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Facebook Shuts Down its Live Commerce Push, Which May Reflect Broader Disinterest in Live Shopping



Facebook Shuts Down its Live Commerce Push, Which May Reflect Broader Disinterest in Live Shopping

In a move that likely reflects a bigger concern for TikTok than it does for Meta, and its overall growth plans, Facebook has announced that it’s shutting down its experiments with live shopping in the app, as of October 1st this year.

As reported by Business Insider, Facebook’s shuttering its native live stream shopping program, along with the ability to create product playlists, or tag products on Facebook, as it continues to refine its focus, and rationalize its development spend.

As explained by Facebook (via BI):

“As consumers’ viewing behaviors are shifting to short-form video, we are shifting our focus to Reels on Facebook and Instagram, Meta’s short-form video product. If you want to reach and engage people through video, try experimenting with Reels and Reels ads on Facebook and Instagram. You can also tag products in Reels on Instagram to enable deeper discovery and consideration.”

Live shopping will also remain active and in-development on Instagram, so it’s not abandoning the process entirely. But it doesn’t see a future for it on Facebook – which makes sense, but also reflects the lukewarm response to live shopping across western markets in general, which, as noted, could be a significant concern for TikTok and its growth plans.

Facebook’s been experimenting with live shopping implementations over the last few years, as part of a broader push to lean into rising eCommerce trends. At the peak of the pandemic, in which social distancing requirements forced physical stores to shut down, online shopping surged, accelerating already present trends towards in-app spending. But as restrictions have eased, eCommerce demand has also receded, likely more than many analysts had expected.

That’s forced a reassessment of business plans in line with consumer trends, which has seen platforms like Pinterest lose out – or at least, scale back to the mean, in terms of traditional eCommerce growth.

Which, as noted, could impact TikTok more so than other apps.

The key model for TikTok’s growth strategy is Douyin, the Chinese version of the app, which has over 600 million users in the region.

Douyin has been around for longer than TikTok, and is more advanced, which is why many of TikTok’s new tools and features look so polished – because they’ve already been implemented among Douyin’s massive user base.

Part of TikTok’s key challenge right now, however, lies in maximizing creator revenue, and giving its top stars more opportunities to make money in the app, because they can’t simply insert ads into their short-form clips like they would on YouTube.

The answer on Douyin has been in-app commerce, with the platform reportedly driving $118 billion in product sales, largely via live-stream commerce, in 2021 alone.

Live-stream commerce has become a key trend for the app, with sales generated via Douyin live broadcasts rising 7x year-over-year in 2021, and the number of eCommerce live broadcast users exceeding 384 million – more than half the platform’s user base.

Overall, live shopping is huge in China, with predictions that live shopping revenues will reach $400 billion in the region this year alone, equivalent to almost half of all eCommerce spending in the US last year. Live-stream commerce has also proven increasingly popular among younger audiences, with users aged 27 and under seeing the fastest adoption of live-stream spending.

That should spell big opportunities in other markets as well – but the fact that Facebook has decided to move away from the process suggests that it’s simply not catching on in the same way, and that western users are not adopting the live-stream shift with the same vigor as Chinese consumers.

That could be a cultural trend. It’s possible that Chinese users simply align more with these new platform uses, which is similarly reflected in the way that messaging apps have become essential connective tools throughout the region.

Western users have never adapted to messaging apps in the same way, and maybe that’s just a variation in approach, which can’t be overcome. Some have also suggested noted that there are simply fewer opportunities to buy products online in China, with sales restricted to certain apps.

That could make live shopping a more appealing prospect. But whatever the reason, the fact that western consumers are not jumping at the live shopping shift could be a big concern for TikTok’s growth potential – because if it’s not able to offer comparable compensation to what creators can make on YouTube or Instagram, you can bet that, eventually, those top stars will start migrating to greener pastures instead.

Creators have already expressed their frustration at the inconsistent and low payment amounts available via TikTok’s Creator Fund, while TikTok also recently scaled back its live shopping ambitions in Europe due to low adoption and internal conflicts.

