Instagram Embracing the Time Well Spent Movement: Whether you want to know or not, Instagram will soon be launching a time spent feature that lets us know how much time we’re using the app. Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom tweeted, “Understanding how time online impacts people is important, and it’s the responsibility of all companies to be honest about this. We want to be part of the solution.” We can’t wait to see these numbers and what they indicate about consumer behavior. (LINK)

Google News (AI) Launches: The new AI-powered Google News app is now available on iOS and Android. Go get it! This version uses machine learning to train algorithms to comb through complex or breaking news stories, and then break them down for you in easy-to-understand formats like chronological timelines, local news aggregation, and stories. It will be personalized to you, learn from you, and get better over time. (LINK)

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YouTube Music Is Coming on Tuesday: YouTube is expanding its role as the largest online source for music by introducing a formal YouTube Music service next week. This is big news because YouTube has content that competitors (like Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music) lack — like music videos, remixes, and live performances. They’ve also promised thousands of playlists, a radio feature, recommendation engine, and a new mobile app. Although a lot of this will be free, the company will offer a Premium experience with downloads and ad-free features for $9.99 a month. More than a billion people come to YouTube specifically for music, and we believe these features will only increase that number. (LINK)

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Twitch Plays SNL: Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch is streaming a 48-hour marathon of the very best bits of Saturday Night Live right this second – all leading up to SNL Season 43’s final episode (Tina Fey and Nicki Minaj) tomorrow night. Watch it live right now! As part of the deal with NBCUniversal, Twitch creators can co-stream the SNL marathon while adding their own commentary. This partnership comes as Twitch continues to look for ways to compete with Google’s YouTube (see above!) and as SNL continues to look for ways to diversify its audience mix. (LINK)

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Yanni or Laurel? Just like that dress that’s either gold and white or blue and black, the two unrelated words “Yanny” and “Laurel” broke the internet this week thanks to a sound file that sounds different to different people. The clip and original poll were posted by high school students who recorded the clip from the vocabulary.com page for “laurel” (the word for a wreath worn on the head “usually a symbol of victory”). Even The White House joined in as the meme spread. Luckily the New York Times built a tool so everyone can hear both. Also, it’s Laurel.

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9 TED Talks About Robots Taking Our Jobs: The idea that A.I. and robots are taking over seems to be a regular theme in social media. But what do thought leaders have to say about it? This week we highly enjoyed these 9 TED Talks on the theme – including: What happens when computers are smarter than us; How we’ll earn money in the future without jobs; and How we can build A.I. to help humans, not hurt us. It’s increasing a digital world, and we’re just working in it. (LINK)

Insta Stories Soundtracks: This week Instagram not only launched a new emoji slider feature, it also leaked they are preparing to let you add music to your Stories. “Music Stickers” could let you search for and add a song to your posts, thanks to new licensing deals with major record labels. Instagram is also testing a way to automatically detect a song you’re listening to and display the artist and song title as just a visual label. If this launches, look for way more “sound on” adoption of Stories moving forward. (LINK)

Google @ I/O: At this week’s Google I/O, the tech giant announced a number of pretty amazing inventions – including a more human-sounding voice assistant (everything can sound like John Legend now), new visual enhancements – like turning your watch to the ice cream shop into a video game, Google News improvements, and the introduction of a Waymo autonomous car service that will pilot in Phoenix, AZ — without a human driver. We’ll have more on I/O next week! (LINK)

I Wish I Knew How to Quit You, FB: Remember that whole Cambridge Analytica scandal and the Zuckerberg testimony and all of your friends promising to delete their Facebook accounts? Well, a new Reuters/Ipsos Poll shows about half of Facebook’s American users said they had not recently changed the amount that they used Facebook, and another quarter said they were using it more. So basically those using Facebook less were balanced by those using it more, with no clear net loss or gain in use. Oh, and Facebook’s stock is back up from the dip, too. This is just further evidence of how sticky social networks are and how few people every really boycott or quit anything, despite what they say online. (LINK)

Tweet of The Week: You will never look at a calendar the same way after you watch this

(Written by Carter Jensen!)

