YouTube VR finally lands on the Oculus Go

Today, Google’s YouTube VR app arrives on the $199 Oculus Go, bringing the largest library of VR content on the web to Facebook’s entry-level VR device.

YouTube brings plenty of content in conventional and more immersive video types. It’s undoubtedly the biggest single hub of 360 content and native formats like VR180, though offering access to the library at large is probably far more important to the Oculus platform.

One of the interesting things about Oculus’s strategy with the Go headset is that gaming turned out to be the minority use case following media consumption. If you find it hard to believe that so many people are out there binging on 360 videos it’s because they probably aren’t. Users have kind of co-opted the device’s capabilities to make it a conventional movie and TV viewing device, there are apps from Netflix and Hulu while Facebook has also built Oculus TV, a feature that’s still in its infancy but basically offers an Apple TV-like environment for watching a lot of 2D content in a social environment.

At the company’s Oculus Connect conference this past year CTO John Carmack remarked how about 70 percent of time spent by users on the Go has been watching videos with about 30 percent of user time has gone to gaming. Oculus has positioned itself as a gaming company in a lot of ways via its investments so it will be interesting to see how it grows its mobile platform to make the video aspect of its VR business more attractive.

With YouTube, the company has pretty easy access to effortlessly bringing a bunch of content onboard, this would have been a great partner for Oculus TV, but a dedicated app brings a lot to users. It wasn’t super clear whether Google was going to play hardball with the YouTube app and keep standalone access confined to its Daydream platform, as the company’s homegrown VR ambitions seem to have grown more subdued, it looks like they’ve had some time to focus on external platforms.

You can download the YouTube VR app here.

What’s next? The top media executives on the job market

Keep an eye out for the next moves by these entrepreneurs and executives. A number of the biggest names in media left their jobs over the last year (or announced they will be leaving soon), including a handful of now-billionaires who have resources, ambition, and time on their hands to explore something new.

We are experimenting with new content forms at TechCrunch. This is a rough draft of something new —provide feedback directly to the author, Eric Peckham (@epeckham), our columnist focused on the intersection of media and technology.

Most notably, there are Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch (with rumored plans to launch a VC firm), Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine, VICE founder/CEO Shane Smith (who transitioned to a Chairman role), Oculus co-founder Brendan Iribe, and Oath’s CEO Tim Armstrong.

There’s also a long list of other names you may not recognize but should keep on your radar in the months ahead as they found new startups or take key leadership roles at top media/tech companies.

Today, Snap’s VP of Content Nick Bell announced he will be leaving the company by the end of the year. He oversaw all media partnerships and content operations for the Snapchat Discover section over the last 5 years. The 34-year old sold his first company, Teenfront.com, at age 16 and started multiple ventures afterward until joining global media conglomerate News Corp (where he became SVP of Digital Product). As a serial entrepreneur and one of the most sought-after experts in digital video, expect Bell’s next move to be noteworthy.

Here are twelve other leaders at the intersection of media and technology who are currently available (publicly, at least) and plotting their next endeavor:

Joanna Coles, Photo by Amanda Voisard for The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Joanna Coles, former Chief Content Officer at Hearst
Joanna Coles, who oversaw all editorial operations for the 300-title global publishing group Hearst since September 2016, announced with a fun video on August 6 that she would be stepping down. The former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire (as they shifted into a digital-first era) said she would announce her next adventure sometime this fall after taking a break. Coles has been a board member of Snap since 2015 and was appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.

Rich Battista, former CEO of Time Inc
Time Inc’s CEO left the helm of the publishing group upon its $2.8 billion acquisition by Meredith Corp in the spring. Battista held a range of major publishing, TV, and digital media roles before then, from leading Fox’s cable networks to running Mandalay Sports Media to turning around Gemstar-TV Guide and selling it for $2.3 billion. At various points in his career Battista has been a big company executive, an investor, and an entrepreneur.

