At a big press event on Thursday, Facebook plans to launch new ways to filter the news feed. These include a Photos feed of Facebook and Instagram photos, as well as a revamped Music feed of what friends are listening to, concerts, and new albums, according to multiple sources both within and close to Facebook. Larger images and image-based ads in the web and mobile feeds are coming too.
Why is Facebook adding new streams? Because we are information junkies. Give us a feed and we’ll read it. But when we scroll so far we hit re-runs – we hit the road. So Facebook has a plan to give us something different to look at starting March 7th. If the “new look” for the news feed that it’s unveiling works, it could get us spending more hours on Facebook and seeing more — and more intense — ads.
Facebook has neglected the news feed, which has functioned largely the same since it launched on the web in 2006, and on iPhone in 2009. A column of friends’ faces on the left, their status updates to the right, and a whole lot of white space. Content-specific feeds have been hard to access, and the “Top News” or “Most Recent” sorting options mostly re-shuffle content rather than surfacing different stories.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Facebook employee, a member of the social ads industry, and several developers concurred that multiple feeds and larger images in posts by users, Pages, and ads are what’s in store for Thursday.
As for what’s not confirmed for this week is the employee-only test build of a radically redesigned mobile feed in a native iOS app that I witnessed a few months ago. One source said that they didn’t think this major mobile redesign is ready yet, contrary to my initial speculation when the launch event was announced. All in due time with that one. If it does launch this week, it could be a standalone app like Camera, or an option in the primary apps.
Before I get to the details about what my sources say is launching, let’s look at some supporting evidence and reasons why these are the right moves for Facebook. If you want the abbreviated version, skip to “So What’s Launching?”
Over the last year, Facebook has been piling up some dedicated, content-specific feeds. But they’re tough to find. Just after its September 2011 developer conference, the company debuted a Music feed, which it’s been slowly adding more content to. At first it was just what friends were listening to in apps like Spotify, but now it includes updates from musician Pages, upcoming albums and nearby concerts, as well as suggestions of music you might like. Few users know about it, though, as access is hidden deep in the Apps section of the sidebar.
What all these separate feeds have in common is that they’re buried in the sidebar navigation menu and scattered across categories like Favorites, Pages, and Apps. If Faebook surfaced at least some of them in a more prominent, cohesive way, we’d be a lot more likely to switch to them when we finish reading the main feed.
When I talked to product manager Josh Williams ahead of the launch of Facebook’s new location-discovery service Nearby, and to CTO Cory Ondrejka at a Facebook reporters event, both said there were interesting things to be done with content-specific feeds. For example, stories shared from third-party Open Graph apps like Instagram, RunKeeper, Foursquare, and Foodspotting could benefit from their own feed designed to show what friends are up to off Facebook and help you find new apps to download.
When Facebook launched the Music feed the day after f8, I suspected “news” and video feeds to launch, but they never did. The lack of a “news” news feed was odd considering Facebook wants to compete with Twitter as a place where people discover…news. The lack of a video feed of what friends had been watching was actually the result of a legal ban. But in December the U.S. government eased restrictions from the Video Privacy Protection Act, paving the way for a feed of Netflix and Hulu activity.
Several feeds that existed years ago have disappeared. I often find myself pining for the return of the Links feed, which would just show fascinating websites friends were sharing. Considering how popular link discovery sites like Reddit have become, it’s strange this doesn’t exist on Facebook anymore.
Most surprisingly, there’s no feed of just photos, though there used to be. Now the Photos sidebar bookmark just leads to your own images and albums, which isn’t very helpful. A photo-only feed viewed full-screen or at a much wider width could be a hit. It’s been very successful for Instagram, and Facebook has been doing its best to take cues from its fresh and beloved acquisition.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself said the news feed needs to evolve to be more vivid. Smartphones and fast connections make it much easier to share media than when the feed first launched. As Business Insider mentioned last week, Zuckerberg said on the Q4 earnings call that:
“As our news feed design evolves to show richer kinds of stories, that opens up new opportunities to offer different kinds of ads as well…One of the product design principles that we’ve always had is we want the organic content to be of the same basic types of formats as paid content, right? So, historically, advertisers want really rich things like big pictures or videos and we haven’t provided those things historically. But, one of the things that we’ve done in the last year is you’ve seen the organic news feed product that consumers use moving towards bigger pictures, richer media and I think you’ll continue to see it go in that direction. And, I think that a lot of the success of products like Instagram is because of that. It’s a very immersive – even on a small screen, just – it’s a wonderful photo product.”
The key word in Zuckerberg’s comment is “immersive.” Facebook’s web and mobile feeds are full of chrome. There are always-visible navigation bars on the top of both web and mobile, as well as sidebars galore on the web. Facebook tried to give the news feed a more real-time feel last year with Ticker, but a lot of people hate it, ignore it, or take advantage of Facebook’s kind option to minimize it.
By taking the navigation chrome, sidebars, and Ticker and trimming them down, hiding them while we browse, or cutting them entirely, Facebook could free up a ton of space. It could use that to expand the width and height of the feed so it could show more stories and bigger images. This would keep us focused on the beautiful content shared by our friends, reduce exhaustion, and keep us scrolling.
