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The Metaverse Doesn’t Exist, But Meta is in Charge of the Broader Narrative



The Metaverse Doesn't Exist, But Meta is in Charge of the Broader Narrative

So what exactly is the metaverse – or more operatively, what will the metaverse be?

Because it’s not here just yet. Meta, the biggest proponent of the metaverse shift, has repeatedly stated that the metaverse that it envisions is still 10-15 years away from being a reality, which means that the true metaverse will be built for the next generation of consumers, who will be key to maximizing its adoption and take up.

But exactly what form this new digital world will take on is difficult to imagine, because we have no true concept of how all the pieces will fit, nor even what those pieces will be.

Meta has provided several examples of its broader concept.

But of course, all of these depictions are animated – none of the experiences outlined in this video actually exist yet. Some of them involve using a VR headset – and as Meta reported this week, sales of its Meta VR units are on the rise, so you can see the beginnings of this specific element in action. Others will require AR glasses – like playing chess with a friend who’s not physically there with you.

But each of these platforms will take time to evolve to the point where, as Zuckerberg says, ‘billions of people’ will be connecting in these spaces, and where they’ll also be spending ‘hundreds of billions of dollars’ on digital commerce.

Yet, even so, the hype train has already left the station.

Sensor Tower has reported that 552 mobile apps now include the term ‘metaverse’ in either their titles or descriptions, while a quick search on LinkedIn shows that more than 10,000 people now list ‘metaverse’ in their profile description, including members with job titles like ‘Chief Metaverse Officer’, ‘Head of Metaverse’, ‘Metaverse Consultant’ and more.

It’s not uncommon to see ‘metaverse ready’ as a selling point for an NFT project, while the amount of concerts, meetings and other events that are taking place ‘in the metaverse’ also seems to grow every day. Which is not possible, because, again, the metaverse doesn’t exist – and the key point of note is that nobody, not even Meta itself, knows exactly what form the metaverse itself will take.

But it’s interesting to see how Facebook’s Meta name change has immediately placed it in the center of the discussion. Since adopting the term, Meta has effectively positioned itself to dominate the next shift – because really, it’s now the one platform that’s leading the way, by taking ownership of what the metaverse concept is and will be, which will also enable it to evolve the idea at its own pace.

And while the broader concept, based on Meta’s initial illustrations of the metaverse, seems most likely to involve many hours in VR headsets, that, at least right now, is simply not realistic.

As Wall Street Journal reporter Johanna Stern outlines in her overview of spending 24 hours in VR, spending any significant amount of time in a VR headset is going to make you feel pretty sick.

I can confirm – in my own experience using the Oculus Quest 2, the most advanced AR headset available right now, many applications made me feel queasy, while once you do take off the headset, your distorted reality and perception of space can mess with your head until you re-adjust.

Some of these issues will get resolved over time, and no doubt as you get more used to spending time in these environments, you’ll also come to feel more comfortable with such. But again, right now, we’re not able to experience ‘the metaverse’ as a wholly immersive, alternate reality, because we don’t have the tools available, nor the systems in place to support such.

Which is why trends like NFTs are confusing, at least in relation to their connection to the metaverse space. Will you really be showing off digital artwork in the metaverse? I don’t know, and no one does, because again, we don’t know what form it will take. Will people care about the cartoons of monkeys that you own, or is the true value of NFTs in the transference of these characters into 3D depictions that will eventually become your avatar in the digital realm?

Will people really want to be cartoon cats and pixelated characters when they can choose any character they like, or a customized depiction of themselves?

I don’t know, but based on what we’ve seen in other precursors to the metaverse, like Roblox and Fortnite, people will most likely gravitate towards the coolest trending digital ‘skins’ of the time, as opposed to individualized, owned artworks.

And that, really, is probably where we should be looking. Digital trends take root among younger audiences, and with the metaverse still a decade or more out, it’s the youngsters spending time in these apps that are most likely to become the key focus adopters for the space. The digital habits they’re developing right now will inform the next stage – so rather than metaverse experts and NFT proponents, you’d likely be better off spending time in these apps to get a feel for what will be the key trends of focus in a likely metaverse space.

Connection in these apps has also taken on a new level of importance and value for youngsters over the past two years, due to physical meet-ups being limited, and it’s interesting to note how they use their characters as extensions of themselves, and the ways in which they seek to connect with each other through memes and culture, and the constraints of their animated beings, within these spaces.

This is where the metaverse shift is coming from, and the company that can translate these behaviors into everyday interactions will be the one that wins out.

But it is interesting to see how Meta has taken hold of the term, and the surrounding discussion. The metaverse is already a multi-billion dollar industry, and it doesn’t even exist – yet every investor is now keen to get on board with the next stage of Mark Zuckerberg’s vision, especially those who initially dismissed Facebook, and social media more broadly, and missed that boat.

