Instagram’s “IGTV” video hub for creators launches tomorrow

TechCrunch has learned that the Instagram longer-form video hub that’s launching tomorrow is called IGTV and it will be part of the Explore tab, according to multiple sources. Instagram has spent the week meeting with online content creators to encourage them to prepare videos closer to 10-minute YouTube vlogs than the 1-minute maximum videos the app allows today.

Instagram is focusing its efforts around web celebrities that made their name on mobile rather than more traditional, old-school publishers and TV studios that might come off too polished and processed. The idea is to let these creators, who have a knack for this style of content and who already have sizeable Instagram audiences, set the norms for what IGTV is about.

Instagram declined to comment on the name IGTV and the video hub’s home in app’s Explore tab. We’ll get more information at the feature’s launch event in San Francisco tomorrow at 9am Pacific.

Following the WSJ’s initial report that Instagram was working on allowing longer videos, TechCrunch learned much more from sources about the company’s plan to build an aggregated destination for watching this content akin to Snapchat Discover. The videos will be full-screen, vertically oriented, and can have a resolution up to 4K. Users will be greeted with collection of Popular recent videos, and the option to Continue Watching clips they didn’t finish.

The videos aren’t meant to compete with Netflix Originals or HBO-quality content. Instead, they’ll be the kind of things you might see on YouTube rather than the short, off-the-cuff social media clips Instagram has hosted to date. Videos will offer a link-out option so creators can drive traffic to their other social presences, websites, or ecommerce stores. Instagram is planning to offer direct monetization, potentially including advertising revenue shares, but hasn’t finalized how that will work.

We reported that the tentative launch date for the feature was June 20th. A week later, Instagram sent out press invites for an event on June 20th our sources confirm is for IGTV.

Based on its historic growth trajectory that has seen Instagram adding 100 million users every four months, and its announcement of 800 million in September 2017, it’s quite possible that Instagram will announce it’s hit 1 billion monthly users tomorrow. That could legitimize IGTV as a place creators want to be for exposure, not just monetization.

IGTV could create a new behavior pattern for users who are bored of their friends’ content, or looking for something to watch in between Direct messages. If successful, Instagram might even consider breaking out IGTV into its own mobile app, or building it an app for smart TVs

The launch is important for Facebook because it lacks a popular video destination since its Facebook Watch hub was somewhat of a flop. Facebook today said it would expand Watch to more creators, while also offering new interactive video tools to let them make their own HQ trivia-style game shows. Facebook also launched its Brand Collabs Manager that helps businesses find creators to sponsor. That could help IGTV stars earn money through product placement or sponsored content.

Until now, video consumption in the Facebook family of apps has been largely serendipitous, with users stumbling across clips in their News Feed. IGTV will let it more directly compete with YouTube, where people purposefully come to watch specific videos from their favorite creators. But YouTube was still built in the web era with a focus on horizontal video that’s awkward to watch on iPhones or Androids.

With traditional television viewership slipping, Facebook’s size and advertiser connections could let it muscle into the lucrative space. But rather than try to port old-school TV shows to phones, IGTV could let creators invent a new vision for television on mobile.

Gillmor Gang: Hollywood Signs

The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Keith Teare, Esteban Kolsky, Michael Markman, and Steve Gillmor . Recorded live Friday, June 1, 2018. Why Mary Meeker’s report is real news, the streaming economy flexes its muscles, sit-down comedy.

G3: Ethical Healing — Mary Hodder, Francine Hardaway, Maria Ogneva, and Tina Chase Gillmor. Recorded live Thursday, May 31, 2018.

@stevegillmor, @ekolsky, @fradice, @mickeleh, @kteare

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

Liner Notes

Live chat stream

The Gillmor Gang on Facebook

G3: Ethical Healing

G3 chat stream

G3 on Facebook

Apple Pay tests ‘order ahead’ for drinks at music festivals

Apple is fixing one of the worst parts of the concert experience: waiting in line for a beer while you miss your favorite song. Last week’s BottleRock music festival near San Francisco was the first to try a new “order ahead with Apple Pay” feature that Apple hopes to bring to more events. You just open the festival’s app, select the closest concession stand, choose your drinks, Apple Pay with your face or fingerprint and pick up the beverages at a dedicated window with no queue.

Check out our demo video below.

BottleRock’s upscale wine and oldies music fest, 100 miles from the tech giant’s headquarters, has become a testbed for Apple Pay. Last year, every concession stand got equipped with the Square’s Apple Pay-ready point of sale system and special fast lanes for customers who used it instead of cash or credit card. Thirty percent of all transactions at BottleRock were made with Apple Pay, according to an Apple spokesperson, proving people wanted a faster way to get back to the show.

