Facebook

Tim Bradshaw

Mark Zuckerberg’s push to make Facebook a mobile-first company seems to have paid off. Wednesday’s fourth-quarter earnings revealed that it now makes more than half of its advertising revenues from mobile devices, beating Wall Street’s forecasts and sending its stock up as much as 12 per cent in after-hours trading.
Hannah Kuchler and Tim Bradshaw reported from the earnings call as Zuck and his team talked about the opportunities in personalisation, messaging and artificial intelligence. 

Here’s a much-anticipated feature from Facebook that marketers may love, if not its users.

The online social network has just announced it is beginning to test a video format for advertisers, where videos will begin playing as users scroll down to them in their news feeds. Clicking on them will turn on the sound. Read more

Every six months Mediacom, the media buying agency, surveys 1,000 kids in the UK and asks the name of their favourite website. The big story over recent years has been the decline of Facebook.

In 2010 nearly half of kids (aged 8-16) said it was their favourite site – now that number is just one in six. The top performer is YouTube, which is quoted as the favourite of more kids than Facebook and Twitter combined (see graph below).

That’s interesting for a couple of reasons. Read more

Mark Zuckerberg accused the US government of bad PR, saying it failed to communicate the balance of security and economic interests behind its internet surveillance efforts – in turn creating a massive PR problem for Facebook.

“I think the government blew it,” he said at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. “It’s my job and our job to protect everyone who uses Facebook and the information they share with us. It’s our government’s job to protect all of us and also to protect our freedoms and protect the economy and companies. And I think they did a bad job of balancing those things.” Read more

Federal judges evaluated the privacy and free speech implications of a California law that would create a database of online identities for sex offenders, noting the shift in public sentiment around such data collection since voters passed the law last November and today, as revelations about the US’s monitoring of online communications continue to emerge.

“We’re living in a post-Snowden world,” said Judge Jay Bybee of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, referencing the surveillance practices revealed by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden and questioning whether a database of email addresses and online identities intended to help solve sex crimes could be used to monitor people’s political speech.

Mr Bybee was one of three judges hearing oral arguments in a case about Proposition 35, the California law that requires convicted sex offenders to register their email addresses and user names for online news sites and social networks. The initiative was passed by a majority of voters last November, after receiving financial backing from Chris Kelly, Facebook’s chief privacy officer between 2005 and 2009. Read more

Facebook has agreed to pay $20m to settle a class action lawsuit, after it included users’ names and photos in paid advertisements.

Some 614,000 users who appeared in a Sponsored Story on the site without giving their consent will now receive $15 each. That’s slightly more than anticipated under an earlier proposal, partly because lawyers and activists will receive less.

For Facebook, whose market cap has just surpassed $100bn, this is hardly an Erin Brockovich moment. But it’s another reminder that there’s a fine line between social advertising – which uses your friends’ buying habits to influence your own – and anti-social advertising, which just annoys everyone. Read more

Facebook will report second quarter earnings on Wednesday, with Wall Street expecting $1.62bn in revenues and 14 cents earnings per share.

Analysts will be looking for signs of increased advertising spending among small businesses and in international markets, as growth from large US advertisers is believed to have levelled off. Read more

African-American teenagers are more likely to use Twitter than their white counterparts, according to a study out today from the Pew Research Center.

Researchers noted a significant jump in Twitter use among teens in general, but found that 39 per cent of African-American teens used the microblogging site compared to 23 per cent of white teens. Read more

Wall Street is anticipating another positive earnings report from Facebook after markets close on Wednesday and the social network states first quarter results.

Analysts expect to see a bump in revenues from advertising products launched last year, and hope to hear plans for future ad products, in particular, video advertising and ad plans for Facebook Home, the new super app Facebook launched for Android phones in April.

Though business in the first quarter tends to slow compared to the preceding quarter, which included the holidays and the US presidential election, analysts are expecting 36 per cent revenue growth year on year. Consensus estimates are for 13 cents in earnings per share on $1.44bn in revenue. Morgan Stanley predicts mobile advertising revenues will be $314m for the quarter, representing 25 per cent of overall advertising revenues, up from 23 per cent in the last quarter. Read more

“It’s free and always will be.” That’s what newcomers to Facebook are told when they sign up online. So there is some surprise that the site is now charging some UK users between 71p and £10.68 to send messages to people they don’t know.

