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Meta Expands Horizon Worlds Access to VR Users in the UK

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Meta Expands Horizon Worlds Access to VR Users in the UK

Of all of Meta’s current offerings, its ‘Horizon Worlds’ VR creation platform provides the most indicative view of its future metaverse plans.

And starting this week, more people will be able to share in that vision, with Horizon Worlds being launched to users in the UK, in addition to the US and Canada.

As shown in the video above, Horizon Worlds enables users to create their own virtual spaces, with a range of 3D objects and tools that they can use to build interactive environments.

Meta launched Horizon Worlds with all users in the US and Canada in December, and it’s now expanding that to the UK, before opening up access to all EU users in the coming months.

As per Meta:

From the very beginning, we’ve envisioned Horizon Worlds as a creator-friendly VR environment featuring top tier social world-building tools. And by developing those tools and listening to and incorporating feedback from creators, that’s just what it is. But we’re always working to make it even better. For example, last month we launched our first asset library, a collection of pre-made items that creators can use any time they want. Plus, we’ve also committed $10 million USD to help creators get their worlds off the ground.

The asset library will play a big part in the next stage of the metaverse, with Meta looking to help brands build 3D models of their products, for improved eCommerce display, which can then also be made available in Horizon Worlds for usage in user projects.

That will provide new promotional opportunities in this emerging digital space, which, as noted, gives us the clearest indicator of what the metaverse will be like, in Meta’s current vision at least, as a consumer tool.

We’ve already seen some indications of the marketing implications in this respect, with brands like Wendy’s creating their own, branded environments in Horizon Worlds, inviting users to come and engage with their virtual products and activations.

That, again, is where the metaverse is headed, with individuals and brands alike able to create Minecraft-like interactive spaces, where users can be fully immersed in VR – or potentially via other means as well – into their creations.

Though it’s fairly basic right now, in its early stages of its development. Eventually, as Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has shown, the metaverse will incorporate a wide range of fully-immersive and interactive environments, that will enable you to create and explore all manner of new worlds, beyond anything that you’ve ever experienced.

We’re not close to that yet, in terms of fully functional, interactive, avatar-led engagement in these VR worlds. But eventually, that’s where Meta is headed, and if you wanted to get a taste of what’s coming, and what Meta views as the next evolution for brand Pages, Horizon Worlds is your best current indicator on this front.

But VR engagement also opens up new forms for harassment and abuse, in an even more enclosed and immersive space. Which is another element that Meta needs to address.

On this front, Meta has also announced the addition of ‘Voice Mode’ in VR, which will enable users to choose if they want to hear other users speaking within he VR environment.

Meta safety in VR

As explained by Meta:

“[Voice mode] will allow you to choose how you hear people who aren’t on your friends list, including the option to not hear unwanted conversations at all. By default, you’ll hear all nearby users at the same volume, but with Voice Mode, you can easily switch to Garbled Voices, in which non-friends’ voices come across as unintelligible, friendly sounds.

As shown in the above image, when a user selects ‘Garbled Voices’, strangers will see an indicator that you can’t hear them in the space. Users will be able to change this setting at any time, but it provides another safety measure to help protect users in VR, where already there have been some disturbing instances of abuse, even in its early, rudimentary state.

Late last year, a beta tester for Horizon Worlds reported that she had been groped by a stranger in VR, while another experienced ‘gang rape’ by male users in the space, which she described as feeling ‘very real’.

Those incidents prompted Meta to add a new ‘personal boundary’ feature, which enables users to keep others at a distance from their avatar.

Meta’s also now added new pop-up warnings which are displayed to people who behave disruptively in the VR space.

Meta VR warnings

So there are measures in place to mitigate the risks, to some degree. But it does seem like this could become a far bigger concern for the platform moving forward, and one that Meta needs to ensure is fully addressed before implementing a broader roll-out of its metaverse push.

Will that actually happen? Meta doesn’t exactly have the best history in regards to addressing potential problems like this before they become bigger concerns, and it would surprise no one if Meta pushed ahead with the expansion of its metaverse vision over anything else, including the safety of users.

