A Triller Thriller: Excitement I Do Not Need

August 26, 2022

Short-form video app Triller is eager to topple TikTok. When its rival was lambasted last summer for allowing white influencers to take credit for trends generated by Black content creators, Triller saw an opportunity. It immediately positioned itself as the platform that respects and elevates Black creators. It reached out to many of them with promises of regular monthly payments and coveted shares of stock while dangling visions of a content house, collaborations, and brand deals. However, whether from disorganization or disregard, The Washington Post reports, Triller is not holding up to its end of the deal. In the article, “A TikTok Rival Promised Millions to Black Creators. Now Some Are Deep in Debt” (paywalled), reporter Taylor Lorenz writes:

“[Dancer David Warren] was part of a group of what Triller touted as 300 Black content creators offered contracts totaling $14 million — ‘the largest ever one-time commitment of capital to Black creators,’ the company bragged in a November news release. But nearly a year after Triller began recruiting Black talent, its payments to many creators have been erratic — and, in some cases, nonexistent, according to interviews with more than two dozen creators, talent managers and former company staff, many of whom spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity to avoid retaliation from the company. For influencers, it’s a disastrous turn from a platform with a reputation for paying big money, dubbed ‘Triller money,’ to get talent to post on the app. Far from ‘Triller money,’ the Black influencers were promised

$4,000 per month, with half paid in equity, according to documents reviewed by The Post. Warren, used to making content for platforms controlled by other people, found the chance to own a piece of something thrilling. But now, as they cope with uncertain payments, many creators allege they are compelled to keep up with a demanding posting schedule and vague requirements that make it easy for the company to eliminate people from the program.”

Company executives flat-out deny allegations against them, but Lorenz shares her evidence in the article. She describes a toxic climate where administrators callously hold creators to the letter of their grueling agreements while failing to make good on tens of thousands of dollars in payments. In a spectacular display of gall, Triller informed creators it would prioritize keeping a certain amount on the books over its obligations to them as it prepares for its IPO. And those promised shares of stock that had creators feeling empowered? Nowhere to be seen. Whether it is a matter of contemptuous tokenization or mere incompetence, it seems Triller delivers little but a trail of broken promises.

Cynthia Murrell, August 26, 2022

YouTube: Some Proof about Unfindable Content

August 17, 2022

I read “5 Sites to Discover the Best YouTube Channels and Creators Recommended for You.” The write up presents five services which make YouTube content “findable.” What I learned from the article is that YouTube videos are, for the most part, unfindable. A YouTuber can stumble upon a particular video and rely on Google’s unusual recommendation system. In my experience, that system is hobbled by its assorted filters and ad-magnetic methods. If I want to locate a video by eSysman (a fellow who reports about big money yachts loved by some money launderers and oligarchs), Google refers me to NautiStyles, YachtsForSale (quite a sales person is visible on that channel), or the flavor of the day like Bering Yachts. eSysman is the inspiration for one former CIA professional, and her edging into the value of open source intelligence. Does Google’s algorithm “sense” this? Nah, not a clue. What if I want some downhome cookin’ with Cowboy Kent, the chuck wagon totin’, trail hand feedin’ Oklahoma chef. Sorry, promoting Italian chefs are not what I was looking for. Cowboy cookin’ is not Italian restaurateurs showing that their skills are sharper than fry cooks in French restaurants. But what about YouTube search? Yes, isn’t it fantastic? Enough said.

What about the services identified in the article? Each offers different ways to find a video or channel on a specific or semi-specific topic. You can navigate to the source document and work your way through the list of curated “finder” sites.

The write up points out:

YouTube has over 50 million channels, but as you might have guessed, most of them aren’t worth subscribing to.

That’s the type of “oh, well, don’t worry statement” that drives me bonkers. Just let someone tell you what’s good. Go with it. Hey, no problemo. Who wants to consider the implications of hours of video uploaded every minute or the fact that there are 50 million channels from the Googlers’ service.

