• +598 29008192
  • info@servinfo.com.uy

Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

CNET UK podcast 543: Elon Musk's poetry corner – CNET

Katie Collins and Richard Trenholm get poetic with Elon Musk and spy hard with Jack Ryan, while Andy reports from Gamescom.
Source: CNET

Learn more about the future of robotics at Disrupt SF

What’s next for robotics? At at Disrupt SF, we’ll be joined by four experts to discuss how new technologies are changing the field.

Those experts include Peter Barrett, founder and CTO and Playground, a venture fund and design studio focused on hardware startups. Barrett is a 30-year veteran of the tech industry, whose accomplishments include developing Cinepak (video compression software that was included as part of Apple QuickTime) and working at WebTV — which was acquired by Microsoft, where he led Internet TV efforts for more than a decade.

We’ll also be joined by Helen Boniske, a partner at early stage hardware investor Lemnos. Before joining Lemnos, Boniske was a front office executive for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The panel will also include Claire Delaunay, Nvidia’s vice president of engineering. Delaunay was previously robotics program lead at Google, co-founder of autonomous vehicle startup Otto and director of engineering at Uber. At Nvidia, she leads the Isaac robotics initiative.

The final panelist will be Cyril Ebersweiler. Ebersweiler is founder and managing director of Hax, a hardware accelerator with offices in both Shenzhen and San Francisco. He’s also a general partner at global venture capital firm SOSV. And somehow, he pulls off describing himself as a “visionary punk” on his LinkedIn profile.

Disrupt SF will take place in San Francisco’s Moscone Center West from September 5 to 7. (The robotics panel will be at 1:15pm on the 5th.) You can still buy tickets right here.

Source: TechCrunch

Weak passwords let a hacker access internal Sprint staff portal

It’s not been a great week for cell carriers. EE was hit with two security bugs and T-Mobile admitted a data breach. Now, Sprint is the latest phone giant to admit a security lapse, TechCrunch has learned.

Using two sets of weak, easy-to-guess usernames and passwords, a security researcher accessed an internal Sprint staff portal. Because the portal’s log-in page didn’t use two-factor authentication, the researcher — who did not want to be named — navigated to pages that could have allowed access customer account data.

Sprint is the fourth largest US cell network with 55 million customers.

TechCrunch passed on details and screenshots of the issue to Sprint, which confirmed the findings in an email.

“After looking into this, we do not believe customer information can be obtained without successful authentication to the site,” said a Sprint spokesperson.

“Based on the information and screenshots provided, legitimate credentials were utilized to access the site. Regardless, the security of our customers is a top priority, and our team is working diligently to research this issue and immediately changed the passwords associated with these accounts,” the spokesperson said.

We’re not disclosing the passwords, but suffice to say they were not difficult to guess.

The first set of credentials let the researcher into a prepaid Sprint employee portal that gave staff access to Sprint customer data — as well as Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile, which are Sprint subsidiaries. The researcher used another set of credentials to gain access to a part of the website, which he said gave him access to a portal for customer account data.

A screenshot shared with TechCrunch showed that anyone with access to this portal allowed the user to conduct a device swap, change plans and add-ons, replenish a customer’s account, check activation status and view customer account information.

A screenshot showing an internal customer portal.

All a user would need is a customer’s mobile phone number and a four-digit PIN number, which could be bypassed by cycling through every possible combination.

The researcher said there were no limits on the number of PIN attempts.

Account PIN numbers are highly sensitive as they can be used to transfer ownership from one person to another. That gives hackers an easier route to carry out a “SIM swapping” attack, which target and hijack cell phone numbers. Hackers use a mix of techniques — such as calling up customer service and impersonating a customer, all the way to recruiting telecom employees to hijack SIM cards from the inside. In hijacking phone numbers, hackers can break into online accounts to steal vanity Instagram usernames, and intercept codes for two-factor authentication to steal the contents of cryptocurrency wallets.

SIM swapping is becoming a big, albeit illegal business. An investigation by Motherboard revealed that hundreds of people across the US have had their cellphone number stolen over the past few years. TechCrunch’s John Biggs was one such victim.

But the authorities are catching up to the growing threat of SIM swapping. Three SIM swappers have been arrested in the past few weeks alone.

