (and long-overdue) embedding capability. If you need to go niche, Facebook can give you a hand, but it should always be in combination with a healthy YouTube presence.

The rest

In a tie for third are Snapchat, videos on Twitter or Instagram, Vine, Vessel, Vevo, Spotify, Reddit, Periscope and any other video offering or platform you can name.

Given viewers’ shortening attention spans, bite-size video has gained traction in marketing circles. But it’s just not worth being an early adopter on these platforms. Let other companies pay to make mistakes while you apply the lessons for free. Also, these more niche platforms simply can’t match the billions of people YouTube and Facebook reach.

Just because there are more video services than ever doesn’t mean you should be advertising on every one of them. Go where you’ll see the most value for building your brand. For now, that’s YouTube.


Jeff-DavisJeff Davis is the CEO of Molio, a video marketing ad technology and branding company, and a former P&G executive.

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I wanted to buy an Oculus Rift — but there’s no development timeline for Mac

The Oculus Rift headset.

I’m no gamer, but I have been looking forward to getting one of these cool Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets. But today I found out some bad news — news that tells me I won’t be getting one anytime soon.

“Our development for OS X and Linux has been paused in order to focus on delivering a high quality consumer-level VR experience at launch across hardware, software, and content on Windows,” Atman Binstock, Oculus’ chief architect and Rift’s technical director, wrote in a blog post today about PC specs for the Rift. “We want to get back to development for OS X and Linux but we don’t have a timeline.”

Welp.

I understand that this sort of next-generation technology will require hefty computational resources — like a GPU and plenty of RAM — but for some reason I had the impression that this would be for a wide variety of people, not just hardcore gamers. You know, Facebook, with 1.4 billion users around the world, is the company behind Oculus. But I’m still let down right now.

My colleagues tell me about various ways around this, like booting Windows through Boot Camp — or just buying a Windows machine. But … I want it to just work with my MacBook Air. I guess I’ll just have to wait.

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