Joel Stillerman, former Chief Content Officer at Hulu
Stillerman was one of several executives who departed Hulu in May in a leadership reshuffle by the company’s new CEO. Stillerman was previously President of Original Programming and Development for AMC and SundanceTV. At a time when nearly every major TV company is vying to compete with Netflix through another streaming video platform (on their own or in partnership with others), there’s a lot of expertise to be had from the executive to oversaw all content for Netflix’s top competitor.

George Strompolos, Founder and former CEO of Fullscreen
After AT&T acquired The Chernin Group’s remaining stake in Otter Media (Fullscreen’s parent company) in September, Fullscreen’s George Strompolos stepped down as CEO of the multi-channel network he founded in 2011. According to his LinkedIn profile, LA-based Strompolos in advising and investing in startups for the time being.

Erik Huggers, former CEO of VEVO
Huggers stepped down from VEVO in April after 3 years. He was previously an SVP at Verizon and President of Intel Media (which Verizon acquired). As a supervisory board member of Germany’s largest broadcasting group, ProSiebenSat.1, Huggers has also recently joined the board of ProSiebenSat.1’s streaming TV service 7TV, which is a joint venture with Discovery Inc.

Photo courtesy of Sophie Watts.

Sophie Watts, former President of STX Entertainment
Sophie Watts joined investor Robert Simonds in 2011 to develop a new film/TV studio with backing from TPG Growth. According to the WSJ, STX Entertainment has been planning a $500 million IPO in Hong Kong. As president, she primarily oversaw unscripted TV, digital, and VR operations. She left in January to explore new opportunities. Watts—who started her career in London producing videos for Beyoncé, Elton John, Madonna, Mariah Carey, and others—was named to Fortune’s 40 Under 40 in 2016 and is still just 32.

Jonathan Carson, former President of Mic
Carson founded 3 startups (music social network Outer Sound, interactive media consultancy Intercities, and social media intelligence company BuzzMetrics) before becoming the “CEO of Digital” at Nielsen and then the Chief Revenue Officer at VEVO. In July, he stepped down from VC-backed news startup Mic after one year as President. Expect his next move to be within the same realm of video, social, mobile, and data that he’s worked in thus far.

Colin Carrier, former Chief Strategy Officer at Twitch
Carrier joined Twitch in 2013, leaving the Eversport Media startup he co-founded to become General Manager of Justin.TV which operated independently from the rest of Twitch. He transitioned to become Twitch’s Chief Strategy Officer in 2014 upon Amazon’s $1 billion acquisition of the live-streaming platform. While CSO, he oversaw the acquisition of CurseMedia and ClipMine and developed a personal angel investment portfolio of over 30 startups (including Cruise, which GM acquired for over $1B). He departed Twitch over the summer.

Troy Carter speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015 (Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Troy Carter, former Global Head of Creator Services at Spotify
A career talent manager in the music industry who worked with artists like Lady Gaga, John Legend, and Meghan Trainor, Carter joined Spotify in June 2016 as the face of the streaming service within the music industry. Having stepped down in September, he is among several top executives who have left Spotify in 2018 before and after it listed on the NYSE. Carter—who also built an angel investing portfolio of over 40 startups—hasn’t announced his next endeavor but appears to still be making investments through the VC fund he co-founded, Cross Culture Ventures.

Stefan Blom, former Chief Content Officer of Spotify
Blom left Spotify early this year just before the music streaming service went public with a $29 billion market cap. He had been Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Content Officer over the prior 4 years, working in part on Spotify’s early steps into original video (which it retreated from). Before Spotify, he was CEO of the Nordic division at EMI (a notable record label group).

Matthew Ball, former Head of Strategy at Amazon Studios
Ball joined Amazon Studios as Head of Strategy in 2016 after working within The Chernin Group as Director of Strategy & Business Development for Otter Media (which is now fully owned by AT&T). Since leaving Amazon earlier this year, he has continued to publish widely-read blog posts about the future of media for MediaREDEF—which he has been doing since 2014—and, according to his Twitter bio, is currently “tinkering away on a small idea that could be more”.