Several observations:

  1. No one knows what is on YouTube. I have some doubts that filters designed to eliminate certain types of content work particularly well. The idea that the Google screens each and every uploaded video with tools constantly updated to keep track of possibly improper videos is interesting to contemplate. Since no one knows what videos contain, how can one know what’s filtered, allowed in mistakenly, blocked inadvertently, or processed using methods not revealed to the public. (Lists of user “handles” can be quite useful for some purposes.)
  2. Are the channels no one can find actually worthless? I am not too sure. There are channels which present information about how to game the Google algorithm posted by alleged Google “partners.” I engaged in a dialogue with this “professional” and found the exchange quite disturbing. I located the huckster by accident, and I can guarantee that keeping track of this individual is not an easy task. Is that a task a Googler will undertake? Yeah, sure.
  3. YouTube search is one of the many “flavors” of information location the company offers. In my experience, none of the Google search services works very well or delivers on point information without frustration. Does this comment apply to Google Patent search? Yep. What about Google News search? Yep yep. What about regular Google search for company using a common word for its name? Yep yep yep. (Google doesn’t have a clue about a company field code, but it sure pushes ads unrelated to anything I search. I love mindless ads for the non-US content surveillance products that help me express myself clearly. Hey, no I won’t buy.)

Net net: YouTube’s utility is designed for Google ads. The murky methods used to filter content and the poor search and recommender systems illustrate why professional libraries and specific indexing guidelines were developed. Google, of course, thinks that type of dinobaby thinking is not hip.

Yes, it is. Unless Google tames the YouTube, the edifice could fall down. TikTok (which has zero effective search) may just knock a wall or trellis in the YouTube garden over. Google wants to be an avant guard non text giant. Even giants have vulnerable points. The article makes clear that third parties cannot do much to make information findable in YouTube. But in a TikTok world, who cares? Advertisers? Google stakeholders? Those who believe Google’s smart software is alive? I go for the software is alive crowd.

Stephen E Arnold, August 17, 2022

YouTube: Latent Power and a Potential Flash Point within Russia?

August 8, 2022

I read the estimable Murdoch write up called “How YouTube Keeps Broadcasting Inside Russia’s Digital Iron Curtain.” And how about this subtitle?

Access to the video site allows Russians access to one of the few sources of independent information about the Ukraine war

(Keep in mind that you will have to pay to view the article on the WSJ.com site.)

I have suggested that Russia’s regulators see the Google as a giant piggy bank with a ceramic head resembling Godzilla’s. How powerful is Google’s YouTube? The write up suggests that the Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind thing is pretty powerful. Well, actually what’s powerful is YouTube and its millions upon millions of videos.

Here’s the key statement in the “real” news article:

“Some banks are too big to fail, and some apps are too big to be blocked,” stated Nu Wexler, a former coverage communications staffer at Google, Meta and Twitter. “The Russian government knows they would face a backlash if they were to block a popular app like YouTube in the country.”

Why not enjoy the videos on Rutube, Rumble, or the high quality streamgun.vod site? The reason, according to one attendee at a law enforcement, crime analyst, and intelligence professional centric conference boils down to YouTube being Number One with a bullet.

The idea is that in some of the cheerful outposts in Siberia as well as the toasty towns in Sochi, YouTube is the primary source of entertainment. Okay, but I suggested vodka was the big dog. Wrong, I learned. Despite the quality of Russian state television and the outstanding Russian motion pictures, YouTube kept the young folks busy.

I have yet to see credible data which suggests that YouTube, not Russia billboards, is the information gun in Russia. There is, of course, TikTok and some of the low cost pirate streaming services. YouTube has triumphed it is alleged.

Here’s a factoid from the write up I saw:

YouTube had greater than 85 million month-to-month distinctive viewers in Russia in June, in line with analytics firm.

And how about this allegedly accurate item?

The video website was utilized by 47% of a pattern of Russians surveyed in April by the unbiased Russian pollster Levada Center, making it the nation’s second-most common social community behind native service VKontakte.

Maybe Rutube can displace the GOOG’s YouTube? Maybe:

Russian officers have stated state cash could be invested into Rutube, a unit of the state-owned vitality big Gazprom PJSC that options pro-Moscow content material. It had 9.7 million month-to-month distinctive viewers in Russia in June, SimilarWeb stated.

Net net: No wonder the Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind operation finds pesky laws enacted by nation-states annoying. YouTube is able to do what Ukraine cannot: Displace that which it finds annoying and a threat to its data collection and advertising efforts. Google is in a position to trigger social unrest in Russia by pulling out of the country’s datasphere. That’s power. What if YouTube were used to incite citizen unrest in Russia and maybe a couple of other countries?

Interesting idea and worth consideration by some I suppose.

Stephen E Arnold, August 8, 2022

Will Vintage Gameshows Slow Down TikTok?