Instead of the standard Social Pulse rundown of five things we’re tracking, this week we wanted to do something different given all the news coming out of Facebook this week at the F8 conference.

 

What is F8?

Facebook F8, sometimes referred to as the “Coachella for Nerds,” is an annual conference for developers and entrepreneurs who build products and services around Facebook and its associated companies. The “F8” name comes from Facebook’s tradition of 8-hour hackathons.

 

Why are these announcements so important?

Unlike other technology conferences, Facebook is notorious for the rapid availability of the products announced during this event. Most of these innovations will be available to the 2 Billion Facebook users within the next few weeks. Fallon continues to work closely with Facebook on these updates, and we are excited to bring these new features to life for our brands right away.

 

Here’s an overview of the most impactful news from this week…

 

Instant AR – Integrated Newsfeed Experience: Animated 3D objects will soon be turned into augmented reality objects with a feature that takes the graphic from the News Feed to the Facebook Camera in one tap. The list of brand opportunities and ideas for this new feature continues to grow here in our offices as we cannot wait to bring these new experiences to life in the coming days. (VIDEO)

 

AR In Messenger – Immersive Commerce and Brand Discovery: Brands will soon be able to create AR camera effects in Messenger. The feature will allow companies to create immersive experiences that allow customers to learn, try on, and customize products all within the platform. Nike and Sephora were showcased during the convention as we at Fallon are already in the process of building out the next iteration of this experience. (VIDEO)

 

Watch Party – Making Video More Social: Watch Party is a new feature in Facebook that allows you to watch live video while chatting with a group of friends. The feature was created to encourage meaningful participation and discussion on the platform as Facebook continues to expand its video and ‘Live” offering. We are excited to continue to expand our publishing capabilities on the platform as viewership continues to expand and become more social. (VIDEO)

 

Instagram Camera – FX & AR: Facebook is now unlocking the ability for third parties to design unique, interactive AR camera experiences for their followers on the Instagram platform. If a user finds a new effect in Stories from an account they follow and they want to try it themselves, they just tap “Try it on” and the tool will be added to the tray. More fun creative effects from major accounts are coming in the next few weeks, including Ariana Grande, Baby Ariel, Liza Koshy, Vogue, and Buzzfeed. (VIDEO)

 

Instagram and Facebook Stories – Share From 3rd Party Apps: Facebook is introducing a new way for users to share from their favorite apps to both Facebook and Instagram Stories. “People already share their interests on our platforms, and now we’re making that experience faster, easier and more creative on Stories.” For example, users can now simply tap the share button in an app like Spotify to share what you’re listening to directly into the camera.  From there you can edit and share to your story or feed. You don’t have to connect your Facebook or Instagram account to other apps in order to share to Stories.  We cannot wait to start linking external digital experiences directly into this community! (VIDEO)

 

Instagram’s New Look – Video Chat & Explore: First and foremost, Instagram has updated its app to include an improved Explore section. The new explore section is sorted by topics, allowing you to find interesting content more quickly. In addition to overhauling the Explore table, Instagram is also changing the way it displays content. Besides A.I. sorting, Instagram is now using community curation to make the Explore tab more personalized. In addition to the new and improved Explore UI, Facebook is bringing video chat to the platform to give friends a new way to spend time together — even when they aren’t actually together. To start a video chat, users can simply tap the new camera icon at the top of a Direct thread. We already know the power Instagram can have for brands and cannot wait to see how these new features continue to push the platform. (VIDEO – Video Chat; VIDEO – Explore)

 

VR / Oculus – New Hardware & Experiences: Facebook used F8 to announce its newest hardware, the Oculus Go. Oculus Go, the first stand-alone VR headset, is available now and is shipping for $199 (We already have a few on the way). In addition to the hardware announcement, Facebook released several new initiatives to make VR more entertaining and social. Check out the video below for the full rundown of these new experiences. We cannot wait to see you in this virtual world soon! (VIDEO; VIDEO – Pointillism)

 