Matt Pincus, Founder and former CEO of SONGS Music Publishing
Last December, Pincus sold his innovative music publishing firm SONGS Music Publishing, which had become the largest independent publishing of contemporary music in the US, to Kobalt for a rumored $150 million. He departed in March and has since become a Special Advisor to Snap Inc and taken an Entrepreneur-in-Residence title at leading digital media merchant bank LionTree.

Who are other top executives at the intersection of media + tech who are launching new companies or available to fill open CEO roles? Let me know on Twitter at @epeckham.

Facebook Portal needs more. At least it just added YouTube

To offset the creepiness of having Facebook’s camera and microphone in your house, its new Portal video chat gadget needs best-in-class software.  Its hardware is remarkably well done, plus Messenger and the photo frame feature work great. But its third-party app platform was pretty skimpy when the device launched this week.

Facebook is increasingly relying on its smart display competitors to boost Portal’s capabilities. It already comes with Amazon Alexa inside. And now, Google’s YouTube is part of the Portal app platform. “Yes, YouTube.com is available through an optional install in the ‘Portal Apps’ catalog” a Facebook spokesperson tells me. You can open it with a “Hey Portal” command, but there currently seems to be no way to queue up specific videos or control playback via voice.

The addition gives Portal much greater flexibility when it comes to video. Previously it could only play videos from Facebook Watch, Food Network, or Newsy. It also brings the device to closer parity with Google’s Home Hub screen, the Google Assistant-powered smart displays from JBL and Lenovo, and the Amazon Echo Show 2 which Google blocked from using YouTube before Amazon added a web browser to the device to reopen YouTube access.

Read our comparison of the top smart display gadgets

YouTube makes the most of the $349 Portal+’s 15.6-inch 1080p screen, the biggest and sharpest of the smart display crop. Whether for watching shows or recipe videos while making dinner, instructional clips while putting together furniture, or Baby Shark to keep the kids busy, Portal becomes a lot more useful with YouTube.

But we’re still waiting for the most exciting thing Facebook has planned for Portal: Google Assistant. A month ago Facebook’s VP of Portal Rafa Camargo told me We definitely have been talking to Google as well. We view the future of these home devices . . . as where you will have multiple assistants and you will use them for whatever they do best . . . We’d like to expand and integrate with them.” Now a Facebook spokesperson tells me that they “Don’t have an update on Google Assistant today but we’re working on adding new experiences to Portal.”

The potential to put both Google and Amazon’s voice assistants on one device could make Portal’s software stronger than either competitor’s devices. Many critics have asked if Facebook was naive or calloused to launch Portal in the wak of privacy issues like the Cambridge Analytica scandal and its recent data breach. But as I found when testing the Portal with my 72-year-old mother, not everyone is concerned with Facebook’s privacy problems and instead see Portal as a way for the social network to truly bring them closer to their loved ones. With Amazon and Google racing to win the smart display market, Facebook may see it worth the tech insider backlash to have a shot at mainstream success before its boxed out.

Disney to invest in more original content for Hulu, expand service internationally

In addition to plans to launch its own Netflix rival, Disney+, next year, the company says it also plans to increase investment in its other streaming service, Hulu. Thanks its buyout of 21st Century Fox, Disney now own 60 percent of the TV streaming service, which it gives it “considerable say” in how Hulu is run, noted Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger on this week’s earnings call with investors. He said the plan now is to invest in more original content for Hulu and expand the service internationally.

Disney would also be open to acquiring more of a stake in Hulu, the CEO later said.

Disney sees the value in both Hulu’s IP and talent, particularly on the television and movies side, Iger told investors. And it plans to use the television production capabilities of the now combined company to “fuel Hulu with a lot more original programming,” he added. This, Disney believes, will help make Hulu more competitive in the marketplace.

“Given the success of Hulu so far in terms of subscriber growth and the relative brand strength and other things too like demographics, we think there’s an opportunity to increase investment in Hulu notably on the programming side,” Iger said.

