So you’re determined to watch the first of 2016’s US presidential debates, but you don’t subscribe to TV… or you live in a country that won’t have a live broadcast. What to do? Relax. This year, there are more choices than ever for watching online, and not just in the US. We’ve rounded up the main internet viewing sources for Clinton versus Trump, including the kind of commentary you’ll get. Whichever option you choose, you’ll probably want to keep our guide to the candidates on hand when things kick off at 9PM Eastern — the odds are that the grand speeches and spirited arguments won’t answer all your technology policy questions.
This is the first American presidential debate where Facebook Live will play a part, and you’ll have no shortage of choices for streaming the event on the world’s largest social network. ABC News has a deal with Facebook to livestream the debate ad-free, complete with commentary before and after (including responses to viewer questions) as well as extra details on its Facebook page. You can also expect BuzzFeed, CNBC, C-SPAN, Fox News, the New York Times, PBS, Telemundo and Univision to stream on Facebook as well, although you won’t necessarily get a TV-like broadcast.
Twitter was a go-to place for live discussion of the national conventions, and it wants to be the cornerstone of your debate viewing, too. It’s allying with Bloomberg to stream the debate both at debates.twitter.com on the web as well as through its official mobile apps. Bloomberg will logically handle the on-air analysis and commentary, but the real star may be the flood of tweets from everyday viewers.
YouTube is already big on live video, so you’d expect it to have plenty of streams, right? Sure enough, you’re getting a smorgasbord. Bloomberg, Fox News, NBC News, PBS, Telemundo and the Washington Post are all using Google’s video service to air the political showdown. You can also expect YouTube-oriented producers like Complex and The Young Turks to have on-the-ground reporting if you’re not as interested in the raw event.
Conventional media outlets
Old-school media sources may still revolve around TV, but they’ll have their share of online viewing beyond the partnerships we’ve already mentioned. ABC will offer free streams through its ABC News apps, and access for some TV subscribers through the regular ABC app. CBS will offer feeds through CBSNews.com as well as its myriad mobile and set-top apps, while Reuters will show the debate through both its Reuters TV site and its own mobile clients.
Images: AP Photo/John Minchillo; AP Photo/Julio Cortez; AP Photo/J. David Ake
In recent months, Twitter has come in for all sorts of criticism over how it runs the company. With growth flat, profits continuing to fall and negative reactions from users over how it’s combating harassment on the platform, some have called for a bigger company to step in and help make those troubles go away. According to CNBC, that could well happen, after sources close to the company said that Google, Salesforce and other technology companies are “engaged in conversations” with the social media giant over a possible sale.
The news has investors excited; at the time of writing, Twitter’s share price has rocketed 20 percent and is climbing steadily. CBNC says that the company has “received expressions of interest” from numerous parties but has not yet received a formal bid — although one could come shortly.
Google, which has tried and failed numerous times to innovate in the social media space, has the resources to buy the company but also to accommodate Twitter’s global team. Salesforce, known for its CRM tools and cloud computing expertise, is also extremely cash rich and could add Twitter to its diverse line-up of social and cloud enterprise services. (Update: TechCrunch also reports that Engadget’s parent company Verizon, as well as Microsoft, are also in the running).
Sources have indicated that suitors may be more interested in Twitter’s data than its position as a media source, which admittedly doesn’t sound great for users. But then again, what social network isn’t monetizing its users nowadays?
After announcing that it would move to an algorithm-based feed earlier in February, Twitter recently began rolling out a button to users on its iOS app that allows them to provide feedback for tweets on the social network (via BuzzFeed). Through the “I don’t like this Tweet” button, Twitter will eventually learn to showcase less tweets related to the content you flag as poor in its algorithmic feed.
Currently available for “some iOS users,” and rolling out slowly, the button can be found after tapping in the options menu on any individual tweet. Alongside options to report the tweet, block, mute, or unfollow the user, and share the tweet, you’ll find “I don’t like this Tweet.” Tapping it will immediately hide the content from your timeline and Twitter lets you know that it “will use this to make your timeline better.”
Image via Twitter Support
Reached for comment, a Twitter spokesperson pointed BuzzFeed News to a Twitter Help Center post that says the function “helps Twitter better understand the types of Tweets that you’d like to see less of in your Home timeline. We may use this information to optimize and tailor your experience in the future.”
