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Chinese Tech Giant Tencent Seeks to Purchase a Stake in Warner Music

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While much of the focus in TikTok’s meteoric rise has been on the competition that the app has brought to Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, many have overlooked the app’s rivals in China, which are also seeking to stifle its growth and fend off competition.

Tencent is chief among them. Tencent is essentially the Facebook of China, with its most popular app WeChat ​dominating the market, with over 1.2 billion monthly active users. But ByteDance, which owns TikTok and its Chinese variant Douyin, is on the rise. In fact, in 2019 ByteDance overtook both Baidu and Tencent to become China’s second-largest earner of digital advertising revenues, only trailing Alibaba Group. 

And now Tencent, much like Facebook, is seeking ways to quash its growing rival.

Tencent has already tried the traditional Facebook replication tactic, launching several TikTok-like apps, and similar tools within WeChat, in order to keep users from straying. But ByteDance has continued to grow. Which is why Tencent’s latest moves are particularly interesting.

This week, The Wall Street Journal has reported that Tencent is seeking to purchase a $200 million stake in Warner Music as part of Warner’s IPO next week.

As noted by WSJ:

“The Warner investment would further reinforce Tencent’s growing presence in the music industry. It swapped stakes with Spotify in 2017 ahead of the music-streaming giant’s listing, while Vivendi SA sold a 10% stake in Universal Music Group to Tencent for $3.36 billion late last year, valuing the world’s largest music company at more than $33 billion.” 

When Tencent made that investment in Universal last year, analysts predicted that Tencent would eventually look to use its sway within the music giant to influence future licensing negotiations between Universal and Bytedance, which could restrict the use of Universal music in TikTok clips.

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TikTok signed new licensing deals with UniversalWarner and Sony earlier this year, but all of those deals were ‘shorter-than-usual’, based on industry norms. That means that TikTok’s licenses will be up for review relatively quickly, and if Tencent is able to influence the decision-making on such within two of the three main players, that could be a big problem for ByteDance, and by extension TikTok.

If TikTok were unable to allow users to add popular music to their clips, that could cripple the short-form video app. Music is central to how TikTok functions, and while it would be stretch for Tencent to stop TikTok using music content entirely, it could force significant impositions on any future deals.

And that’s not the only front on which Tencent is looking to hit TikTok.

Earlier this week, we reported that short-form video app Zynn has seen a massive surge in the US App Store charts, less than a month after its launch. Chinese-owned Zynn is essentially a TikTok clone, with the added lure of paying users for engaging within the app, and getting their friends to sign up.

Zynn

So what’s that got to do with Tencent?

Zynn is funded by Kuaishou, which is the main rival for Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok. In December last year, Tencent invested $2 billion in Kuaishou, in the hopes of using it to blunt the growth of ByteDance.

And now, it’s seeking to hook western users as well, with the strong lure of essentially paying users to watch video clips. And it’s working – as noted, Zynn hit the top of the App Store charts in the US this week, and with more people out of work due to COVID-19 restrictions, and with more time on their hands due to the same, it could well be the perfect time to attack TikTok’s presence, particularly in the US.

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At present, TikTok remains in a relatively good position, but these indicators show that it will face an increasingly tough path as it looks to advance to the next stage of growth. TikTok’s looking to add in more revenue generation tools for influencers, in order to keep them around, while it’s also seeking to further ingratiate itself with Western audiences by partnering with celebrities and donating to charitable causes. It’s also looking to distance itself from its Chinese roots in order to avoid regulatory scrutiny – but the arrival of Zynn could cause significant challenges, in each respect, while Tencent’s interest in music providers could also, eventually, become a key sticking point. 

That’s not to say that TikTok won’t win out, but like Snapchat, its path to expansion could become a lot tougher, especially if bigger rivals continue to copy its key functions and bring them to their larger audiences.

Basically, while TikTok is the darling right now, it’s worth noting that its whale competitors are circling, And that could spell danger for the platform moving forward.

Socialmediatoday.com

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Meta’s Developing and ‘Ethical Framework’ for the Use of Virtual Influencers

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Meta's Developing and 'Ethical Framework' for the Use of Virtual Influencers


With the rise of digital avatars, and indeed, fully digital characters that have evolved into genuine social media influencers in their own right, online platforms now have an obligation to establish clear markers as to what’s real and what’s not, and how such creations can be used in their apps.

The coming metaverse shift will further complicate this, with the rise of virtual depictions blurring the lines of what will be allowed, in terms of representation. But with many virtual influencers already operating, Meta is now working to establish ethical boundaries on their application.

As explained by Meta:

From synthesized versions of real people to wholly invented “virtual influencers” (VIs), synthetic media is a rising phenomenon. Meta platforms are home to more than 200 VIs, with 30 verified VI accounts hosted on Instagram. These VIs boast huge follower counts, collaborate with some of the world’s biggest brands, fundraise for organizations like the WHO, and champion social causes like Black Lives Matter.”

Some of the more well-known examples on this front are Shudu, who has more than 200k followers on Instagram, and Lil’ Miquela, who has an audience of over 3 million in the app.

