Pinterest Is Doing Livestreaming Now Too

Illustration for article titled Pinterest Is Doing Livestreaming Now Too

Photo: Spencer Platt (Getty Images)

Image-sharing social network Pinterest is diving into the live events space, TechCrunch first reported on Friday.

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Probably better known to most internet denizens more as an ad-filled SEO landing page for random images than its social functions, Pinterest has been trying to keep up with its titanic competitors with its own programs to financially incentivize creators. According to TechCrunch, it’s planning on running a three-day live event from May 24 to May 26 as the first major test of a built-in livestreaming function in its iOS and Android apps, complete with a comments stream and shopping plugin.

TechCrunch wrote that Pinterest streams will support up to three “guests” and no limit on viewers beyond, one supposes, whatever the company’s infrastructure can handle. The site wrote that Pinterest has enlisted 21 creators to contribute to the event, including celebrity hairdresser Jonathan Van Ness and fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff, for a number of commerce-focused segments not that different from what one might find on Instagram or YouTube:

Jonathan Van Ness‘ session will discuss morning rituals and self-care routines. Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff will teach Pinterest users how to style their summer wardrobe. Others featured during the event include food creators GrossyPelosi and Peter Som, who will showcase favorite recipes; Women’s Health magazine will talk about using vision boards to achieve your goals; Jennifer Alba will show how to communicate the Zodiac through sign language; and Hannah Bronfman will offer ideas for creating an at-home spa night.

As of right now, TechCrunch reported, Pinterest hasn’t discussed its long-term plans for streaming, nor has it announced any of the other kind of monetization features (donations, tickets, subscriptions, brand partnerships) that makes its larger competitors lucrative for people with large followings. But there’s something to be said for the possibility for Pinterest creators to be a big fish in a small pond.

The company has also rolled out a “Creator Code” that asks personalities on the site to behave significantly better than the standards on its larger brethren like YouTube, aiming to cultivate an “inclusive and compassionate” atmosphere (though it’s had its own issues keeping anti-vaxxers and child sex abuse material off the site). It put together a $500,000 fund to pay out to a small pool of creators throughout 2021, a number that admittedly pales in comparison to that offered by companies like Snapchat and TikTok.

As Engadget noted, this isn’t the first time Pinterest has experimented with livestreaming—it tested a feature called Class Communities last year, although that relied on Zoom to power the video aspect. 

Print Books Are Still Outselling eBooks, Study Finds

Illustration for article titled Print Books Are Still Outselling eBooks, Study Finds

Photo: STR / Contributor (Getty Images)

According to a study by Statista’s Advertising & Media Outlook, ebook sales are still trailing physical book sales globally, especially during the dog days of the covid-19 pandemic. The study, which asked respondents to describe their book purchases in 2020, found that ebooks still haven’t replaced paper in most countries.

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“In the United States for example, where e-books are very popular in comparison, 23 percent of the population are estimated to have purchased an e-book last year, compared to 45 percent who bought a printed book,” wrote researcher Felix Richter.

China, in particular, is an interesting case in that ebooks and printed books are actually closing in on each other with 24% of respondents saying they bought a digital book versus the 32% who bought paper. This disparity isn’t quite explained, but given Asia, more broadly, has been on the phone-reading kick for a long time, witnessed by the 2000s fad of “phone written” bestsellers in Japan, it’s still an interesting finding.

As an avid reader and writer (and technophile), I feel I have a dog in the ebook fight, and I keep expecting ebooks to overtake paper books at some point in the near future. That said, I’m always slightly disappointed and still feel these studies, which could be biased towards readers who have time to take a survey, may skew the findings slightly. That said, nothing about this is surprising and it’s good to know we’re all still reading.

Illustration for article titled Print Books Are Still Outselling eBooks, Study Finds

Illustration: Statista

Twitch and Facebook Gaming Are Having One Hell of a Year. YouTube Gaming? Eh, Not so Much

Illustration for article titled Twitch and Facebook Gaming Are Having One Hell of a Year. YouTube Gaming? Eh, Not so Much

Photo: Martin Bureau (Getty Images)

As the world descended into lockdown last year, people overwhelming tuned into livestreams to connect with others and stave off boredom while stuck in their homes. And that pandemic-fueled growth shows no signs of slowing down even as the world attempts to return to business as usual, with both Twitch and Facebook Gaming seeing record viewership in the first quarter of 2021, according to the latest numbers.