Twitter began introducing its algorithmic timeline in February, putting its selected tweets in a prominent placement on the user timeline, atop the reverse chronological organization of regular Tweets that the social network has been known for before the update. Users can choose to turn the feature off, but according to Twitter only 2 percent of its user base has done so since the update debuted.
According to BuzzFeed, “a more expansive role for the algorithm has been discussed within the company,” so it’s likely that the new button eventually becomes part of a bigger push for its algorithmic feed in the future. Twitter for iOS can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]
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Twitter has published its transparency report for January to June 2016, and one thing’s clear: requests for user info and content removal keep on piling up. The microblogging website received two percent more government requests for account information compared to the second half of 2015. That’s not a dramatic change compared to the increase in numbers between the first and the second half of last year, but it still affected 8 percent more accounts than before and shows that governments around the world are still keeping an eye on Twitter activity.
It probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that the US remains the top requester for this period, considering it’s been trying to shut down ISIS accounts on the website. While the US sent in 152 fewer requests for the first half of 2016, it was still responsible for 44 percent (5,676) of the overall number. Most of them were from the FBI, the Secret Service and the New York County District Attorney’s Office. Besides disclosing for the first time which agencies makes the most requests, the company also broke down everything it got by state and revealed that most of what it received came from Virginia, California and New York. Another thing the transparency report revealed is that governments asked Twitter for 25 Vine and 47 Periscope account information, as well.
Twitter also received 13 percent more requests to delete tweets and accounts for the first half of the year. They mostly came from Turkey and Russia, just like last time. As The Christian Science Monitor notes, though, the website’s report doesn’t count anything sent in with gag orders, which is a tactic commonly employed by governments around the world, including the United States. Facebook, for instance, admitted earlier this year that 60 percent of the government requests it receives come with non-disclosure directives.
According to TechCrunch, 46 percent of the total requests Twitter gets is typically protected by a gag order, and only 7 percent of affected users are usually notified that the US government asked for their data. That means these numbers are likely a lot higher in reality. If you want to scrutinize the transparency report yourself, head over to the social network’s revamped portal and click on each category to see the exact numbers.
Twitter made it a point to livestream the Democratic and Republican national conventions, and it’s keeping up that trend of political involvement now that it’s debate season. The social network is partnering with Bloomberg to livestream both the US Presidential and Vice Presidential debates, which start on September 26th. Each stream will be available worldwide through the web (at debates.twitter.com, which isn’t live yet) and Twitter’s official apps, with Bloomberg providing commentary and analysis. We can’t promise that the debates will be deep, insightful discussion that help you make an informed decision on election day, but you at least won’t have to put down your phone to watch the political circus in action.
Source: Twitter (PR Newswire)
Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and other big tech corporations have joined hands with the White House to help refugees across the globe. They were among the members of the private sector that answered the president’s Call to Action back in June. Now, the administration has published the complete list of participants, along with a short description of what they’re doing for the cause. Google has promised to fund and lend its technical expertise to non-government orgs providing free education to 10,000 out-of-school Lebanese kids. If you’ll recall, the big G also donated $5.3 million worth of Chromebooks to European refugees earlier this year.
Facebook plans to provide free WiFi connection in 35 locations across Greece, as well as to continue working with the UN to give people in refugee camps free access to the internet. Plus, the company will use its website to raise funds for them and to donate funds to NGOs catering to their needs. As for Microsoft, it plans to help NGOs provide wider access to education and training. The company also wants to build an Innovation Hub, where refugees can develop their technical and entrepreneurial skills.
HP has a similar plan, with the aim to build six Learning Studios in Lebanon and Jordan for kids and adults. The same goes for Coursera, which will team up with NGOs to give refugees access to over 1,000 courses offered by universities. Since some refugees still need to learn English or to brush up on their vocabulary before they can jump into learning skills, Zynga is making an educational version of Words with Friends. The social video game-maker will also provide experts to mentor the finalists of a competition that aims to create an app that can teach Syrian children to read in Arabic.
Uber’s and LinkedIn’s projects, on the other hand, will benefit those looking to start working ASAP the most. The former will team up with resettlement agencies in the US to offer refugees work opportunities, while the latter is expanding its refugee initiative called Welcoming Talent to countries outside of Sweden. The other familiar companies in the list are IBM, Twitter and TripAdvisor. IBM promises to continue supporting European refugees and migrants any way it can, while TripAdvisor has already earmarked $5 million for humanitarian organizations. Finally, Twitter is giving NGOs in the US and Europe a $50,000 “Ads for Good” advertising grant.