Currently, Hulu has had only a handful of breakout original hits – most notably, the timely dystopian spectacle that was  “The Handmaid’s Tale.” But its originals output has paled in comparison with Netflix, which projected it would spend $8 billion on content this year, with plans to increase that in 2019. Hulu has spent considerably less – around $2.5 billion, per analyst estimates.

With Fox, however, Disney gains access to the Fox studio and FX, and more, which will help it fuel Hulu with more original content. Iger declined to say if that content would be exclusive to Hulu in the future, but did confirm the studios are part of Disney’s plans for Hulu.

Iger also spoke of other changes ahead for Hulu, including possible adjustments to Hulu’s pricing, and its plan to bring Hulu to more international markets.

“After the deal closes and after we have the 60 percent ownership, we’ll meet with the Hulu management team and the board, and discuss what the opportunities are in terms of both global growth and investing more in content. But that’s something that we have to do after the deal closes,” Iger added.

The acquisition is expected to close in 2019.

In a follow-up interview with CNBC, Iger also said that Disney would be interested in acquiring more shares of Hulu, if the opportunity arose.

“It is premature really except to say that if Comcast is interested in divesting, or if Time Warner or AT&T Time Warner is interested in divesting, we certainly would be interested in buying their stake. But with 60%, which is what we will own, we’ll have enough control to manage Hulu in a way that is consistent with – the strategy of the company is deploying,” he said.

David Attenborough to voice Netflix’s nature conservation series, Our Planet

Netflix has persuaded everyone’s favorite naturalist, David Attenborough, to voice its forthcoming original nature documentary series, Our Planet, which is slated to put conservation squarely in the frame, not just offer glorious animal eye-candy.

It’s a timely moment to focus on conservation with climate change posing existential threats to global biodiversity — unless humans act to limit temperature rises.

Since the 1970s Attenborough has voiced and fronted myriad major BBC nature documentaries, including the recent critically acclaimed Blue Planet series.

Some of his output has been available to stream on Netflix. But now the on-demand video platform has signed the 92-year-old to voice an eight-part original nature series it’s been creating in collaboration with Silverback Films — whose director, Alastair Fothergill, was the creator of both Blue Planet and the also critically acclaimed Planet Earth documentary series — and conservation charity WWF .

Our Planet is due to premiere on Netflix on April 5 next year and is slated to showcase the planet’s “most precious species and fragile habitats”, making use of “the latest in 4k camera technology”.

Netflix said yesterday it is “delighted” that Attenborough will voice the series which will be made simultaneously available to its subscriber base, spanning more than 190 countries.

Filming for the series has been taking place in 50 countries across all continents of the world, with 600+ crew members capturing more than 3.5k filming days to bring the project together.

Speaking at WWF’s State of the Planet Address event in London yesterday, Attenborough said: “Our Planet will take viewers on a spectacular journey of discovery showcasing the beauty and fragility of our natural world. Today we have become the greatest threat to the health of our home but there’s still time for us to address the challenges we’ve created, if we act now. We need the world to pay attention. Our Planet brings together some of the world’s best filmmakers and conservationists and I’m delighted to help bring this important story to millions of people worldwide.“

“We hope it will inspire and delight hundreds of millions of people across the world so they can understand our planet, and the environmental threat it faces, as never before,” added Fothergill in another supporting statement. “By launching on Netflix at the same time all over the world, this series will enable people to connect to and understand the shared responsibility we all have. We are genuinely all in this together.”

Netflix’s says the partnership with WWF means the series will be part of a wider global project that’s intended to promote conservation awareness, including via online resources and educational programmes for schools.

Roku expands its free streaming channel with entertainment and live sports

Roku’s ad-supported free streaming channel is expanding. No, not to more platforms — it already did that. But rather, it’s expanding its content lineup. While before the channel offered free-to-stream movies and news, it will now feature live and linear sports and entertainment content, the company says.

As of earlier this year, The Roku Channel added live news from ABC News, Cheddar, Newsmax, Newsy, People TV, Yahoo and, most recently, The Young Turks, from the TYT Network.