If live shopping isn’t catching – which, again, Meta’s decision to scale back its push likely suggests – TikTok may have to find alternate means for creator revenue growth and opportunity. Which may not even exist – while TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is also under increasing financial pressure itself, and has been unwilling, at least thus far, to consider boosting creator payments.

TikTok is the app of the moment, and is on track to reach 1.5 billion users this year, which would make it the third biggest social platform by active usage. There’s no doubting its cultural relevance and presence. But eventually, its challenges in revenue share for top stars will become a bigger issue.

TikTok’s design also isn’t aligned to growing individual users’ audiences, as its algorithms sort through the best content from all users, in order to highlight the most relevant material and keep you scrolling. The fact that it opens to the ‘For You’ page, not ‘Following’, is also not aligned with helping creators maximize reach and audience – there are various flaws in its process that could reduce its appeal to those looking to make content creation their focus.

Will these concerns eventually weigh more heavily on the app? Facebook’s live shopping pull-out is certainly not a great sign in this respect.   

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Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps



Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

Well, this is certainly problematic.

Twitter has announced that, as of February 9th, it’s cutting off free access to its API, which is the access point that many, many apps, bot accounts, and other tools use to function.

That means that a heap of Twitter analytics apps, management tools, schedulers, automated updates – a range of key info and insight options will soon cease to function. Which seems like the sort of thing that, if you were Twitter, you’d want to keep on your app.

But that’s not really how Twitter 2.0 is looking to operate – in a bid to rake in as much revenue as absolutely possible, in any way that it can, Twitter will now look to charge all of these apps and tools. But most, I’d hazard a guess, will simply cease to function.

The bigger business apps already pay for full API access – your Hootsuite’s and your Sprout Social’s – so they’ll likely be unaffected. But it could stop them from offering free plans, which would have a big impact on their business models.

The announcement follows Twitter’s recent API change which cut off a heap of Twitter posting tools, in order, seemingly, to stop users accessing the platform through a third-party UI. 

Now, even more Twitter tools will go extinct, a broad spread of apps and functions that contribute to the real-time ecosystem that Twitter has become. Their loss, if that’s what happens, will have big impacts on overall Twitter activity.

On the other hand, some will see this as another element in Twitter’s crackdown on bots, which Twitter chief Elon Musk has made a personal mission to eradicate. Musk has taken some drastic measures to kill off bots, some of which are having an impact, but Musk himself has also admitted that such efforts are reducing overall platform engagement

This, too, could be a killer in this respect

It’ll also open the door to Twitter competitors, as many automated update apps will switch to other platforms. This relates to things like updates on downtime from video games, weather apps, and more. There are also tools like GIF generators and auto responders – there’s a range of tools that could now look for a new home on Mastodon, or some other Twitter replicant. 

In this respect, it seems like a flawed move, which is also largely ignorant of how the developer community has facilitated Twitter’s growth. 

But Elon and Co. are going to do things their own way, whether outside commentators agree or not – and maybe this is actually a path to gaining new Twitter data customers, and boosting the company’s income. 

But I doubt it.

If there are any third-party Twitter apps that you use, it’ll be worth checking in to see if they’re impacted before next week.

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Meta ‘Year of Efficiency’ call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed



Meta 'Year of Efficiency' call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Meta Platforms Inc., center, departs from federal court in San Jose, Calif., on Dec. 20, 2022.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

With one simple slogan, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg temporarily quelled investor discontent with his company’s multibillion-dollar investment into the futuristic metaverse.

“Our management theme for 2023 is the ‘Year of Efficiency’ and we’re focused on becoming a stronger and more nimble organization,” Zuckerberg said as part of the release of Meta’s fourth-quarter earnings report.

Following a 64% plunge in Meta’s share price in 2022, Wall Street cheered the report, sending the stock up almost 20%, extending a rally that began late last year. Based on after-hours pricing, Meta is trading at its highest since July.

Growth is not what’s getting investors excited. Meta reported better-than-expected revenue in the fourth quarter, but sales still sank 4% from a year earlier, marking the third straight quarterly decline. And the forecast range for the first quarter suggests that year-over-year revenue could increase, but it could also fall again.

Rather, Zuckerberg’s commitment to cost cuts and efficiency is a sign that increasing profitability is important to Meta, which was known as a growth machine prior to last year’s slump.

