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Facebook Stories open to Pages, bringing brands to the ghost town

No one’s posting to Facebook Stories. Only eight of my 2,800 friends have Stories up right now, and three came from the new “cross-post from Instagram Stories” feature. Maybe younger or international demographics are, but I’d bet they’re too wrapped up in Snapchat and Instagram. It’s slow adoption for a feature cloned from Snapchat that’s proven wildly popular elsewhere, and lives prominently at the top of perhaps the world’s most-used app.

Maybe big budget video can turn things around.

Today, after weeks of pestering the company about the possibility, Facebook exclusively told TechCrunch that Facebook Stories is opening up to Pages. The feature is rolling out over the coming month to all pages, including brands, news publishers, athletes, entertainers and nonprofits.

Facebook product manager Amy Sun tells TechCrunch “We’ve been listening to our community and working to make it fast, fun and easy for people and Pages to create Stories on Facebook. Over the coming month, Pages will be able to create Stories to share with the people who follow them.”

Facebook said it was encouraged by how Instagram users have embraced Stories from public figures and brands like fashion companies. It expects to see lots of “behind-the-scenes” looks inside companies and the polished marketing campaigns that end up in the traditional Facebook feed.

People will see Facebook Stories from Pages they follow or Like in the Stories section on mobile and desktop. Page admins will see a “Create Story” button on the mobile app when viewing their Pages. This content won’t show up on the News Feed unless posted there as well, and will disappear in 24 hours like all Stories.

News publishers and entertainment personalities might have the most to gain from the feature, as it will let them quickly shoot intimate content that differs from the traditional text-based articles and glossy videos generated by or about them. Stories viewers are used to off-the-cuff tone, shaky production and selfie monologues, allowing these creators to speak to directly to their audiences without much fuss.

Facebook Stories could desperately use the boost. It’s the home for content created through Facebook’s augmented reality Camera Effects platform. But the aspirations of embedding content, art, games and utility into the real world via Facebook Camera will only come to fruition if people use Stories.

Facebook has yet to share a daily user metric for Facebook Stories, despite Instagram Stories hitting 100 million merely two months after launching, while it and WhatsApp Status both now have over 250 million. That’s compared to Snapchat’s 173 million daily users for its entire app.

In my experience, I received about 30 views sharing Facebook Stories to my 2,800 Facebook friends  (1.07 percent viewed) and 830 views when also sharing to my 69,000 Facebook followers (1.15 percent viewed). Facebook needs either better content or to institutionalize the viewing experience to get Stories enough viewers for the Camera Effects platform to reach its full potential.

That’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem, as no one wants to take the time to post if no one’s watching. Businesses will either give the feature a jumpstart or make it nothing but another way to blast marketing spam that people ache to avoid.

Unfortunately, without proper education about what’s actually entertaining to users, I fear it will be the latter. If Facebook at first only allowed specific top brands with a history of great content like Red Bull, or ones especially apt for Stories like big sports leagues, newsrooms and television shows, it might be able to set the tone of what branded Stories should look like on its platform. But simply launching this to all brands may breed myopic, sales-driven usage that could further push users away.

[Image Credit: Tommy and James]

News Source = techcrunch.com

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Facebook launches gameshows platform with interactive video

Rather than build its own HQ trivia competitor, Facebook is launching a gameshow platform. Today the company announced a new set of interactive live and on-demand video features that let creators adds quizzes, polls, challenges, and gamification so players can be eliminated from a game for a wrong answer. The features could help Facebook achieve its new mission to push healthier active video consumption rather than passive zombie watching that hurts people’s well-being. Creators and publishers who want early access can sign up here.

Gameshow launch partners include Fresno’s What’s In The Box where viewers guess what’s inside, and BuzzFeed News’ Outside Your Bubble where contestants have to guess what their opponents are thinking. Plus, Facebook is testing the ability to award prize money with (Business) INSIDER’s Confetti, where viewers answer trivia questions and can see friends’ responses, with winners splitting the cash.

“Video is evolving away from just passive consumption to more interactive two-way formats”, Simo tells TechCrunch. “We think creators will want to reward people. If this is something that works will with Insider and Confetti, we may consider rolling out payments tools.”

When asked if Facebook was inspired by HQ, Simo repeatedly dodged the question and avoiding mentioning the startup’s name, but relented in saying “I think they’re part of a much broader trend that is making content interactive. We’ve seen that across much more than one player.”

Facebook won’t be taking a share of the prize money in this test. For now, it’s also forgoing its cut of its $4.99 per month subscriptions option that lets fans pay for exclusive content, which rolls out today to more creators. Facebook also just launched its Brand Collabs Manager that we scooped in May, which helps brands browse creators by demographic and portfolio so they can set up sponsored content and product placement deals.

Initially Facebook is not taking a cut there either. For all three of these features, though, Simo says “that doesn’t mean we never will.” Creators can sign up for these monetization options here.

The new interactive video features will be available to all publishers and creators, alongside the global launch of the Android version of Facebook’s Creator app for web celebs. The tools range from offering basic in-video polls to creating a full trivia gameshow. Creators and will be able to write out their trivia questions and designate correct answers, as well as “write down the logic of the game” says Simo.

While polls will work for Live and on-demand videos, gamification that impacts the outcome of the broadcast is only for Live. Brent Rivera and That Chick Angel are two creators who will be testing the features in the coming weeks. Facebook already found that fans enjoyed polling on its Watch show Help Us Get Married, which let viewers influence the wedding planning decisions about themes and the venue.

