Revcontent is trying to get rid of misinformation with help from the Poynter Institutehttp://nexstepjobs.com/wp-content/themes/corpus/images/empty/thumbnail.jpg150150Anthony HaAnthony Hahttp://0.gravatar.com/avatar/c2cafdaabc4e697ea9449b900ea7ab29?s=96&d=mm&r=g
CEO John Lemp recently said that thanks to a new policy, publishers in Revcontent‘s content recommendation network “won’t ever make a cent” on false and misleading stories — at least, not from the network.
To achieve this, the company is relying on fact-checking provided by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact Checking Network. If any two independent fact checkers from International Fact Checking flag a story from the Revcontent network as false, the company’s widget will be removed, and Revcontent will not pay out any money on that story (not even revenue earned before the story was flagged).
In some ways, Revcontent’s approach to fighting fake news and misinformation sounds similar to the big social media companies — Lemp, like Twitter, has said his company cannot be the “arbiter of truth,” and like Facebook, he’s emphasizing the need to remove the financial incentives for posting sensationalistic-but-misleading stories.
However, Lemp (who’s spoken in the past about using content recommendations to reduce publishers’ reliance on individual platforms) criticized the big internet companies for “arbitrarily” taking down content in response to “bad PR.” In contrast, he said Revcontent will have a fully transparent approach, one that removes the financial rewards for fake news without silencing anyone.
Lemp didn’t mention any specific takedowns, but the big story these days is Infowars. It seems like nearly everyone has been cracking down on Alex Jones’ far-right, conspiracy-mongering site, removing at least some Infowars-related accounts and content in the past couple of weeks.
The Infowars story also raises the question of whether you can effectively fight fake news on a story-by-story basis, rather than completely cutting off publishers when they’ve shown themselves to consistently post misleading or falsified stories.
When asked about this, Lemp said Revcontent also has the option to completely removing publishers from the network, but he said he views that as a “last resort.”
Facebook buys Vidpresso’s team and tech to make video interactivehttp://nexstepjobs.com/wp-content/themes/corpus/images/empty/thumbnail.jpg150150Josh ConstineJosh Constinehttp://2.gravatar.com/avatar/599524f0318840b3548e5aedabb29c27?s=96&d=mm&r=g
Zombie-like passive consumption of static video is both unhealthy for viewers and undifferentiated for the tech giants that power it. That’s set Facebook on a mission to make video interactive, full of conversation with broadcasters and fellow viewers. It’s racing against Twitch, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat to become where people watch together and don’t feel like asocial slugs afterward.
That’s why Facebook today told TechCrunch that it’s acqui-hired Vidpresso, buying its seven-person team and its technology but not the company itself. The six-year-old Utah startup works with TV broadcasters and content publishers to make their online videos more interactive with on-screen social media polling and comments, graphics and live broadcasting integrated with Facebook, YouTube, Periscope and more. The goal appears to be to equip independent social media creators with the same tools these traditional outlets use so they can make authentic but polished video for the Facebook platform.
Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it wouldn’t have taken a huge price for the deal to be a success for the startup. Vidpresso had only raised a $120,00 in seed capital from Y Combinator in 2014, plus some angel funding. By 2016, it was telling hiring prospects that it was profitable, but also that, “We will not be selling the company unless some insane whatsapp like thing happened. We’re building a forever biz, not a flip.” So either Vidpresso lowered its bar for an exit or Facebook made coming aboard worth its while.
For now, Vidpresso clients and partners like KTXL, Univision, BuzzFeed, Turner Sports, Nasdaq, TED, NBC and others will continue to be able to use its services. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that customers will work with the Vidpresso team at Facebook, who are joining its offices in Menlo Park, London and LA. That means Facebook is at least temporarily becoming a provider of enterprise video services. But Facebook confirms it won’t charge Vidpresso clients, so they’ll be getting its services for free from now on. Whether Facebook eventually turns away old clients or stops integrating with competing video platforms like Twitch and YouTube remains to be seen. For now, it’s giving Vidpresso a much more dignified end than the sudden shutdowns some tech giants impose on their acquisitions.
“We’ve had a lot of false starts along the way . . . We finally landed on helping create high quality broadcasts back on social media, but we still haven’t realized the full vision yet. That’s why we’re joining Facebook,” the Vidpresso team writes. “This gives us the best opportunity to accelerate our vision and offer a simple way for creators, publishers, and broadcasters to use social media in live video at a high quality level . . . By joining Facebook, we’ll be able to offer our tools to a much broader audience than just our A-list publishing partners. Eventually, it’ll allow us to put these tools in the hands of creators, so they can focus on their content, and have it look great, without spending lots of time or money to do so.”