In the White House’s Call to Action months ago, the administration stressed refugees’ potential to contribute to the countries they fled to if given the opportunity. The companies that decided to pitch in could open those windows of opportunity that might remain close otherwise.
“There are more than 65 million displaced people in the world today, the highest number on record since the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) began collecting statistics. More than 21 million of these people have crossed international borders in search of safety and are registered as refugees. The despair that drives these people to flee their homes is heartbreaking, but their resilience is awe-inspiring. Refugees are a valuable, untapped resource and, if given the opportunity, can thrive and contribute wherever they reside.”
Source: White House
Right on schedule, Twitter’s long-anticipated announcement goes live today: photos, videos, GIFs, polls and quoted tweets will no longer count towards the 140-character limit. The company is also testing out some new changes to the way @-replies function on the service.
While the feature is still rolling out to all users today, users might notice that when replying to a tweet, the @names at the beginning of will no longer affect the number of characters remaining. Replies will also be seen by all of your followers, not just the ones who follow both accounts, which means a death of the “.@” reply convention. (But it’s still unclear for now whether you’ll be able to keep adding on usernames until you eventually build a never-ending Twitter canoe.)
If you’re tweeting through one of Twitter’s official apps, the usernames you are replying to will appear in the heading of the your compose window instead of being listed in the body of your Tweet. So, if you’re using an outdated app, Twitter says tweets might look a little weird or cut off for awhile. Finally, there’s no word yet on that rumored feature allowing users to attach longer text blocks or, you know, more useful anti-troll tools.
Say more about what’s happening! Rolling out now: photos, videos, GIFs, polls, and Quote Tweets no longer count toward your 140 characters. pic.twitter.com/I9pUC0NdZC
— Twitter (@twitter) September 19, 2016
Source: Twitter, Twitter Blog
There was a time when a Twitter user on iOS had to click from their timeline all the way into a tweet in order to interact with it or its account. Imagine that: Like, two taps of your finger to share it elsewhere or unfollow that person. Ugh! But Twitter’s hot on a fix, giving you the ability to interact with one straight from your flow just by clicking a little arrow on the top-right corner of any given tweet. The experience has been righteously streamlined.
Okay, obviously there are worse things in the world than having an easier time blocking haters. But instead of a very slight UI upgrade, it would be a better use of Twitter’s time to build serious internal anti-troll tools instead of giving users a slightly quicker way to report abuse. It isn’t adding anything new to the experience. It’s just rearranging the deck chairs while we continue cleaning up the trash.
Starting today on iOS: It’s now easier to act on any Tweet directly from your Home timeline! https://t.co/QhNvcqZoPn pic.twitter.com/NjQzgKqm3E
— Twitter Support (@Support) September 16, 2016
Twitter’s first big splash in TV arrived with last night’s NFL simulcast, and now the numbers are in. According to the stats, the livestream averaged some 243,000 viewers that it says watched an average 22 minutes of action, with 2.3 million people watching at least 3 seconds of the game or pregame show. Despite being mostly well received by viewers, those numbers are quite a bit lower than the 2.36 million average / 15.2 million unique Yahoo noted for its stream of a London NFL game last year.
This Jets/Bills game was also a national simulcast on CBS and NFL Network, with a viewing audience across platforms that had an average audience minute basis of 15.7 million. Another difference is that Yahoo had a number of international viewers, and featured the game on its homepage which still gets a lot of traffic.
Oh hey, how’s the #TNF Twitter livestreaming goin… dammithttps://t.co/QKDpn8nAgP pic.twitter.com/RkmbvJ9KFf
— Richard Lawler (@rjcc) September 15, 2016
I checked out the stream last night and found it on point in terms of the technology. Twitter relied on Bam Tech (formerly MLBAM) for a stream that was high quality and didn’t drop, although it was anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute or so behind the TV broadcast. I had trouble starting the Twitter app on Xbox One, but on Apple TV it worked reliably, and displayed the Tweets next to the broadcast, mostly filtering out any trollish or unrelated #TNF conversation.