Facebook’s last attempt at original video, its Watch hub, saw mediocre adoption as the content felt also-ran rather than something special or must-see. That’s why Facebook is expanding Watch to offer a broader range of shows for more creators, including potentially longer or non-episodic content. That includes bringing Facebook videos originally only hosted on Pages into the Watch destination.

Facebook’s family of apps will get another chance at an original video home run when Instagram launches its long-form video hub tomorrow, according to TechCrunch’s sources.

What we’re seeing here is positioning that diverges Facebook and Instagram’s video efforts. Facebook’s might be more interactive, about playing and watching with friends, and embrace more novel new formats like mobile gameshows. Instagram, with its history of polished photos, could house more traditional high-end entertainment content.

“We’re not trying to do one show or one trivia game. We’re trying to get every creator to create such gameplay. The beauty of the creators space is that they each have a unique audience” Facebook’s VP of video product Fidji Simo tells me. With 2.2 billion users, making an in-house one-size-fits-all game may have been impossible.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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Lyft’s app code reveals unlaunched bike or scooter feature

Lyft hasn’t acquired a bike-sharing startup or gotten a scooter permit yet, but it’s already preparing its app for them with a feature codenamed “last mile”. Code and screenshots dug out of Lyft’s Android app reveal a way to search a map for last mile vehicles, and scan a QR code or enter a pin to unlock them.

These materials come to TechCrunch from Jane Manchun Wong, who’s recently established herself as a prolific app code investigator. Her work has led to TechCrunch scoops on Instagram video calling and Usage Insights, Twitter encrypted DMs, and Facebook’s personalized emoji Avatars that were confirmed by the companies.

Lyft’s entrance into last mile vehicles could win customers looking for quick, cheap, and exciting transportation beyond the longer car trips it already offers. Renting scooters or bikes from the same app as its car rideshare options would allow it to compete with dedicated last mile provides like LimeBike and Bird that don’t benefit from the customer cross-pollenation. It would also help it keep up with Uber, which recently acquired electric bikeshare startup JUMP.

The screenshots show a map you can browse to find nearby vehicles plus a “Scan to ride” button. That brings up a barcode scanner for unlocking the vehicle, though there’s also an option to enter 4-digit pin code on your phone for unlocking. Code reveals that vehicles can have status of ‘Idle, Unlocking, In Ride, Locked, or Post Ride’.

Lyft is one of a dozen companies the SF Chronicle reports have applied for five dockless scooter permits from San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Regarding these new in-app materials, a Lyft spokesperson told TechCrunch “As has been reported I can confirm that we’ve submitted an application to the SFMTA but we aren’t sharing any further details at this time.

Lyft is vying for a permit alongside Uber, Spin, LimeBike, Bird, Razor, Scoot, Ofo, Skip, CycleHop, Ridecell, and USSCooter. SF recently banned scooter rentals after an unregulated invasion by several of these companies saw the vehicles strewn in sidewalks, obstructing pedestrians.

Lyft’s Android code includes new “last mile” features

Meanwhile, The Information reports that Lyft is in talks to acquire Mobike, offering $250 million or more for the startup that operates NYC’s Citibikes, and SF’s Ford GoBikes. But Axios reports Uber is trying to muscle in with its own bid, which could block Lyft or at least force it to pay a higher price. Lyft already offers bike rentals in Baltimore, but only through the Baltimore Bike Share app, not its own.

Some might see all this premature, with scooter rentals existing in few cities and considerable backlash from some citizens. But given the alternatives are either slow walking, or ridesharing that can increase traffic congestion, create more carbon emissions, and be quite expensive for short trips, many who give scooters a shot are finding them quite pleasant.

A driver displays Uber and Lyft ride sharing signs in his car windscreen in Santa Monica, California, U.S., May 23, 2016. About a half dozen ride-hailing firms have rushed into Texas tech hub Austin after market leaders Uber and Lyft left the city a little over a monthago in a huff over municipal requirements that they fingerprint drivers. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/Files

Hopefully, cities will focus on giving permits to dockless bike and scooter companies willing to incentivize proper parking, bike lane riding, and helmet usage, and that build reliable hardware that doesn’t end up broken or out of battery on the streets. Given Lyft’s more cooperative brand in comparsion to Uber’s more confrontational style, it could leverage its public perception to gain access to markets with these vehicles.

If those permits or acquisitions come through, Lyft clearly wants to move fast to get last mile transportations in customers’ hands and under their feet.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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PAX introduces Session Control to let novice users control their intake

PAX Labs, makers of the popular PAX 3 and PAX Era vaporizers, have today updated their app to offer a new feature called Session Control.

The idea here is based around the fact that people can sometimes overindulge when using a vaporizer for the first time, as the effects of cannabis oil can take a minute or two to kick in, leading people to continue puffing.

With Session Control, users can control their intake by selecting micro, small or medium puffs. Once the user has maxed out their session by puffing, the PAX Era will lock for 30 seconds, stopping users from overdoing it.

PAX launched an app called PAX Mobile in 2017 to give vape users even more control over their experience. From temperature control to different color schemes, the PAX Mobile app lets users fiddle with the PAX 3 or PAX Era on the fly.

While temperature control makes sense for more experienced users, Session Control lets newer users control their intake without making the process overly complicated.

“We want the tech to get out of the way,” said PAX Labs CEO Bharat Vassan. “A big part of what we want to do is to not have people staring at their phone. That’s why we use firmware so that the device updates itself. This way, users can set it and forget it.”

Session Control is available for the PAX Era, which vaporizes oil, and Vassan said they’re thinking of ways to introduce something similar with the PAX 3, which is a floral vaporizer.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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