“The first 18 years I think we grew it 20%, 30% compound or a lot more every year,” Zuckerberg said on the earnings call. “And then obviously that changed very dramatically in 2022, where our revenue was negative for growth, for the first time in the company’s history.”

In looking to the future, Zuckerberg struck a realistic tone.

“We don’t anticipate that that’s going to continue,” he said, regarding the recent drop in revenue. “But I also don’t think it’s going to go back to the way it was before.”

Meta lowered its estimates for total expenses in 2023 to be in the range of $89 billion to $95 billion, down from its prior outlook of $94 billion to $100 billion. In November, the company announced it would lay off over 11,000 workers, or 13% of its staff.

Zuckerberg said Meta will be more “proactive on cutting projects that aren’t performing or may no longer be crucial” and that it will emphasize “removing layers of middle management to make decisions faster.”

Meta is also reducing spending as it builds new data centers that are intended to be more efficient while still able to power the company’s various artificial intelligence technologies. Capital expenditures are now expected to be in the range of $30 billion to $33 billion for 2023 instead of $34 billion to $37 billion.

Zuckerberg is selling investors on a story they want to hear, acknowledging that the company got bloated and needed more financial discipline. One of Zuckerberg’s top deputies, technology chief Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, wrote a personal essay just a few days ago echoing that sentiment.

Still, Meta has plenty of challenges ahead, in terms of both costs and reviving its core ad business.

Meta’s Reality Labs unit, which is responsible for developing the nascent metaverse, lost $13.7 billion in 2022. Finance chief Susan Li told analysts that the company isn’t planning for any reduction in that unit anytime soon. Zuckerberg still sees it as the company’s future.

Digital advertising, meanwhile, is suffering from a struggling economy, and Li gave no indication that companies are planning to dramatically increase their spending in 2023.

Meta has also yet to recover from Apple’s 2021 iOS privacy update that made it harder to target users with ads. Li said the company has been improving its online advertising system, but Apple’s update is “still certainly an absolute headwind to our revenue number.”

During the question and answer part of the call, Zuckerberg was asked about Meta’s progress in generative artificial intelligence, which has become the latest hot thing in Silicon Valley. His answer indicated that Meta is pursuing opportunities there, but will be cautious in how quickly it proceeds. Running these programs is expensive, and Meta needs to ensure it can develop them affordably, he said.

Zuckerberg said that while Meta is researching how best to incorporate the new technology, he wants “to be careful not to get too ahead of the development of it.”

Correction: Meta’s earnings report and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s comments occurred after the market close on Wednesday. An earlier version misstated the day.

WATCH: Meta grows in daily active users, shares pop on revenue beat

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Pinterest Focuses on Travel Inspiration and Education for Black History Month



Pinterest Focuses on Travel Inspiration and Education for Black History Month

Pinterest is taking a unique approach to Black History Month, with a new ‘Find Your Routes’ Black Travel Hub initiative, which aims to highlight places that have strong connections to Black history, while also showcasing Black-owned businesses.

As explained by Pinterest:

“Find Your Routes” is inspired by The Negro Motorist Green Book aka “The Green Book”. The Green Book was a guidebook for Black travelers during the Jim Crow era that provided a list of accessible hotels, boarding houses, taverns, restaurants, service stations and other establishments throughout the country that served Black Americans patrons.”

The Black Travel Hub, which you can find here, will present a range of travel options, along with their history, with creators from the US, Colombia, Jamaica, Brazil and more, all taking part in presenting their city.

It could be a good way to provide education alongside inspiration in the app, while also helping people to connect, and support highlighted communities.

Pinterest will also be showcasing Black-owned businesses on Pinterest TV, while internally, it’s also hosting a company-wide event ‘to help employees gain knowledge about the history, present, and future of Black travel through the lens of Black Pinployees’.

As noted, it could be a good way to both spark important conversations, and inspire new travel journeys, which include an extra level of cultural understanding and education, along with a leisure break.

It’s an interesting take on the celebration either way, and it’ll be worth noting what sort of reaction the initiative gets, and whether it inspires more travel as a result.

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