Privacy and Politics – Clear History: Facebook could not avoid the privacy spotlight entirely as they announced plans to build a ‘Clear History’ tool that would enable users to see the websites and apps that send information when you use them, delete this information from your account. This announcement was in conjunction with a long list of other initiatives Zuckerberg covered in hopes of gaining back the trust of the general community. (VIDEO)

 

Sources: TechCrunch | MarketingLand | Facebook Newsroom | Instagram Newsroom

 

 

We did our best to succinctly cover the highlights of F8 above, but there were also advances in dating, 3D spaces, bullying prevention, up/down voting and Messenger innovations worth reviewing. Full summaries of the changes coming to Facebook’s ecosystem can be found online via developers.facebook.com. And you can watch the full video of the F8 keynote here.

 

 

Amazon in Your Trunk: This week Amazon announced a new program to deliver packages to your car, using their Amazon Key program. Your car? Yes, building on the success of their front door unlocking program, Amazon will now be able to use their Key app to find your car via GPS and unlock it to make the delivery. To start out, the service will only be available to Amazon Prime subscribers and is limited to 2015 or newer GM and Volvo vehicles. (LINK)

You Can’t Say That on Facebook: With all of the Zuckerberg and Facebook scrutiny in recent weeks (note: be sure to watch this Bad Lip Reading of Zuckerberg’s Congressional Testimony), this week we got our first look at the content guidelines Facebook uses to moderate content – a 27-page guide with an almost 8,000-word bulleted list of no-nos. It’s also now possible for users to appeal bans on individual posts, starting with takedowns involving nudity or sexual activity, hate speech and graphic violence. Facebook is promising a speedy clarification and a possible reconsideration, ideally within 24 hours. (LINK)

A.I. for Kids: Starting May 9th, Amazon customers can subscribe to a version of Alexa that has audio books, games and music catered to kids. According to Buzzfeed News, Alexa will reward kids for good manners (like saying “please”) and will have kid-appropriate answers for questions like “Where do babies come from?” (A: “People make people.”) or “Why are kids mean to me?” (A: “People bully, or are mean, for many different reasons. Bullying feels bad and is never OK.”) Amazon is also launching a kid-version of the Echo Dot with soft covering and kid controls. (LINK)

Lost in Space in your Kitchen: This week Netflix and Google Home launched an interactive game to promote the reboot of “Lost in Space” on Netflix (which we LOVE, by the way). You can talk directly to the five members of the Robinson family, give Mom tips on how to escape from the spaceship, help Dad decode hidden messages, or aid Judy in her search for fuel. Each game lasts only five or six minutes, and they are all family friendly. To get started just say “Hey Google, play the Lost in Space game” with your Google Home device. (LINK)

The 99% of Music Videos not from OK Go: We’re really digging this Slate feature about San Francisco–based musician Michael Deni and his countless failed attempts at making music videos, including ones that actually harmed his band more than helped. It’s no secret that a truly great music video can launch a musician’s career and earn them global fans and attention. Yet even though the bar is very high, bands with big budgets and bands with no budgets continue to produce and publish videos – but not everyone is OK Go. The summary? Unless your video is worth watching, don’t put it up on YouTube. (LINK)

Westworld Rickroll’d Us: In anticipation of Season 2 (debuting this Sunday!) Westworld creators teased they would reveal the entire plot of the new season if a post on Reddit got 1,000 upvotes. Of course, the post reached that goal within hours – and fans were rewarding with a 25-minute video titled “Westworld Season 2 — A Primer,” which was the most elaborate Rickroll ever. Amazing. Can’t wait for Sunday! (LINK)

Use Google to ‘Talk’ to Books’: Google’s new Talk to Books tool gives conversational answers for questions but with citations from real books. For example, if you search “What was Prince’s band’s name?” and it delivers not just the answer but links to full digital version of books with the answer highlighted. Pretty amazing use of technology and a glimpse into the future of libraries. (LINK)

