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Facebook makes two big moves into video

Until now, 2018 has been the year Facebook ran away from the news. Burned by the Trending Topics scan
June 6 · Issue #152 · View online
The Interface
Until now, 2018 has been the year Facebook ran away from the news. Burned by the Trending Topics scandal, and befuddled on how to fix the News Feed, the company deemphasized shared links in favor of posts from friends and family. But there’s one place where Facebook is still chasing news with open arms: the Facebook Watch tab, which as of today has a full slate of launch programming.
The programming, for which Facebook is paying some hefty upfront fees, is designed to show Facebook’s commitment to promoting high-quality news while also driving traffic to its fledgling — and struggling — home for long-form video consumption. The announced shows include efforts from CNN (Anderson Cooper), Fox News (Shepard Smith), and ABC News (featuring a rotating cast of journalists.) 
There are daily news shows, weekly news shows, and at least one twice-a-week news show. There’s also a show where Univision’s Jorge Ramos travels around America talking to immigrants.
The problem is that many of these shows look like the kind of thing you would have on in the background as you folded laundry, as opposed to something you would pay rapt attention to inside a Facebook tab while batting away notifications from every other app on your phone. The low information density of most TV news shows is never more apparent than when you’re holding a phone connected to everyone and everything you’ve ever loved.
Still, if Facebook is going to pay publishers for anything, it might as well be for the news. Some critics on Twitter chimed in to say that this was all a trap, and that Facebook would eventually pull the funding and put the people producing these new shows out of work. Here’s my colleague Kurt Wagner from the aforelinked Recode piece:
The problem historically is that none of Facebook’s efforts have delivered enough revenue to publishers to counterbalance the time and effort that goes into producing the work. Facebook won’t pay these news publishers out of pocket forever, which means they’ll eventually need to establish consistent audiences big enough to generate ad revenue that will pay for the production costs (and then some) on their own. 
Publishers know this already, though, having lived through it with Facebook Live, but there’s little risk in taking a chance on Facebook’s success here. And in any case, the odds of a publisher accepting free money will always hover near 100 percent.
Elsewhere on the video front, Josh Constine has more details on yesterday’s Wall Street Journal scoop about Instagram. Its forthcoming video expansion is indeed a Snapchat Discover clone, as I had speculated, although no one knows where exactly it’s going to pop up: 
Instagram is preparing to unveil a home for longer-form video — a YouTube competitor and its take on Snapchat Discover. Instagram will offer a dedicated space featuring scripted shows, music videos, and more in vertically oriented, full-screen, high-def 4K resolution according to multiple sources. Instagram has been meeting with popular social media stars and content publishers to find out how their video channels elsewhere would work within its app. It’s also lining up launch partners for an announcement of the long-form video effort tentatively scheduled for June 20th.
The public shouldn’t expect Netflix Originals or HBO-level quality. This is not “InstaGame Of Thrones”. Instead, the feature is more focused on the kind of videos you see from YouTube creators. These often range from five to fifteen minutes in length, shot with nice cameras and lighting but not some massive Hollywood movie production crew. Average users will be able to upload longer videos too, beyond the current 60-second limit.
In this case, Constine reports, Facebook won’t be paying anyone up front, nor will it be monetizing the videos with advertising. Anyone making high-end Instagram video at this point is doing so in the hopes that being early on the platform will bring outsized, YouTube-like riches to some of them eventually. 
All other things being equal, I’d rather have the free money.

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