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The popular livestreaming software provider StreamLabs released its first streaming industry quarterly report for 2021 on Friday. Using data compiled by streaming analytics firm Stream Hatchet from the beginning of January to the end of March, it offers some interesting insights, most notably that Facebook Gaming is closing in on YouTube Gaming’s spot for the #2 most popular streaming service. In first place is long-time leader Twitch, which still easily commands the largest chunk of the market with more than 72% of the total hours of content watched this year.

If you (like me) never really got that into livestreaming, you may be surprised to learn just how massive the industry’s become in such a short time. At Amazon-owned Twitch, viewership, hours streamed, average concurrent viewership, and the number of channels have all roughly doubled since this time last year, StreamLabs said. Twitch broke its viewership record for the second quarter in a row with users watching 6.3 billion hours of content, an increase of almost 1 billion hours compared to last quarter. The platform also saw its single largest quarterly increase in hours streamed since the early days of the pandemic, jumping from roughly 230 million hours to 265 million.

While Twitch is most well known for streaming video games, its most popular category continues to be “Just Chatting”. This category—considered the successor to Twitch’s ill-defined “IRL” section, which was reconfigured into 13 distinct non-gaming categories in 2018—involves exactly what the name implies: Content where streamers simply hang out and chat with viewers or engage in real-world shenanigans.

“Just Chatting” racked up a whopping 754 million hours watched in Q1 this year. To put that figure into perspective, Grand Theft Auto V, the most-watched game on Twitch in 2021, had 536.3 million hours, with League of Legends not far behind at 534 million.

Facebook Gaming and YouTube Gaming, which is owned by Google, continue to lag far behind Twitch, but the gap between them is quickly narrowing. Facebook hit an impressive milestone this past quarter, surpassing one billion hours watched for the first time, almost double the total viewership the platform garnered around this time last year.

“For the first time, we are seeing Facebook Gaming and YouTube Gaming closely compete against each other in terms of viewership,” said StreamLabs head of product Ashray Urs in the report. “While the difference in viewership was approximately 1 billion hours last quarter, that gap has shrunk to about 300 million in Q1. There is a chance we could see Facebook Gaming overtake YouTube Gaming in viewership next quarter. ”

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StreamLabs attributes a lot of that success to PUBG Mobile, Facebook Gaming’s most-watched gaming category for at least the past two years. Users watched 254 million hours of PUBG Mobile livestreams in Q1, an impressive year-over-year increase of 76%. Facebook Gaming absorbing Microsoft’s failed livestreaming platform Mixer last summer no doubt attracted plenty of new talent and viewers that migrated over.

YouTube Gaming was the only platform of the big three that experienced a dip in viewership this quarter, down 28.6% from 1.92 billion hours to 1.37 billion hours. Both its total number of hours streamed and unique channels also fell, though not as much (6.7% and 9.9% respectively). However, taking into account its year-over-year growth, YouTube Gaming doesn’t seem to be doing half bad, as its total viewership and average concurrent viewership both increased by roughly 28%. The platform is also home to the most popular female streamer across all platforms: Valkyrae, whose content viewers watched for 12.2 million hours during Q1 this year.

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We’ve reached out to Twitch, Google, and Facebook for comment, and will be sure to update this blog when we hear back.

All told, it seems the attention livestreaming platforms attracted during the pandemic isn’t dying down anytime soon even as lockdowns lift, vaccines roll out, and people start to journey outside their homes more regularly again. But whether Facebook and YouTube’s gaming livestreaming services will ever pose any real threat to Twitch’s industry dominance remains to be seen.

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Facebook Is Officially Beta Testing Hotline, a Clubhouse-Inspired Audio Q&A Feature

Illustration for article titled Facebook Is Officially Beta Testing Hotline, a Clubhouse-Inspired Audio Q&A Feature

Photo: LOIC VENANCE / Contributor (Getty Images)

Facebook on Wednesday ran its first public beta test of Hotline — a web-based Q&A platform that seems like it was dreamed up as the platform’s answer to the current voice chat app craze.

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More specifically, Hotline is designed to function as a sort of love child between Instagram Live and Clubhouse, TechCrunch reports: Creators will address an audience of users, who will then be able to respond by asking questions with either text or audio. Unlike Clubhouse — which is strictly an audio-only platform — Hotline users will have the option to turn their cameras on during events, adding a visual element to an otherwise voice-dominated experience.