It will now add entertainment content from partners including TMZ, AFV, FailArmy, People Are Awesome, Pet Collective and more. As with the channel’s other offerings, none of these streams will require a subscription.

Meanwhile, the channel will also begin to stream live sporting events from the Adventure Sports Network, COMBT GO, EDGEsport, Stadium and Wham Network, among others.

The additions come on the heels of Roku’s Q3 earnings, which saw the company beat Wall Street expectations on hardware, but saw platform revenue falling short — causing the stock to drop.

The company has been trying to move beyond being only a hardware device maker selling TVs and streaming players, to grow its platform business and advertising revenues. A key part of that strategy is The Roku Channel, which opens up Roku’s platform to a wider audience, and allows the company to sell ads against content.

The plan may work in the long run, but it’s taking time to ramp up, it seems.

However, Roku did report a growing user base with 23.8 million active users, streaming 6.2 billion hours in the quarter. That was ahead of expectations of 23.1 million users and 5.8 billion hours.

Disney’s new streaming service will be called Disney+

We knew Disney was building its own on-demand streaming service, à la Netflix or HBO GO, but we didn’t know the name.

Now we do. Disney’s new streaming service will be called Disney+.

While there’s been a few rumored names (it was misreported, at one point, to be “Disney Play”), word of this name comes straight from the Mouse House:

Disney+ will launch in “late” 2019 — which makes sense, as that’s right around the time Disney’s remaining contractual ties with Netflix come to an end.

Disney also dropped news about two new series:

  • An as-of-yet unnamed live action Star Wars series about Rogue One’s Cassian Andor, with Diego Luna returning for the role. It is set to take place prior to Rogue One. This, of course, is in addition to The Mandalorian, the series Jon Favreau is making for the service.
  • An unnamed live-action Marvel universe series focusing on Loki. Tom Hiddleston will return to the role.

IAC reorg makes Vimeo and DotDash standalone segments, adds new acquisition Robokiller

IAC is changing the way its business is organized, the company reported during its Q3 2018 earnings on Wednesday. The company’s video platform Vimeo and DotDash (previously About.com) will become their own separate segments at IAC starting in Q4. That means they’ve reached the point their revenues can stand on their own.

The company beat on third quarter revenue expectations in the quarter with a revenue increase to $1.1 billion from $828.4 million a year ago, ahead of FactSet analyst expectations of $1.07 billion. However, net income was $145.8 million, or $1.49 a share, down from $179.6 million, or $1.79 a share, a year earlier. The drop was attributed to a tax benefit that it received in the year-ago period.

Vimeo’s revenue growth in the quarter increased 29 percent, and it grew its subscriber base by 10 percent to 932,000, IAC said.

“The business has the scale and potential to now stand on its own, and we want to begin to put a spotlight on it,” said IAC CEO Joey Levin, in a note to shareholders.

“Vimeo always has and always will obsessively, relentlessly cater to the needs of creators – not advertisers, not eyeballs, not our own platform, nor anything else. We’ve focused entirely on the creators and they have rewarded Vimeo with their loyalty. The numbers bear this out – Vimeo enjoys incredible retention, an average customer lifetime of nearly 5 years, customers that upgrade over time, and new subscribers that are attracted to fresh, premium offerings at increasingly higher price points,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, DotDash increased revenue by 35 percent to reach $30.1 million, with expanding profit margins in Q3.

The company will also begin splitting out mobile revenue from its legacy desktop business in Q4. IAC said its mobile business saw 158 percent revenue growth in the quarter to over $35 million, comprising 23 percent of its total revenue. The mobile business now counts over 2.5 million subscribers, IAC said.

After the changes to business segments in Q4, the remaining businesses in Publishing and Video will aggregate into a catch-all segment, named “Emerging & Other” which will include both early stage and mature businesses like BlueCrew, Ask Media Group, The Daily Beast, DROPOUT (College Humor’s subscription service), IAC Films and new incubation projects.

