Facebook’s traffic is down as it strives for ‘meaningful connections’

Meaningful.
Image: facebook/mark zuckerberg

One of Facebook’s core statistics doesn’t look so good. Time spent on the network — a number that drives the tech giant’s revenue — is down by an estimated 50 million hours per day.

Facebook now reaches 2.13 billion people per month and has 1.4 billion daily active users. If we were to revisit that 50 million hours number on a per user basis, it would be a drop of 0.035 hours aka 2.1 minutes per user per day. 

For CEO and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg, that’s a necessary drop for his company’s future success. Zuckerberg announced the news Wednesday as part of Facebook’s quarterly earnings, reflecting on its 2017 revenue and spending and the future of the company. 

Facebook’s stock was down nearly 5 percent in after-hours trading, but by the end of the hour-long call with investors, had jumped up by 2 percent. Zuckerberg knows it won’t be pretty going forward either. 

“2017 was a strong year for Facebook, but it was also a hard one,” Zuckerberg said in a statement. “In 2018, we’re focused on making sure Facebook isn’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being and for society. We’re doing this by encouraging meaningful connections between people rather than passive consumption of content.”

Time spent on Facebook

The world’s largest social network (a.k.a. advertising giant, democracy wrecker, and virtual reality headset maker) is far from dead. This is Facebook we’re talking about. The site traffic isn’t everything when it comes to financials. Revenue from Facebook ads is driven by actual clicks. Facebook still brought in $4.26 billion in profits last quarter.

Zuckerberg’s decry of the old model, that means fewer viral videos.

With Zuckerberg at the helm, Facebook is pushing itself to become a place where people enjoy themselves and genuinely want to keep coming back. According to Zuckerberg’s decry of the old model, that means fewer viral videos, unless users are having back-and-forth conversations in the comments section. 

“Already last quarter, we made changes to show fewer viral videos to make sure people’s time is well spent. In total, we made changes that reduced time spent on Facebook by roughly 50 million hours every day. By focusing on meaningful connections, our community and business will be stronger over the long term,” Zuckerberg’s statement continued. 

Zuckerberg’s hope is that the ads in Facebook will be better, and therefore bring in more revenue, too. “When you care about something, you’re willing to see ads to experience it,” he said. 

Money is still no issue for Facebook. Revenue reached $12.97 billion for the fourth quarter of 2017, up 47 percent from last quarter. Earnings per share came out below analyst’s estimates, $1.21 compared to $1.94 projected. However, Facebook made sure to note the U.S. tax bill affected its overall gains. Had that one-time charge not been taken into account the result would have been $2.21, beating expectations.

For Facebook, revenue is all about smartphones. Mobile advertising revenue now makes up 89 percent of overall ad revenue, up from 84 percent a year prior. 

An ideological shift 

Facebook is now grappling with its new reputation. The company’s 2018 has been rocky following a recent shift in its ideology

After years of fueling growth among digital-first media companies with Facebook Page, the company said it would decrease their influence in the News Feed, dropping it to 4 percent from 5 percent.

Now, Facebook is prioritizing posts shared by friends and family and content from “trusted” news sources, where “trusted” is defined by the community. 

Facebook continues to be criticized by its own community for negative impacts on mental health and data privacy. Facebook effort to create an app to help children communicate inspired protest from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood that it would negatively affect their wellbeing.  

“Shift from showing the most meaningful content to people to encouraging the most meaningful interaction,” Zuckerberg said. “It’s not just one News Feed change… It’s going to be a series of product changes.”

Zuckerberg called out Stories — the vertical photo- and video-sharing product that the company copied from competitor Snapchat — as a new product aligned with meaningful interactions on and off the platform. 

“Stories is a better format of sharing multiple quick video clips throughout your day,” he said. WhatsApp and Instagram are number 1 and number 2 “most used Stories product in the world.”

These updates are far from Facebook’s only worry going forward. Facebook is dealing with the backlash of incidentally spreading Russian propaganda during the 2016 presidential election and the overall presence of fake news on the site. Facebook also is combatting hate speech. Last year, U.S. lawmakers grilled Facebook, as well as Twitter and Google, on these practices and demanded that the companies make changes, in particular with transparency on political ads

Separately, Facebook is addressing data privacy and tools that allow users to further change their ad experience ahead of the European Union’s upcoming privacy changes known as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

Big bets ahead 

But not everything is negative or decreasing on Facebook’s horizon. A new initiative called Facebook Watch, a hub for high-quality video, is gaining traction among users, media publishers, and Hollywood studios. 

“It’s early. There’s some promising signs,” Zuckerberg said. “It’s really important to internalize that the News Feed ecosystem and the Watch ecosystem are two totally separate things … We’re optimistic that Watch will be a use of video to bring people together.” 

Zuckerberg and his team spoke little of hardware updates, but the company has made big announcements already this year with its products. Facebook’s virtual reality division Oculus is launching a new headset in China thanks to a partnership with Xiaomi.

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/01/31/facebook-earnings-2017-50-million-hours-per-day-traffic/

Facebook is overhauling its News Feed so users feel better again

Facebook is re-tweaking its News Feed again. 