With order ahead, your drinks are ready for pick up so you don’t even have to break your dance stride. Having gone to 14 Coachellas, I’d learned to forego booze rather than risk losing my friends or a chance to hear that hit single while stewing in the beer garden lines. But Apple Pay powered the best concert commerce experience I’ve had yet. I’m sure I’m not the only one who knocked back a few more drinks last weekend because it was so convenient.

That’s why I foresee music festivals jumping at the chance to integrate into their apps order ahead with Apple Pay. They and their vendors will see more sales, while attendees see more music. Meanwhile, it’s a smart way for Apple to reach a juicy demographic. Apple Pay is especially helpful when you’re in a rush, but festival goers will return home more likely to use it day-to-day.

Often times, music festival tech, like friend-finding apps and location-based alerts, can interrupt the moment. Apple Pay succeeds here by fading away, keeping you in harmony with the present.

GIF lord Imgur caves to video to hasten profitability

Imgur is the internet’s best time sink, where 250 million monthly users silently consume an endless community-curated collection of absurd GIFs, inspiring tales, pop science explainers, and giant meme dumps. But what it’s never had is video. That was a differentiator that made it ideal for quiet browsing in class, on public transit, or in bed. Since none of the content required audio, you never had to worry about grabbing your headphones or disturbing those around you.

But the lack of video was also holding Imgur back. Sometimes you need to hear a crazy cat meow, or a baby giggling, or a crappy robot explode. So users would have to hunt down the “sauce” aka the GIF’s source video on another site. Oh, and advertisers love video and will pay a boatload more for it than a silent GIF or static image.

And so, Imgur is evolving with the launch of video. You can check them out, including this ream of popular GIFs reunited with their soundtracks, on the Imgur Unmuted channel.

The shift comes at a pivotal moment for the company. Launched in 2009, founder Alan Schaaf bootstrapped the startup to 130 million monthly visitors over the course of five years before finally taking a $40 million Series A from Andreessen Horowitz in 2014. Two years later it augmented its flimsy banner ads with full-screen promoted posts while trying not to damage the irreverent nature of the app.

Imgur’s Chief Operating Officer Roy Seghal, its Sheryl Sandberg, tells me that as of recently “we were cash flow positive” before revealing “We expect to be profitable this year.”

Video could push Imgur to that milestone. The more organic video posts from users, the easier it will be for Imgur to slide in lucrative video ads. Facebook printed money with the same strategy, rolling out auto-play video in 2014 to pave the way for video ads that command high prices from businesses. Imgur recently began allowing video ads, but they stuck out, seeming to violate the app’s code of silence. Now Imgur is training its users to tolerate or even embrace audio and video.

Next Comes Video Editing

Starting today, everyone can watch videos on Imgur, while iOS users can post video, with that opening to more people soon. Wisely, sound is off by default so you won’t get accidentally blasted, and technically you could just pretend they’re GIFs if you don’t click the audio button in the bottom right. They’re also limited to 30 seconds, so you won’t have lengthy YouTube reposts or as many copyright concerns, and they can be trimmed in the uploader.

“We’ve been making the transformation from an image community to a community-powered entertainment platform” says Seghal. Video could keep Imgur’s legion of users growing, and make sure they can experience today’s hottest content in whatever format it’s made for.

“We realized there was a vector of content we were not supporting that we thought our users would want” Seghal notes. The launch comes following the addition of much-requested Favorites folders and chat, and the Snapchat Stories-esque Snacks GIFs that no one asked for.

But video will bring a new sense of FOMO to those watching discretely. They’ll either have to swipe past the videos or miss the aural dimension. That could splinter Imgurians, who are otherwise united by a homescreen that shows identical top-rated content to everyone, unlike the fractured and personalized landing pages of most social networks. Some of Imgur’s funniest content relies on inside jokes powered by everyone having the right prerequisite knowledge from seeing the same things.

“They are definitely surprised” says Seghal, but he claims “the reaction has been very positive.” That’s not exactly clear from reading the Imgur Most Viral homepage, which just got a desktop redesign with bigger previews and easy access to popular tags you can explore. GIFs and still images still dominate and I’ve hardly seen any videos.

That could change as Imgur plans on equipping users with new editing tools to help them turn generic clips into weird and wacky stuff people love to upvote. Imgur’s existing Video-To-GIF creation tool has been a hit. Hopefully future editing tools will let people add custom subtitles, stickers, interjected titling screens, and more. Those will be crucial to keep video from making Imgur generic.

Alan Schaaf, founder of Imgur, and his sister/community director Sarah Schaaf, speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt

The pivot to video may be inevitable for all online content. Combined with every app from Instagram to Netflix to Airbnb adopting Snapchat’s Stories, there’s an unsettling convergence going on. Video may be the most vivid and emotive medium. Yet we’ll lose something if there’s a social network singularity where they all have the same features.