Source: TechCrunch

The filmmakers behind ‘Searching’ know why you’re skeptical about computer screen movies

If you’re not sure about watching a whole movie where your point-of-view is limited to computer and smartphone screens, you’re not alone — “Searching” filmmakers Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian told me they had very similar reservations.

Chaganty said that when the pair was first approached by Timur Bekmambetov’s Bazelevs (the production company behind the “Unfriended” movies), the idea was to contribute a segment to an anthology of short films set on computer screens. That’s when they came up with the basic plot of “Searching” — after a teenaged girl goes missing, her father (played by John Cho) goes through the laptop she left behind in an effort to find her.

But then the studio proposed turning the idea into a feature film, with Chaganty directing, Ohanian producing and the two of them writing the screenplay.

“It was this incredible moment where no filmmaker ever gets this opportunity,” Chaganty recalled. “But in that instant, I said no.”

It seemed to him that they’d come up with a way to make the format more than a gimmick —but as a short film. He worried that extending it into a feature might “stretch it right back into a 90-minute gimmick.”

Chaganty and Ohanian kept talking about the idea, though, and ultimately moved forward after coming up with an opening sequence — which is indeed the opening sequence of the finished film. It’s a seven-minute montage of footage stored on a desktop computer, which doubles as a compressed (and surprisingly emotional) history of the Kim family.

“In that moment, there was a click, there was a lightbulb that went off, where we realized the potential of this format with this story,” Chaganty said. “And we realized, despite the films that had existed before, there was a way to make this feel not only new … but also for once emotional, engaging, cinematic.”

“Searching” is in limited release this weekend, before opening more widely on Friday, August 31. You can read more about how Chaganty and Ohanian actually made the movie in the edited transcript below.

Director/writer Aneesh Chaganty and Debra Messing on the set of “Searching.”

TechCrunch: How much of this started with the format, and how much with the kidnapping plot?

Sev Ohanian: Honestly, it was almost neither of those things. Aneesh and I are writing partners — he directs, I produce, we met each other at USC film school. We had made a two-minute short film that takes place on the Google Glasses, if you remember those at all? It kind of blew up — it was called “Seeds” — and one of the results of that was he got hired by Google to come out here and start writing commercials for one or two years.

I’ve been an indie producer for a couple of years now and I had an opportunity to meet with Timur Bekmambetov’s company Bazelevs. He had just released “Unfriended,” it was super successful, and he asked me if there were any filmmakers I wanted to collaborate with. I immediately thought of Aneesh, of course.

Aneesh Chaganty: When I came in and we had the meeting together, they were like, “We want to follow-up ‘Unfriended’ but we don’t want to follow it up with a traditional feature, we want to follow it up with an anthology feature, basically comprised of a bunch of shorts, all of which take place on computer screens.”

Immediately to me, that was a lot more interesting than a feature film, because we had seen all the feature films that took place on screens and none of them were proof that this was a direction we should be going in. A short film, though, I knew we could make it into not a gimmick, which I think all the other films were. [Pauses.] Sort of rude, but whatever.

About a month and a half later, we ended up texting each other with the idea for “Searching” — first as a short film, that’s how it started out. Same plot. Basically, Dad breaks into his daughter’s laptop to look at clues to find her.

We thought in eight minutes it could be not a gimmick and really cool and engaging and get out before anyone got bored. And we sent a few pages back to the company and I happened to be in Los Angeles a few weeks later for a Google photo shoot and they called us into a board room. All of a sudden, it was Sev and myself in front of a big table of execs and financiers and all that stuff.

They basically told us, “Hey, we don’t want to make the short.” We go, “Well, that’s a bummer.” And they go, “We want to turn it into a feature. Sev and Aneesh, you guys can write it, we’ll pay you guys to write it, Sev, you can produce it, Aneesh, we’ll pay you to direct your first feature, and we’ll finance the whole thing. What do you guys say?”

It was this incredible moment where no filmmaker ever gets this opportunity — but in that instant, I said no.

Ohanian: He said no!

Chaganty: On my left side, he was like kicking me, like, “What are you doing?” and everything like that. But in the moment, it felt like what we were being asked to do was take a concept that we had found to not be a gimmick and then stretch it right back into a 90-minute gimmick. And more than that, make a film not because ours had any artistic merit, but because another film was a hit. Not that ours deserved to exist.