Hotline is currently being developed by Facebook’s NPE Team, which handles experimental app development within the company, and is being led by Eric Hazzard, who created the positivity-focused Q&A app tbh that Facebook acquired before pivoting Hotline.

A public livestream of the app’s functionality on Wednesday was led by real estate investor Nick Huber, who spoke about industrial real estate as a second income stream — which should give you a pretty good idea about exactly what type of creators Hotline will be attempting to net once it’s live. Close observers of the stream will have noticed that Hotline’s interface closely resembles Clubhouse’s, in that the speaker’s icon is situated atop or astride an “audience,” which is populated by listeners whose profiles appear below the livestream (on the desktop version, the audience is off to the side).

Where the app differs from Clubhouse is in its functionality for “audience” members, who will see the questions they ask appear in a list at the top of the stream which other users can then choose to upvote or downvote. The creator will also have the option to pull listeners onto the “stage” area to join them in a back and forth, which will be something closer to Zoom in nature than its audio-only forebears.

In a statement on Wednesday, Facebook declined to offer specific details about a launch date for Hotline, but said that developers have been encouraged to see how new multimedia features and formats “continue to help people connect and build community.

“With Hotline, we’re hoping to understand how interactive, live multimedia Q&As can help people learn from experts in areas like professional skills, just as it helps those experts build their businesses,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

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Twitch’s Latest Sensation Is A Stop Sign Where No One Stops

Illustration for article titled Twitch's Latest Sensation Is A Stop Sign Where No One Stops

Image: Twitch / Stopsigncam

A blue car pulls up to a stop sign. Against all odds, it briefly, miraculously comes to a halt. Twitch chat goes ballistic. Numerous people spam “I was here” as pogchamp emotes flood in. This is Stopsigncam, a Twitch channel that suddenly has over 125,000 followers even though it’s just a camera trained on a single neighborhood intersection in Salem, Massachusetts.

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Ideally, every car would stop at the sign, but that would ruin the fun. Stopsigncam’s stream title says it all: “98.73% of vehicles don’t stop.” That’s almost certainly an estimate, but if you watch the stream, it really is incredible how few drivers stop—or even pretend like they’re maybe going to do a halfhearted roll-through stop. Most drivers just pass right on by, despite how precariously close they come to getting into wrecks with other drivers. It’s an entirely unnecessary game of chicken that makes for weirdly riveting viewing, especially with chat yelling out every stop and non-stop its collective Eye of Sauron sees, doling out nicknames to cars, making memes, and establishing an ever-expanding lexicon of terms like “rollers” and “zoomers.” It’s like watching a gigantic esports event, only it’s cars passing by some rando’s front yard.

With the channel suddenly exploding in popularity, the Stopsigncam stream has also grown more eventful. Earlier this week, somebody got out of their car and did a backflip for the camera. Other people showed up one night and had a lightsaber duel. In just the past few hours today, a viewer walked up to the sign, identified himself in chat, and removed a sticker from the sign, which had previously been applied by some miscreant who sought to deface its purity (or do some advertising). Not long after, two other obvious stream snipers held up unreadable signs of their own while standing next to the stop sign. Some have speculated that the police now use the stream as a means of monitoring the stop.

The stream has a strange sort of intrinsic appeal, but that alone did not propel it to such absurd heights. According to longtime fans, it’s been running since at least last year, but it averaged single-digit viewer numbers, when it had any viewers at all. Then, over the weekend, a couple things happened: The stream got some play on Twitch drama hive turned kingmaker r/Livestreamfail, and probably most importantly, a big name, 100 Thieves intern JhbTeam, promoted the stream to his audience. First he tweeted about it, but it wasn’t until he created a TikTok on Monday that things got out of hand.

“At first, I thought it’d just be a little fun joke between me and my audience on Twitter for only [one] night, because I deleted my tweet hours later,” Jhb told Kotaku in a DM. “When people actually stayed and watched it throughout the night, it made me want to create the TikTok to see if I could make it bigger. I went to bed that night when it had 400 viewers, and woke up to 4,000 viewers as well as my TikTok having 800k views in only a few hours. I’m very happy with the result of the TikTok because it was my ultimate goal to make it popular, and it became more popular than I imagined.”

