Monday, July 25, 2016

A Publisher’s Guide to Facebook’s News Feed Updates


By now, many of you will have read about Facebook’s news feed updates, which were made public today.

As well as listing ‘News Feed Values‘, there was also some news for publishers about how content is to be displayed in the news feed.

These updates are amongst the most significant for publishers that we’ve seen. However, while this is obviously big news for many different sites and online news providers, those with strong audience development strategies won’t be too worried. From now on, here’s what Facebook says the news feed will particularly value.
  • Friends and family posts. “Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to — starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook.” Increasingly, those posts will be towards the top of users’ feeds.
  • Informative posts. But not just from friends and family. “This could be a post about a current event, a story about your favorite celebrity, a piece of local news, or a recipe,” says the statement.
  • Entertaining posts. Again, these posts can come from a range of sources, from friends’ photos to a backstage live video from a famous TV anchor.
It’s important to note that this announcement does not signal anything like a wholesale depreciation of news content on Facebook. Strong stories that are interesting, original and well-packaged resonate like few other posts on social media and it’s hard to see that changing in the short term. As an example, see the reaction to BuzzFeed’s recent publication of a rape victim’s courtroom impact statement, or the New York Times’ gun control editorial after the San Bernardino shootings, each of which attracted hundreds of thousands of engagements. As long Facebook users continue to engage with and share these types of stories, it’s unlikely that they’ll be completely demoted in news feeds. Indeed, if the algorithm deems these stories to be particularly ‘informative,’ they may perform even stronger.

What is likely to change is the way that readers find those stories. The update means that what your friends post will have even more resonance in your feed, while pages that you like, but don’t interact with all that much will probably do a disappearing act.

With that in mind, here are three things that we think publishers should be focusing on.

1. ‘Organic’ engagement is the best way to break into the news feed

The first value that Facebook outlines looks to make the news feed a more personable experience for each user. Stories that are shared directly to a friend’s page or directly to the news feed are more likely to be surfaced.

The idea is that a user may be more inclined to stop and read a story if it’s posted by their friend, rather than a page. For publishers that already see healthy levels of ‘organic sharing’ (such as use of share buttons), this won’t be an issue. Other publishers will need to think about how important their main Facebook page is in delivering engagements and clicks overall. Are people finding your content on your site and through friends’ sharing habits, or is overwhelmingly through your main Facebook pages?

Your main Facebook page should be treated as a strategic distribution point. Many publishers will have worked hard to build a large fan base on their main page, and that is often a source of pride. But social media teams will understand that not every one of those fans is going to see everything your page posts. Given the competition for space in news feeds, it’s prudent to think about how relevant each post is to the wider audience. Hot button topics that unite the varied interests of your audience? Probably. More obscure features that speak to a very specific readership? Maybe not.

You should see your main page as a flagship account, broadcasting the best of your content with an analytics-driven approach.

2. Look to engagement metrics to help inform strategy

Sites of all types will be familiar with using different analytics to help figure out how their site’s content has performed. Now, engagement analytics can help give publishers more guidance on Facebook, too.

Facebook anticipates that the update “may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages.” If you’re unsure as to how much of an impact the changes are going to have, careful analysis of your analytics over the next few months will be important. One way of doing this is by figuring out how your total likes and shares are growing over time, with the aim of emulating the successes, and learning from the underachieving posts.

We track and log all likes, shares, comments and other reactions
 on Facebook posts and Web-based stories, allowing us to pinpoint what’s working on the platform in terms of content. Our clients use our data to figure out which of their stories and posts performed strongest on Facebook over specific periods, and how they’re doing against their competitors.

By looking at the structure of stories that attracted high levels of shares, it’s possible to learn more about the type of stories that perform particularly strongly on Facebook.

3. Establishing a niche audience becomes even more important

If there’s one thing that the digital media wars have taught us over the last few years, it’s that specialization matters.

That means providing a very high level of expertise in specific areas, like the Financial Times, or creating must-reads for your target audience, like Politico.

Our clients stress the importance of getting close to their audience as a number one factor in their editorial decisions. To that end, we’ve seen BILD in Germany break out their content streams by page in an effort to really connect with their more niche audiences. Meanwhile, CNN en Espanol have a social trends team that monitors what their online readers are sharing and talking about around the clock.