Amazon and Reddit Exploding: This week we learned Amazon has exceeded 100 million paid Prime subscribers! CEO Jeff Bezos said in 2017 Amazon shipped more than 5 billion items with Prime worldwide. It also came out the active number of Reddit users is as large as Twitter! It’s a more than 30 percent increase in less than six months, marking Reddit as the sixth most-visited website in the world. Oh, and visitors spend longer on Reddit.com than any other site in the Top 50, regardless of category – even compared to top ‘adult’ sites. According to TheNextWeb, Reddit can credibly claim that it’s even more engaging than porn. Luckily it’s mostly SFW. Well mostly. (LINK)

 

Dejarik IRL: You know the famous “holochess” hologram strategy game in all the Star Wars movies – where players direct a collection of holographic alien characters to battle each other for dominance? Thanks to the new update to Star Wars: Jedi Challenges now anyone can play it! It uses augmented reality to project the holographic pieces to your own table (or really, anywhere you want). And it only took 41 years from the first movie to create. (LINK)

Alexa Blueprints: Amazon has released a new feature that lets anyone make custom skills without knowing any code. These “blueprints” act as templates for making questions, responses, trivia games, narrative stories, and other skills with customizable answers unique to each user. We know what we’ll be doing this weekend! (LINK)

 

Facebook and Privacy: We’ve been closely following the Zuckerberg testimony this week and highly recommend The Daily’s two podcasts (#1, #2) for some of the most succinct and thorough reporting on what was asked, what was said, and what it all means. We’re also encouraged that Instagram has announced they will soon allow users to download all uploaded content soon. While Facebook has allowed us to download posted content since 2010, Instagram has lacked that feature. And we’ve got some sweet top-down photos of avocado toast we want to keep forever. (LINK)


Why Are Teens Doing Elaborate Photo Shoots in Craft Stores:
 People are crashing popular craft stores to do the #HobbyLobbyChallenge and #MichaelsChallenge, snapping photos in the faux floral aisles to make it look like they’re anywhere else. And the results are gorgeous. Dare accepted. (LINK)

JT is Coming to Wherever You Are: This week we had Justin Timberlake in our office to introduce a track from his new album, “Man of the Woods.” Except it was a new augmented reality app from American Express that was projecting JT here and turning our office into the woods. And it sounded GREAT. Download the app here and bring JT into your life.  (LINK)

LinkedIn is adding GIFs? You know what the only professional social network needed this whole time that nobody was asking for? GIFs. But it appears the next generation expects to interact with recruiters and new connections with the Excuse Me What Blinking Guy GIF. “Think about your company’s culture, your professional relationship with the person and the industry you work in to decide if it makes sense to send a GIF,” LinkedIn wrote in a blog post. Umm…there’s no going back now. (LINK)

Excuse Me What GIF by Mashable - Find & Share on GIPHY

Emoji Scavenger Hunt: You don’t have to fully understand “Machine learning” and “neural networks” to enjoy this new mobile browser game that uses your phone’s camera to send you on a scavenger hunt to find emoji in the real world around you before the timer hits zero. It’s Google’s latest consumer-facing application of their technology, and it’s surprisingly addictive. Stop what you’re doing and try it here! (LINK)

“I’m going to Live From Here,” I told my coworkers and friends last week.

Puzzled faces. Every time. And this is a mix of pretty plugged in millennials and music fans.

“It’s the new Prairie Home Companion,” I find myself clarifying. “Or I think it’s like the old format but with new artists, or something.”

Or something.

 

Nobody I spoke with had seen either format, which has been recorded in Minnesota for four decades and is syndicated by American Public Media. And although I recall my grandfather listening to Garrison Keillor cassette tapes on a road trip when I was eight years-old, I’m pretty much a live radio production virgin, too.

I wasn’t ever the target audience of Prairie Home Companion (PHC), am not from Minnesota, don’t seek out folk music, don’t really think Cracker Barrel humor is funny, and don’t really listen to variety show content much, if at all.

So when the show reached out with tickets I was certainly curious but also pretty self-conscious. There’s a lot of legacy here that a lot of people have loved for years, and it’s part of Minnesota culture. But by intermission of this week’s episode, it was clear my presupposition on the format’s paradox was spot-on.