The TikTok, which implores “bored” viewers to check out the stream and gives a rapid-fire summary of its appeal, now has over 2 million views. Ever since it caught on, Stopsigncam has had a consistent audience of 1,000-3,000 concurrent viewers 24 hours a day. So, for those keeping score, this all came about because a streamer made a tweet and TikTok about somebody else’s Twitch stream. Oh, and he recounted all of this in a YouTube video, as well.

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The owner of the channel ended up giving Jhb moderation privileges, which he occasionally exercises to keep the chat he personally turned into an avalanche of screams from getting too rowdy, despite how busy he is working for a major gaming organization: “Since I was the first person in the stream and I was a verified user, the owner put trust into me and gave me moderation privileges,” Jhb said. “I’ll usually have the stream open on the side and if I see an inappropriate message or anything that could link to the location, I’ll ban that user.” (Kotaku reached out to Stopsigncam’s owner, who declined to answer questions for the time being, as well as a couple moderators, who did not reply in time for publication.)

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“First person in the stream” might be a stretch, given that others claim to have been watching Stopsigncam for a little while now. One, a writer and financial analyst named Daniel Connolly, says he found the stream last year in Twitch’s travel and outdoors category. “I often leave location cams on as background while I work,” he told Kotaku in a DM. “I really started watching this stream during the winter, during a snowstorm.”

As a (relatively) longtime viewer, Connolly said he’s “happy” for Stopsigncam’s owner, but the growth spurt hasn’t impacted his viewing habits, since it’s all just background for him. Others, however, worry that in its transition from obscure curiosity to sensational stream sniper target, Stopsigncam has already lost something essential. One of those people is a viewer who goes by the handle Ilikecorndogs. Buoyed by his love of chat’s reactions to last-second stops and stunts like the aforementioned lightsaber duel, he created a subreddit for the Stopsigncam stream earlier this week. Now, though, he’s on the verge of being done with it.

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“Honestly, after two days of knowing about [Stopsigncam], I’ve already grown out of it,” he told Kotaku in a DM. “I might hop into a stream here or there, but I feel like it grew too much out of a quirky stream in the corners of Twitch I was told about one night.”

Watching so many people show up during today’s stream clearly aware of the camera, it’s not hard to see where he’s coming from. Some Twitch sensations stick around and evolve into institutions. Others are just bizarre little moments. Before you know it, they’re over, because they were never meant to be anything else.

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There are also more practical concerns: It has not been difficult for locals to figure out where Stopsigncam’s stop sign cam is positioned. What happens if somebody doxxes its owner? PC builder and streamer Robert “OD_Technology” O’Donnell, who says he was one of a few people who were involved in the lightsaber fights, doesn’t think it will come to that, but he acknowledges that it’s possible.

“We were able to find [the house] because we hang out in the bars [in] the area, but we won’t tell specifically where it is,” he told Kotaku in a DM. “I put up a Facebook post asking where or who it was, but I took it down immediately after thinking about it because we want it to be fun and not a risk… I really hope [the stream lasts] because the guy deserves it, but if locals ruin it, it will be on them and not him.”

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He’s optimistic about the stream’s chances, though: “I think it will last a long time,” he said.

The whole moment has remained remarkably wholesome so far, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will stay that way, with thousands of people tuning in to watch the daily lives of hundreds of unknowing others. Despite watching for longer than most, Connolly thinks Stopsigncam feels temporary—like a brief roll-through rather than what the unmissable red sign tells everybody to do.

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“I assumed people would have moved on by now,” he said. “I suppose it’ll last as long as the chat stays active and friendly. It feels like an ephemeral moment in a tiny, weird corner of the internet.”

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How to Score Free Screeners Before New Movies Come Out

Illustration for article titled How to Score Free Screeners Before New Movies Come Out

Photo: Antonio Guillem (Shutterstock)

Your average cinephile might itch with anticipation before a new blockbuster release, but unless you’ve got a legitimate critic’s platform, you’ve got slim chances of receiving that coveted screener. Luckily, it’s probably easier than ever to become something of a movie critic, provided you’ve got the necessary writing chops and willingness to badger publicists. Here’s how you can get ahold of movie screeners.

Start writing about movies

Screeners aren’t available for just any movie aficionado—plenty of people are enthusiastic about film and look forward to the Academy Awards, but unless you’re writing about movies regularly, it’s going to be difficult to convince a publicist to send you a screener.