By listening closely to what your readers connect with each day, there’s a better chance that they’re going to feel inclined to pass your stories on to their wider network. Publishers need to hone in more and more on the content topics and themes that their readers are interested in talking about, as well as when they’re interested in them. As the News Feed Values manifesto states, ‘authentic stories are the ones that resonate most.’ A combination of good editorial judgment and distribution savvy is needed.

For anyone interested in cultivating a loyal online audience, those steps will continue to resonate.

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Snowden Partners With Hacker to Design iPhone Case That Detects Spying


Snowden iphone case
National Security Agency whistleblower and fugitive Edward Snowden is getting into the hardware business.

Snowden, who has received asylum in Russia, has teamed up with American hacker Andrew “Bunnie” Huang to design an iPhone case that can detect when the handset’s radio is transmitting. Essentially, the case will let the owner of the phone know if he or she is being spied on. The device was designed with journalists, lawyers and human rights advocates in mind.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 8.27.25 AM

“Unfortunately, journalists can be betrayed by their own tools. Their smartphones, an essential tool for communicating with sources and the outside world–as well as for taking photos and authoring articles–are also the perfect tracking device,” reads a report from Snowden and Huang. “Legal barriers barring the access to unwitting phone transmissions are failing because of the precedent set by the US’s “third-party doctrine,” which holds that metadata on such signals enjoys no legal protection. As a result, governments and powerful political institutions are gaining access to comprehensive records of phone emissions unwittingly broadcast by device owners. This leaves journalists, activists, and rights workers in a position of vulnerability.”

Here is how the device works: If the owner puts his or her phone in airplane mode, that would normally eliminate signals going in or out. If signals are still emitting, the device will detect them and notify the user that he or she is under surveillance.

“Our work proposes to monitor radio activity using a measurement tool contained in a phone-mounted battery case,” reads the report.“We call this tool an introspection engine. The introspection engine has the capability to alert a reporter of a dangerous situation in real-time. The core principle is simple: if the reporter expects radios to be off, alert the user when they are turned on.”

The device, which will have an introspection engine and will “look and behave like a typical battery case for the iPhone 6” runs on open-source software. Signal monitoring is done independently of the phone’s processor — this helps to prevent false positive readings. The device can also detect unwanted Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections.

The case, thus far, is a prototype and is not available for sale. But that could change if the prototype proves successful.

“Over the coming year, we hope to prototype and verify the introspection engine’s abilities,” the report reads. “As the project is run largely through volunteer efforts on a shoestring budget, it will proceed at a pace reflecting the practical limitations of donated time. If the prototype proves successful, the FPF may move to seek the necessary funding to develop and maintain a supply chain. This would enable the FPF to deploy modified iPhone 6 devices for field service among journalists in high-risk situations.”

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Facebook Updates Boost Awareness and Sales


Image courtesy of (arztsamui)/
Simply put: we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services.”

Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook
Facebook is constantly improving on its platform by updating its algorithms, supplying new and exciting features to its users, and providing business owners with a plethora of tools to expand their reaches and amplify sales.

Of course, the company does have its own mission to thrive, but in following through with that objective, the social juggernaut has given countless companies a means to succeed in the digital market; especially through advertising. These days, running ad campaigns on Facebook is essential for small businesses for a myriad of different reasons. And Facebook has recently released a variety of updates for ad campaigns, metrics enhancements, and new tools to improve your promotional prowess.

It’s time to get up to speed on Facebook’s latest business-centric offerings and what is coming down the pipeline for social advertisers.

Strengthened Slideshow Ads

Late last year, Facebook announced a new ad format for promoters to leverage; slideshow ads. These five to 15 second promos gave advertisers with limited production resources a means to create compelling ads. Facebook even gave advertisers access to its Shutterstock library to make these ads even more accessible to generate. Additionally, these endorsements were perfectly suited for mobile, a constantly growing sector, as the ads could be up to five times smaller in size, making them perfect for slow mobile connections.