And so for the right reasons I said no, and for the right reasons, Sev said, “We’ll be in touch.” And we left the room and we just kept talking about the enormity of the opportunity, obviously, and how that never happens, despite the parameters of what we were being asked to do. And we were like, “If we hit a wall, we hit a wall, but we should pay respect to this by talking.”

So for two months we just tried to figure out a way into the story and we couldn’t. Until one day, I was living in Williamsburg at the time, and I was texting Sev, and I was like, “Hey, I have a really random idea for an opening sequence.” And Sev goes, “I have an idea for an opening sequence.” And we get on the phone and we pitch each other the exact same opening scene. And to this day, that’s the opening sequence of the film, which is a standalone, very unique seven-minute montage that takes place over 16 years of a family’s life stored on their desktop computer.

In that moment, there was a click, there was a lightbulb that went off, where we realized the potential of this format with this story. And we realized, despite the films that had existed before, there was a way to make this feel not only new, but also for once emotional, engaging, cinematic.

Director/writer Aneesh Chaganty and John Cho on the set of “Searching.”

Ohanian: Our idea with the opening scene was, we wanted to create something that within five minutes, audiences would just forget that what they were watching was unfolding on screens and just get sucked into the story. Hopefully we did that.

Chaganty: So we put together a longer pitch, because immediately [after] that idea of the opening scene, we were like, “And I guess the next scene would be this, and the next scene would be this.” And we started plotting it out immediately. We had a structure very quickly.

We sent that structure back to the company, they bought in, they were like, “We’re paying you guys to do this.” I quit my job at Google, and I got on a flight, moved to L.A. and we made a movie.

TechCrunch: My understanding is that you had created a lot of what happens on the computer screen first, and then John and Debra [Messing] and the other actors were acting on webcams to a certain extent based on what you’d already created.

Chaganty: The way that we like to describe this movie is, we sort of made an animated movie, then shot a live action film, and then put the live action film within the animated film and just kept refining it and refining it.

The reason we started with an animated movie was Sev’s idea, and basically coming from a movie called “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.” It was made in a very similar way, in the sense that it was made before it was made.

Basically, what we realized was that in our film, there are two cameras. There’s all the footage that you’re seeing on this screen, and then there’s the way that you’re framing it, because the camera in our film is always moving around. We realized those two need to play with each other and also inform one another. We need to know what the final product is going to look like, before we even went to set.

So basically, seven weeks before we even hired the actors, we brought in the editors to the film and took them to a room about this big, with two iMac computers, and said, “Welcome home.” And literally just said, “Go.”

They started screen capturing the Internet, like doing text messages, voicemail, whatever, every single thing, zooming in, putting together a cut. And by the end of seven weeks, we had an hour-and-40-minute cut of the entire film, starring me playing every role — dad, daughter, brother, mother, father. You know, all of the friends, talking to myself. And we would understand how the camera was moving and everything, and how to make this movie.

We showed that cut to the crew the night before we started shooting and it was in that moment that they were like, “Oh, that’s the movie we’re making.” Because up until that point, this movie is impossible to talk about. Now we have a trailer, we have a poster, it’s all very easy to be like, “Oh, this is what we made.” But before that I’m saying, “We’re making a thriller, but it takes place on a computer screen, but it’s going to be really good.” And it’s really hard to sell people on that idea. So for them to finally see what we were thinking was very helpful.

And then on set, John’s character, who’s literally operating the computer in the movie, his eyeline — he needs to know exactly where every button is, where every cursor moves, where everything pops, where every video message comes in, he always needs to have a perfect eyeline in the film and know what’s happening. We literally needed to show him that temp video as he’s shooting, so he understands where what he’s shooting is actually being placed in the larger film.

Debra Messing and John Cho in “Searching.”

Ohanian: And the idea with that previz version of the movie was, we wanted the final version of the film to feel polished and cinematic and grab the audience’s attention. It’s a studio movie now with worldwide distribution, but it started off as an indie film. You’ve seen the movie: There’s aerial stuff, car stuff, crowd scenes, water, ravines. We shot it in 13 days.

And part of the idea of doing this version was that we wanted to spend every one of those days making them count as much as we can, and the final product would have consistency and good screen composition and mise en scene and all these amazing things. So it wouldn’t feel accidental, it would feel polished.