Facebook Live has seen 3.5 billion broadcasts to date, and they get six times as many interactions as traditional videos. But beyond public figures, game streamers, and the odd moment of citizen journalism, it’s become clear that most users don’t have compelling enough content to stream. Interactivity could take some pressure off the broadcaster by letting the audience chip in.
But the last line of Vidpresso’s announcement above explains Facebook’s intentions here, and also why it didn’t just try to build the tools itself. It doesn’t just want established news publishers and TV studios making video for its platform. It wants semi-pro creators to be able to broadcast snazzy videos with graphics, comments and polls that can aesthetically compete with “big video” but that feel more natural. This focus on creators over news outlets aligns with reports of Facebooks head of journalist relations Campbell Brown allegedly saying that Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t care about publishers and that “We are not interested in talking to you about your traffic and referrals any more. That is the old world and there is no going back.” Facebook has contested these reports.
Every internet platform is wising up to the fact that web-native creators who grew up on their sites often create the most compelling content and the most fervent fan bases. Whichever video hub offers the best audience growth, creative expression tools and monetization options will become the preferred destination for creators’ work, and their audiences will follow. Vidpresso could help these creators look more like TV anchors than selfie monologuers, but also help them earn money by integrating brand graphics and tie-ins. Facebook couldn’t risk another tech giant buying up Vidpresso and gaining an edge, or wasting time trying to build interactive video technology and expertise from scratch.
Founder Zain Jaffer may be looking to take back control of Vunglehttp://nexstepjobs.com/wp-content/themes/corpus/images/empty/thumbnail.jpg150150Anthony HaAnthony Hahttp://0.gravatar.com/avatar/c2cafdaabc4e697ea9449b900ea7ab29?s=96&d=mm&r=g
Zain Jaffer may be gearing up for a fight to take back control of Vungle, the mobile ad company he founded.
Jaffer was removed from his role as CEO last fall following his arrest on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and performing a lewd act on a child.
However, a San Mateo County judge subsequently dismissed the charges. The district attorney’s office released a statement offering more context for the dismissal, saying that they did not believe there was any sexual conduct on the evening in question, and that “the injuries were the result of Mr. Jaffer being in a state of unconsciousness caused by prescription medication.”
So what’s next for Jaffer and Vungle? There are hints in a recent letter from Jaffer’s attorney, John Pernick, which was sent to current Vungle CEO Rick Tallman.
TechCrunch has obtained a copy of the letter, which requests access to Vungle’s records, specifically the names and addresses of company shareholders. Pernick’s letter suggests that this could be a prelude to further action (emphasis added):
Mr. Jaffer is considering various options with respect to Vungle and his shares of Vungle. He has considered selling some portion of his Vungle shares. However, he is also considering pursuing a leadership change at Vungle through calling for a shareholders meeting for the purpose of voting on a new board of directors and/or purchasing shares of additional Vungle stock. Communicating with Vungle shareholders with respect to their interest in purchasing or selling Vungle stock or in a change in the board of directors is an entirely proper purpose for Mr. Jaffer’s request to inspect the shareholder information that will enable him to make these communications.
When TechCrunch contacted Pernick, he confirmed the authenticity of the letter but declined to comment further. A spokesperson for Jaffer also declined to comment, and Vungle did not respond to our inquiries.
As you can see in the quote above, the letter indicates that Jaffer is considering multiple courses of action.
But if he decides to pursue a leadership change at Vungle, either by winning over existing shareholders or by purchasing a controlling stake in the company, it sounds like there are investors willing to back him — for starters, Jun Hong Heng at Crescent Cove Capital Management confirmed that his firm is working with Jaffer.
“We think Zain and Vungle have incredible potential,” Heng said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Zain and giving him the support he needs to help him regain control of his company.”
We also reached out to Anne-Marie Roussel, who recently resigned from Vungle’s board of directors. Roussel said via email that “the Vungle controversy is an interesting proxy for a much larger debate: the fuzziness surrounding ethical conduct in the tech industry.”
She added, “My personal prediction is that boards of tech companies will be held increasingly accountable for the ethics of the key decisions they make.” As for how that applies to Vungle, she said:
How does it reflect on ethical values when a CEO is dismissed based on presumption of guilt? Don’t we live in a democracy where one of the key legal right is “presumption of innocence” (as in a defendant is innocent until proven guilty). Upholding that principle by collaborating with his defense team was what led to my resignation from Vungle’s board.