Needle in a Haystack: Navigating Social Media in 2015

by William Fisher

Curation, curation, curation: those were three of the big themes for social media in 2015. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube all launched major initiatives to help users find what they’re looking for – and, of course, to induce advertisers to open their wallets. But disappointments and mishaps (including a particularly embarrassing moment at Google Photos) have shown the limits of algorithmic curation, and are leading all these companies to re-evaluate the need for human editors.

Here’s a quick look at each – and thoughts on what lies ahead in 2016:

Facebook

Launched in September, FB’s Signal allows journalists and marketers to source and embed content from both FB and Instagram. But Signal is a professional tool rather than an actively curated service. It was FB Newswire that emerged as the most interesting and successful source for curated user-generated content, both for consumers and media professionals. Newswire aggregates newsworthy content shared by individuals and organizations on FB into a single feed – with a hat tip to FB’s human editorial partners at News Corporation’s Storyful.

Instagram

In June, Instagram released a “reimagined” Explore page by adding trending Tags and Places, as well as curated collections. These features have greatly enhanced navigation for app users. But if you’re really serious about content discovery on Instagram, request access to FB Signal. On the other hand, businesses have given the new Explore the thumbs up as a useful marketing tool.

Snapchat

If curation is about finding stuff, Snapchat’s Live Stories and Story Explorer (which debuted in November) are more about allowing users to get lost (read: “engaged”) in a more immersive navigational experience. An algorithm aggregates interesting content in the form of “Live Stories,” while “Story Explorer” lets you swipe on Live Stories content to view related shots. But without human editors to vet the results, is the content safe for brands? Partnerships with media companies like Buzzfeed, CNN and Vice seem more commercially promising than Snapchat’s 2015 user-generated content initiatives.

Twitter

Twitter’s Curator was previously the go-to tool for professional journalists seeking to monitor and display trending social media content. This year, Twitter made Curator available free to all publishers. However, it still reserves advanced integrations, customizations and support services for its Certified Partners. For consumers, the launch of Twitter’s Project Lightning was bigger news this year: that lightning bolt icon at the bottom center of the app allows you to tap into breaking news and trending entertainment. Twitter hopes to grow the service by building out human newsrooms in major markets around the world.

YouTube

In June YouTube announced its own partnership with News Corp’s Storyful to create a curated service called YouTube Newswire. Here too, Storyful’s human editorial team provides editorial triage and authentication services. However, notwithstanding its high minded intentions, YouTube Newswire is likely to remain just another news lite consumer platform (with limited ad revenue prospects) until they figure out how license content to media organizations.

Each of the above initiatives highlight the limits of machine learning for editorial decision-making. Of course, the superiority of human judgment in this area isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that the solutions implemented by the major social networks in 2015 amounted to little more than putting old school newsrooms in place. And, as technologists are fond of saying, humans don’t scale.

Launched in 2006, FaceBook’s basic newsfeed algorithm will be 10 years old in 2016.  And yet it arguably remains the most effective algorithmic curation tool out there.  Next year look for new solutions to emerge that will efficiently combine small human teams (co-located or distributed) with machine learning models to sort and deliver user-generated content more efficiently. Most likely those solutions won’t be developed by the social networks themselves, but rather by early-stage companies, and will be platform agnostic, deployable across the entire social Web to better enable consumers and media outlets find that needle in the haystack.

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YuVue chosen by National Association of Broadcasters for SPROCKIT 2015

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We’re delighted to announce that YuVue was selected by NAB Show organizers to participate in this year’s SPROCKIT 2015, NAB’s showcase for notable early-stage companies.  A total of 30 mobile, video, analytics and social media entrepreneurs will participate at the NAB Show in Las Vegas, April 11-16 – and we are honored to be among them!

A committee of industry experts reviewed what they characterized as a particularly strong pool of applicants and selected this year’s participants based on their potential to influence the media, entertainment and technology markets.