Thanks for watching #TNF LIVE on Twitter! Catch the @Patriots vs. @HoustonTexans next Thursday right here 👇 https://t.co/eCsgy1y604
— Twitter (@twitter) September 16, 2016
Twitter proved itself as a capable platform for distributing this type of media, however at least from my view, it didn’t do enough to make the conversation a part of the experience. The tweets didn’t bring much more to the game than watching with my phone or laptop, and most people weren’t really replying to or reading one another. It did help make viewing at home seem more lively, and the company has nine more games this season to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
it doesn’t seem like anyone’s actually reading or interacting with the Twitter stream. Although, it makes viewing more “live.”
— Richard Lawler (@rjcc) September 16, 2016
We’ve seen plenty of smart TVs try to build in Twitter integration and fail, as well as apps that tried to bring social aspects to TV. Since Twitter already has the audience, it’s a natural fit for hosting broadcasts, but it still has to prove that people will come to Twitter to watch and engage at a higher level than they would on other platforms. Facebook apparently turned down the streaming package, while trying a different approach to pump up sports talk on the platform. Real-time conversation around TV broadcasts is coming, but it’s still hard to see exactly what that will look like.
Source: NFL, CBS Press Express
Much like Shia LaBoeuf declaring that he isn’t famous anymore, Twitter is now out and proud about not being a social network. No, instead, Twitter is now a broadcasting platform, which means that it needs to put itself in the sort of places you use to watch TV. That’s why the company has announced that it’s launching apps for Apple TV, Amazon’s Fire TV and Microsoft’s Xbox One. It’ll be on these that you can watch some of the new video content that’s coming to the service, including Thursday Night Football.
Twitter isn’t just for NFL nuts, and has signed deals with other sports outfits including MLB Advanced Media and Pac-12, which covers college sports. If you’re more into current affairs, then you’ll be able to view footage from Bloomberg News and tech/finance/video for millennials startup Cheddar — which does two shows a day from the floor of the NYSE. Twitter’s ace up its sleeve is that it also has video platforms of its own: Vine for edited comedy clips and Periscope for live events.
In addition, those using the app on Apple TV are entitled to watch video and have Twitter’s video clip service running alongside. At least, that’s how the release reads, although it’s not clear why people would necessarily want to be distracted from gripping sports events with Harambe vines. What’s more valuable is that Twitter will offer-up a commentary overlay from members of the public that’ll run alongside live events. Company CFO Anthony Noto is quoted as saying that “Twitter has always been a great complement to TV, and now fans can enjoy even more premium video with live Tweets.”
Back in the day, there was an online service called Zeebox that took Twitter’s social component and used it exclusively for adding commentary to live TV. Twitter (and broadcasters) would eventually cotton onto the same idea, turning the service into a real-world peanut gallery that went alongside big name reality shows. But being the most beautifully created peanut gallery doesn’t earn you much money — which is why Zeebox transformed into a beauty blog called Beamly and then became a marketing agency.
Twitter needs to get more eyeballs pointing at its product, because it’s got something of a user growth problem. It has a core audience of passionate tweeters, but that appeal hasn’t translated across to the broader mainstream. Its monthly active user count has remained roughly stable at just over 300 million, putting it well behind services like Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. Wall street has often punished Twitter for not being as popular as its rivals, even though Twitter’s cult appeal deserves preserving.
Live video, especially sports video, could be the magic bullet that Twitter needs both to invigorate its user base and broaden its appeal. It’s not the only tech firm that’s come to this conclusion, with Amazon reportedly ramping up its interest in bringing sports to Prime. Twitter will also have to fight with Facebook, which considered buying those same Thursday Night Football rights and is also making forays into live sports. Unlike those other companies, however, Twitter doesn’t have a huge war chest that could be used to buy such rights. But given that the big networks can earn up to 21 million viewers for a single game, it may be worth the risk.
Of course, Shia LaBoeuf’s still famous and Twitter’s still a social network, albeit one which is attempting to be many different things to different people. That’s why, in addition to making a big push into broadcast video, it’s encouraging people to come to Periscope with notifications and turning DMs into a WhatsApp-esque chat service. The company is also hoping to make some sort of progress in counting its toxic atmosphere through algorithmic-based abuse removal.
The new apps are launching today, with each platform offering a slightly different global footprint. Twitter for Apple TV is launching wherever you can purchase the device, while the Fire TV edition is only available in the US and UK. If you’re a rocking an Xbox One, you’ll be able to get at the goodies in the US, UK, Australia, Brazil and Mexico.