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January 17, 2019
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Media

Tinder is testing the ability to share Spotify music clips in chat

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Tinder has already developed a fairly robust chat platform within its dating app, with support for sharing things like Bitmoji and GIFs, and the ability to “like” messages by tapping a heart icon. Now, the company is testing a new integration – sharing music via Spotify. Tinder confirmed with TechCrunch it’s trying out a new way to connect users, by allowing them to share music within their chats.

The test is currently taking place across global markets, and Spotify is the only music service involved.

The new feature was first spotted by the blog MSPoweruser who speculated the addition could be an experiment on Tinder’s part, ahead of a public launch. That does seem to be the case, as it turns out.

According to screenshots the site posted, a green music icon has been swapped in for the Bitmoji icon. Clicking this allows you to enter a query into a search box and see matching results displayed above. You’re not able to share the full song, however – only a 30-second clip.

Above: Tinder music test with Spotify; credits: MSPoweruser

Tinder, like its rival Bumble, has offered integration with Spotify’s streaming music service since 2016.

Both apps allow users to connect their Spotify accounts in order to showcase their top artists on their profile. As Tinder explained at the time of launch, music can be a powerful signal in terms of attraction and plays an important role in terms of getting to know a new connection, as well.

The company even launched its own profile on Spotify with playlists focused on dating, love and romance as a part of its collaboration with the music service.

The Spotify integration has paid off for Tinder in terms of user engagement within its app, the company tells us.

“Users love connecting over shared tastes in music,” a Tinder spokesperson explained. “In fact, users who update their ‘Anthem’ are most likely to start a conversation via Feed. With this in mind, we’re testing the ability to share music with a match while chatting on Tinder,” they added.

The “Anthem” is a feature that lets you pick a favorite song or one that’s representative of your tastes or personality. This is then highlighted in a special section on your Tinder profile.

Tinder did not offer any details as to when it expects the test to wrap or when it would launch music sharing more broadly.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Roku explains why it allowed Infowars on its platform

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Roku has just made a bad decision with regard to its growing advertising business by associating its brand with the toxic conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones. As Digiday first reported this morning, Roku has chosen to add the Infowars live show hosted by Jones to the Roku platform as a supported channel, much to the disgust of customers now hammering the company on its social media platforms.

The company, apparently, is opting for the “we’re a neutral platform” defense in the matter, despite the fact that most major platforms have backed away from this stance with regard to Jones.

Apple, Facebook, Spotify, YouTube, Twitter, Periscope, Stitcher, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and even YouPorn have removed Infowars from their respective platforms.

The decision to allow the channel comes at a time when Jones and Infowars are in the headlines again because of a recent update in the legal battle between the Sandy Hook families and the Infowars program. The families are suing the conspiracy theorist for spreading the false claim that the school shooting was an elaborate hoax, and that Infowars peddled these stories to stoke fear and sell more products like survivalist gear and gun paraphernalia, The New York Times reports.

A judge has ordered Infowars to turn over internal documents to the families that relate to its business plan or marketing strategies, the shooting itself, crisis actors, or mass shootings in general.

Roku’s decision to allow the channel at all is a poor one not only in terms of taking a moral stance on complicated matters (if you’re of the mindset that’s something companies should do) – it seems to go against Roku’s own policy that bans content which is “unlawful, incites illegal activities or violates third-party rights.”

This is the same general premise that saw Infowars banned everywhere else.

Because of Jones’ claims, the Sandy Hook families have received death threats and have been continually harassed, even offline. Jones has also promoted other theories that led to violence, like Pizzagate.

Roku’s position, seemingly, is that the channel hasn’t done any bad stuff yet on its platform, never mind its past.

Many Roku customers on social media are threatening to boycott. A search for terms including “roku,” “boycott,” and others related to the news are picking up speed on Twitter, the #boycottroku hashtag has just now re-appeared, as well. (It was used previously by customers protesting the NRA channel.)

Given Amazon Fire TV and Roku’s tight race and Roku’s hunt for ad revenue through newer initiatives like its Roku Channel, a boycott could have material impact. (It looks like Amazon picked the right day to launch its updated Fire TV Stick with the new Alexa remote. At $40, it’s not going to be hard for consumers to switch streamers, if it comes to that. A search for “infowars” in Amazon Fire TV apps is not currently returning results, if you’re curious.)

Roku has become one of the top streaming media device makers in the U.S. and globally, recently having reached nearly 24 million registered users. Digiday notes that it’s projected to generate $293 million in advertising in 2018, per eMarketer, putting it just behind Hulu.

Apparently, Roku believes it can distance itself from the content it hosts on its platform.

That’s not a good look for advertisers, however, many who won’t want their brand appearing anywhere near Infowars. And because Roku runs ads right on its homescreen, that means advertisers’ content can actually sit directly beside the Infowars channel icon, if not in the program itself.

For example:

It may also make advertisers hesitant to work with Roku on other initiatives because it shows a lack of understanding over how to manage brand safety, or because they fear a consumer backlash.