Imgur is looking to become a business that’s palatable to a mass audience with video. But it must take care not to forfeit esoteric absurdity that’s made it a vacation from the overwhelming news and envy spiraling of other feeds.

Gillmor Gang: Auto Immunity

The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Michael Markman, and Steve Gillmor . Recorded live Sunday, May 27, 2018. Digital cars, food, Hollywood, and other disruptions.

G3: Firedrills and Fascinators — Mary Hodder, Elisa Camahort Page, Francine Hardaway, Maria Ogneva, and Tina Chase Gillmor. Recorded live Friday, May 18, 2018.

@stevegillmor, @denispombriant, @fradice, @mickeleh, @kteare

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

Liner Notes

Live chat stream

The Gillmor Gang on Facebook

G3: Firedrills and Fascinators

G3 chat stream

G3 on Facebook

Gillmor Gang: Paywall

The Gillmor Gang — Denis Pombriant, Keith Teare, Esteban Kolsky, Michael Markman, and Steve Gillmor . Recorded live Friday, May 4, 2018.

G3: Trust Me — Mary Hodder, Halley Suitt Tucker, Francine Hardaway, and Tina Chase Gillmor. Recorded live Friday, May 4, 2018.

@stevegillmor, @mickeleh, @kteare, @DenisPombriant, @ekolsky

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

Liner Notes

Live chat stream

The Gillmor Gang on Facebook

G3: Trust Me

G3 chat stream

G3 on Facebook

YouTube releases its first report about how it handles flagged videos and policy violations

YouTube has released its first quarterly Community Guidelines Enforcement Report and launched a Reporting Dashboard that lets users see the status of videos they’ve flagged for review. The inaugural report, which covers the last quarter of 2017, follows up on a promise YouTube made in December to give users more transparency into how it handles abuse and decides what videos will be removed.

“This regular update will help show the progress we’re making in removing violative content from our platform,” the company said in a post on its official blog. “By the end of the year, we plan to refine our reporting systems and add additional data, including data on comments, speed or removal and policy removal reasons.”

But the report is unlikely to quell complaints from people who believe YouTube’s rules are haphazardly applied in an effort to appease advertisers upset their commercials had played before videos with violent extremist content. The issue came to the forefront last year after a report by The Times, but many content creators say YouTube’s updated policies have made it very difficult to monetize on the platform, even though their videos don’t violate its rules.

YouTube, however, claims that its anti-abuse machine learning algorithm, which it relies on to monitor and handle potential violations at scale, is “paying off across high-risk, low-volume areas (like violent extremism) and in high-volume areas (like spam).”

Its report says that YouTube removed 8.2 million videos during the last quarter of 2017, most of which were spam or contained adult content. Of that number, 6.7 million were automatically flagged by its anti-abuse algorithms first.

Of the videos reported by a person, 1.1 million were flagged by a member of YouTube’s Trusted Flagger program, which includes individuals, government agencies and NGOs that have received training from the platform’s Trust & Safety and Public Policy teams.

YouTube’s report positions views a video received before being removed as a benchmark for the success of its anti-abuse measures. At the beginning of 2017, 8% of videos removed for violent extremist content were taken down before clocking 10 views. After YouTube started using its machine-learning algorithms in June 2017, however, it says that percentage increased to more than 50% (in a footnote, YouTube clarified that this data does not include videos that were automatically and flagged before they could be published and therefore received no views). From October to December, 75.9% of all automatically flagged videos on the platform were removed before they received any views.

During that same period, 9.3 million videos were flagged by people, with nearly 95% coming from YouTube users and the rest from its Trusted Flagger program and government agencies or NGOs. People can select a reason when they flag a video. Most were flagged for sexual content (30.1%) or spam (26.4%).

Last year, YouTube said it wanted to increase the number of people “working to address violative content” to 10,000 across Google by the end of 2018. Now it says it has almost reached that goal and also hired more full-time anti-abuse experts and expanded their regional teams. It also claims that the addition of machine-learning algorithms enables more people to review videos.

In its report, YouTube gave more information about how those algorithms work.

“With respect to the automated systems that detect extremist content, our teams have manually reviewed over two million videos to provide large volumes of training examples, which improve the machine learning flagging technology,” it said, adding that it has started applying that technology to other content violations as well.

YouTube’s report may not ameliorate the concerns of content creators who saw their revenue drop during what they refer to as the “Adpocalpyse” or help them figure out how to monetize successfully again. On the other hand, it is a victory for people, including free speech activists, who have called for social media platforms to be more transparent about how they handle flagged content and policy violations, and may put more pressure on Facebook and Twitter.