CEO Zuckerberg: Facebook Watch Going ‘Mainstream’ in 2019

Facebook launched its Watch streaming video platform in 2017 as competition to YouTube and other over-the-top platforms.

Despite initial claims of 50 million monthly viewers, and content spend approaching $1 billion, Watch has reportedly failed to connect with its targeted audience: teenagers.

In fact, just 36% of the desired demo used Facebook in Fall 2018 — down from 52% during the same time period in 2016, according to analyst firm Piper Jaffray.

Indeed, 85% of teens are opting for Instagram (which Facebook owns), followed by Snapchat (84%) and Twitter (47%).

As a result, Facebook is looking to expand the Watch audience while also hoping to further engage younger viewers through social interaction, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

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Speaking on the Jan. 30 fiscal call, Zuckerberg said 400 million users now engage with Watch monthly, including about 20 minutes of content daily.

Specifically, the founder/CEO said Facebook has directed Watch users interested in longform video to engage in content more easily through the ‘Watch Party’ app that allows them to share live streams among friends.

“These are all things that make it so the video-watching experience isn’t just about passive consumption but about interaction, and that’s going to, I think, help really drive engagement as well,” Zuckerberg said.

In addition, the social media platform is focusing on content that resonates with wider audiences and thereby enhances monetization opportunities for creators — and Facebook.

Watch has scored hits with Jada Pinkett Smith’s talk show, “Red Table Talk,” critically-acclaimed drama series, “Sorry for Your Loss,” and “Sacred Lies”; interactive reality show, “Confetti,” and next year’s reboot of “MTV’s The Real World.”

“That has allowed us to really increase the amount of video that people are watching without getting in the way of the core mission of what we do, which is helping people interact,” Zuckerberg said.

 

 

Video Remains Double-Edge Sword for Facebook

Facebook ended its most recent third-quarter (ended Sept. 30) fiscal period with 2.3 billion people worldwide using the social media platform monthly, including 1.5 billion every day. Revenue grew 33% to $13.7 billion.

Facebook Watch, the ad-supported VOD service, was launched Aug. 10, 2017, followed by Instagram TV (IGTV) this past June. Both platforms targeting YouTube continue to pose challenges to Facebook’s business model structured around user exposure to advertising. Indeed, streaming video could actually hurt revenue, Facebook founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on the Oct. 30 webcast.

“Video monetizes significantly less well per minute than people interacting in [community] feeds,” Zuckerberg said. “So, this means that even though we’ve made video more community-oriented and minimized displacement of social interactions, as video grows it will still displace some other services where we’d probably make more money.”

In other words, as Facebook users consume video, they interact with “friends” less — and in turn deprive advertisers (which account for more than 90% of Facebook revenue) channels to pitch products and marketing campaigns.

“Video is a critical part of the future, it’s what our community wants, and as long as we can make it social, I think it will end up being a large part of our business as well,” said Zuckerberg.

Indeed, the executive admitted Facebook has had to “rate-limit” video growth on the platform. Characterizing video consumption as “passive” compared to users aggressively engaging in community, political and social conversations, Zuckerberg said Facebook Watch is working with advertisers to better fit their marketing and ad-buying process for video.

In Q3, Facebook introduced a way for advertisers to buy video ads from specific content categories and pay only for ads that are watched to the end.

“The biggest thing that we need to do is make sure that the video experience is people-centric, and that we’re helping content creators [and advertisers] build a community and we’re helping people interact with each other,” Zuckerberg said.  “We build social products that help people interact. There are lots of places in the world that you can go to consume content, but we’re the Internet service that people use to help connect with other people, and we’re not going to let passive consumption get in the way of that.

“We needed to figure out a way so that video can grow, but people can also keep on interacting and doing what they tell us that they uniquely want from Facebook,” he said.

Zuckerberg said Facebook Watch user growth has tripled in the past few months.

“I think that’s a very exciting opportunity ahead,” he said. “And that’s one of the reasons that I’m very optimistic about the Watch growth.”

Activist Investor Group Wants Zuckerberg Out as Facebook Chairman

Heading into Facebook’s disastrous fiscal second-quarter that saw the social network behemoth’s stock plummet more than 20%, wiping out almost $150 billion in valuation, investment group Trillium Asset Management drafted a proposal seeking to remove founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg as chairman.

Trillium, which has about $11 million invested in Facebook, seeks an independent chairperson – a move that requires approval by Facebook shareholders and management, which is largely Zuckerberg.

“[Zuckerberg’s] dual-class shareholdings give him approximately 60% of Facebook’s voting shares, leaving the board, even with a lead independent director, with only a limited ability to check Mr. Zuckerberg’s power,” wrote Trillium. “We believe this weakens Facebook’s governance and oversight of management. Selecting an independent chair would free the CEO to focus on managing the company and enable the chairperson to focus on oversight and strategic guidance.”

The investor claims Facebook has resisted recent shareholder requests to separate the chairman/CEO roles. In 2017, according to Trillium, a similar proposal received 51% of shareholder votes cast when excluding the shares of 13 executives and board members.

“However, the board has not acted on this important signal from its non-insider shareholders,” said Trillium. “Google, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, and Twitter have separate CEO and chairperson roles. More broadly, 59% of the S&P 1500 separated these roles as of April 2018.”

Specifically, Trillium argues Zuckerberg dropped the ball on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections; sharing personal data of 87 million users with Cambridge Analytica; and sharing user data with consumer electronics device manufacturers, including China’s Huawei, which has been flagged by U.S. intelligence agencies as a national security threat.

The investor said Zuckerberg has done little to curbthe proliferation of fake newson Facebook; propagating violence in Myanmar, India, and South Sudan; and allegedly enabling advertisers to exclude black, Hispanic, and other “ethnic affinities” from seeing ads.