It does seem that Meta, through a simple name change, is now in control of the narrative for the next stage. And while Facebook usage may be slowing, this new focus will still see it well-positioned for major ongoing growth and development.  

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New Report Shows That Young Users are Increasingly Turning to TikTok for News Content



New Report Shows That Young Users are Increasingly Turning to TikTok for News Content

Amid ongoing concerns about its data gathering processes, and its possible linkage to the Chinese Government, TikTok’s influence continues to grow, with the platform now a key source of entertainment for many of its billion active users.

And it’s not just entertainment, TikTok is also increasingly being used for search, with Google reporting earlier this year that, by its estimates, around 40% of young people now turn to TikTok or Instagram to search for, say, restaurant recommendations, as opposed to Google Search or Maps.

And now, TikTok is also becoming a source of news and information, as more news organizations look to lean into the platform, and establish connection with the next generation of consumers.

That’s the focus of the latest report from the Reuters Institute, which looks at how people are using TikTok for news content, and which sources are playing a role in shaping their opinions in the app.

You can download the full, 38-page report here, and it’s well worth a read, but there are two specific elements that are worth highlighting to help better understand and contextualize the TikTok shift.

First off, there’s this chart, which looks at the percentage of people who are using TikTok for news content in each age bracket.

As you can see, younger users are increasingly turning to TikTok to stay informed of the latest news updates. Which is a significant shift, and not just for news publishers looking to connect with their audience, but also in terms of broader impacts, and how young audiences are staying in touch with the latest happenings.

Which then leads into this second chart:

Reuters social media news report

As you can see, it’s not mainstream news sources that are the primary sources of news content on TikTok, its ‘internet personalities’ followed by ‘ordinary people’, with traditional journalists and publications much further back.

That’s a significant trend, which could reflect a broader distrust of mainstream media outlets, and the information presented in the news as we know it.

Now, younger audiences are more reliant on their favorite influencers to act as a filter, of sorts, to help highlight the news of most relevance – which could be good, in that it facilitates a new angle on the big stories each day. But it could be bad, in that the news they present and discuss is then based on the personal bias of each influencer, which is arguably a less transparent process than mainstream news outlets.

But that also depends on your perspective. Journalists, for the most part, work to uphold standards of integrity in their reporting, in order to limit the influence of personal bias, and present the key information within their updates. But increasingly, many news outlets have leaned into more controversial takes and opinions. Because that’s what works best with social media algorithms – you’re going to generate much more engagement, and thus, reach, with a headline that says something like ‘The President hates farmers’ as opposed to a more balanced report on the latest agricultural policy.

Many outlets have essentially weaponized this, and seem to employ partisan takes as a key element in their coverage, again, in order to maximize reader response, to get people commenting and sharing, and prompt more clicks.

Which definitely works, but it’s this approach that’s likely turned many younger consumers away from mainstream coverage, while the rising use of TikTok overall means that, one way or another, they’re going to get at least some news content there anyway.

Which could be a concern. Again, amid ongoing questions about the influence of the Chinese Government on the app, it seems like it should be a significant consideration that more and more young people are leaning on the app to stay informed about the latest news topics.

The report also looks at how news publishers are using TikTok, and what specific approaches are driving the most success.

Their conclusion:

“There’s no single recipe for success. Many publishers use a strategy based on hiring young creators who are native to the platform and its vernacular. This approach has connected strongly with audiences and brought critical acclaim but can make it harder to re-version content for other social platforms. Others have focused on showcasing the assets of the entire newsroom, including more experienced correspondents and anchors, delivering greater scale and flexibility but often without the same personal touch.

So using platform-native influencers, and those more savvy with TikTok-specific trends, can help to increase engagement and performance. But there’s no definitive TikTok playbook, as such, that will lead to guaranteed, sustained success.

Which, in some ways, is because that’s not how TikTok is built. Unlike other social media apps, TikTok isn’t designed to get you to follow the people and companies that you like, in order to essentially curate your own experience.

On TikTok, the aim is to show you the most entertaining content, from anyone, in alignment with your personal interests, which you express by simply using the app. By expanding the pool of potential content to everybody, that gives TikTok’s algorithms a lot more ways to keep you glued to your feed – but the flipside is that it also makes it much harder for creators and brands to establish a following, and keep their audience coming back, as they can on other apps.

That puts more focus onto each post itself, and how entertaining your latest update is. Which is better for TikTok’s ecosystem in general, but it also means that there are more challenges in maintaining reach and resonance in the app.

That’s true for news organizations, but it’s also true for brands, because you can’t just get people to follow your brand in the app and hope that they’ll then see everything that you post.

On TikTok, it’s a new competition, every day, and if you’re not entertaining, and holding engagement with each update, you’re going to lose, on that day at least.

You can download the full Reuters Institute ‘How Publishers are Learning to Create and Distribute News on TikTok’ report here.

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