TechCrunch: When you were working with the actors, how much did they instinctively know what to do, and how much, given that this is not a format that exists already, did you have to train them for a different kind of acting?

Chaganty: I think every single person on the cast and the crew had to relearn aspects of the job to make this movie. Michelle [La, who plays the daughter Margot] actually says this, that it’s a lot easier for her to behave in front of a screen than it was for John. Maybe it’s a generational thing or whatever, but for us, all the rules visually are different. None of us have ever made another movie like this. I know for a fact, none of us are going to do this again. We’re on-set, we’re all learning together.

I really equate this whole movie with cast and crew holding each other’s hands, we all walk into a dark cave, every single person thinks the person to their right knows a little more than them, but nobody does. And I’m on the far right being like, “Uh, I don’t know … ” But jumping in, and at every point of this cave, in the pure darkness, realizing that there’s one person on this crew or cast who knew how to get to this next challenge.

TechCrunch: It sounds like you guys aren’t necessarily looking to make “Searching 2,” and in fact, I know you already have another project lined up.

Now that you’re at the end of the process, to what extent do you feel that okay, [computer screen movies are a genre] where other directors can come in and do interesting stuff? And to what extent to do you feel like this is probably something that you can make four or five films with, and at the end of it, the possibilities are exhausted?

Chaganty: At the end of the day, I keep saying this, but I think that if you asked Christopher Nolan how many more backwards films are going to happen [after “Memento”], is he starting a subgenre with backwards films? I don’t think the answer would be yes.

We feel the same way about this movie. This, at the end of the day, is a gimmick. It’s a style of telling the story. We found a way, I think, to make it not that and tell the story first, but at the same time, a computer screen only has set imagery. It’s even more limiting than traditional found footage, because with traditional found footage you can set yourself in Singapore, or Hong Kong, or New York, or whatever. You’re always on a laptop screen with a computer screen film.

Maybe the lesson people will learn from us is something that I’ve learned: There is a way still to show technology accurately and honestly — because I don’t think Hollywood has done that yet — using screens and using traditional cinematic language when you’re showing screens. You can still combine that with a live action film, and in a way that feels consistent with your tone and style and genre of whatever larger piece you’re making.

Source: TechCrunch

The alumni of these universities raised the most VC in the past year

Whatever criteria we look at, whether it’s schools with the highest number of well-capitalized founders, highest funding totals or even where startup investors went to college, the same names top the list. The only surprise factor, it seems, is whether Harvard or Stanford will be in first place.

It’s possible we’ll do a data-driven university- and startup-related ranking that doesn’t feature the same two schools in the top two positions. But that’s not happening today, as we look at universities with founder alumni who have raised the most venture funding.1

OK, so who else is on the list?

Luckily, there are more than two names on the list. In this survey, we looked at the top 15 schools ranked by alumni who have raised the most venture funding for their startups in roughly the past year.

This is a follow-up to our earlier piece, which ranked U.S. universities according to the number of funded startup founders who raised $1 million or more in the survey period. The results, however, feature most of the same names, and an only slightly altered order.

Take a look for yourself below. The chart includes the name of the school, the total known venture capital funding raised by alumni founders since August 1, 2017, and the most heavily funded companies.


In the survey results, we included universities and affiliated business schools together. This significantly bumped up the totals for universities with well-known business schools, like Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania (home of the Wharton School of Business).

Additionally, a number of funded founders have degrees from more than one university in the ranking. These entrepreneurs are counted once for each university.

  1. The survey data is for seed through late-stage venture funding rounds announced on or after August 1, 2017.

Source: TechCrunch

Searching star John Cho on Star Trek, what it's like to act alone – CNET

The star of Searching, along with the film’s co-writers and director, talk about what it’s like making a movie that’s set solely on computer screens.
Source: CNET

Never mind the 420 jokes, Tesla's staying public – Roadshow

A tweetstorm that kicked off a flurry of speculation has now been officially put to bed: Tesla’s not going private.
Source: CNET

For IGTV, Instagram needs slow to mean steady

Instagram has never truly failed at anything, but judging by modest initial view counts, IGTV could get stuck with a reputation as an abandoned theater if the company isn’t careful. It’s no flop, but the long-form video hub certainly isn’t an instant hit like Instagram Stories. Two months after that launched in 2016, Instagram was happy to trumpet how its Snapchat clone had hit 100 million users. Yet two months after IGTV’s launch, the Facebook subsidiary has been silent on its traction.