The scheme was launched in December in the US, but the UK roll-out is a strong signal that Facebook believes it is actually a runner. Never mind the critics who called the idea “almost too ridiculous to believe”. The site already charges users to “promote” their posts among their friends and followers. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Facebook is an incredible innovator, but one of its greatest strengths is its ability to absorb – the less charitable might say copy – its competitors’ best features. We saw it with Twitter and status updates; with Foursquare and Places; with Pinterest and last autumn’s Collections tool; and most recently Snapchat and the Poke app.

That’s fine when startups are nipping at your heels, but does that work when you’re competing against the tech industry’s biggest platforms?

 Read more

If I didn’t already obsessively look at my phone in search of distraction, while waiting for the train or a friend who’s running late, Facebook has just made it ten times easier to get a quick fix.

With the new Facebook “Home” for Android, photos and status updates from my Facebook newsfeed will be the first thing I see when I pick up my phone. (I’ll have to explain the demotion to my cat, Lucas, whose yellow eyes will no longer stare up at me from the screen on first swipe).

Instead, a rolling stream of photos passes over the screen as they are being uploaded and posted by friends. If I want a closer look, I just tap once. One more tap and I can see who Liked or commented on the photo, or type a comment myself. Read more


Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to turn Facebook into a “mobile first” company faced an important test on Thursday as the company unveiled what was expected to be its own mobile software platform: a version of the Android operating system that puts the social networking service front and centre.

But would it be enough to give Facebook a firmer foothold in a smartphone world increasingly dominated Apple, Google and Samsung?

 

The digerati are having fun with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s ruling that US companies can use social media to distribute market-sensitive information such as earnings reports. “Facebook Flap Forces SEC Into 21st Century,” says Forbes.

Not so fast. The US regulator’s decision to drop its inquiry into Reed Hastings, Netflix’s chief executive, who boasted about new viewing figures on his personal Facebook page, is only an incremental advance into the new millennium. It makes sense for the SEC to acknowledge the growing use of social media (I’m guessing more people saw Mr Hastings’ Facebook post than have viewed any regulatory announcement in corporate history), but I don’t think the decision will prompt fearful CEOs to tweet their earnings much more than they do already – and, even if it does, it won’t make much difference to investors.

 Read more

Chris Nuttall

King.com’s rebranding of itself this week as just King is hardly innovative, but it does sum up the publisher’s current position in casual games.

Its Candy Crush Saga is the most popular game on Facebook by daily active users – with 14m players, according to Appdata – while also being the top-grossing app on iTunes and the top free app on Google Play. Read more

Big data is subject to much hype. The ability to manipulate vast swaths of information at warp speed is transforming businesses across the world. But as with all technologies there are risks. All users of technology should take note: with big data comes big responsibility.

A recent study I jointly led concludes it is possible to create instantaneous and surprisingly detailed psycho-demographic user profiles – containing statistically valid information about an individual’s race, personality and IQ scores, happiness, substance use, sexuality, political views and religious beliefs – using only publicly available Facebook Likes.

 Read more

The hashtag has already found its way into real-life conversations. Similar to airquotes, some people – mostly young – form the square number symbol (#) popularised on Twitter with their index and middle fingers as they talk, to make a humorous or sarcastic point, or reference a cultural meme.

Now Facebook may want to claim the hashtag for itself. Read more

Interesting commentary from around the Web on the tech story that made headlines this week.

A more visually engaging newsfeed with additional streams was the focus of Facebook’s redesign this week. Bigger photos, however, didn’t bode well for a few tech observers who argued that the facelift won’t make up for deeper problems with the social networking site’s algorithm. Read more

Blake Ross, a director of product at Facebook, has signalled his departure from the company, adding his name to a growing list of employees to decamp in the months after the social network’s botched initial public offering.

Mr Ross offered vague plans for his next steps in a post on his Facebook page: “It’s just time for me to try new things,” he said. Read more

There is an empathy gap in technology development. In the analytic, data-driven world of Silicon Valley, emotions often do not get factored into the latest product design.

This comes down to the way engineers and technicians think, says Anthony Jack, the director of the mind, brain, and consciousness lab at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. The more people exercise the analytic functions of their brains, the less empathetic they become. Likewise, when we empathise, we turn off the analytic function of the brain.

“There is a cognitive tension between these two different types of understanding,” he said. Read more