August 5, 2022

Somehow we are not surprised. Axios reports, “News Engagement Plummets as Americans Tune Out.” Reporters Neal Rothschild and Sara Fischer assembled data from several sources and share the results in a handy chart. From the first half of 2021 to the first half of this year, visits to the top 5 news sites and news apps were down by 18% and 16% respectively, primetime cable news viewership decreased by 19%, and interactions with news articles on social media was cut in half. The article observes:

“The big picture: The level of news consumption in 2021 took a nosedive following historic highs in 2020. Despite a slew of major stories, readers have retrenched further in 2022. The war in Ukraine, a series of deadly mass shootings, the Jan. 6 hearings and the Supreme Court’s revocation of abortion rights haven’t been able to capture the same level of attention spurred by the onset of the pandemic and the 2020 election.”

There is one important caveat to the 50% drop via social media: during this time Facebook de-emphasized news in user feeds as part of its News Tab push. Perhaps during a spate of bad news is not the best time to coax users onto the dedicated tab. See the write-up for more engagement statistics from a news-weary nation.

For anyone who would rather relive the past than watch current events, reruns may be the way to go. Polygon reveals “Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune Will Steam 24/7” on Pluto TV. We learn:

Vulture reported Monday that both Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune — the game show classics — will stream ‘vintage’ episodes 24/7 on separate Pluto TV channels, thanks to a deal between the streaming service and Sony Pictures Entertainment. The broadcasts will begin on Aug. 1, according to Vulture. Pluto TV is a free streaming service purchased by Viacom (now Paramount Global) in 2019. Vulture said it’s the start of Pluto TV’s expansion into game show content; it’s moving the current game show offering, like old The Price Is Right episodes, to a new game show category. CBS’ Lets Make a Deal, hosted by Wayne Brady, was added to the service today.”

What Sony considers “vintage” is left undefined. Pluto does offer an on-demand section, but for a real shot of nostalgia one can stick with its Live TV page. Maybe a trip down memory lane can provide some respite from today’s concerns, at least temporarily? And TikTok? Imagine the Lone Ranger is 30 second clips. Winner!

Cynthia Murrell, August 5, 2022

Surprise! Undisclosed Sponsorships Abound on TikTok

August 4, 2022

Would you consider this weaponized information or just Madison Avenue in the digital era? Vox reveals, “TikTok Is Full of Shady Secret Advertisements.” Regulations specify social media influencers must disclose if they are being paid to endorse or display a product, but many fail to do so. And with issues like privacy protection taking top priority, the FTC is hard pressed to stop them. Though the problem has existed across social media platforms for years, TikTok has taken it to a new level. Reporter Sara Morrison writes:

“It’s pervasive because it’s easy: With the internet and social media, there is a seemingly infinite supply of content to regulate and almost no transparency, which makes it exceedingly difficult for the agencies charged with enforcing the rules to know when they’re being broken. … But TikTok’s undisclosed ad problem seems to be particularly bad. The app is believed to be especially addictive, with users spending far more time on TikTok than on competitors’ apps. And everything is younger: the users, the creators, and the platform itself. TikTok is only now encountering some of the regulatory and legal growing pains its social media platform peers faced years ago. TikTok is also very popular with a desirable and elusive demographic: Gen Z. And brands know that influencers can be a great way to reach them.”

See the article for several examples and some of the factors making it difficult for regulators to curb such “sponcon.” Sponsors and influencers might be underestimating Gen Z, however, and this tactic may eventually backfire. Most of those born after 1997 have enough digital savvy to know when they are being sold to and resent attempts at trickery. Though it sounds like an oxymoron to older folks, members of this generation value authenticity in their virtual interactions. If TikTok continues to let sponsorship violations slide, it might just see its treasured target audience slip away.

Cynthia Murrell, August 4, 2022

TikTok: Is Joe Rogan the Person to Blow the Whistle on Chinese Surveillance?

August 3, 2022

TikTok has been around since 2015 as A.me and Douyin. If you want to scrape below the shiny surface of the TikTok rags-to-riches story, there something called Musical.ly which surfaced in 2014. In 2018, the Musical.ly management team decided that selling to ByteDance was a super great idea. Then TikTok was created to entertain and log data. Few talk about the link to certain entities in the Chinese political structure. Even fewer think that short videos were bad. Sure, there were allegations of self harm, addiction, erosion of self worth, and students who preferred watching vids pumped at them by a magical algorithm. Nobody, including some Silicon Valley real news people with an inflated view of their intellectual capabilities said, “Yo, TikTok is a weaponized content delivery and surveillance system.” Nope. Just cute videos. What’s the problemo?