It would also throw a bone to advertisers that they’ve been barking for for years. The top request from advertisers to Facebook is “we want more attention-grabbing ad units like the auto-play videos, flash units, and home page takeovers we get elsewhere on the web.” Facebook has largely refused. The nine-year-old company only launched its news feed Sponsored Stories ads two years ago and mobile ads one year ago. It didn’t want to interrupt or distract from the user experience.
But by upping the size of images and stories shared by users, Facebook could give the same to businesses without the ads being an eyesore. It could command higher prices, too. Unlike Gifts, game payments, or even search which aren’t core to Facebook, better news feed ads could help the social network make money off its most trafficked and addictive property. Even earning a little more per feed ad could make a huge difference to its bottom line. It might even be enough to convince investors that Facebook is ready to play ball with business, which could finally get its stock price back up to the $38 IPO mark it fell from.
That’s all the why. Here’s the what. On Thursday, Facebook will introduce a new design for the news feed that prominently offers the option to switch between different content-specific feeds. Two sources said that on the web, buttons located at the top of the feed below the search box will let users switch to view one of the different feeds at a time. It’s unclear if Facebook will use the same design in the mobile feed. I think it’s more likely to prominently place the options to switch between the feed in the navigation sidebar if it doesn’t overhaul the mobile feed’s design entirely.
One of the dedicated feeds will be a Photos feed of images uploaded to Facebook and Instagram. This will make the most pronounced integration of Instagram into Facebook since its acquisition. Photos have long been its most popular content type, but one that’s been underutilized without a dedicated feed, so this could be a huge win for Facebook. Instagram showed the power of photos alone, and the new Facebook Photos feed could get people browsing for hours. There will likely be an option to browse this feed full-screen, as if it were one big album.
Several sources say a Music feed will also be featured. It will show what friends have been listening to on services like Spotify, and Rdio, as well as upcoming nearby concerts, recently released albums, posts by musicians that users Like, and suggestions of musicians to subscribe to. As I noted above, Facebook already has a Music feed, but its bookmark is buried deep in the Apps section of the homepage sidebar. Facebook is known to have hired contractors to build designs of the music feed for web and mobile, and now it looks like the revamped version will launch.
Other potential feeds that could launch include Links or “news,” Videos, and Apps, but sources were unable to confirm these.
Lastly, Facebook will also start displaying image and link posts in a larger format, whether they’re from users or Pages or are ads. This will be especially helpful for the Photos feed, as it means even when not browsed full-screen it will have a rich feel. Ads will become more vivid and noticeable, too. The format change should coax more marketing spend out of luxury brands that are accustomed to larger, glossy-style ads.
Overall, the launch event should be a big win for both Facebook and its users. We’ll have more control over what content we see and gain new ways to interact with what our friends share. Discovery of specific types of media will improve, and time on site is likely to increase. Advertisers and investors will likely rejoice. How Facebook will roll out the changes isn’t yet clear, but I’d suspect a somewhat staggered launch to prevent shock and the typical “new-is-bad” chatter from snowballing in the feed.
After spending years focusing on its app platform, the profile, and search, Facebook’s crown jewel will finally get some polish. Nothing connects us like the news feed. It delivers the feel of a small town square to a global network. It’s given us ambient intimacy, and it’s about to bring us even closer.
YouTube plans to launch a music subscription service later this year, to allow people to listen to tracks online, and to possibly cut out the ads that precede each video for subscribers, according to Fortune.
The largest storehouse of streaming video, YouTube relies on selling banner ads on the site and running short clips before each video, giving a cut back to record companies.
YouTube has released a statement that confirmed it was considering a subscription service, but noted that ads wouldn’t go away:
While we don’t comment on rumor or speculation, there are some content creators that think they would benefit from a subscription revenue stream in addition to ads, so we’re looking at that.
YouTube stepping up the game as a music provider sense to me. It’s is one of the first places I hit up when I’m looking to listen to a new track quickly. Sure, it’s not often the best quality, but it’ll do in a pinch. A proper subscription service is likely to provide higher fidelity tracks, and elevates YouTube to the same playing field as labels such as Warner Music which do rely on streaming revenue.
Google already has partnerships with numerous music publishers. Last November, it struck up a deal with Armonia, one of the largest alliances of music publishers, giving it access to 5.5 million tracks across 35 countries.
And in the larger scheme of things, the company might overlap its new subscription plans into its Google Play music service. In December, it rolled out a free “scan and match” feature that allows users to add up to 20,000 songs from their offline collections to the Google cloud and stream it to their devices on the go.
Go here to see the original: YouTube To Launch Music Subscriptions
Project ‘Daisy,’ the streaming music service built internally by headphone and speaker maker Beats Electronics, has received a $60 million investment round that it is using to spin out as a standalone company.
The news was announced in a written release from Beats, confirming a report on the funding by the Verge’s Greg Sandoval issued earlier in the evening (the Verge’s report did not include the spin-out.) Daisy, which is still being referred to in press materials as the internal code name for the project, is now set to launch in “late 2013,” according to Beats.