“It’s a new format. It’s different. We have to wait for people to adopt it and that takes time,” Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom told me. “Think of it this way: we just invested in a startup called IGTV, but it’s small, and it’s like Instagram was ‘early days.’”

It’s indeed too early for a scientific analysis, and Instagram’s feed has been around since 2010, so it’s obviously not a fair comparison, but we took a look at the IGTV view counts of some of the feature’s launch partner creators. Across six of those creators, their recent feed videos are getting roughly 6.8X as many views as their IGTV posts. If IGTV’s launch partners that benefited from early access and guidance aren’t doing so hot, it means there’s likely no free view count bonanza in store from other creators or regular users.

They, and IGTV, will have to work for their audience. That’s already proving difficult for the standalone IGTV app. Though it peaked at the #25 overall US iPhone app and has seen 2.5 million downloads across iOS and Android according to Sensor Tower, it’s since dropped to #1497 and seen a 94 percent decrease in weekly installs to just 70,000 last week.

Instagram will have to be in it for the long haul if it wants to win at long-form video. Entering the market 13 years after YouTube with a vertical format no one’s quite sure what to do with, IGTV must play the tortoise. If it can avoid getting scrapped or buried, and offer the right incentives and flexibility to creators, IGTV could deliver the spontaneous video viewing experience Instagram lacks. Otherwise, IGTV risks becoming the next Google Plus — a ghost town inside an otherwise thriving product ecosystem.

A glitzy, glitchy start

Instagram gave IGTV a red carpet premiere June 20th in hopes of making it look like the new digital hotspot. The San Francisco launch event offered attendees several types of avocado toast, spa water and ‘Gram-worthy portrait backdrops reminiscent of the Color Factory or Museum of Ice Cream. Instagram hadn’t held a flashy press event since the 2013 launch of video sharing, so it pulled out all the stops. Balloon sculptures lined the entrance to a massive warehouse packed with social media stars and ad execs shouting to each other over the din of the DJ.

But things were rocky from the start. Leaks led TechCrunch to report on the IGTV name and details in the preceding weeks. Technical difficulties with Systrom’s presentation pushed back the start, but not the rollout of IGTV’s code. Tipster Jane Manchun Wong sent TechCrunch screenshots of the new app and features a half hour before it was announced, and Instagram’s own Business Blog jumped the gun by posting details of the launch. The web already knew how IGTV would let people upload vertical videos up to an hour long and browse them through categories like “Popular” and “For You” by the time Systrom took the stage.

IGTV’s launch event featured Instagram-themed donuts and elaborate portrait backdrops. Images via Vicki’s Donuts and Mai Lanpham

“What I’m most proud of is that Instagram took a stand and tried a brand new thing that is frankly hard to pull off. Full-screen vertical video that’s mobile only. That doesn’t exist anywhere else,” Systrom tells me. It was indeed ambitious. Creators were already comfortable making short-form vertical Snapchat Stories by the time Instagram launched its own version. IGTV would have to start from scratch.

Systrom sees the steep learning curve as a differentiator, though. “One of the things I like most about the new format is that it’s actually fairly difficult to just take videos that exist online and simply repost them. That’s not true in feed. That basically forces everyone to create new stuff,” Systrom tells me. “It’s not to say that there isn’t other stuff on there but in general it incentivizes people to produce new things from scratch. And that’s really what we’re looking for. Even if the volume of that stuff at the beginning is smaller than what you might see on the popular page [of Instagram Explore].”

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom unveils IGTV at the glitzy June 20th launch event

Instagram forced creators to adopt this proprietary format. But it forget to train Stories stars how to entertain us for five or 15 minutes, not 15 seconds, or convince landscape YouTube moguls to purposefully shoot or crop their clips for the way we normally hold our phones.

IGTV’s Popular page features plenty of random viral pap, foreign language content, and poor cropping

That should have been the real purpose of the launch party — demonstrating a variety of ways to turn these format constraints or lack thereof into unique content. Vertical video frames people better than places, and the length allows sustained eye-to-lens contacts that can engender an emotional connection. But a shallow array of initial content and too much confidence that creators would figure it out on their own deprived IGTV of emergent norms that other videographers could emulate to wet their feet.

Now IGTV feels haphazard, with trashy viral videos and miscropped ports amongst its Popular section alongside a few creators trying to produce made-for-IGTV talk shows and cooking tutorials. It’s yet to have its breakout “Chewbacca Mom” or “Rubberbanded Watermelon” blockbuster like Facebook Live. Even an interview with mega celeb Kylie Jenner only had 11,000 views.

Instagram wants to put the focus on the author, not the individual works of art. “Because we don’t have full text search and you can’t just search any random thing, it’s about the creators” Systrom explains. “I think that at its base level that it’s personality driven and creator driven means that you’re going to get really unique content that you won’t find anywhere else and that’s the goal.”

Yet being unique requires extra effort that creators might not invest if they’re unsure of the payoff in either reach or revenue. Michael Sayman, formerly Facebook’s youngest employee who was hired at age 17 to build apps for teens and who now works for Google, summed it up saying: “Many times in my own career, I’ve tried to make something with a unique spin or a special twist because I felt that’s the only way I could make my product stand out from the crowd, only to realize that it was those very twists and spins that made my products feel out of place and confusing to users. Sometimes, the best product is one that doesn’t create any new twists, but rather perfects and builds on top of what has been proven to already be extremely successful.”

A fraction of feed views

The one big surprise of the launch event was where IGTV would exist. Instagram announced it’d live in a standalone IGTV app, but also as a feature in the main app accessible from an orange button atop the home screen that would occasionally call out that new content was inside. But in essence, it was ignorable. IGTV didn’t get the benefit of being splayed out atop Instagram like Stories did. Blow past that one button and avoid downloading the separate app, and users could go right on tapping and scrolling through Instagram without coming across IGTV’s longer videos.

View counts of the launch partners reflect that. We looked at six launch partner creators, comparing their last six feed and IGTV videos older than a week and less than six months old, or fewer videos if that’s all they’d posted.

Only one of the six, BabyAriel, saw an obvious growth trend in her IGTV videos. Her candid IGTV monologues are performing the best of the six compared to feed. She’s earning an average of 243,000 views per IGTV video, about a third as many as she gets on her feed videos. “I’m really happy with my view counts because IGTV is just starting” BabyAriel tells me. She thinks the format will be good for behind-the-scenes clips that complement her longer YouTube videos and shorter Stories. “When I record anything, It’s vertical. When I turn my phone horizontal I think of an hour-long movie.”

Lele Pons, a Latin American comedy and music star who’s one of the most popular Instagram celebrities, gets about 5.7X more feed views than on her IGTV cooking show that averages 1.9 million hits. Instagram posted some IGTV highlights from the first month, but the most popular of now has 4.3 million views — less than half of what Pons gets on her average feed video.

Fitness guides from Katie Austin averaged just 3,600 views on IGTV while she gets 7.5X more in the feed. Lauren Godwin’s colorful comedy fared 5.2X better in the feed. Bryce Xavier saw the biggest differential, earning 15.9X more views for his dance and culture videos. And in the most direct comparison, K-Pop dancer Susie Shu sometimes posts cuts from the same performance to the two destinations, like one that got 273,000 views in feed but just 27,000 on IGTV, with similar clips fairing an average of 7.8X better.

Again, this isn’t to say IGTV is a lame horse. It just isn’t roaring out of the gates. Systrom remains optimistic about inventing a new format. “The question is can we pull that off and the early signs are really good,” he tells me. “We’ve been pretty blown away by the reception and the usage upfront,” though he declined to share any specific statistics. Instagram promised to provide more insight into traction in the future.

YouTube star Casey Neistat is less bullish. He doesn’t think IGTV is working and that engagement has been weak. If IGTV views were surpassing those of YouTube, creators would flock to it, but so far view counts are uninspiring and not worth diverting creative attention, Neistat says. “YouTube offers the best sit-back consumption, and Stories offers active consumption. Where does IGTV fit in? I’m not sure” he tells me. “Why create all of this unique content if it gets lower views, it’s not monetizable, and the viewers aren’t there?”