This time it wants to bring it back to friends and family instead of viral videos and media posts, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in a post Thursday. 

“I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions,” he wrote.

He said the change should make everyone feel better: “The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health.”

With fewer posts from businesses, brands, and media, expect to see more of what your “friends” are sharing and liking. 

Zuckerberg didn’t mention Facebook’s role in the 2016 election or Russian meddling through the platform as motivation to change what shows up on the social network.

A breakdown of the “closer together” initiative (also outlined in a video above) indicates news stories will get de-prioritized, while conversations that Facebook thinks will spark a lot of engagement will get a boost. 

To achieve a happier Facebook user base, it looks like Facebook will focus on comment-heavy posts — and not just quick comments like, “Oh no!” or “Thanks!” but lengthy (meaningful!) comments.

All those “likes” won’t mean as much as full-on engagement, which under the new rules seems to mean back-and-forth conversations. Sounds like posting links back and forth won’t count as much in the meaningfulness meter.

In other words, publishers will almost certainly see traffic drop and video views decrease.

Zuckerberg rationalized that the changes will ultimately make for a better Facebook experience, naturally, but might actually cause people to spend less time on the social network.

“I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable,” he wrote.

UPDATE: Jan. 11, 2018, 5:07 p.m. PST This post has been updated with more information about the News Feed changes.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2018/01/11/facebook-news-feed-algorithm-changes-family-friends/

Facebook and The Trevor Project hope to help prevent LGBTQ youth suicides

Facebook has been working to make users feel safer on the platform for years, and in its latest effort to enhance the online community, the social media platform partnered with The Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.

On Tuesday in the middle of Mental Health Awareness month Facebook announced that users will be able to connect with mental health resourcesfromThe Trevor Project right from their direct messages. The project rolls out over the next few months.

According to The Trevor Project’s website, the rate of suicide attempts is “four times greater for LGB youth and two times greater for questioning youth than that of straight youth,” so it’s clear how helpful access to a supportive chat bot could be. And though The Trevor Project is aimed at helping suicide prevention in young people, the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 40 percent of transgender adult respondents reportedly made a suicide attempt during their lives, so Facebook users of all ages could certainly benefit from the helpful resource.

The messenger crisis support will also expand awareness to other areas of the mental heath community with the help of participating organizations likeCrisis Text Line, the National Eating Disorder Association, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The social media site recently received a great deal of backlash surrounding the spread of live-streamed suicide videos and earlier this month after a violent video of a Cleveland man shooting and killing a 74-year-old man was posted to the site founder Mark Zuckerberg admitted more human intervention is necessary on the site to ensure the safety of users.

The site also collaborated with mental health organizations back in 2016 to launch tools and resources aimed at supporting the mental health community. Users now have easily accessible support groups along with the ability to report concerning posts related to self-injury or suicide directly to Facebook.

Back in March the site was even testing a pattern recognition system that would use AI to identify posts that include certain keywords pertaining to suicidal thoughts.

Studies have shown that excessive social media us could increase levels of depression, so the more resources the better.

If you want to talk to someone or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For international resources, this list is a good place to start.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/17/facebook-lgbtq-trevor-project/

India’s leading edutech startup is now a Harvard case study

Image:  GOOGLE PLAY STORE

Education technology startup Byju’s, backed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), is now a Harvard case study.

It is only the fourth Indian startup to make it to the hallowed Harvard Business Publishing platform, after Flipkart (India’s largest online retailer), Paytm (India’s biggest mobile wallet) and GOQii (India’s leading health and fitness startup).

The case titled ‘Byju’s The Learning App’ will outline the startup’s unique usage of content, media and technology that has enabled it to create a compelling product for students.

Byju’s now has over 400,000 annual paid subscribers, and over 8 million downloads so far. It also claims that the average time spent on the app is a handsome 40 minutes.

What makes Byju’s a two-year-old company unique?

In the words of its founder, Byju Raveedran, Learning through technology triggers changes in how students consume content. It offers them newer ways to explore concepts and initiate learning on their own.”

Perhaps that is what drew the attention of Mark Zuckerberg as well.

Last September as the CZI led a $50 million investment in Byju’s, the Facebook founder wrote, “I’m optimistic about personalized learning and the difference it can make for students everywhere.”

“That’s why it’s a major focus of our education efforts, and why we’re looking forward to working with companies like BYJU’s to get these tools into the hands of more students and teachers around the world,” he added.

Not only Zuckerberg, Byju’s drew an undisclosed investment from World Bank‘s International Finance Corporation too. With these dollars, the startup plans to roll out new products and expand into the US and the UK.

Meanwhile, the Harvard case study, which has been authored by John Jong-Hyun Kim, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, and Rachna Tahilyani, associate director, Harvard Business School India Research Center, is available for teaching purposes within and outside Harvard.

“It is very humbling to have our brand story as a Harvard Business School case study. This further encourages us to innovate and build learning programs to revolutionize education and create a whole new segment of self-paced learners globally, said founder Raveendran in a statement.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/05/zuckerberg-backed-edutech-startup-harvard-case-study/