The $60 million funding round was led by billionaire Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries along with Marc Rowan, James Packer and entities affiliated with Lee M. Bass. According to Beats, these investors bring “significant expertise in music and subscription business.”
Daisy has been growing quietly for a while, and many details on the project are still hard to come by, but it has some big names involved with it. Of course Beats’ co-founders Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine are heavy-hitters to begin with, but also teaming up specifically on Daisy is Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, an electronic music visionary who serves as the project’s Chief Creative Officer (Daisy was first teased in a big way in an in-depth profile of Reznor published in the New Yorker magazine.) Then, earlier this year it was announced that Daisy’s CEO would be Topspin founder and music industry vet Ian Rogers.
Beats’ $14 million acquisition of digital music service MOG last year was also part of the Daisy project, and those assets will go along with it in the spin out.
But more than anything, this newest funding round seems to show how serious Daisy is about building something big. With incumbent streaming services such as Pandora, Rdio, and Spotify standing as pretty solid competitors in the space, and Google’s YouTube reportedly also looking to add a new entry into the ring, this financial and industry support will certainly come in handy as Daisy works to establish itself.
It’s been a year since Google rebranded its Android Market app store to Google Play – thereby unifying its multimedia content – and the Internet giant is celebrating the landmark by offering a week of deals for Android users.
Initially, the giveaways relate to music downloads, in-app purchases, travel bookings and new game features, but Google is hinting that the freebies will be expanded to other areas too — so we might let see some free apps, and other broader benefits for Android device owners.
It’s worth remembering that the offers will vary across different markets where some parts of the Google Play Store — including books, movies and music — may not be available. Let’s hope Google introduces further offers that are open to all users worldwide.
It was just a year ago today that we launched this amazing shop on the interwebs to offer the best in digital content. Since the best parties are the ones that send you home with a present, today we celebrate our birthday with a festive goodie bag full of gifts. Don’t delay in picking up these limited-time offers. It’s been an incredible first year and we look forward to sharing the gift of digital diversions for many more to come.
A report from Distimo last year found that the combined revenue of Google Play grew 43 percent over the final four months of 2013. Apple’s App Store remains ahead in terms of total revenue — during November, it is estimated to have charted $15 million in average daily revenue, putting it some way ahead of the $3.5 million estimate for Google Play.
Headline image via Getty Images / AFP
Go here to see the original: Google marks first anniversary of Google Play rebrand with a week of deals for users
With competitors such as Ex.fm and Whyd, it may not be the most original idea, but newly-launched Songdrop — which is perhaps best described as a ‘Delicious for music’ — is a fun and well designed take on solving the music discovery and sharing problem, at least for music fans that live outside of the paywalls of services such as Spotify.
Today the company is announcing its first round of funding. SOIC Capital, a seed and early-stage fund that largely focuses on social fashion and music startups, has invested £100,000 (~$150k) in the burgeoning London-based company.
Consisting of a web app-only for now but with mobile apps in the pipeline, Songdrop lets users ‘bookmark’, organise and share music from disparate sources such as YouTube, Soundcloud, Vevo, and various blogs. Users sign up via Facebook or directly, install the cross-browser bookmarklet or Chrome extension, and can then begin bookmarking — or dropping — music (and videos) they discover across the web for later retrieval.
Tracks can be organised into playlists and shared either within the service itself — re-dropped — or on Facebook and Twitter via the liberally sprinkled ‘Like’ and ‘Tweet’ buttons.
In a further nod to social, users can follow one another on Songdrop itself and/or import their Facebook friend-list. Artists can be “followed”, too, so that if others bookmark tracks by a certain band they’ll automatically show up in a user’s feed.
“We believe the API for music already exists: it’s the whole internet. Songdrop is a way to make sense of the chaos,” says Songdrop’s Brittney Bean in an apt statement that neatly sums up the company’s mission.
However, although it’s very early days for Songdrop, that mission feels like it still has some way to go and may never be fully realised due to no fault of the company. Missing in action is support for walled gardened or paywalled services like Spotify or Deezer, which already have their own bookmarking and sharing systems and whose business plans to some extent rely on a lack of interoporability and locking users in.
On the other hand, that may be half the point of something like Songdrop: there’s a wealth of music to be discovered outside of these uber-streaming services, we just need a better way to retrieve, organise and share it.
But with the service free to use, how does Songdrop plan to make money? I’m told that paid-for mobile apps is one option under development, and certainly an on-the-go listening experience is something that users might well pay for. In-app purchases for premium features, perhaps ‘offline’ playback (though I’m just speculating here), are planned, too. There’s also the possibility to generate affiliate revenue through any related music purchases.
In addition, the company says it’s looking to partner with brands and media companies who could use the service to help them “build an identity using music” and to “reach new audiences”, which sounds a little woolly at this stage.
Interestingly, however, along with Songdrop’s founders Brittney Bean, Richard Taylor and James Towers, the company has recently hired Chris Helm as Finance Director to help work up the business model. He was previously UK Finance Director with EMI Music Publishing, so I dare say there’s more to come on the monetization front.
Of course, Songdrop will need to achieve some decent traction first.