The group may “intermittently generate cash or consume cash,” but is more focused on the “next decade than the next quarter,” warned IAC. It noted it wouldn’t communicate much about the segment’s businesses going forward.

In addition, the company announced a new acquisition: East coast-based TelTech, the makers of an app called Robokiller, which blocks spam calls and telemarketers. This will join IAC’s Applications group.

Combined with Publishing (where DotDash, Ask.com, Investopedia, The Daily Beast, and others live) the two segments delivered over $50 million of Adjusted EBITDA in the quarter, nearly all of it cash flow.

Match Group, the parent company to Tinder, grew its average subscribers 23 percent to 8.1 million, driven by 61 percent growth in Tinder average subscribers to 4.1 million. Match had reported its own earnings ahead of IAC this week, where it also announced plans to focus Tinder on casual dating and invest more heavily in the relationship-focused app Hinge.

Match also announced a special $2 per share dividend, of which IAC said it has “no one thing or single use” in mind.

IAC said it’s now stockpiling cash and should have over $1.7 billion by year-end, excluding ANGI Homeservices (Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, Handy – whose acquisition now completed – and others) and Match Group cash.

 

China’s obsession with short videos has its internet giants worried

Take a subway ride in China and expect to see a lot of commuters’ eyes glued to TikTok videos on their phones.

Video clips like TikTok’s are now consuming nearly nine percent of Chinese people’s time online, a 5.2 percent jump from 2017, according to app analytics firm QuestMobile.

Apps such as TikTok — which is operated by ByteDance, the world’s highest valued startup at $75 billion — have become popular among previously camera-shy users. Those who lack editing experience can now easily add beautifying filters and music to spice up their work.

tiktok gif 1

Elderly couple having a moment on Douyin / Credit: Douyin ID @淘气陈奶奶

It also helps that smartphone data became cheaper and internet penetration kept growing in recent years — China now has 800 million smartphone users, according to government data. In 2013, just under 40 percent of China’s online population streamed videos on their phones, according to database CBNData. In 2017, that ratio surged to 80 percent.

Initially geared towards Chinese youth, short-video apps have increased in popularity across all age groups – including the elderly. Over a third of the country’s 1.4 billion people are active on these apps every month. People above the age of 50 now spend as much as 50 minutes on them every day, compared to only 17 minutes a year ago.

And TikTok, called Douyin in China, is spearheading the short-video game.

Tencent’s nerves

In recent years, few mobile apps in China have captured as many stares as WeChat, Tencent’s messaging app that’s evolved into a one-stop platform allowing people to shop, order cabs, book hotels, and complete other daily tasks.

Then short video apps came along, eating people’s eyeball time away. Apps like TikTok do not compete directly with WeChat as they serve different purposes, but data suggests that use of instant messaging services has waned amid the fledgling video scene.

This year WeChat and its peers occupied 30.5 percent of people’s online time, a 3.6 percent drop year-over-year per the QuestMobile report.

It comes as no surprise that Tencent is fretting over the clip craze and in particular, ByteDance’s rise. In May, Tencent’s usually low-profile boss Pony Ma got in a rare online spat with ByteDance founder and CEO Zhang Yiming over plagiarism and WeChat blocking TikTok content.

Typical miming and finger dancing performed by teens / Credit: Douyin ID @李雨霏2007

Elsewhere, Tencent took action. Since April, the tech giant has rolled out a number of TikTok rivals but so far none has gotten close to the latter’s lion’s share: 500 million monthly active users worldwide. That’s excluding the 100 million total users on Musical.ly, which ByteDance acquired in late 2017 and merged into TikTok this August.

Tencent’s got other backup plans, though. It owns shares in TikTok’s China archrival Kuaishou, which had a 22.7 percent penetration rate in September according to data service provider Jiguang. That’s however, dwarfed by TikTok’s 33.8 percent, which means the app was installed on over a third of all mobile devices monitored by Jiguang. Plus, ByteDance’s other short-video apps for different niches, Huoshan and Xigua, are also faring well, commanding 13.1 percent and 12.6 percent, respectively.