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Your chances are probably better than they were in the heyday of old media, though, when professional critics occupied a vaunted niche at big newspapers and magazines. To that end, you can start out small, writing about movies on your own blog or pitching movie reviews and criticism to news outlets, including smaller film blogs where the barrier to entry might be lower.

You can also start by writing audience reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and earn your stripes by eventually becoming a verified reviewer on the site, or pitch any of the more established independent blogs that began as upstarts built from scratch.

In any case, there’s good advice out there on how to start your own film blog, but you should only dive in if your passion will sustain you.

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Get accredited

Though there’s no formal process that works across the board, the main way one gains this kind of legitimacy is by publishing articles and showing your body of work to a publicist who can send you screeners.

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Everyone’s route to getting accredited is a bit different, but a Patheos blog from 2015 explains some of the insights that film publicists and marketing firms will be interested in if you decide to knock on their doors:

You should be able to provide circulation numbers (or analytics for Internet publications). How many people read your reviews? How frequently do you publish? (Do you write one 400 word review a month for a local newspaper or several reviews per week for your own blog?)

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Join a film critics society

Belonging to professional societies can open large doors for earning screeners—but, of course, there are typically some barriers to entry before a society will let you join (even the smaller ones). If you’re a freelancer, look into local film critics circles and for a membership with the Editorial Freelancers Union; if you’re lucky enough to be on staff somewhere, you might push for a union contract with the Writer’s Guild of America or another union representing writers. Belonging to such an organization only further solidifies one’s reputation as a professional writer. (Lifehacker and its fellow G/O Media sites are members of the Writers Guild of America, East.)

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Moreover, if you’re really serious about getting screeners, you’re going to have to review the movies promptly, so the gatekeepers know you’re not just trying to commandeer free swag. But above all, you’re going to have to ask—perhaps repeatedly—for publicists to send you screeners.

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When all else fails, look for free screenings

If you’re finding it hard to nab screeners you can always stay on the hunt for screenings, which are basically public events where the movie in question is played for an audience. Of course, screenings still aren’t safe in this pandemic era, though with vaccines in circulation and new cases on the wane (for now), it’s possible you could queue up for one within the year.

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There are various websites that cater to would-be screening attendees. Sites such as Gofobo and STX Screenings, as well as screenings offered by various production companies that you can refer to. For many of these sites, all you have to do is input your zip code to be presented with screenings in your vicinity that still have availability. These events are usually intended for invited members of the media, but regular non-media folk are often invited. This, at the very least, might nudge the ball along for you, especially if you’re trying to make inroads with PR people who can send you screeners once your bonafides are more obvious.

A note of caution, though: Screeners may sound wonderful, especially as we spend ungodly amounts of time isolated and at home, but be careful what you wish for. Once you avail your address and inbox to certain publicists, you might soon be buried under an overwhelming deluge of emails and DVDs.

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E-Book Sales Rise as People Hunt Desperately for Stuff to Do

Illustration for article titled E-Book Sales Rise as People Hunt Desperately for Stuff to Do

Photo: Stephen Brashear / Stringer (Getty Images)

E-book revenues are up by 15.2% from 2019, hitting $1 billion last year, according to a report by the Association of American Publishers. December figures should reach at least $100 million if the organization’s estimates are correct.

“Print book sales tracked for the year by NPD BookScan rose 8.2 percent in 2020 despite—and in some ways because of—the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote trade book analyst Porter Anderson.

Total book sales saw a bump as well with adult books rising 35.4% year-over-year thanks to A Promised Land by former President Barack Obama and political books like Mary Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough.

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The seemingly slow rise of e-books is still surprising given lockdown and the ease of downloading new titles. Total revenues across all categories—from young adult titles to university presses offerings—rose 24.5% compared to November 2019. Total book revenue was $1.2 billion. Ebooks made up 9.3% of total book sales last November.

Stats through January 2, 2021, US print sales only

Stats through January 2, 2021, US print sales only
Screenshot: The NPD Group / NPD BookScan

“After a jarring drop-off at the beginning of the pandemic, the US print book market has shown remarkable resilience throughout 2020, posting impressive gains, even as alternate formats like ebooks and audiobooks have also grown,” said Kristen McLean of the NPD Group, a market research firm.