Which, in some ways, seems to be already happening, with the expansion of Horizon Worlds to the next stage – though Meta will be hoping that its developing safety tools will be enough to provide adequate protection for users in the virtual space.

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X Pitches Advertisers on Audience Reach Opportunities in ‘Q5’

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X Pitches Advertisers on Audience Reach Opportunities in ‘Q5’

X is making a push to win over advertisers in the holiday season, by promoting its opportunities in “Q5”, which covers the post-Christmas to mid-January period.

As explained by X:

During [Q5], we see reduced CPMs and cost-per-conversion as consumers shop for post-holiday deals and products to support their New Year’s ambitions. Last year, X saw a 5% reduction in the average CPM and a 27% reduction in the average cost-per-conversion1.

Which could present new opportunity to reach a larger audience with your promotions, if indeed they are engaging on X over the holiday period.

“Q5 is filled with a wide variety of tent-pole moments, ranging from the holidays to sports, entertainment and more. With a surge of engagement around these conversations, your brand can remain relevant to your audiences while driving maximum ROI.

X says that, based on engagement data from last year, there are a lot of potential topics of interest for brands.

X also notes that sports video views are surging in the app, up almost 25% YoY over the past 6 months, while vertical video is also gaining momentum.

“Vertical video is the fastest growing surface on X. Over 100M people around the world are consuming vertical video daily at an average of over 13 minutes per day. On many days, vertical video accounts for around 20% of all time spent on the platform.

Though I would advise some caution in trusting these data points.

In recent months, various questions have been raised as to what X counts as a video “view” versus an impression, which is when a post is shown in-feed.

Technically, X counts video views like this:

“The main X video view metric is triggered when a user watches a video for at least 2 seconds and sees at least 50% of the video player in-view. This applies to View metrics for both uploaded videos and live broadcasts.

But that’s different to the actual view count that’s displayed on posts:

“Anyone who is logged into X who views a post counts as a view, regardless of where they see the post (e.g. Home, Search, Profiles, etc.) or whether or not they follow the author. If you’re the author, looking at your own post also counts as a view.

Even worse, X counts multiple views from the same person in that count:

“Multiple views may be counted if you view a post more than once, but not all views are unique. For example, you could look at a post on web and then on your phone, and that would count as two views.

So you can see how the public view count on video posts can massively overstate how many people actually watched a clip, which could be why X is reporting such big spikes in engagement. It just depends on which “view” metric it’s referring to here, actual views or exposure in stream.

Which makes all of these numbers a little difficult to determine, while X owner Elon Musk and CEO Linda Yaccarino have also continued to amplify misleading engagement stats via their own X profiles, muddying the waters as to what kind of actual reach and engagement you can expect.

And that’s before you consider the concerns that other advertisers have had with their promotions potentially being displayed alongside harmful or offensive content in the app.

But depending on how you feel about these aspects, and where your target audience is active, it could be worth considering X for your post-holiday promotions, as you look to maximize sales activity over the holiday period.

It’s also worth considering that with fewer big-name brands taking prime spots in the app, there may also be additional opportunity to reach people via X promotions.

There may be value, depending on your strategic thinking, though I would be keeping an eye on actual engagement

You can read more of X’s Q5 insights here.



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Gaza and Instagram make an explosive mix in Hollywood

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Gal Gadot regularly posts demands for the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza

Gal Gadot regularly posts demands for the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza – Copyright GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File Drew Angerer

Audrey Pilon-Topkara

Hollywood celebrities are paying the price for taking sides in the Gaza war — plastering their social media accounts with slogans such as “Free Palestine” or “I stand with Israel”.

Israeli actress Gal Gadot, best known for starring in “Wonder Woman”, has expressed unyielding support for her country since October 7, when Hamas fighters burst out of Gaza, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 240 hostage, according to Israeli officials.

“I stand with Israel, you should too,” she declared to her 109 million Instagram followers.

She has continued to regularly publish or share posts demanding that Hamas release the civilians it is holding — earning her both approval and criticism.

“While you’re at it, can you use your platform to share all the missing and killed innocent Palestinians too?” a user on X, formerly Twitter, wrote in response to one of her posts.