Who is now concerned about TikTok? The NSA? The CIA? The badge-and-gun entities in the US Federal government? Well, maybe. But the big voice is now a semi-real sports event announcer. “Joe Rogan Warns Americans about TikTok: China Knows Every … Thing You type.” Hey, Joe, don’t forget psychographic profiling to identify future insider operators, please.

The article reports:

Rogan listed the other data being collected by the popular platform. “‘User agent, mobile carrier, time zone settings, identifiers for advertising purpose, model of your device, the device system, network type, device IDs, your screen resolution and operating system, app and file names and types,’” he said. “So all your apps and all your file names, all the things you have filed away on your phone, they have access to that.” He continued: “‘File names and types, keystroke patterns or rhythms.’”

Hot intel, Mr. Rogan.

Where did this major news originate? From Mr. Rogan’s wellness infused research?

Nope. He read the terms of service.

The estimable newspaper pointed out:

… the tech news site Gizmodo reported that leaked internal documents from TikTok showed the extent to which the app sought to “downplay the China association.” The documents, labeled “TikTok Master Messaging” and “TikTok Key Messages,” detail the social media giant’s public relations strategy during a period of mounting scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers over its parent company ByteDance and its ties to the Chinese Community Party.

Gizmodo? Is this Silicon Valley type “real news” outlet emulating Cryptome.org?

According to the cited New York Post story:

TikTok has pledged to “publish insights about the covert influence operations we identify and remove from our platform globally to show how seriously we take attempts to mislead our community.”

That sounds good just like a cyber security firm’s PowerPoint deck. Talk, however, is not action.

Maybe Mr. Rogan can use his ring announcer voice to catch people’s attention? I am not sure some of the TikTok lovers will listen or believe what Mr. Rogan discovered in the super stealthy terms of service for TikTok.

That’s real open source intel. Put Mr. Rogan on a panel at the next OSINT conference, please. I mean TikTok has a 10 year history and it seems to be quite new to some folks.

Stephen E Arnold, August 3, 2022

TikTok, TikTok: The Doomsday Clock at the Googleplex May Be Ticking

July 26, 2022

I read “Time Is Ticking for Google to Catch Up with TikTok”. The write up — which is unlikely to be greeted with cheers at the Google — says:

Google complained that almost 40% of Gen Z prefers using social apps like TikTok and Instagram for online queries instead of Google Search and Maps. Instead of complaining, perhaps Google should take the necessary steps to make valuable changes to its services to draw in its losing customer base.

The write up quotes a Verity-trained Googler as saying:

“We keep learning, over and over again, that new internet users don’t have the expectations and the mindset that we have become accustomed to,” Raghavan said. He added that younger users are making queries in an entirely different way.”

I love the royal “we.” Very King Carlos II of Spain.

The write up points out that Google is a dinobaby:

But in recent years, we changed the way we consumed content. We prefer watching videos that are short and to the point — the type of content TikTok succeeds in, and one Google is trying to catch up with.

How fast can Googzilla adapt?

TikTok, TikTok, is that the doomsday clock?

Stephen E Arnold, July 26, 2022

About That Harmless TikTok Thing

July 25, 2022

As a tool, the Internet and social media platforms do not officially kill people. Users do stupid things that end up getting them killed. It just so happens that YouTube, TikTok, and other platforms share stupid ideas and the idiots copy them. YouTube used to be the go-to place for Internet challenges such as planking, ice bucket challenge, and trust falls. TikTok is now the place to get dumb challenges such as the Tide pod challenge and more recently the “blackout challenge. The Verge shares what the challenge is and how people died in, “The TikTok “Blackout Challenge” Has Now Allegedly Killed Seven Kids.”

The blackout challenge is where users record videos strangling themselves with various items: belts, purse straps, shoelaces, etc. until they pass out. Seven kids have reportedly died from the challenge and parents are filing lawsuits against TikTok. The latest victims were nine-year-old Arriani Arroyo and eight-year-old Lalani Walton. The five other victims range between 10-14 years old and are from the United States, Italy, and Australia.

TikTok claims it prevents users from searching for the blackout challenge or warnings are placed on the videos. Parents of the victims assert differently:

“However, Smith and Arroyo’s newer suit alleges that their children weren’t searching for challenges when they saw the videos. Instead, it says, TikTok put it right in front of them on the app’s main screen, the For You page. The suit accuses the company of having ‘specifically curated and determined that these Blackout Challenge videos – videos featuring users who purposefully strangulate themselves until losing consciousness – are appropriate and fitting for small children.’”