When called to testify before Congress following the Cambridge debacle, Zuckerberg admitted Facebook hadn’t taken a “broad enough view” of its social responsibility.

Indeed, Facebook July 27 revealed it had suspended conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for 30 days after removing four videos by the “Infowars” founder. YouTube suspended Jones for 90 days.

“This broader view is what an independent board chair would provide, which we believe would benefit the company, its shareholders, and its global community of users,” Trillium wrote.

 

Netflix Turns 21, Co-Founder Reed Hastings Talks Facebook

Netflix quietly turned 21 years old on April 14, and co-founder/CEO Reed Hastings was on a stage in Vancouver, BC, discussing lessons learned from the recent data breach scandal at Facebook.

During a Q&A on the last day of the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference, Hastings, who has been on Facebook’s board of directors since 2011, attempted to downplay recent revelations that the personal data of 87 million Facebook users had been compromised by a third party for profit.

Comparing Facebook and similar interrupting technologies to the rising popularity of the television in the United States in the 1960s, Hastings said Facebook remains sometimes misunderstood, on a steep learning curve, prone to making occasional mistakes.

“[TV] was [once] called a vast wasteland. [It] was going to rock the minds of everybody. And it turns out everybody’s minds were fine. There were some adjustments,” said Hastings, as reported by Recode.

Mistake or not, the fact millions of Facebook users’ data was used by a foreign company to impact the 2016 presidential election, found apologetic founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Washington, D.C., fielding questions from lawmakers – many of whom appeared unaware how the social media platform worked.

“How do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?” asked Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.

“Senator, we run ads,” responded Zuckerberg after a pause.

Hatch later tweeted that he knew how Facebook’s business model worked and that the real issue remained transparency in the Internet age.

Netflix’s Hastings, who is up for re-election to Facebook’s board, appeared to have Hatch’s sentiment in mind. He said Facebook deserved to be criticized and that senior management was taking the issue of protecting user data seriously.

“So, I think of it as all new technologies have pros and cons. And in social [media] we’re just figuring that out,” Hastings said.

Separately, the CEO said Netflix’s early success revolved around willfully launching a business model with built-in obsolescence and using that sand clock to enhance its revolutionary online by-mail disc rental platform into a streaming video pioneer.

“We were born on DVD and we knew that would be temporary,” Hastings said. “No one thought we’d be mailing discs for the next 100 years.”

Netflix April 16 reports first quarter (ended March 31) fiscal results after the markets close.

 

 

Facebook: Data Breach Affected 87 Million Users

Facebook has quietly upped to 87 million the number of users whose personal data was compromised by Cambridge Analytica, a conservative London-based consulting firm with ties to the 2016 presidential election.

The social media behemoth previously admitted to 50 million users whose personal data was sold in violation to the company’s privacy rules. Cambridge Analytica contends it obtained data from “no more than 30 million people.”

Regardless, Facebook admits that “malicious actors” could have had access to the personal data of all 2 billion registered members. It buried the updated numbers in an April 4 blog, ironically titled “Our Plans to Restrict Data Access on Facebook.”

“Given the scale and sophistication of the activity we’ve seen, we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped in this way,” Michael Schroepfer, chief technology officer, wrote in the blog.

Schroepfer said effective immediately apps using Facebook’s various “application programing interfaces” (APIs) would no longer be able to access the guest list or posts without Facebook approval to “strict (third-party use) requirements.”

Facebook APIs include “events,” “groups,” “commentary” and Instagram pages – bedrock of the social media pioneer.

“We will also no longer allow apps to ask for access to personal information such as religious or political views, relationship status and details, custom-friends lists, education and work history, fitness activity, book reading activity, music listening activity, news reading, video watch activity, and games activity,” Schroepfer wrote.

Facebook will also remove a developer’s ability to request data people shared with them if it appears they have not used the app in the last 3 months.

Beginning April 9, Facebook will display to users a link at the top of their “news feed” identifying what apps they use – and information they have shared with those third-party apps.

Users will also be able to remove apps they no longer want. As part of this process Facebook will reveal to users if their information may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg is slated to appear April 11 before the House Energy and Commerce Committee to answer questions about the Cambridge Analytica controversy.

 

Facebook Loses $37 Billion in Value Following Data Privacy Scandal

Facebook March 19 saw its market cap plummet $37 billion after media reports said the social media behemoth violated privacy rules selling user information to a third-party company active in the 2016 presidential election.

Specifically, The New York Times reported Facebook sold personal information of about 50 million users to Cambridge Analytica, a conservative London-based consulting firm that combines data mining and data analysis to “change audience behavior” for the electoral process.

Facebook, which became aware of the data breach in 2015, according to the Times, has been under pressure to do more about the spread of politically-motivated fake news posts during the election.

Last November, the paper reported that many of the posts on Facebook had been paid for by Russian operatives seeking to disrupt the electoral process in favor of Donald Trump.

“America, we have a problem,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said at the time. “We basically have the brightest minds of our tech community here and Russia was able to weaponize your platforms to divide us, to dupe us and to discredit democracy.”

Now, members of Congress want to grill Facebook and other tech companies about data security.

Lawmakers Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Kennedy (R-LA) March 19 called on Facebook founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear before Congress to answer questions.

“While Facebook has pledged to enforce its policies to protect people’s information, questions remain as to whether those policies are sufficient and whether Congress should take action to protect people’s private information,” Klobuchar and Kennedy said in a joint statement. “The lack of oversight on how data is stored and how political advertisements are sold raises concerns about the integrity of American elections as well as privacy rights.”

Separately, Facebook reportedly will hold an open meeting with employees March 20 to discuss the Cambridge debacle. Alex Stamos, chief information security officer at Facebook, has already announced plans to leave the company this summer.