At first glance, you wouldn’t necessarily realize that this is not an actual person, which makes such characters a great vehicle for brand and product promotions, as they can be utilized 24/7, and can be placed into any environment. But that also leads to concerns about body image perception, deepfakes, and other forms of misuse through false or unclear representation.

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Deepfakes, in particular, may be problematic, with Meta citing this campaign, with English football star David Beckham, as an example of how new technologies are evolving to expand the use of language, as one element, for varying purpose.

The well-known ‘DeepTomCruise’ account on TikTok is another example of just how far these technologies have come, and it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where they could be used to, say, show a politician saying or doing something that he or she actually didn’t, which could have significant real world impacts.

Which is why Meta is working with developers and experts to establish clearer boundaries on such use – because while there is potential for harm, there are also beneficial uses for such depictions.

Imagine personalized video messages that address individual followers by name. Or celebrity brand ambassadors appearing as salespeople at local car dealerships. A famous athlete would make a great tutor for a kid who loves sports but hates algebra.

Such use cases will increasingly become the norm as VR and AR technologies are developed, with these platforms placing digital characters front and center, and establishing new norms for digital connection.

It would be better to know what’s real and what’s not, and as such, Meta needs clear regulations to remove dishonest depictions, and enforce transparency over VI use.

But then again, much of what you see on Instagram these days is not real, with filters and editing tools altering people’s appearance well beyond what’s normal, or realistic. That can also have damaging consequences, and while Meta’s looking to implement rules on VI use, there’s arguably a case for similar transparency in editing tools applied to posted videos and images as well.

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That’s a more complex element, particularly as such tools also enable people to feel more comfortable in posting, which no doubt increases their in-app activity. Would Meta be willing to put more focus on this element if it could risk impacting user engagement? The data on the impact of Instagram on people’s mental health are pretty clear, with comparison being a key concern.

Should that also come under the same umbrella of increased digital transparency?

It’s seemingly not included in the initial framework as yet, but at some stage, this is another element that should be examined, especially given the harmful effects that social media usage can have on young women.

But however you look at it, this is no doubt a rising element of concern, and it’s important for Meta to build guardrails and rules around the use of virtual influencers in their apps.

You can read more about Meta’s approach to virtual influencers here.





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Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps

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Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps


Meta has published a new set of safety tips for journalists to help them protect themselves in the evolving online connection space, which, for the most part, also apply to all users more broadly, providing a comprehensive overview of the various tools and processes that it has in place to help people avoid unwanted attention online.

The 32-page guide is available in 21 different languages, and provides detailed overviews of Meta’s systems and profile options for protection and security, with specific sections covering Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

The guide begins with the basics, including password protections and enabling two-factor authentication.

It also outlines tips for Page managers in securing their business profiles, while there are also notes on what to do if you’ve been hacked, advice for protection on Messenger and guidance on bullying and harassment.

Meta security guide

For Instagram, there are also general security tips, along with notes on its comment moderation tools.

Meta security guide

While for WhatsApp, there are explainers on how to delete messages, how to remove messages from group chats, and details on platform-specific data options.

Meta security guide

There are also links to various additional resource guides and tools for more context, providing in-depth breakdowns of when and how to action the various options.

It’s a handy guide, and while there are some journalist-specific elements included, most of the tips do apply to any user, so it could well be a valuable resource for anyone looking to get a better handle on your various privacy tools and options.

Definitely worth knowing either way – you can download the full guide here.

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Twitter bans account linked to Iran leader over video threatening Trump

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Twitter bans account linked to Iran leader over video threatening Trump


Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with relatives of slain commander Qasem Soleimani ahead of the second anniverary of his death in a US drone strike in Iraq – Copyright POOL/AFP/File Tom Brenner

Twitter said Saturday it had permanently suspended an account linked to Iran’s supreme leader that posted a video calling for revenge for a top general’s assassination against former US president Donald Trump.

“The account referenced has been permanently suspended for violating our ban evasion policy,” a Twitter spokesperson told AFP.

The account, @KhameneiSite, this week posted an animated video showing an unmanned aircraft targeting Trump, who ordered a drone strike in Baghdad two years ago that killed top Iranian commander General Qassem Soleimani.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s main accounts in various languages remain active. Last year, another similar account was suspended by Twitter over a post also appearing to reference revenge against Trump.

The recent video, titled “Revenge is Definite”, was also posted on Khamenei’s official website.

According to Twitter, the company’s top priority is keeping people safe and protecting the health of the conversation on the platform.

The social media giant says it has clear policies around abusive behavior and will take action when violations are identified.

As head of the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Soleimani was the architect of its strategy in the Middle East.

He and his Iraqi lieutenant were killed by a US drone strike outside Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.

Khamenei has repeatedly promised to avenge his death.

On January 3, the second anniversary of the strike, the supreme leader and ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi once again threatened the US with revenge.

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Trump’s supporters regularly denounce the banning of the Republican billionaire from Twitter, underscoring that accounts of several leaders considered authoritarian by the United States are allowed to post on the platform.



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