“From reinventing content on emerging mobile devices to improving social engagement with traditional media platforms, each of these companies has a unique solution for some of the industry’s biggest challenges,” said Harry Glazer, founder and CEO of SPROCKIT.

If you’re going to be at NAB, please be sure to contact us at the SPROCKIT Pavilion N2530-16 in the North Hall.  See you in Las Vegas!

 

To see the NAB Press Release click here

 

 

We’ve Launched! Now Accepting Photo and Video Submissions via Twitter

by William Fisher

Yesterday we announced that YuVue will be accepting contributor submissions via Twitter: simply upload a photo or video in a Tweet, add the hashtag #YuVue, and we take it from there.

We will still be releasing our own uploader app (available for iOS and Android in the coming weeks), which will give contributors a direct pipeline to YuVue.

So why would we want to use what is arguably the most public-facing of all social media platforms as a conduit for our contributors’ valuable content?  And how do you monetize photos and videos that can be viewed for free on Twitter?

By Putting Social First and By Breaking Some Windows

The traditional “monetization paradigm” of the film and TV industries was based on a sequence of licensing “windows.”  Content was released successively from small to increasingly larger audiences: first in movie theaters, then in various home entertainment formats, followed by pay television and ad-supported TV.

Thereafter, all bets were off: you rolled the dice and licensed to on-line or “over-the-top” operators, trading your analog dollars for digital pennies (in the famous words of former NBC president Jeff Zucker).

So-called “user-generated” visual content, of course, is a completely different animal: many of our contributors share very valuable images and video first on social sites.  YuVue’s unique use of metadata and automation adds value by enabling publishers, media outlets and brands to be able to discover and license that content from the creator quickly, easily and legitimately.  That’s our secret sauce.

By using Twitter (in addition to our own app), we make uploading and monetizing content as simple as possible for contributors.  It also turns the entire Twittersphere of 280 million monthly active users into our potential contributor base – which makes YuVue a more valuable source of visual content for everyone.  We plan to offer YuVue contributors the ability to upload via Instagram in the coming weeks, with other platforms to follow.

Our goal is to allow our contributors to upload once and monetize everywhere.  And to give publishers and brands immediate access to the greatest range possible of vetted, licensable high-quality visual content.  Even if that means breaking some windows.

If you haven’t tried it yet, go to http://www.yuvue.com, sign-up/login, and link your YuVue and Twitter accounts.  Then start tweeting your photos and videos to us!

Instagram Pix Make The Front Page!

Thanks to Katie Hawkins-Gaar of the Poynter Institute for calling attention to an historical event – at least for those of us who follow great moments in Citizen Journalism.  Yesterday’s front page of The New York times featured no less than 9 Instagram photos – images sent to The Times in response to the paper’s request that readers share their pix of this week’s snowstorm.

Hawkins-Gaar thinks it’s the first time that user-generated photos have made it directly from the creators to the front page of The Times’ print edition.  (A previous Instagram pic that appeared on the front page had been licensed through an agency.)

The paper credited the photographers by name (though not by their Instagram handles).  However, it didn’t inform them their work would be published – let alone on the front page.  It doesn’t seem that The Times paid any of the contributors.  But then they didn’t promise to do so in their request for submissions.  Nor did they state their terms of use.

Still in all, a very interesting development.  We hope Ms. Hawkins-Gaar will follow up on the story and also get some comments from The Times.

Photography is for Anyone – and Everyone

“Is photography meant only for the rich?”  That’s a question we recently stumbled upon in this Quora thread.

Our answer: a resounding “of course not!”

There’s no denying you can spend a good deal of money on pro equipment.  But inexpensive digital cameras do an excellent job too.  (Check out the side-by-side comparison on Quora of photos taken with both professional grade and inexpensive cameras.)  And if you’ve got a smartphone, you’ve already got a great camera in your hand.