Facebook is now making these ads even more compelling by announcing that slideshows would not only be able to accommodate text overlay, but audio overlay as well. In addition, the site is supplying creators with a simple “video-to-slideshow” tool, access to its Pages Photo Library, and the ability to create slideshow ads for a mobile device. This allows for compelling ads to be created with nearly zero resources, quickly, easily, and on-the-go. These new features are currently available to all advertisers.

Local Awareness Augmentation

Facebook has offered local awareness ads for a couple of years now. The ads help to drive business to brick and mortar locations by displaying the store nearest the viewer along with calls-to-action like “Get Directions.” The social site stepped these ads up a notch last year by allowing advertisers with multiple locations to create dynamic local ads for a single campaign.

Facebook is now taking this technology further still with its inclusion of a native store locator, which will reside inside the ad.

The reason for this new feature is that store locators on business websites are notoriously discouraging for people on mobile devices. These often require the screen to be resized, multiple clicks and so forth.

With Facebook’s native store locator, people can see all of a store’s locations within a map as well as information like address, phone number, store hours, and more without ever leaving the ad. Native store locators are currently available for any local awareness ad.

In-Store Visits Improvements

Another tie-in with Facebook’s local awareness ads is improvements to the company’s in-store visits metrics.

Measuring in-store visits coming from ads has been a challenging endeavor, but current technologies are allowing advertisers and business owners to gain a more comprehensive picture of the impact their ad dollars actually have in the real world.

In addition to current metrics, promoters will now gain visibility on the number of individuals who visit a store after viewing a Facebook ad as well as the ability to improve ad delivery and targeting based on store drop-ins. Facebook is also adding features to assist in analyzing these results, which will help business owners optimize future ad campaigns.

Much like Google, these visits are an estimated metric derived from individuals who have location services enabled with the social media site. While this additional information is not yet available to the masses, it will be in the coming months.

Connecting Ads and Sales

Another real-world performance metric from Facebook comes in the form of its new Offline Conversions API. With this technology, business will be able to couple in-store or over-the-phone transactions with their Facebook advertisements. The Offline Conversions API will allow for transactional information from a customer database to be tied with Ads Reporting for further understanding of how social media adverts impact in-store sales. Promoters will be able to work with partners like IBM or Facebook to:
  • View real-time transaction results;
  • Acquire demographic awareness on those who are buying products;
  • Optimize later ad campaigns.
This service is currently in testing and will be available sometime in the future.

The Creative Hub

In an effort to help marketers generate the most compelling and effective ads possible, as well as aid in the transition to mobile marketing, Facebook is bringing forth its Creative Hub.

This service is set to be a sandbox interface where businesses can experiment with various ad formats to establish what will work best for their efforts. Ads can be previewed in desktop or mobile formatting as well as shared with relevant parties through a preview URL so that potential ads can be reviewed and discussed before publication.

The hub will also provide ad creators will various materials to assist in the creation of ads that will perform well. The service will feature an archive of content, case studies, best practices, and more to help in generating ads that convert.

You can currently add your e-mail to the waitlist to gain access to the hub.
Facebook has a full arsenal of tools waiting for business to leverage; everything from live video to ads, publishing tools, sales features, and more can all be found on the one-stop business marketing tool. Check out these new features to see how impactful your ads are, how they can be improved, and what other types can help captivate new audiences.

How have local awareness ads impacted your business? Which unreleased feature are you most excited about?

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Facebook’s Instant Articles Coming to Messenger


Instant Articles in Messenger 2

Instant Articles in Messenger

Instant Articles, which brings entire news stories and in-depth articles to Facebook’s news feed, will first appear in Messenger for Android, while support for iOS will be available “in the coming weeks,” said Facebook product manager Josh Roberts.

“Since launching Instant Articles to publishers around the world, we’ve seen clear evidence they provide a better reading experience for people on Facebook,” he said. “People are responding to the faster, more immersive experience, so we’re excited to bring Instant Articles to even more mobile surfaces across Facebook. When you tap on an Instant Article link in Facebook, it loads up to 10 times faster than a standard mobile web article, so it was important to make sure everyone on Messenger could have the same great reading experience.”

As Instant Articles rolls out over the next few weeks, Messenger users will see a lightning bolt on the top right corner of some links, which means it is a link to an Instant Article.
Publishers already using the feature will have the Instant Articles version of their articles rendered when its URL is shared in Messenger. Publishers looking to join the Instant Articles program can do so here.

