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Facebook courts YouTubers, Viners and other content creators

Streaming service Facebook Live is building momentum, with celebrities and big-name publishers jumping on board the video platform that features prominently on users’ news feeds

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 June, 2016, 2:26pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 June, 2016, 5:15pm

In the past year, Facebook has doubled its daily video views to 8 billion and rolled out Facebook Live, a live-streaming service that’s quickly building momentum, having already attracted celebrities and big-name publishers.

At the upcoming VidCon, a three-day event in Anaheim that starts on June 23, the California-based company will get to hear first-hand from top YouTubers, Viners and Snapchatters, among others, about what they want from a video platform.

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“The goal and plan is to spend time there listening and talking with creators and the creative community, who are there in massive numbers,” says Sibyl Goldman, Facebook’s head of entertainment partnerships.

“We want to get as much feedback as we can to inform what we do.”

It’s a beachhead at an event that has long been synonymous with its title sponsor, YouTube. And although Facebook has attended several VidCons in the past, this is the first year that the social network has risen to the forefront of any conversation about the future of digital video.

“By virtue of its scale, anything Facebook does is potentially transformative,” says Paul Verna, a senior analyst at digital media research firm eMarketer.

“They’re extremely determined to become a major player in video and they’re not a company that shies away from their goals. They’re a force to be reckoned with.”

Cheaper mobile data and beefier smartphones have led to an explosion in digital video consumption in recent years. Advertisers are expected to spend US$9.8 billion on digital video this year, nearly doubling the amount they spent just two years ago, according to eMarketer.

To seize on the opportunity, Facebook has bolstered its server farms to handle the surge in video data. It’s paying celebrities and publishers to use Facebook Live, and it’s tweaked its algorithms to favour video on users’ newsfeeds.

Gavin McGarry, co-founder of social media agency Jumpwire Media, says a Facebook post with text of about eight words will show up on only 12 per cent of followers’ news feeds. However, that rate shoots up to 45 per cent if the post includes a video and 50 per cent if it’s for Facebook Live, according to his company’s test (the results were only for Facebook pages often used by businesses, not personal profiles).

“Last year, people weren’t talking about Facebook video a lot,” says McGarry, who’s leading a workshop at VidCon where attendees can learn how to use Facebook’s algorithm to their benefit.

“It’s so funny how in one year so much can change … If you don’t have a Facebook strategy, then you don’t have a video strategy.”

Susan Wojcicki, YouTube’s chief executive, will outline some of the company’s latest innovations and original programming in a keynote address at VidCon. Facebook’s head of product, Fidji Simo, will take the same stage on the same day todiscuss the company’s video strategy.

As entrenched as YouTube may be, it was unfathomable only a few years ago to think there would be Facebookers the way there are YouTubers.