The parents believe TikTok should be held accountable for the content it shows children and should do more to monitor dangerous content. TikTok paid $5.7 million to the FTC in 2019 when it allowed kids under thirteen to create an account without their parents’ permission. TikTok also has Family Pairing that allows parents to link their accounts to their kids’ and control the amount of content and how much time they spend on the platform.

Family Pairing is a brilliant idea, especially if parents vigilantly monitor what their kids watch. TikTok should prevent dangerous items from being seen on its platform too. Maybe TikTok should have a warning that says, “Kids don’t try this at home” like TV has.

Whitney Grace, July 25, 2022

TikTok: Slipping and Dipping or Plotting and Planning?

July 15, 2022

I read “TikTok Aborts Europe, US Expansion Ambitions Shortly After US Senate Inquiry.” Surprising? Not really. TikTok and its ByteDance Ltd. “partner” is it appears rethinking how to capitalize on its popularity among the most avid, short attention span clickers. The article explains that TikTok is not too keen on selling via its baby super app. The reasons are, according to the cited article and the estimable orange newspaper, are “internal problems and failure to gain traction with consumers.”

With the management savvy of the Chinese government, it seems to me that resolving “internal problems” was a straightforward process. Identify the dissenter and let the re-education camps work their magic. The problem with “traction” is that I don’t see much hard evidence that a super app which bundles promoting, buying and selling is unpopular with consumers. The TikTok generation is pretty happy following an influencer and buying whatever the person pitches: Coffee, wellness stuff, makeup, and “so cute” gym clothes.

For me the news story is too far from the horseshoe stake of credibility. I think we have a PR play engineered to get people to say, “See, TikTok is a company which recognizes that it cannot do everything.”

I am skeptical. Here are three reasons I spelled out to my colleagues at lunch today:

  1. TikTok denizens are selling and are unlikely to stop. At some point, ByteDance is going to want a piece of the action.
  2. TikTok is becoming a  super app. Its users will demand additional functionality. If it is not delivered, the clever little clickers will create add ins. Will ByteDance sit on its hands and fail to monetize enhancements and extensions to the TikTok app?
  3. TikTok does not want to be shut down; therefore, cooing and trying to avoid getting in trouble with US and European regulators is a high priority. Why? The data are priceless.

Net net: Will TikTok do the adulting to behave in a non capitalistic manner? Pick one: [a] No or [b] No. This is less of a company versus company action and more of a government playing Go against an opponent playing checkers.

Stephen E Arnold, July 15, 2022

TikTok: Are the Tiks and Toks Keeping Facebook and Google Execs Awake at Night?

July 1, 2022

Eric Schmidt made a comment that Qwant keeps him up at night. Ah, those were the good old days for Google senior management. Now, the TikTok noise is louder and getting louder. And the Zuck not only has to figure out what’s shakin’ with his investigation of his trusted sidekick, he has to sound proof the office against that annoying TikTok racking up clicks and ads.

I spotted a story called “TikTok App Turns on the Money Machine, Threatens Facebook, Google.” The source is linked, but, please, don’t contact me to complain that it has gone dead. If you cannot locate the story, just forget that I have mentioned it. If you do get the link to resolve, congratulations. Next you will become a search engine optimization wizard!

The write up is interesting because it contains some factoids I had not noticed in the last couple of weeks. Here’s a selection:

Here’s a good one:

the 22-year-old earns more than $100,000 a year on the short-video platform TikTok. Brands like Coach, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video pay up to reach her 9 million followers, mostly teenage and pre-teen girls who would not dream of visiting Facebook.

And another:

TikTok raked in nearly $4 billion in revenue in 2021, mostly from advertising, and is projected to hit $12 billion this year, according to the research firm eMarketer. That would make it bigger than Twitter Inc. and Snap Inc. combined — three years after it started accepting ads on the platform.

What about this?

Its average user in the US now spends about 29 hours a month with the service, more than Facebook (16 hours) and Instagram (8 hours) put together, according to mobile researcher Data.ai.

Plus this item about TikTok’s parent company:

ByteDance?s revenue hit an estimated $58 billion last year and its growth is faster than any other major social network.

Also this:

TikTok is diversifying into music distribution, game publishing and Twitch-style subscriptions. It?s also edging into e-commerce..

Facebook and Google talk big and act even bigger. The problem is the slope of TikTok growth. Going slowly in the growth department is not for TikTok.

Where’s that growth going to come from? The skin of the Zuck and the hide of Googzilla. Then TikTok will go hunting in the Amazon.

Stephen E Arnold, July 1, 2022

« Previous PageNext Page »

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta