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Tag: TikTok

TikTok Ads vs. Instagram Reels Ads— Who Takes It All?

March 5, 2022 No Comments

When Instagram Reels rolled out its advertising option, we were eager to test it immediately, in parallel to its biggest rival, TikTok.

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6 Tips to Get TikTok Advertising to the Next Level

February 28, 2022 No Comments

Where do you start with TikTok advertising and marketing? We’ve listed six essential tips to ensure your TikTok advertising reaches the next level. Read on!

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How to Track Sales Coming from TikTok

February 24, 2022 No Comments

Learn the best ways to track sales coming in from TikTok whether you are advertising or running influencer campaigns.

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This Week in Apps: In-app events hit the App Store, TikTok tries Stories, Apple reveals new child safety plan

August 8, 2021 No Comments

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $ 143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $ 544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $ 73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place, with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try, too.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Top Stories

Apple to scan for CSAM imagery

Apple announced a major initiative to scan devices for CSAM imagery. The company on Thursday announced a new set of features, arriving later this year, that will detect child sexual abuse material (CSAM) in its cloud and report it to law enforcement. Companies like Dropbox, Google and Microsoft already scan for CSAM in their cloud services, but Apple had allowed users to encrypt their data before it reached iCloud. Now, Apple’s new technology, NeuralHash, will run on users’ devices, tatformso detect when a users upload known CSAM imagery — without having to first decrypt the images. It even can detect the imagery if it’s been cropped or edited in an attempt to avoid detection.

Meanwhile, on iPhone and iPad, the company will roll out protections to Messages app users that will filter images and alert children and parents if sexually explicit photos are sent to or from a child’s account. Children will not be shown the images but will instead see a grayed-out image instead. If they try to view the image anyway through the link, they’ll be shown interruptive screens that explain why the material may be harmful and are warned that their parents will be notified.

Some privacy advocates pushed back at the idea of such a system, believing it could expand to end-to-end encrypted photos, lead to false positives, or set the stage for more on-device government surveillance in the future. But many cryptology experts believe the system Apple developed provides a good balance between privacy and utility, and have offered their endorsement of the technology. In addition, Apple said reports are manually reviewed before being sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

The changes may also benefit iOS developers who deal in user photos and uploads, as predators will no longer store CSAM imagery on iOS devices in the first place, given the new risk of detection.

In-App Events appear on the App Store

Image Credits: Apple

Though not yet publicly available to all users, those testing the new iOS 15 mobile operating system got their first glimpse of a new App Store discovery feature this week: “in-app events.” First announced at this year’s WWDC, the feature will allow developers and Apple editors alike to showcase directly on the App Store upcoming events taking place inside apps.

The events can appear on the App Store homepage, on the app’s product pages or can be discovered through personalized recommendations and search. In some cases, editors will curate events to feature on the App Store. But developers will also be provided tools to submit their own in-app events. TikTok’s “Summer Camp” for creators was one of the first in-app events to be featured, where it received a top spot on the iPadOS 15 App Store.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

Apple expands support for student IDs on iPhone and Apple Watch ahead of the fall semester. Tens of thousands more U.S. and Canadian colleges will now support mobile student IDs in the Apple Wallet app, including Auburn University, Northern Arizona University, University of Maine, New Mexico State University and others.

Apple was accused of promoting scam apps in the App Store’s featured section. The company’s failure to properly police its store is one thing, but to curate an editorial list that actually includes the scams is quite another. One of the games rounded up under “Slime Relaxations,” an already iffy category to say the least, was a subscription-based slime simulator that locked users into a $ 13 AUD per week subscription for its slime simulator. One of the apps on the curated list didn’t even function, implying that Apple’s editors hadn’t even tested the apps they recommend.

Tax changes hit the App Store. Apple announced tax and price changes for apps and IAPs in South Africa, the U.K. and all territories using the Euro currency, all of which will see decreases. Increases will occur in Georgia and Tajikistan, due to new tax changes. Proceeds on the App Store in Italy will be increased to reflect a change to the Digital Services Tax effective rate.

Game Center changes, too. Apple said that on August 4, a new certificate for server-based Game Center verification will be available via the publicKeyUrl.

Fintech

Robinhood stock jumped more than 24% to $ 46.80 on Tuesday after initially falling 8% on its first day of trading last week, after which it had continued to trade below its opening price of $ 38.

Square’s Cash app nearly doubled its gross profit to $ 546 million in Q2, but also reported a $ 45 million impairment loss on its bitcoin holdings.

Coinbase’s app now lets you buy your cryptocurrency using Apple Pay. The company previously made its Coinbase Card compatible with Apple Pay in June.

Social

An anonymous app called Sendit, which relies on Snap Kit to function, is climbing the charts of the U.S. App Store after Snap suspended similar apps, YOLO and LMK. Snap was sued by the parent of child who was bullied through those apps, which led to his suicide. Sendit also allows for anonymity, and reviews compare it to YOLO. But some reviews also complained about bullying. This isn’t the first time Snap has been involved in a lawsuit related to a young person’s death related to its app. The company was also sued for its irresponsible “speed filter” that critics said encouraged unsafe driving. Three young men died using the filter, which captured them doing 123 mph.

TikTok is testing Stories. As Twitter’s own Stories integrations, Fleets, shuts down, TikTok confirmed it’s testing its own Stories product. The TikTok Stories appear in a left-hand sidebar and allow users to post ephemeral images or video that disappear in 24 hours. Users can also comment on Stories, which are public to their mutual friends and the creator. Stories on TikTok may make more sense than they did on Twitter, as TikTok is already known as a creative platform and it gives the app a more familiar place to integrate its effects toolset and, eventually, advertisements.

Facebook has again re-arranged its privacy settings. The company continually moves around where its privacy features are located, ostensibly to make them easier to find. But users then have to re-learn where to go to find the tools they need, after they had finally memorized the location. This time, the settings have been grouped into six top-level categories, but “privacy” settings have been unbundled from one location to be scattered among the other categories.

A VICE report details ban-as-a-service operations that allow anyone to harass or censor online creators on Instagram. Assuming you can find it, one operation charged $ 60 per ban, the listing says.

TikTok merged personal accounts with creator accounts. The change means now all non-business accounts on TikTok will have access to the creator tools under Settings, including Analytics, Creator Portal, Promote and Q&A. TikTok shared the news directly with subscribers of its TikTok Creators newsletter in August, and all users will get a push notification alerting them to the change, the company told us.

Discord now lets users customize their profile on its apps. The company added new features to its iOS and Android apps that let you add a description, links and emojis and select a profile color. Paid subscribers can also choose an image or GIF as their banner.

Twitter Spaces added a co-hosting option that allows up to two co-hosts to be added to the live audio chat rooms. Now Spaces can have one main host, two co-hosts and up to 10 speakers. Co-hosts have all the moderation abilities as hosts, but can’t add or remove others as co-hosts.

Messaging

Tencent reopened new user sign-ups for its WeChat messaging app, after having suspended registrations last week for unspecified “technical upgrades.” The company, like many other Chinese tech giants, had to address new regulations from Beijing impacting the tech industry. New rules address how companies handle user data collection and storage, antitrust behavior and other checks on capitalist “excess.” The gaming industry is now worried it’s next to be impacted, with regulations that would restrict gaming for minors to fight addiction.

WhatsApp is adding a new feature that will allow users to send photos and videos that disappear after a single viewing. The Snapchat-inspired feature, however, doesn’t alert you if the other person takes a screenshot — as Snap’s app does. So it may not be ideal for sharing your most sensitive content.

Telegram’s update expands group video calls to support up to 1,000 viewers. It also announced video messages can be recorded in higher quality and can be expanded, regular videos can be watched at 0.5 or 2x speed, screen sharing with sound is available for all video calls, including 1-on-1 calls, and more.

Streaming & Entertainment

American Airlines added free access to TikTok aboard its Viasat-equipped aircraft. Passengers will be able to watch the app’s videos for up to 30 minutes for free and can even download the app if it’s not already installed. After the free time, they can opt to pay for Wi-Fi to keep watching. Considering how easy it is to fall into multi-hour TikTok viewing sessions without knowing it, the addition of the addictive app could make long plane rides feel shorter. Or at least less painful.

Chinese TikTok rival Kuaishou saw stocks fall by more than 15% in Hong Kong, the most since its February IPO. The company is another victim of an ongoing market selloff triggered by increasing investor uncertainty related to China’s recent crackdown on tech companies. Beijing’s campaign to rein in tech has also impacted Tencent, Alibaba, Jack Ma’s Ant Group, food delivery company Meituan and ride-hailing company Didi. Also related, Kuaishou shut down its controversial app Zynn, which had been paying users to watch its short-form videos, including those stolen from other apps.

Twitch overtook YouTube in consumer spending per user in April 2021, and now sees $ 6.20 per download as of June compared with YouTube’s $ 5.60, Sensor Tower found.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Spotify confirmed tests of a new ad-supported tier called Spotify Plus, which is only $ 0.99 per month and offers unlimited skips (like free users get on the desktop) and the ability to play the songs you want, instead of only being forced to use shuffle mode.

The company also noted in a forum posting that it’s no longer working on AirPlay2 support, due to “audio driver compatibility” issues.

Mark Cuban-backed audio app Fireside asked its users to invest in the company via an email sent to creators which didn’t share deal terms. The app has yet to launch.

YouTube kicks off its $ 100 million Shorts Fund aimed at taking on TikTok by providing creators with cash incentives for top videos. Creators will get bonuses of $ 100 to $ 10,000 based on their videos’ performance.

Dating

Match Group announced during its Q2 earnings it plans to add to several of the company’s brands over the next 12 to 24 months audio and video chat, including group live video, and other livestreaming technologies. The developments will be powered by innovations from Hyperconnect, the social networking company that this year became Match’s biggest acquisition to date when it bought the Korean app maker for a sizable $ 1.73 billion. Since then, Match was spotted testing group live video on Tinder, but says that particular product is not launching in the near-term. At least two brands will see Hyperconnect-powered integrations in 2021.

Photos

The Photo & Video category on U.S. app stores saw strong growth in the first half of the year, a Sensor Tower report found. Consumer spend among the top 100 apps grew 34% YoY to $ 457 million in Q2 2021, with the majority of the revenue (83%) taking place on iOS.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Gaming

Epic Games revealed the host of its in-app Rift Tour event is Ariana Grande, in the event that runs August 6-8.

Pokémon GO influencers threatened to boycott the game after Niantic removed the COVID safety measures that had allowed people to more easily play while social distancing. Niantic’s move seemed ill-timed, given the Delta variant is causing a new wave of COVID cases globally.

Health & Fitness

Apple kicked out an app called Unjected from the App Store. The new social app billed itself as a community for the unvaccinated, allowing like-minded users to connect for dating and friendships. Apple said the app violated its policies for COVID-19 content.

Google Pay expanded support for vaccine cards. In Australia, Google’s payments app now allows users to add their COVID-19 digital certification to their device for easy access. The option is available through Google’s newly updated Passes API which lets government agencies distribute digital versions of vaccine cards.

COVID Tech Connect, a U.S. nonprofit initially dedicated to collecting devices like phones and tablets for COVID ICU patients, has now launched its own app. The app, TeleHome, is a device-agnostic, HIPAA-compliant way for patients to place a video call for free at a time when the Delta variant is again filling ICU wards, this time with the unvaccinated — a condition that sometimes overlaps with being low-income. Some among the working poor have been hesitant to get the shot because they can’t miss a day of work, and are worried about side effects. Which is why the Biden administration offered a tax credit to SMBs who offered paid time off to staff to get vaccinated and recover.

Popular journaling app Day One, which was recently acquired by WordPress.com owner Automattic, rolled out a new “Concealed Journals” feature that lets users hide content from others’ viewing. By tapping the eye icon, the content can be easily concealed on a journal by journal basis, which can be useful for those who write to their journal in public, like coffee shops or public transportation.

Edtech

Recently IPO’d language learning app Duolingo is developing a math app for kids. The company says it’s still “very early” in the development process, but will announce more details at its annual conference, Duocon, later this month.

Educational publisher Pearson launched an app that offers U.S. students access to its 1,500 titles for a monthly subscription of $ 14.99. the Pearson+ mobile app (ack, another +), also offers the option of paying $ 9.99 per month for access to a single textbook for a minimum of four months.

News & Reading

Quora jumps into the subscription economy. Still not profitable from ads alone, Quora announced two new products that allow its expert creators to monetize their content on its service. With Quora+ ($ 5/mo or $ 50/yr), subscribers can pay for any content that a creator paywalls. Creators can choose to enable a adaptive paywall that will use an algorithm to determine when to show the paywall. Another product, Spaces, lets creators write paywalled publications on Quora, similar to Substack. But only a 5% cut goes to Quora, instead of 10% on Substack.

Utilities

Google Maps on iOS added a new live location-sharing feature for iMessage users, allowing them to more easily show your ETA with friends and even how much battery life you have left. The feature competes with iMessage’s built-in location-sharing feature, and offers location sharing of 1 hour up to 3 days. The app also gained a dark mode.

Security & Privacy

Controversial crime app Citizen launched a $ 20 per month “Protect” service that includes live agent support (who can refer calls to 911 if need be). The agents can gather your precise location, alert your designated emergency contacts, help you navigate to a safe location and monitor the situation until you feel safe. The system of live agent support is similar to in-car or in-home security and safety systems, like those from ADT or OnStar, but works with users out in the real world. The controversial part, however, is the company behind the product: Citizen has been making headlines for launching private security fleets outside law enforcement, and recently offered a reward in a manhunt for an innocent person based on unsubstantiated tips.

Funding and M&A

🤝 Square announced its acquisition of the “buy now, pay later” giant AfterPay in a $ 29 billion deal that values the Australian firm at more than 30% higher than the stock’s last closing price of AUS$ 96.66. AfterPay has served over 16 million customers and nearly 100,000 merchants globally, to date, and comes at a time when the BNPL space is heating up. Apple has also gotten into the market recently with an Affirm partnership in Canada.

🤝 Gaming giant Zynga acquired Chinese game developer StarLark, the team behind the mobile golf game Golf Rival, from Betta Games for $ 525 million in both cash and stock. Golf Rival is the second-largest mobile golf game behind Playdemic’s Golf Clash, and EA is in the process of buying that studio for $ 1.4 billion.

💰  U.K.-based Humanity raised an additional $ 2.5 million for its app that claims to help slow down aging, bringing the total raise to date to $ 5 million. Backers include Calm’s co-founders, MyFitness Pal’s co-founder and others in the health space. The app works by benchmarking health advice against real-world data, to help users put better health practices into action.

💰 YELA, a Cameo-like app for the Middle East and South Asia, raised $ 2 million led by U.S. investors that include Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen and Sean Rad, general partner of RAD Fund. The app is focusing on signing celebrities in the regions it serves, where smartphone penetration is high and over 6% of the population is under 35.

💰 London-based health and wellness app maker Palta raised a $ 100 million Series B led by VNV Global. The company’s products include Flo.Health, Simple Fasting, Zing Fitness Coach and others, which reach a combined 2.4 million active, paid subscribers. The funds will be used to create more mobile subscription products.

🤝 Emoji database and Wikipedia-like site Emojipedia was acquired by Zedge, the makers of a phone personalization app offering wallpapers, ringtones and more to 35 million MAUs. Deal terms weren’t disclosed. Emojipedia says the deal provides it with more stability and the opportunity for future growth. For Zedge, the deal provides🤨….um, a popular web resource it thinks it can better monetize, we suspect.

💰 Mental health app Revery raised $ 2 million led by Sequoia Capital India’s Surge program for its app that combines cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia with mobile gaming concepts. The company will focus on other mental health issues in the future.

💰 London-based Nigerian-operating fintech startup Kuda raised a $ 55 million Series B, valuing its mobile-first challenger bank at $ 500 million. The inside round was co-led by Valar Ventures and Target Global.

💰 Vietnamese payments provider VNLife raised $ 250 million in a round led by U.S.-based General Atlantic and Dragoneer Investment Group. PayPal Ventures and others also participated. The round values the business at over $ 1 billion.

Downloads

Mastodon for iPhone

Fans of decentralized social media efforts now have a new app. The nonprofit behind the open source decentralized social network Mastodon released an official iPhone app, aimed at making the network more accessible to newcomers. The app allows you to find and follow people and topics; post text, images, GIFs, polls, and videos; and get notified of new replies and reblogs, much like Twitter.

Xingtu

@_666eveITS SO COOL FRFR do u guys want a tutorial? #fypシ #醒图 #醒图app♬ original sound – Ian Asher

TikTok users are teaching each other how to switch over to the Chinese App Store in order to get ahold of the Xingtu app for iOS. (An Android version is also available.) The app offers advanced editing tools that let users edit their face and body, like FaceTune, apply makeup, add filters and more. While image-editing apps can be controversial for how they can impact body acceptance, Xingtu offers a variety of artistic filters which is what’s primarily driving the demand. It’s interesting to see the lengths people will go to just to get a few new filters for their photos — perhaps making a case for Instagram to finally update its Post filters instead of pretending no one cares about their static photos anymore.

Tweets

Facebook still dominating top charts, but not the No. 1 spot:  

Not cool, Apple: 

This user acquisition strategy: 

Maybe Stories don’t work everywhere: 

Mobile – TechCrunch


Streamlabs launches Crossclip, a new tool for sharing Twitch clips to TikTok, Instagram and YouTube

July 19, 2021 No Comments

The company behind ubiquitous livestreaming software Streamlabs is introducing a new way for streamers to share their gaming highlights to platforms well beyond Twitch. Streamlabs calls the new tool Crossclip, and it’s available now as an iOS app and as a lightweight web tool.

With Crossclip, creators can easily convert Twitch clips into a format friendly to TikTok, Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts and Facebook videos. Adapting a snippet from Twitch that you’d like to share is as simple as putting in the clip’s URL and choosing an output format (landscape, vertical or square) and a pre-loaded layout.

Crossclip iOS app

You can crop the clip’s length within Crossclip, blur part of the background and choose from a handful of layouts that let you place the frames in different places (to show the facecam view and the stream view together in vertical orientation, for example).

Crossclip’s core functionality is free, but a premium subscription version ($ 4.99/month or $ 49.99/year) removes a branded watermark and unlocks exports in 1080/60fps, larger uploads, added layers and pushes your edits to the front of the processing queue.

Discovery on Twitch is tough. Established streamers grow their audiences easily but anybody just getting started usually has to slog through long stretches of lonely Stardew Valley sessions with only the occasional viewer popping in to say hi. The idea behind Crossclip is to make it easier for streamers to build audiences on other social networks that have better discoverability features, subcommunities and tags to make that process less grueling.

“For a creator, making your content more discoverable is a huge advantage,” Streamlabs Head of Product Ashray Urs told TechCrunch. “When you consider the most popular Twitch streamers, you will notice that they have extremely popular YouTube channels and actively post on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok. If you aren’t sharing content and building your audience with different platforms, you’re making things more difficult for yourself.”

Urs notes that creators are increasingly using TikTok’s algorithmic discovery abilities to grow their audiences. TikTok’s recent addition of longer, three-minute videos is a boon for many kinds of creators interested in leveraging the platform, including gamers and other Twitch streamers.

Anyone with an established audience will find Crossclip a breeze to use too, making it dead-simple to share gaming highlights or Just Chatting clips wherever they’re trying to build up a following. The average clip conversation takes two to three minutes and is a simple one-click process. There are a few tools out there that have similar functionality, independent web tool StreamLadder probably being the most notable, but Streamlabs takes the same idea, refines it and adds a mobile app.

Streamlabs, now owned by Logitech, has released a few useful products in recent months. In February, the company launched Willow, its own link-in-bio tool with built-in tipping. In May, Streamlabs deepened its relationship with TikTok — an emerging hub for all kinds of gaming content — adding the ability to “go live” on TikTok into its core livestreaming platform, Streamlabs OBS.


Social – TechCrunch


On TikTok, Black creators’ dance strike calls out creative exploitation

June 26, 2021 No Comments

There’s a new Megan Thee Stallion music video out in time for triple digit temperatures. But instead of launching a fresh viral TikTok dance for summer, the single inspired an informal protest among Black creators tired of thanklessly launching trends into the social media stratosphere.

With the release of the video for “Thot Shit,” some Black TikTok creators began calling attention to that exploitation this week, inspiring others to refuse to choreograph a dance to the hit song. The idea behind the movement is that Black artists on the platform create a disproportionate amount of content and culture — much of which is re-packaged and monetized by popular white creators and culture at large.

The song choice probably isn’t a coincidence. The Megan Thee Stallion video is both a playful but important paean to essential workers — twerking grocery, food service and sanitation workers, in this case — and a biting commentary on the wealthy white establishment that exploits their labor without thinking twice.

The “strike” doesn’t have creators leaving the platform or even staying off of the app. Instead, Black creators who might normally contribute dances for the hot new song are sitting back and pointing to what happens when they’re not around. (Predictably: not a lot.)

On the sound’s page, some videos tease choreography but pivot into a statement about how Black creators don’t get their due on the app. In other videos, Black creators watch on in horror at awkward dance attempts failing to fill the void or laugh about how the song’s lyrics are instructional but non-Black TikTok still can’t figure it out.

The eminently danceable “Thot Shit” could build into Megan Thee Stallion’s biggest hit yet, but just looking on TikTok you wouldn’t know it.

When reached for comment on the phenomenon, TikTok praised Black creators as a “critical and vibrant” part of the community.

“We care deeply about the experience of Black creators on our platform and we continue to work every day to create a supportive environment for our community while also instilling a culture where honoring and crediting creators for their creative contributions is the norm,” a TikTok spokesperson said.

Many TikTok accounts participating in the strike cite a recent explosion of white TikTokkers lip-syncing obliviously to a clip of Nicki Minaj’s 2016 song “Black Barbies” that specifically praises Black bodies (“I’m a fucking Black Barbie/Pretty face, perfect body…”). White TikTok inexplicably flocked to the sound, boosting its popularity and crowding out Black creators.

It’s just one incident in a long history of Black creators feeling exploited and appropriated on social networks. Black TikTok dancers have long been left in the cold: Their original dance moves explode in popularity and get picked up by non-Black creators, who also pick up the credit along the way.

The recent strike is the latest beat in the ongoing conversation over who gets to cash in on the wellspring of creativity that pours out of a platform like TikTok. More broadly, some creators believe that TikTok’s economics are stacked against them, even compared to other major platforms like YouTube. Across social media sites, creators, particularly creators of color, are turning to collective action and even unionizing to assert their power.

For Black creators tired of seeing their work appropriated, collectively refusing to gift the world a hot new TikTok dance is certainly one way to show just how vital they are to the online ecosystem — something even a quick glance at the desolate “Thot Shit” sound makes abundantly clear.

 


Social – TechCrunch


Instagram’s TikTok rival, Reels, rolls out ads worldwide

June 20, 2021 No Comments

Instagram Reels are getting ads. The company announced today it’s launching ads in its short-form video platform and TikTok rival, Reels, to businesses and advertisers worldwide. The ads will be up to 30 seconds in length, like Reels themselves, and vertical in format, similar to ads found in Instagram Stories. Also like Reels, the new ads will loop, and people will be able to like, comment on, and save them, the same as other Reels videos.

The company had previously tested Reels ads in select markets earlier this year, including India, Brazil, Germany and Australia, then expanded those tests to Canada, France, the U.K. and the U.S. more recently. Early adopters of the new format have included brands like BMW, Nestlé (Nespresso), Louis Vuitton, Netflix, Uber and others.

Instagram tells us the ads will appear in most places users view Reels content, including on the Reels tab, Reels in Stories, Reels in Explore and Reels in your Instagram Feed, and will appear in between individual Reels posted by users. However, in order to be served a Reels ad, the user first needs to be in the immersive, full-screen Reels viewer.

Image Credits: Instagram

The company couldn’t say how often a user might see a Reels ad, noting that the number of ads a viewer may encounter will vary based on how they use Instagram. But the company is monitoring user sentiment around ads themselves, and the overall commerciality of Reels, it says.

Like Instagram’s other advertising products, Reels ads will launch with an auction-based model. But so far, Instagram is declining to share any sort of performance metrics around how those ads are doing, based on tests. Nor is it yet offering advertisers any creator tools or templates that could help them get started with Reels ads. Instead, Instagram likely assumes advertisers already have creative assets on hand or know how to make them, because of Reels ads’ similarities to other vertical video ads found elsewhere, including on Instagram’s competitors.

While vertical video has already shown the potential for driving consumers to e-commerce shopping sites, Instagram hasn’t yet taken advantage of Reels ads to drive users to its built-in Instagram Shops, though that seems like a natural next step as it attempts to tie the different parts of its app together.

But perhaps ahead of that step, Instagram needs to make Reels a more compelling destination — something other TikTok rivals, which now include both Snap and YouTube — have done by funding creator content directly. Instagram, meanwhile, had made offers to select TikTok stars directly.

The launch of Instagram Reels ads follows news of TikTok’s climbing ad prices. Bloomberg reported this month that TikTok is now asking for more than $ 1.4 million for a home page takeover ad in the U.S., as of the third quarter, which will jump to $ 1.8 million by Q4 and more than $ 2 million on a holiday. Though the company is still building its ads team and advertisers haven’t yet allocated large portions of their video budget to the app, that tends to follow user growth — and TikTok now has over 100 million monthly active users in the U.S.

Both apps, Instagram and TikTok, now have more than a billion monthly active users on a global basis, though Reels is only a part of the larger Instagram platform. For comparison, Instagram Stories is used by some 500 million users, which demonstrates Instagram’s ability to drive traffic to different areas of its app. Instagram declined to share how many users Reels has as of today.


Social – TechCrunch


Biden revokes and replaces Trump actions targeting TikTok and WeChat

June 13, 2021 No Comments

President Joe Biden is reducing some uncertainty faced by Chinese tech companies in the United States, erasing parts of the Trump-era legacy. The president signed an executive order revoking actions targeting TikTok, WeChat and other Chinese apps put forward by former President Donald Trump, according to a statement released by the White House on Wednesday.

Instead, President Biden signed a new order requiring the Commerce Department to review apps with ties to “jurisdiction of foreign adversaries” that may pose national security risks.

The Biden order withdraws two orders by former President Trump, one of which was issued in August and sought to block U.S. business transactions with TikTok and WeChat. The other, announced in January, targeted eight Chinese services including WeChat’s payment feature, Tencent’s QQ messenger, and Ant Group’s Alipay wallet.

The orders to ban TikTok and WeChat in the U.S. had been blocked by federal court jurisdictions. Separately, the Trump administration’s attempt to force a sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations was also shelved.

The “increased use in the United States of certain connected software applications designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied by persons owned or controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of, a foreign adversary,” which the Secretary of Commerce has defined to include China among others, “continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”

Scrutiny over Chinese tech firms will most likely remain a high priority for U.S. regulators, but policies may be more methodical under the presidency of Joe Biden. Chinese companies coveting the U.S. market will have to be better prepared for data compliance challenges.

The order directs the secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the secretary of State, the secretary of Defense, the attorney general, the secretary of Health and Human Services, the secretary of Homeland Security, the director of National Intelligence, and the heads of other agencies as the secretary of Commerce deems appropriate, to recommend actions to protect Americans’ data on platforms owned or controlled by a “foreign adversary” within 120 days.

It’s no secret that American tech companies like Facebook and Google also collect large amounts of user data, but the “scope and scale” of TikTok’s app’s data collection makes it easier for Chinese spies to answer “all kinds of different intelligence questions” on U.S. nationals, Anne Neuberger, NSA’s director of cybersecurity, told TechCrunch at Disrupt 2020. She said there were “greater concerns on how [China] in particular could use all that information collected against populations other than its own.”

Chinese tech firms have produced a raft of top-ranking apps in the U.S. TikTok, which has been working to make Singapore its beachhead following the U.S. government’s attempted ban, came in second among the free apps on the U.S. App Store as of writing. CapCut, a video-editing app also owned by ByteDance app, has seen a surge in downloads in the U.S. recently. Mobile games from Tencent and smaller studios continue to rack up big bucks in the U.S., and fast-fashion shopping app Shein is outpacing Amazon’s growth in the country.

The U.S. Department of Commerce, Tencent and ByteDance could not be immediately reached for comment.

Updated the story with more information on the revocation.