Alibaba: not quite an ally

Until recently, ByteDance appeared to be making nice with China’s other internet giant — Alibaba. The companies kicked off a partnership in March that saw TikTok using Alibaba’s online marketplace Taobao to process ecommerce transactions on its app. Authorized TikTok users, usually those with a big following, can link videos to their Taobao shops. This money-making setup allows TikTok to lure more quality content creators. Alibaba, on the other hand, gets traffic from the fledgling social media app that could absorb some of the loss from WeChat blocking its ecommerce apps.

Things can go south anytime, however, as ByteDance makes forays into Alibaba’s territories. The startup recently introduced an ecommerce platform and entered the business of long-form video streaming, an area where Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu’s iQIYI dominate.

tiktok douyin

Life hacks are popular, too: guy sharing his gardening tips / Credit: Douyin ID @速效三元化合肥

ByteDance seems set to grow independently. Unlike many of China’s promising startups, six-year-old ByteDance hasn’t accepted financing from any of the tech trio of Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent — known as the BAT such is their dominance in China’s consumer technology.

ByteDance’s moves into new space may also signal the firm’s urge to explore additional monetization channels besides advertising on feeds. It lifted its revenue target to $7.2 billion for 2018, well above the $2.5 billion it earned last year, according to Bloomberg.

At home and afar

Despite the boom, China’s short-video market faces increasing regulatory headwinds. In recent months, authorities have been clamping down on Kuaishou, ByteDance’s video apps, and smaller players on account of eradicating content that’s deemed illegal or inappropriate.

Violation could result in app store bans and those that underwent such severe punishment like Miaopai, which is backed by China’s Twitter equivalent Weibo, suffered from a tumble in app installs.

tiktok douyin

Sometimes Douyin does get serious – a Beijing TV channel has its own account and it covers news here / Credit: Douyin ID @BTV新闻

ByteDance didn’t get a ban – yet, but it came under fire for its AI-driven recommendation algorithms. It’s something the startup prides itself on but has irritated media watchdogs who reprimanded TikTok for showing users “unacceptable” content, such as videos depicting adolescent pregnancies. ByteDance’s popular news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, or “today’s headlines,” received similar criticisms for giving its 120 million daily users “fluff”.

In response, ByteDance added thousands of censors to screen content on top of AI-driven recommendation across its apps.

ByteDance’s expanding territory through TikTok goes well beyond China. This year, the short-video platform has been climbing app store rankings around the world, an ascend accelerated by its incorporation of Musical.ly. Now it’s not just Tencent that’s taking note; Facebook is also building a TikTok clone, TechCrunch reported recently.

James Patterson released a work of interactive fiction on Facebook Messenger

One of the world’s best-selling authors is experimenting with a new form of digital-first storytelling.

James Patterson has partnered with Facebook to release his latest novel,‘The Chef’, on its messaging app. The thriller has been available to read on Facebook Messenger since Tuesday and will make its print debut in February. Interested readers just have to send a message to “The Chef by James Patterson” on Messenger to get started with the immersive reading experience.

Facebook Messenger counts 1.3 billion monthly users. Patterson, known for the Alex Cross series, ‘The President is Missing,’ ‘Witch & Wizard,’ and others, has sold some 375 million books worldwide.

The story follows Caleb Rooney, a New Orleans police detective by day and food truck chef by night that’s been accused of murder. The short novel is formatted like a series of text messages, with video, audio, photos and documents interspersed. Rooney and the book’s other leading characters have Instagram accounts for fans to interact with.

The novel’s social media play taps into the new generation of content consumers — those accustomed to layered, multi-media experiences.

Patterson told Cheddar he considers the project a “bookie,” or a book meets a movie. The author is no stranger to innovative experiments, he’s previously released a line of super-short, $4 books and was an early pioneer of e-books.

“It’s so important to me that books … keep up — that they enter the modern age,” Patterson said.