Facebook said Instant Articles offers publishers more control over their articles, brand experience and monetization opportunities. For instance they have the ability to bring their own direct-sold ads and keep 100 percent of the revenue, and track data on the ads served through their existing ad measurement systems. Publishers will also be handed the ability to track data and traffic through analytics tools like comScore.

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Friday, July 15, 2016

EU Launches Third Round of Anti-Trust Charges Against Google


Google Headquarters
The European Commission is continuing its campaign against Google with new anti-trust charges.
The regulatory body today officially accused the Alphabet-owned company of suppressing competition and hurting consumers due to “systematically favoring” its own comparison shopping service in its search results.

The Commission has also sent a Statement of Objection to Google accusing the tech firm of restricting third-party websites from advertising with its competitors.

“Google has come up with many innovative products that have made a difference to our lives,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a press release.

“But that doesn’t give Google the right to deny other companies the chance to compete and innovate. Today, we have further strengthened our case that Google has unduly favoured its own comparison shopping service in its general search result pages. It means consumers may not see the most relevant results to their search queries. We have also raised concerns that Google has hindered competition by limiting the ability of its competitors to place search adverts on third party websites, which stifles consumer choice and innovation.”

Google will now have the chance to respond to the Commission’s concerns.

Vestager said she would consider Google’s arguments “carefully” before deciding if she will move ahead with either case.

“But if our investigations conclude that Google has broken EU antitrust rules, the Commission has a duty to act to protect European consumers and fair competition on European markets,” she added.
The latest charges come just two months after the Commission slapped Google with a $3.4-billion anti-trust fine. The fine was the conclusion of a six-year investigation into the tech firm’s search practices. The amount Google will be fined could actually end up being higher than the $3.4 billion because the EU can fine the company as much as 10 percent of its annual sales — at least $6 billion in Google’s case.

Vestager, in April, also filed charges against Google, accusing it of breaching anti-trust law with its Android operating system.

In a formal Statement of Objections, the EU said a nearly-three-year investigation found that Google uses a strategy on mobile devices that reinforces its dominance in general Internet searches.

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Appeals Court Sides With Microsoft in Privacy Battle With DOJ


Image courtesy of (Stuart Miles) /
Microsoft is the victor of a long-drawn out battle with the U.S. government after a federal appeals court said the company cannot be forced to hand over customer e-mails stored in overseas data centers.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan voted 3-0 in favor of Microsoft, effectively leaving the U.S. Department of Justice out in the cold.

Circuit Judge Susan Carney said Microsoft had “the better of the argument,” adding that the data the tech firm has stored on servers outside the U.S. do not fall under the Stored Communications Act (SCA) as the Justice Department intimated.

“We conclude that Congress did not intend the SCA’s warrant provisions to apply extraterritorially. The focus of those provisions is protection of a user’s privacy interests,” the ruling reads.  “Accordingly, the SCA does not authorize a U.S. court to issue and enforce an SCA warrant against a United States‐based service provider for the contents of a customer’s electronic communications stored on servers located outside the United States. The SCA warrant in this case may not lawfully be used to compel Microsoft to produce to the government the contents of a customer’s e‐mail account stored exclusively in Ireland. Because Microsoft has otherwise complied with the Warrant, it has no remaining lawful obligation to produce materials to the government.”

The battle began back in December 2013 when the DOJ filed a warrant that said Microsoft must comply with a December warrant to nab a customer’s e-mail account data stored at a center in Dublin, Ireland. The agency said it wanted access to the individual’s e-mails because they were connected with a criminal investigation.

In 2014, Chief U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska ordered Microsoft to comply with the warrant. When the company refused, it was held in contempt for its failure to comply with the order, although the firm was not fined pending the outcome of the appeal.

Microsoft chief legal officer Brad Smith said the company is pleased by the appeals court’s ruling.
“We obviously welcome today’s decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit,” he said. “The decision is important for three reasons: it ensures that people’s privacy rights are protected by the laws of their own countries; it helps ensure that the legal protections of the physical world apply in the digital domain; and it paves the way for better solutions to address both privacy and law enforcement needs.”

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