Social – TechCrunch


TikTok just gave itself permission to collect biometric data on US users, including ‘faceprints and voiceprints’

June 4, 2021 No Comments

A change to TikTok’s U.S. privacy policy on Wednesday introduced a new section that says the social video app “may collect biometric identifiers and biometric information” from its users’ content. This includes things like “faceprints and voiceprints,” the policy explained. Reached for comment, TikTok could not confirm what product developments necessitated the addition of biometric data to its list of disclosures about the information it automatically collects from users, but said it would ask for consent in the case such data collection practices began.

The biometric data collection details were introduced in the newly added section, “Image and Audio Information,” found under the heading of “Information we collect automatically” in the policy.

This is the part of TikTok’s Privacy Policy that lists the types of data the app gathers from users, which was already fairly extensive.

The first part of the new section explains that TikTok may collect information about the images and audio that are in users’ content, “such as identifying the objects and scenery that appear, the existence and location within an image of face and body features and attributes, the nature of the audio, and the text of the words spoken in your User Content.”

While that may sound creepy, other social networks do object recognition on images you upload to power accessibility features (like describing what’s in an Instagram photo, for example), as well as for ad targeting purposes. Identifying where a person and the scenery is can help with AR effects, while converting spoken words to text helps with features like TikTok’s automatic captions.

The policy also notes this part of the data collection is for enabling “special video effects, for content moderation, for demographic classification, for content and ad recommendations, and for other non-personally-identifying operations,” it says.

The more concerning part of the new section references a plan to collect biometric data.

It states:

We may collect biometric identifiers and biometric information as defined under US laws, such as faceprints and voiceprints, from your User Content. Where required by law, we will seek any required permissions from you prior to any such collection.

The statement itself is vague, as it doesn’t specify whether it’s considering federal law, states laws, or both. It also doesn’t explain, as the other part did, why TikTok needs this data. It doesn’t define the terms “faceprints” or “voiceprints.” Nor does it explain how it would go about seeking the “required permissions” from users, or if it would look to either state or federal laws to guide that process of gaining consent.

That’s important because as it stands today, only a handful of U.S. states have biometric privacy laws, including Illinois, Washington, California, Texas and New York. If TikTok only requested consent, “where required by law,” it could mean users in other states would not have to be informed about the data collection.

Reached for comment, a TikTok spokesperson could not offer more details on the company’s plans for biometric data collection or how it may tie in to either current or future products.

“As part of our ongoing commitment to transparency, we recently updated our Privacy Policy to provide more clarity on the information we may collect,” the spokesperson said.

The company also pointed us to an article about its approach to data security, TikTok’s latest Transparency Report and the recently launched privacy and security hub, which is aimed at helping people better understand their privacy choices on the app.

Photo by NOAH SEELAM / AFP) (Photo by NOAH SEELAM/AFP via Getty Images)

The biometric disclosure comes at a time when TikTok has been working to regain the trust of some U.S. users.

Under the Trump administration, the federal government attempted to ban TikTok from operating in the U.S. entirely, calling the app a national security threat because of its ownership by a Chinese company. TikTok fought back against the ban and went on record to state it only stores TikTok U.S. user data in its U.S. data centers and in Singapore.

It said it has never shared TikTok user data with the Chinese government nor censored content, despite being owned by Beijing-based ByteDance. And it said it would never do so, if asked.

Though the TikTok ban was initially stopped in the courts, the federal government appealed the rulings. But when President Biden took office, his administration put the appeal process on hold as it reviewed the actions taken by his predecessor. And although Biden has, as of today, signed an executive order to restrict U.S. investment in Chinese firms linked to surveillance, his administration’s position on TikTok remains unclear.

It is worth noting, however, that the new disclosure about biometric data collection follows a $ 92 million settlement in a class action lawsuit against TikTok, originally filed in May 2020, over the social media app’s violation of Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act. The consolidated suit included more than 20 separate cases filed against TikTok over the platform’s collection and sharing of the personal and biometric information without user consent. Specifically, this involved the use of facial filter technology for special effects.

In that context, TikTok’s legal team may have wanted to quickly cover themselves from future lawsuits by adding a clause that permits the app to collect personal biometric data.

The disclosure, we should also point out, has only been added to the U.S. Privacy Policy, as other markets like the EU have stricter data protection and privacy laws.

The new section was part of a broader update to TikTok’s Privacy Policy, which included other changes both large and small, ranging from corrections of earlier typos to revamped or even entirely new sections. Most of these tweaks and changes could be easily explained, though — like new sections that clearly referenced TikTok’s e-commerce ambitions or adjustments aimed at addressing the implications of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency on targeted advertising.

In the grand scheme of things, TikTok still has plenty of data on its users, their content and their devices, even without biometric data.

For example, TikTok policy already stated it automatically collects information about users’ devices, including location data based on your SIM card and IP addresses and GPS, your use of TikTok itself and all the content you create or upload, the data you send in messages on its app, metadata from the content you upload, cookies, the app and file names on your device, battery state and even your keystroke patterns and rhythms, among other things.