Susie Shu averages 7.8X more video views in the Instagram feed than on IGTV

For now, the combination of an unfamiliar format, the absence of direction for how to use it and the relatively buried placement has likely tempered IGTV’s traction. Two months in, Instagram Stories was proving itself an existential threat to Snapchat — which it’s in fact become. IGTV doesn’t pose the same danger to YouTube yet, and it will need a strategy to support a more slow-burn trajectory.

The chicken and the IG problem

The first step to becoming a real YouTube challenger is to build up some tent-pole content that gives people a reason to open IGTV. Until there’s something that captures attention, any cross-promotion traffic Instagram sends it will be like pouring water into a bucket with a giant hole in the bottom. Yet until there’s enough viewers, it’s tough to persuade creators to shoot for IGTV since it won’t do a ton to boost their fan base.

Fortnite champion Ninja shares a photo of IGTV launch partners gathered backstage at the press event

Meanwhile, Instagram hasn’t committed to a monetization or revenue-sharing strategy for IGTV. Systrom said at the launch that “There’s no ads in IGTV today,” but noted it’s “obviously a very reasonable place [for ads] to end up.” Without enough views, though, ads won’t earn enough for a revenue split to incentivize creators. Perhaps Instagram will heavily integrate its in-app shopping features and sponsored content partnerships, but even those rely on having more traffic. Vine withered at Twitter in part from creators bailing due to its omission of native monetization options.

So how does IGTV solve the chicken-and-egg problem? It may need to swallow its pride and pay early adopters directly for content until it racks up enough views to offer sustainable revenue sharing. Instagram has never publicly copped to paying for content before, unlike its parent Facebook, which offered stipends ranging into the millions of dollars for publishers to shoot Live broadcasts and long-form Watch shows. Neither have led to a booming viewership, but perhaps that’s because Facebook has lost its edge with the teens who love video.

Instagram could do better if it paid the right creators to weather IGTV’s initial slim pickings. Settling on ad strategy creators can count on earning money from in the future might also get them to hang tight. Those deals could mimic the 55 percent split of mid-roll ad breaks Facebook gives creators on some videos. But again, the views must come first.

Alternatively, or additionally, it could double down on the launch strategy of luring creators with the potential to become the big fish in IGTV’s small-for-now pond. Backroom deals to trade being highlighted in its IGTV algorithm in exchange for high-quality content could win the hearts of these stars and their managers. Instagram would be wise to pair these incentives with vertical long-form video content creation workshops. It could bring its community, product and analytics leaders together with partnered stars to suss out what works best in the format and help them shoot it.

The cross-promo spigot

Once there’s something worth watching on IGTV, the company could open the cross-promo traffic spigot. At first, Instagram would send notifications about top content or IGTV posts from people you follow, and call them out with a little orange text banner atop its main app. Now it seems to understand it will need to be more coercive.

Last month, TechCrunch spotted Instagram showing promos for individual IGTV shows in the middle of the feed, hoping to redirect eyeballs there. And today, we found Instagram getting more aggressive by putting a bigger call out featuring a relevant IGTV clip with preview image above your Stories tray on the home screen. It may need to boost the frequency of these cross-promotions and stick them in-between Stories and Explore sections as well to give IGTV the limelight. These could expose users to creators they don’t follow already but might enjoy.

It’s still early but I do think there’s a lot of potential when they figure out two things since the feature is so new,” says John Shahidi, who runs the Justin Bieber-backed Shots Studios, which produces and distributes content for Lele Pons, Rudy Mancuso and other Insta celebs. “1. Product. IGTV is not in your face so Instagram users aren’t changing behavior to consume. Timeline and Instagram Stories are in your face so those two are the most used features. 2. Discoverability. I want to see videos from people I don’t follow. Interesting stuff like cooking, product review, interesting content from brands but without following the accounts.” In the meantime, Shots Studios is launching a vertical-only channel on YouTube that Shahidi believes is the first of its kind.

Instagram will have to balance its strategic imperative to grow the long-form video hub and avoid spamming users until they hate the brand as a whole. Some think it’s already gone too far. “I think it’s super intrusive right now,” says Tiffany Zhong, once known as the world’s youngest venture capitalist who now runs Generation Z consulting firm Zebra Intelligence. “I personally find all the IGTV videos super boring and click out within seconds (and the only time I watch them are if I accidentally tapped on the icon when I tried to go to my DMs instead).” Desperately funneling traffic to the feature before there’s enough great content to power relevant recommendations for everyone could prematurely sour users on IGTV. 

