Twitter pulls a Facebook on Video





Twitter launched a new feature that adds images and video previews to a user’s timeline automatically, a move that is clearly designed to appeal to advertisers — but will it wind up irritating more users than it attracts?


Twitter quietly rolled out a new feature — or irritant, depending on how you look at it — for users of its website on Tuesday, as well as for its iOS and Android apps: photo and video previews now show up as expanded images directly in a tweet, instead of requiring users to click on a link. Some fans of the move welcomed the new feature, but others seemed taken aback by all of the multimedia filling their streams, and by the Facebook-style feel it gives to Twitter.

While the company said in a blog post that it made the changes so that users could enjoy their friends’ photos and videos more easily, it seems fairly obvious that the move is also being driven by a desire to boost Twitter’s advertising revenue. That’s the same thing Facebook sees when it looks at Instagram, as Om notes, and presumably one of the reasons it offered — and then quickly removed — the ability to turn off auto-playing of embedded video clips.

Twitter allows users of its iOS and Android apps to turn off image previews, and also to restrict potentially offensive or adult images, and the Tweetdeck desktop app has a number of controls for blocking or downsizing previews, but there is no such setting for the web version — and most users accept default settings in any case, as Twitter probably knows (the new feature only applies to photos that are hosted by Twitter and to Vine videos).

Here come the banner ads and brand videos

In addition to appealing to advertisers, who now get to insert what amount to banner ads into their streams (and into the streams of users as well, via promoted tweets) the feature is likely aimed at attracting new users and encouraging them to use Twitter — something the tech industry calls “on-boarding.” And some, including former Twitter director of platform Ryan Sarver, pointed out that anyone who is irritated can always block people who over-use the feature.

Despite all of that advice, however, it’s obvious what is happening to Twitter, as it prepares to go public in a couple of weeks and tries to come up with reasons to justify its estimated $15-billion market value: like Facebook, it is focusing on advertising, and in order to do that it has to push more and more content into the stream, and boost engagement levels as high as possible.

But will users be happy, or annoyed?

The problem with doing this, of course, is that it could wind up annoying as many users as it attracts — or more. There have already been anecdotal reports of Facebook use declining, with some users blaming the abundance of advertising, and a group of advertisers told Forrester Research recently that the effectiveness of their ads is a lot lower than they expected, in part because of the noise on the network and a lack of engagement.

In a lot of ways, Twitter is going through much the same transition that the web has since its early days: many pages used to consist largely of text, in part because bandwidth constraints and browsers didn’t allow for much in the way of imagery. As the web matured, pages began to include more and more pictures and even video, in an attempt to get more users to click — especially on ads. But that never really happened, and in the process the web got quite ugly.

Twitter is also arguably in more danger of suffering from what some call the MySpace effect (an excess of ads and gaudy images) than some other services, because until fairly recently it was such a stripped-down, text-heavy experience. Then along came expanded tweets or Twitter “cards,” and the writing was on the wall. But will the number of enthusiastic advertisers make up for the number of irritated and/or overwhelmed users?

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Shutterstock / olly


You Tube Now Allowing Creators to Charge for their Videos




More creators can now take advantage of YouTube’s paid subscriptions. As of Tuesday, free channels that have over 10,000 subscribers and meet some other criteria can create paid channels and charge monthly fees for them.

YouTube has expanded the pilot program, first launched in May, that lets select partners sell subscriptions to their channels. It’s now available to all channels that have over 10,000 subscribers and meet some other requirements.

Creators have to launch a new paid channel — they can’t simply start charging for their existing one.

The company announced on its blog Tuesday:

“Today is the next step in offering you more ways to monetize your content through paid channels, now available to eligible partners in good standing with a channel that has least 10,000 existing subscribers. In addition to the 10 countries where paid channels are already available, you can also create and subscribe to paid channels in Mexico, with more countries launching in coming months.”

“Eligible” partners are those that have AdSense linked to their YouTube accounts and meet some other requirements. The countries where paid channels are available: The U.S., UK, Canada, France, Spain, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, South Korea.

Users will also have another way to find these paid channels: They are now accessible from YouTube’s mobile site and can be subscribed to there. YouTube says it will “keep adding more devices from which viewers can subscribe.”

YouTube launched its pilot subscription program in May, and the 71 existing paid channels are here, with subscriptions starting at $0.99 a month. Partners include Sesame Street, National Geographic Kids and Laugh Factory, among others. As my colleague Janko Roettgers has written, a paid subscription strategy will likely work best for creators who really understand YouTube and aren’t just using it as one outlet of many for their videos: “Outside brands that want to use YouTube as an additional platform to sell their content may have a much harder time — which is why it was so surprising that the first slate of subscription channels largely consists of outsiders.” Now that the program is opened up to more creators, it’s possible that we’ll see more YouTube “insiders” succeeding with subscriptions.

YouTube still hasn’t said when it will open up the paid channel option to all creators.

This post was clarified to note that creators have to launch new paid channels; they can’t simply start charging for their existing ones.

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