This is in addition to the “Information you choose to provide,” which comes from when you register, contact TikTok or upload content. In that case, TikTok collects your registration info (username, age, language, etc.), profile info (name, photo, social media accounts), all your user-generated content on the platform, your phone and social network contacts, payment information, plus the text, images and video found in the device’s clipboard. (TikTok, as you may recall, got busted by Apple’s iOS 14 feature that alerted users to the fact that TikTok and other apps were accessing iOS clipboard content. Now, the policy says TikTok “may collect” clipboard data “with your permission.”)

The content of the Privacy Policy itself wasn’t of immediate concern to some TikTok users. Instead, it was the buggy rollout.

Some users reported seeing a pop-up message alerting them to the Privacy Policy update, but the page was not available when they tried to read it. Others complained of seeing the pop-up repeatedly. This issue doesn’t appear to be universal. In tests, we did not have an issue with the pop-up ourselves.

Additional reporting by Zack Whittaker


Social – TechCrunch


TikTok launches a Green Screen Duet feature, tests dedicated ‘Topics’ feeds

May 14, 2021 No Comments

As competition with tech giants heats up, TikTok is rolling out a series of new features to help keep its short-form video app ahead of rivals. The company today announced the launch of a new Green Screen Duet feature, which combines two of TikTok’s most popular editing tools to allow creators to use another video from TikTok as the background in their new video. It also confirmed the test of a new way to discover videos. Called “Topics,” these are dedicated interest-based feeds featuring the top, trending videos in a given category.

Green Screen Duet joins an existing set of Duet tools that let creators lay out two videos side-by-side. Today, Duet layouts include “Left & Right,” “React” and “Top & Bottom.” Creators currently use Duets to sing, dance, joke or act alongside another user’s video, react to a video’s content or even just watch a video from another, sometimes smaller, creator to raise awareness or call attention to its content.

Editing tools like Duet and Stitch are key to what makes TikTok not just a passive video viewing app but, rather, a new type of video-first social network. It’s also proven so popular, it has since been adopted by Facebook’s TikTok clone, Instagram Reels, where it’s known as Remix. Snapchat has been developing a Remix feature of its own, too.

Image Credits: TikTok

TikTok’s new Green Screen Duet will now appear as another option alongside the existing layouts, offering users a way to more easily use another video in the background as they record their own video overlaid on top.

This sort of video experience is something TikTok creators already do in a variety of ways. For example, they may capture images or screen recordings, then use other editing tools to create a green screen effect like this. Or they may react to a video using a Stitch instead, as that can be easier. A built-in Green Screen Duet feature simply offers another way to record new videos that include existing videos.

When the feature is used, the Duetted video plays in the background over the new video being recorded. TikTok believes the launch will inspire new formats for creativity and expression, as a result.

TikTok has been busy upgrading its interface to improve recording and discovering new video content in its app in recent weeks, as Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat have tried to reproduce TikTok’s feature set in their own apps. For instance, TikTok just launched interactive music features last month in an effort to get ahead.

In another leap, TikTok is also now testing a new Discover page in the app, where instead of only featuring the current trends, as before, it now organizes videos into categories.

Image Credits: TikTok

These categories represent the many areas of interest on TikTok, like gaming, beauty, dance, TV & movies, sports, family, learning and much more. When you tap into any given category, you’re taken to a feed that includes the community’s top, trending content. The feeds will be affected by factors like relevance, timeliness and interest, and can help users find new content and creators outside of what their personalized For You page shows.

TikTok confirmed the test has been rolling out in the U.S. over the past few weeks.

The company also is currently testing e-commerce shopping features, where some brands like Hype and Walmart have been given a new “Shopping” tab on their TikTok profile where users can shop items, add to cart and then check out without leaving the app. (Walmart enabled its tab during its livestream event in December, and it’s been there ever since.)

Image Credits: TikTok

The integration is less elegant than Instagram’s Shops, as there’s not a native, universal cart or integrated payment mechanism. Instead, users are visiting the retailer’s website directly.

The advances TikTok is making, however, has been paying off in terms of capturing a large Gen Z user base.

According to eMarketer, more Gen Z users in the U.S. now use TikTok than Instagram, or 37.3 million monthly active users compared with 33.3 million users, respectively. And by 2023, the firm predicts TikTok will surpass Snapchat in terms of total U.S. users, as well.

But TikTok’s global ambitions are impacted not only by its ban in India but also the possibility that creators will find more monetization opportunities on established platforms.

Yesterday, for example, YouTube announced a $ 100 million fund for top YouTube Shorts creators, and said it will soon be testing ads on Shorts. That could help creators generate revenue from short-form content, while also converting casual viewers to channel subscribers where there are even more opportunities to monetize. Snapchat and Instagram have also been wooing creators with cash, and ultimately, if creators find they can make more money elsewhere they could shift some of their attention away from TikTok, no matter how many creative new features it adds.

Mobile – TechCrunch


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