Chris Thile, Keillor’s hand-picked replacement, is a charismatic and masterful musician. He instantly captured the attention of the sold-out State Theater crowd in the State Theater with his charm, wit and musicianship. He’s a gem, and learning Thile exists and seeing him live was the best part of the entire experience.

So after warmup — a self-described “sad song” on acoustic guitar from Chris Eldridge that set a terribly slow and somber tone — the “On Air” sign was lit, and the show was on.

What followed was a sometimes-painful vacillation between old timey folk and modern millennial podcast-bait. It’s no secret Thile and the shows’ producers are striving to strike a balance between what the program used to be and what it will become. That effort was clear but sometimes jarring in the transitions.

Their task isn’t a unique challenge. You take something beloved and try to keep it going, but make it have enough appeal it won’t become dated. We do this in advertising all the time. Look at Old Spice. You don’t want to alienate grandpa, but you also want the high school jocks buying it.

Buick needs help on this right now. Desperately

To me, a “Live from Here” newbie, the bipolar experience was dizzying. The show had something for everyone – folk, blues, rap, Cracker Barrel comedy and Netflix Special comedy. And in that format, the show also wasn’t for everyone.

Instead, it was for people who like all of those things. Which I’m not sure is a lot of people.

And while Thile mentioned the “millions” of listeners tuning in, it’s understandable the challenge the “Live from Here” team will have as that PHC audience base literally dies off — whether cover Prince and Bob Dylan, or not (which they did).

For example: Thile, Tim Russell and sound effects man Fred Newman had the gray hairs in the front rows chortling at their light-hearted, G-rated, rocking-chairs-on-a-front-porch jokes about an old man’s non-sensical similes (actual joke: “If that’s not enough to bear chicken, I’ll be an eagle’s auntie”).

Then there was an Alexa joke, which was maybe to balance out the old man stuff.

But in a later segment they then welcomed comedian Rachel Feinstein (famous for bits titled “Screw Me Harder,” “Only Whores Wear Purple” and “Joking After Sex”) to tell a too-brief monologue about the perils of dating and thrown objects bouncing off her body parts. Now that was funny.

And yet in a post-Keillor era on Keillor’s old show, this kind of humor was also kind of an uncomfortable subject given the allegations that undergird the bulk of media buzz about this new and improved program.

As for the musical guests, the show pitted southern blues rockers Shakey Graves against rapper/singer Dessa, and they were both great. But it was all a strange contrast to the folksy house band, who was also great itself, but very different. It was a genre mash-up and just strange overall.

I mention the gray hairs in the front row mainly because of the contrast with the younger people in t-shirts in the back rows. They whooped and cheered for Dessa while the elder class seemed to tolerate it — much like I tolerated the senior citizen humor of porch jokes, sad acoustic songs, and weird fake sponsorships that weren’t funny.

Throughout the broadcast the house sound in the State Theater was mixed terribly for such a great venue. Thile’s mandolin was barely perceptible for most of the show, and the lead vocals of nearly every performer were turned too far down. Tom Papa’s (pre-recorded?) “Out in America” segment had such a bad echo loop I got a headache. While I appreciate the show’s priority is the NPR listeners, it was a letdown that the mix was so off.

These really are masterful musicians, and it would have been great to hear them as well in the live setting as they sounded on the radio and live stream.

I get the sense some of my opinion on the experience will come off as “Man yells at cloud” to PHC and “Live from Here” fans. There’s a legacy here worth supporting, and I respect that. The “Live from Here” crew is doing an admirable job trying to mix #InstantSongRequests on Twitter with a live audience of elders who frowned at me for taking pictures during the show with my phone — to the point I put it away.

The multi-generational variety show is clearly not my thing, and the ghost of the former PHC host’s baggage haunted the theater for this first-timer. I guess I don’t get why you would get the chance to reboot a show’s format and choose to keep all the AARP stuff.

However, I heard Sufjan Stevens is coming on the 4/21 episode, and that’s an awesome booking. I’m looking forward to hearing him, but I don’t want to sit through old person jokes and the ghost of Garrison Keillor threatening to reboot his show himself.

Good thing there’s a podcast.