The week in social media: Facebook takes aim at YouTube with new standalone TV app

Our round up of this week's social media news and insights:

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Facebook takes aim at YouTube with new standalone TV app

Facebook is introducing an app that lets users watch the platform's video content on the only screen Facebook doesn't already dominate - the biggest one in your home - in a move which positions it to challenge YouTube, Netflix, and traditional television channels for advertising revenue. The app, which allow users with devices like Apple TV, Amazon's Fire TV and Samsung's Smart TVs to watch Facebook videos directly on their televisions, is the latest demonstration of Facebook's increasing focus on video. The company has recently been paying creators for exclusive premium video content, and is heavily promoting Facebook Live’s live streaming. To compete effectively, Facebook will need to offer higher quality content, which will require major investment. But, if Facebook can make its content free, funded by advertising alone, it could give subscriber services like Netflix and Amazon Prime serious pause for thought. Facebook in the meantime is improving the video experience on its mobile apps with a picture-in-picture view and making vertical videos look better in the mobile news feed. Also, videos will auto play with sound as you scroll past them, unless disabled. And in a further TV move, Facebook is to live stream matches from Mexico’s top football division Liga MX, after agreeing a deal with American-Spanish broadcaster Univision. The first of 46 games will be broadcast this Saturday and run through to the playoffs. ‘Sports on Facebook offers significant value to broadcasters and rights holders in areas of audience growth and innovation,’ said the social network’s head of global sports partnership.

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Starbucks partners with WeChat to offer social gifting in China

Starbucks is continuing its push into China by launching a social gifting feature on WeChat to create more digital connections with Chinese consumers. The coffee brand signed a strategic partnership deal with WeChat parent Tencent last year which saw the messaging app rollout across Starbucks’ 2,500 retail stores in the country. The latest move will let users instantly gift a drink or digital gift card, which will be stored in WeChat’s wallet function, to be redeemed in any store in Mainland China. Users can also send a personal message along with the gift using text, images or video. Starbucks claims it is the ‘first retail brand to bring to life a locally relevant social gifting experience in China’. The country remains a key market for the brand as it looks to open over 5000 new outlets across China. Starbucks is also focused on growing its digital connections with customers through its mobile app, reward programme, as well as social media.

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The Washington Post plans to break news on Snapchat

The Washington Post has launched on Snapchat Discover, the section of the app that offers daily content from publishers including BuzzFeed, ESPN, CNN and Refinery29. But unlike other Discover partners, The Washington Post plans to publish breaking news in the US, Canada and - surprisingly - the UK, posting new editions multiple times a day, every day. “Social platforms are so in the moment, to not have a breaking news presence, seemed to be a gap that needed to be filled,” said Christopher Meighan, the Post’s director of emerging news products. The Post plans to create a new team fully dedicated to Snapchat Discover content, which will include editors, designers, motion graphics experts and video producers. The Post also plans to publish longer form written features and video content on Snapchat Discover, growing its video team from 40 to 70 people this year. “There’s a lot of interest in this from across the newsroom,” Meighan said. The first edition of the Post on Snapchat features a Q&A with Kellyanne Conway and a feature on President Trump's travel ban. Some 150 million people around the world use Snapchat on a daily basis, and in comparison to Facebook and Twitter the platform reaches a largely millennial audience. Just last week, the New York Times announced plans to land on Discover in the coming months saying it was seeing a growing appetite among younger audiences and Snapchat was the "ideal place" to reach these readers.

Musical.ly launches Ping Pong video messenger app

Tween and teen focused lip-syncing app Musical.ly has launched a video messaging app called Ping Pong on the App Store, in what appears to be a test ahead of a public debut. Described as the "ultimate video messenger," details are scarce, but it appears as though it may be positioning as a possible Snapchat competitor. Musical.ly is notoriously media-shy and has not yet responded to requests for comment. Users can't yet log into the app or access anything beyond the initial launch screen. It apparently allows you to record video messages you can share with your friends, with the simple interface visible in the App Store screenshot looking as though regular Snapchat users will be more than comfortable using it. It is the fourth app from the rapidly growing Shanghai-based concern, whose flagship app had over 100 million users as of last autumn, and whose live video streaming app Live.ly became larger than Twitter’s Periscope only months after its unveiling. Live.ly aims to compete with Facebook Live and Periscope by offering a way for its users to interact with each other in real-time. More recently, Musical.ly launched simple group video chat app Squad, which also focused on moving Musical.ly’s user base in a more social direction, and Ping Pong may be simply an iteration on Squad geared more toward recorded video messages.

Google Maps goes social with launch of shareable lists

Google is expanding Maps to be more social, rolling out a shareable lists feature that allows users to save locations to a number of lists and then share those lists with friends and family from directly within the app. The feature has been tested for the past few months by power users and Google Local Guides. There is also the prospect of being able to follow other users' lists via a "make public" button under the list's share options. “We want to help people break out of their routine, and do something new,” said Google Maps lead product manager, Zach Maier. Google hasn’t partnered with any brands or publishers on the launch, but Maier didn’t rule out the possibility in the future. The new feature competes head-on with Foursquare, which has offered list-making tools for some time, as well as with smaller startups like Soon, Spot, and many other “bucket list” making tools on the App Store. Google’s public lists won’t yet be searchable, in the same way that Foursquare’s are, but your own lists will pop up as suggestions when you begin to type in the search box. Your lists and those you follow are also available offline. Google says the new feature is rolling out today on iOS and Android, and lists will be viewable on the web through shared links.



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