Systrom remains optimistic he can iterate his way to success. “What I want to see over the next six to 12 months is a consistent drumbeat of new features that both consumers and creators are asking for, and to look at the retention curve and say ‘are people continuing to watch? Are people continuing to upload?,’” says Systrom. “So far we are seeing that all of those are healthy. But again trying to judge a very new kind of audacious format that’s never really been done before in the first months is going to be really hard.”

Differentiator or deterrent?

The biggest question remains whether IGTV will remain devout to the orthodoxy of vertical-only. Loosening up to accept landscape videos too might nullify a differentiator, but also pipe in a flood of content it could then algorithmically curate to bootstrap IGTV’s library. Reducing the friction by allowing people to easily port content to or from elsewhere might make it feel like less of a gamble for creators deciding where to put their production resources. Instagram itself expanded from square-only to portrait and landscape photos in the feed in 2015.

My advice would be to make the videos horizontal. We’ve all come to understand vertical as ‘short form’ and horizontal as ‘long form,’” says Sayman. “It’s in the act of rotating your phone to landscape that you indicate to yourself and to your mobile device that you will not be context switching for the next few minutes, but rather intend to focus on one piece of content for an extended period of time.” This would at least give users more to watch, even if they ended up viewing landscape videos with their phones in portrait orientation.

This might be best as a last-ditch effort if it can’t get enough content flowing in through other means. But at least Instagram should offer a cropping tool that lets users manually select what vertical slice of a landscape video they want to show as they watch, rather than just grabbing the center or picking one area on the side for the whole clip. This could let creators repurpose landscape videos without things getting awkwardly half cut out of frame.

Former Facebook employee and social investor Josh Elman, who now works at Robinhood, told me he’s confident the company will experiment as much as necessary. “I think Facebook is relentless. They know that a ton of consumers watch video online. And most discover videos through influencers or their friends. (Or Netflix). Even though Watch and IGTV haven’t taken the world by storm yet, I bet Facebook won’t stop until they find the right mix.”

There’s a goldmine waiting if it does. Unlike on Facebook, there’s no Regram feature, you can’t post links, and outside of Explore you just see who you already follow on Instagram. That’s made it great at delivering friendly video and clips from your favorite stars, but leaves a gaping hole where serendipitous viewing could be. IGTV fills that gap. The hours people spend on Facebook watching random videos and their accompanying commercials have lifted the company to over $13 billion in revenue per quarter. Giving a younger audience a bottomless pit of full-screen video could produce the same behavior and profits on Instagram without polluting the feed, which can remain the purest manifestation of visual feed culture. But that’s only if IGTV can get enough content uploaded.

Puffed up by the success of besting its foe Snapchat, Instagram assumed it could take the long-form video world by storm. But the grand entrance at its debutante ball didn’t draw enough attention. Now it needs to take a different tack. Tone down the cross-promo for the moment. Concentrate on teaching creators how to find what works on the format and incentivizing them with cash and traffic. Develop some must-see IGTV and stoke a viral blockbuster. Prove the gravity of extended, personality-driven vertical video. Only then should it redirect traffic there from the feed, Stories, and Explore.

YouTube’s library wasn’t built overnight, and neither will IGTV’s. Facebook’s deep pockets and the success of Instagram’s other features give it the runway necessary to let IGTV take off. With 1 billion monthly users, and 400 million daily Stories users gathered in just two years, there are plenty of eyeballs waiting to be seduced. Systrom concludes, “Everything that is great starts small.” IGTV’s destiny will depend on Instagram’s patience.

Source: TechCrunch

Listening test: the extraordinary Etymotic MK5 in-ear headphones – CNET

Etymotic’s MK5 Isolator in-ear headphones hushes external noise without electronics or batteries, and sounds absolutely terrific!
Source: CNET

Reality Winner, Insider Trading, and More Security News This Week

In security news this week, Apple and Facebook beef, Reality Winner gets sentenced, facial recognition at the airport, and more.
Source: Wired