SOCIAL INSIDER: Mobile-First News Apps Threaten To Upend Social News Feeds

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RISE OF MOBILE NEWS APPS: Large social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, are finding it increasingly challenging to sort and rank all the content that flows through their news feeds. It’s an opportunity for more narrowly focused news apps to attract users with a simpler service.

Facebook revealed in August 2013 that “every time someone visits News Feed there are on average 1,500 potential stories from friends, people they follow, and pages for them to see … ” Company management has been especially vocal of late about tweaking the News Feed algorithm to surface higher-quality content.

Twitter power users too have been lamenting recently how the service is conditioning people to add their own opinions to every topic that crosses their stream — creating a lot more noise on the platform.

Similar to how people are now favouring standalone messaging and photo-sharing apps (such as WhatsApp and Snapchat) over full-featured social networks, Facebook and Twitter risk losing social stream engagement to up-and-coming mobile-first apps.

Such an app was launched earlier this week with Inside, which summarizes top news stories. Circa is another app that functions similarly, and Apple and Android rated it as one of the best news apps of 2013. Flipboard is a more visual-based mobile news app. Its management team is hoping the service will surpass 150 million users this year.

If users flee the news feed concept for standalone news apps, Facebook and Twitter will have to counteract by gaining usage elsewhere — even if that means rolling out a mobile news app of their own. Facebook is reportedly working on a standalone mobile news app, called Paper, which is run by editors, not algorithms. However, execution is critical to the success of new apps, and we have yet to see the finished product from Facebook.

FACEBOOK EARNINGS PREVIEW: Facebook is expected to post a strong fourth quarter earnings report today. Mobile ad revenue will likely account for the majority of Facebook’s total ad revenue for the first time. (Mobile represented 49% of ad revenues in the third quarter.)

Keep your eyes and ears open for any mention of Facebook’s forthcoming mobile ad network, which it began testing earlier this month.

Also, we are looking out for any mention of how video ads are performing. Facebook rolled these out in December of last year, and analysts have high expectations that video ads will balloon into a big money-maker for Facebook. Similarly, Facebook might comment on Instagram, which now has its own ad business.

In terms of audience growth, we expect Facebook’s management team to address the question of whether teenagers are leaving the social network — as that has been the topic of much discussion in the media.

YAHOO EARNINGS: Yahoo revenues fell 2% in the fourth quarter of 2013, dragged down by its core business — display ads — which were down 6%. Yahoo’s display ad business declined 9% over the year.

The only reference to Tumblr in Yahoo’s earnings release was a link to the corporate blog (which is hosted by Tumblr). Yahoo acquired the popular social Web property last year for $US1 billion. Tumblr’s active and youthful audience was expected to draw advertisers back to Yahoo, but there is little evidence of that today. (Yahoo)

TWITTER MOBILE APP UPDATES: Twitter released new photo-editing tools for its Android app that will soon also be available on iOS. The tools are intended to give users more control over the images they upload to Twitter, which is a concept made popular by Instagram, Snapchat, and other photo-sharing apps. (Twitter Blog)

FACEBOOK’S COST SAVING INFRASTRUCTURE: Facebook’s Open Compute Project, wherein hardware developers collaborate to improve the efficiency of data centres and servers, have saved the company more than $US1.2 billion over three years. What’s more, the improvements made to Facebook’s hardware as a result of the initiative have conserved enough energy to power 40,000 homes and saved enough carbon to take 50,000 cars off the road. Mark Zuckerberg said at a conference earlier this week that the Open Compute Project initiative has created an incentive for other tech companies to focus on open hardware. (Data Center Knowledge)

MEDIUM RAISES MORE CAPITAL: Collaborative blogging platform Medium has raised $US25 million in capital from blue chip investors. Company CEO Evan Williams (who also co-founded Twitter) said he brought on new investors to scale the publishing platform. Medium features an eclectic mix of long-form content. Unlike most online publishers, its sole strategy is not to generate the most page views, nor is it to publish stories that go viral across the Web (although some of its stories have). Williams insists that Medium is about giving people a platform to express themselves thoughtfully. Although it’s a challenge for online publishers to pursue long-form content, a lot of high-profile investors are betting that Medium will be successful. (Re/code)

i.TV BUYS GETGLUE: Second-screen social networking apps haven’t seen terribly wide adoption, even though second-screen activity is plenty common. Social network users do post about what they’re watching on television, they just don’t necessarily do it on stand-alone, second-screen specific apps. Now, i.TV, a video app discovery platform that has worked with a variety of content creators to help users find their shows, has bought GetGlue, the TV check-in service. GetGlue is relaunching as tvtag, which will include more supplementary content from broadcast partners and additional curated content from TV viewers updated in real-time. The check-in services will still be available but it’s the additional features that are supposed to make the service more valuable to TV viewers. The relaunch is another step in the consolidation of the second-screen space. (TechCrunch)

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