Roku’s full statement is below:

Our streaming platform allows our customers to choose from thousands of entertainment, news and special interest channels, representing a wide range of topics and viewpoints. Customers choose and control which channels they download or watch, and parents can set a pin to prevent channels from being downloaded. While the vast majority of all streaming on our platform is mainstream entertainment, voices on all sides of an issue or cause are free to operate a channel. We do not curate or censor based on viewpoint.

We are not promoting or being paid to distribute InfoWars. We do not have a commercial relationship with the InfoWars.

While open to many voices, we have policies that prohibit the publication of content that is unlawful, incites illegal activities or violates third-party rights, among other things. If we determine a channel violates these policies, it will be removed. To our knowledge, InfoWars is not currently in violation of these content policies.

UPDATE, 1/15/19, 2:43 PM ET: 

Following Roku’s statement about its decision, Josh Koskoff, the Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder attorney representing several Sandy Hook families suing Jones after his repeated claims that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax, has released a statement as well:

Roku’s shocking decision to carry Infowars and provide a platform for Alex Jones is an insult to the memory of the 26 children and educators killed at Sandy Hook. Worse, it interferes with families’ efforts to prevent people like Jones from profiting off innocent victims whose lives have been turned upside down by unspeakable loss. We call on Roku to realize this and immediately pull the program. Until then, the families will be switching to alternate streaming providers that know the difference between authentic – if provocative – opinions and a lying opportunist seeking to make money by any means possible. There is no amount of anticipated revenue that could possibly justify Roku’s calculated decision.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Facebook launches its first U.S. podcast with a series focused entrepreneurship

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Everyone has to have a podcast, apparently. Even Facebook . The social network this week launched its second-ever original podcast series, and its first one in the U.S. An arm of Facebook’s business operation, the new show “Three and a Half Degrees” will focus on entrepreneurship – specifically the lessons learned, challenges faced, and other insights from successful business leaders.

The name is a reference to how technology has made it easier to connect – today, people are no longer six degrees apart, but only three and a half degrees, the company says.

“I consider it part of our mission to help the businesses we work with learn from one another,” explains David Fischer, Facebook’s VP of Business and Marketing Partnerships. “One way we’re doing this is with the new podcast ‘Three And A Half Degrees: The Power of Connection.’ Through the podcast, we hope to celebrate the journeys of entrepreneurs and business leaders on our platform, and scale their inspiring life lessons and learnings to other entrepreneurs and leaders,” he says.

Facebook today has over 90 million businesses using its platform, so it makes sense that it wants to further establish itself as a place where established businesses can share their knowledge with newcomers. Those smaller businesses could then grow to become a more active part of Facebook’s larger business network, which keeps the cycle – and the ad dollars – flowing.

Fischer will serve as podcast host, and kicks off the first episode with an interview with the creator of TOMS,  Blake Mycoskie, who is introduced on the show to Bryan and Bradford Manning. The Mannings say they were inspired by TOMS to start their own charitable business, Two Blind Brothers. The overall focus for the episode is on brands that prioritize their social mission over profit and growth.

Future episodes will include Monique & Chevalo from Charleston Burger Co. & Chris Kempcziski from McDonald’s (ep 2); Stephanie McMahon from WWE & Gary Vaynerchuk from Vayner Media (ep 3); ictor Lezama from PC Landing Zone & Jake Wood from Team Rubicon (ep 4); Suzanne Gildert from Sanctuary and Kindred AI & Beth Comstock, formerly with GE (ep 5); Antionette Carroll from Creative Reaction Lab & Jonathan Mildenhall from TwentyFirstCenturyBrand (ep 6); Ben Rattray from Change.org & Advisor Chip Conley (ep 7).

This first season includes just these seven episodes and fourteen guests, with new episodes arriving every two weeks.

It’s not a long season, and Facebook hasn’t yet confirmed plans to do another, we understand. That makes the “podcast” a bit more like a marketing initiative rather than a serious attempt at entering the podcasting market.

The podcast is also not monetized. The company has no plans to sell ad space within the podcast, either.

Though this is the first time Facebook has done a podcast in the U.S., it has experimented in this space previously. Last summer, it tried a similar effort in Australia where leading marketers talked about connecting with consumers, in a podcast called Face 2 Face. That one seems to have even more of a tie to Facebook’s own bottom line. (Connect with consumers? Social ads, of course!).

This one is takes a step back from the nitty-gritty of reaching consumers through spending on marketing and ads, but rather on the business leaders themselves.

The vibe of the podcast is one of a highly-produced effort. It doesn’t begin as a sit-down, informal back-and-forth chat, but one where pre-recorded interviews are intercut with host narration and storytelling. It’s not until nearly halfway through before the introduction between Mycskie and the Mannings is made. At that point, it shifts from being a sort of NPR-Lite style effort, and one where you’re listening to a conversation – albeit one with a polished, media-trained exec like Mycskie.

Unfortunately, this more compelling part of the program is far too short, and quickly wrapped up with the host summarizing the learnings.

The new U.S. podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Nielsen: 16M U.S. homes now get TV over-the-air, a 48% increase over past 8 years

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The number of U.S. households without a traditional cable or satellite TV subscription that instead receive broadcast stations using a digital antenna has jumped by nearly 50 percent over the past 8 years to reach 16 million homes, according to a new report from Nielsen. Today, 14 percent of all U.S. TV households are watching television over the air, it found.