In reprisal for the October 7 attacks, Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip and launched a ground invasion, killing more than 17,000 people, mostly women and children, according to Gaza’s Hamas government.

The Instagram account of American model Gigi Hadid, who is of Palestinian descent and followed by 79 million, has spent less attention on fashion in recent weeks.

She cited the “systemic mistreatment of the Palestinian people by the government of Israel”.

“Stop spreading lies. You and your sisters are antisemitic,” said one comment, with many others expressing similar views.

Famous stars can generate equally strong admiration and repulsion from the public, especially if they comment on divisive issues.

Well before social media, boxer Muhammad Ali, the actor Jane Fonda and singer Bob Dylan were adored or hated over their opposition to the Vietnam War.

More recently the actors Ben Stiller, Angelina Jolie and Sean Penn showed their support for Ukraine by visiting the country, in moves that were approved by most of their Western fans.

– Insults –

But the Israel-Palestinian issue is more divisive than most, exposing celebrities to even fiercer backlashes.

Kylie Jenner, the half-sister of socialite Kim Kardashian, shared a pro-Israeli post with her 399 million Instagram followers shortly after October 7, which according to US media she deleted an hour later after being hit with insults.

The Oscar-winning actor Susan Sarandon was dropped by her talent agency in November for comments she made at a pro-Palestinian rally, for which she later apologised.

Melissa Barrera, star of the fifth and sixth instalments of the “Scream” franchise, was cut from the cast of the seventh by the producers, who said they had “zero tolerance for anti-Semitism and incitement to hatred”.

The Mexican had denounced what she called “ethnic cleansing” in Gaza.

Celebrities who take sides in the conflict have “a lot to lose and little to gain”, said Nicolas Vanderbiest, founder of the public relations firm Saper Vedere in Brussels.

Producers and sponsors have little appetite for mixing geopolitics and business, he said.

In this issue, two “extremely organised” communities are on the lookout, creating a “herd affect”, Vanderbiest added.

Tom Cruise prevented his own agent from losing her job after she had referred to “genocide” on her Instagram account, according to the cinema trade press.

Celebrities could just stay quiet, but with this conflict there is “pressure to pronounce” and no immunity from criticism, said Jamil Jean-Marc Dakhlia, a professor of information and communication at Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris.

“Silence is seen as taking a position,” Dakhlia said. “So we are in a situation where you are forced to take sides, and not necessarily with much nuance.”

American singer and actor Selena Gomez, with 429 million Instagram followers, has been criticised for not taking a stronger stance on the issue.

Along with hundreds of others, including Hadid, singer Jennifer Lopez and actor Joaquin Phoenix, she took a middle road, signing a petition calling for a ceasefire and the safe release of hostages.

Earlier, hundreds of celebrities, including Gadot, had signed an open letter thanking US President Joe Biden for supporting “the Jewish people” and calling for the release of all hostages held by Hamas.

Very few signed both.

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More than 10 million people have signed up for X in December, CEO says By Reuters

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More than 10 million people have signed up for X in December, CEO says By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: ‘X’ logo is seen on the top of the headquarters of the messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter, in downtown San Francisco, California, U.S., July 30, 2023. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

(Reuters) – More than 10 million people have signed up for X in December, X CEO Linda Yaccarino said in a post on the social media platform on Thursday.

This comes as the company, formerly known as Twitter, risks losing as much $75 million in advertising revenue by the end of the year as major brands pause their marketing campaigns on the platform, according to the New York Times.

X, which does not regularly release user data, could not immediately be reached for comment on how the December sign-ups compared to average or why Yaccarino disclosed the figure. Billionaire owner Elon Musk said in July the site had 540 million monthly users.

Several companies, including Apple (NASDAQ:), Disney, Warner Bros Discovery , Comcast (NASDAQ:), Lions Gate Entertainment , Paramount Global, and IBM (NYSE:) said in November they were pausing their advertisements on X.

Musk cursed advertisers that fled the platform after he agreed with a user who falsely claimed Jewish people were stoking hatred against white people.

A report from watchdog group Media Matters found ads from major companies next to X posts that supported Nazism. The platform filed a lawsuit in late November against Media Matters accusing it of defamation.

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