This is a good thing.  It facilitates the on-the-spot documentation of the events and issues of our times. It allows us to visually connect near and far, and to foster robust dialog. And we believe it helps more people appreciate the challenge of creating truly great photographs.

There can be a world of difference between “taking” pictures and “making” pictures.  The great thing about photography is that by studying subject matter, lighting & composition, and shooting as often as possible, you can improve tremendously.  Photography can be very personal.  But it is also a skill that can be honed through practice.

That’s where YuVue comes in.  Our aim is to democratize the licensing opportunities for any visual image maker, whether professional or aspiring pro.  Photography is meant for everyone – just as proper compensation for the use of a great picture should be.

New Year’s Resolutions: Connect with Brands and Get the Most Value from Social Media

by William Fisher

Thanks to everyone for making our 2014 Kickstarter campaign a success!  Looking ahead to 2015, we’re focused on how to create the greatest possible value for YuVue contributors by maximizing the number of licensing opportunities for your work.  To that end, we have two New Year’s resolutions that we’ll be putting into practice during our Beta launch later this month: enable you to connect with brands, and make it easy for you to share your content on social media.

The commercial upside of connecting with brands is obvious: these companies have significant budgets and need real images of real people using their products.  Enabling our contributors to license their branded content isn’t intended to detract from our core editorial goal of connecting you with broadcasters, print and Web publishers.  It’s just a way for us to extend our network of buyers beyond media outlets to include other kinds of companies that value – and are willing to pay for – great photos and videos.  An excellent article in Ars Technica illustrates how photographers are being commissioned by brands and are selling sponsorships on their Instagram feeds.  “They shoot for advertisers, make money, and build a reputation for connecting with people on social media (an ability that still eludes many marketers.)”  A lot of these photographers are professionals who are – or could be – doing ad work elsewhere.  For them Instagram is just another venue for executing a campaign – and therefore one more business opportunity.  

At YuVue, we view Instagram as a potential marketplace for all our contributors.  Our goal is to help you use it to reach the broadest possible paying audience – whether your imagery is editorial (i.e illustrates a news story) or commercial (i.e. promotes a product).  Social media platforms are “monetizable places to hang your work,” and we want to integrate YuVue more closely with as many of them as possible.  That’s why we’re developing tools that will enable you to share your YuVue photo and video contributions on Instagram, Twitter and elsewhere, while ensuring that their attribution (and your copyright) is secure and that the companies that discover your work on these platforms can license them.  We will also be introducing a very neat way for you to submit content to YuVue via other social media networks.

In the coming weeks we’ll be announcing partnerships for our Beta test and beyond – with professional organizations, companies and publishers.  Meanwhile, we’ll be keeping our New Year’s resolutions as a way of growing our community of contributors.

Authentication – Check Your Facts!

by William Fisher

One of the most frequently asked questions we get at YuVue is: how do you authenticate photos and videos?  Verifying the authenticity of contributions (so-called user generated content or UGC) has been a major obstacle to professional media outlets’ widespread adoption of photo and video content gathered by eye-witnesses.

At YuVue, our solution is based around the built-in capabilities of the smartphone: date/time stamping and geo-location.  These features allows us automatically to establish the provenance of a photo or video, and our platform can detect any modification to the images.  Our ability to get in touch with the contributor directly (or to put a media organization in direct contact with the contributor) provides a further tool for verification, as does our team’s ability to reach out to third-parties, which include a handful of companies who specialize in UGC authentication.

A commitment to constantly improving means of validation, authentication, and fact-checking is central to YuVue.  And we believe that, ironically, the proliferation of UGC will ultimately make the task easier, as the increasing volume of POV content will enhance our ability to use multiple submissions to “triangulate” the accuracy of images.

We’re not alone in that view.  Check out Matthew Ingram’s article in today’s GigaOm on why – in spite of some recent high-profile exceptions – media coverage has never been more accurate.