The measurement firm says there are basically two camps among this group of cord cutters.

One, which tends to consist of older viewers with a median age of 55, exclusively watches TV via their antenna – they don’t subscribe to any streaming service.

This group, totalling 6.6 million homes, tends to be more diverse and have a smaller median income – which makes sense. For them, cord cutting may be more of a cost-saving tool, rather than a way to combine free content with other paid services to create a personalized TV experience.

The other group, totalling 9.4 million homes, has at least one subscription video service, like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video, for example. They tend to be younger, with a median age of 36 – as well as more affluent, and more device-connected, says Nielsen.

Because they’re spending more time on devices doing other things – perhaps gaming or using social networks – they consume less traditional media. That impacts the time spent watching TV.

The group of cord cutters watching over-the-air TV who don’t have access to a subscription video service watches over 6 hours per day. That’s 2 hours more than those with a subscription service, the study found.

The group using subscription services are more active on social media, too, likely as a result of their age and their numerous devices. They spend an hour per day, on average, using social media – 17 minutes more than the group without subscription video.

But both groups tend to watch the majority of “TV” content on their television. Despite the increased use of devices like smartphones and tablets, it seems that TV viewing continues to largely take place on the big screen.

Also of note, there’s a small but growing subgroup among the cord cutters who have subscription services who additionally have access to a virtual provider. These are the streaming services offering live TV – like YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, or Sling TV. This group has grown to over 1.3 million homes as May 2018, Nielsen claims. (Keep in mind Nielsen’s numbers are counting TV households in the U.S., not individual user accounts to these services.)

The full report dug deeper into this third segment, and found they tend to be 56% more likely to have a college degree, 19% more likely to have children, and 95% more likely to have an internet connected device, compared with an average home. They also watch slightly more TV than the other “plus SVOD (subscription video on demand)” group at 3 hours, 27 minutes per day, compared with 3 hours, 22 minutes, Nielsen says.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Pandora launches a personalized voice assistant on iOS and Android

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Pandora today announced the launch of its own, in-app voice assistant which you can call up at any time by saying “Hey Pandora,” followed by a request to play the music or podcasts you want to hear. The feature will allow you to not only control music playback with commands to play a specific artist, album, radio or playlist, but will also be capable of delivering results customized to you when responding to vague commands or those related to activity or mood. For example, you’ll get personalized results for requests like “play something new,” “play more like this,” “play music for relaxing,” “play workout music,””play something I like,” and others.

The company reports strong adoption of its service on voice-activated speakers, like Amazon Echo devices, where now millions of listeners launch Pandora music by speaking – a trend which inspired the move to launch in-app voice control.

“Voice is just an expected new way that you engage with any app,” notes Pandora Chief Product Officer Chris Phillips. “On the mobile app, we’re doing more than just your typical request against the catalog… asking: ‘hey, Pandora,’ to search and play or pause or skip,” he says.  “What we’re doing that we think is pretty special is we’re taking that voice utterance of what someone asks for, and we’re applying our personalized recommendations to the response,” Phillips explains.

That means when you ask Pandora to play you something new, the app will return a selection that won’t resemble everyone else’s music, but will rather be informed by your own listening habits and personal tastes.

The way that result is returned may also vary – for some, it could be a playlist, for others an album, and for others, it could be just a new song, a personalized soundtrack, or a radio station.

“Play something new” isn’t the only command that will yield a personalized response, Pandora says. It will also return personalized results for commands related to your mood or activity – like workout music, something to relax to, music for cooking, and more.

For podcasts, it can dig up episodes with a specific guest, play shows by title, or even deliver show recommendations, among other things.

Voice commands can be used in lieu of pressing buttons, too, in order to do things like add songs to a playlist or giving a song you like a thumbs up, for instance.

The new feature, called “Voice Mode,” taps into Pandora’s machine learning and data science capabilities, which is an active battleground between music services.

Spotify, for example, is well known for its deep personalized with its Discover Weekly and other custom playlists, like its Daily Mixes. But its own “voice mode” option is only available for its Premium users, according to a FAQ on the company’s website.

Pandora, meanwhile, is planning to roll out Voice Mode to all users – both free and paid.

For free users, the feature will work in conjunction with an existing ad product that allows users to opt in to watch a video in order to gain temporary access to Pandora’s on-demand service.

While this option is not live at launch, the plan is to allow any user to use the “Hey Pandora” command, then redirect free users with a request to play music on demand to instead play the opt-in ad first.

Pandora Voice Mode will launch today, January 15 to a percentage of the iOS and Android user base – around a million listeners. The company will track the speed, accuracy and performance of its results before rolling it out more broadly over the next couple of months.

Users with a Google Home device can also cast from their Pandora app to their smart speaker, and a similar feature will arrive on Alexa devices soon, the company believes.

Pandora works with  Siri Shortcuts, too. That means you can now use voice to launch the app itself, then play a personalized selection of music without having to touch your phone at all.

Voice Mode will be available in the Pandora app via the search bar next to the magnifying glass.

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

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