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Video as Judge, Jury, and Executioner

With the entire world watching, scenes of triumph, devastation, violence, and heartbreak have recently unfolded online. So much so, that social media apps have adapted their technology to stay in line with the rapid influx of civilian shot video being uploaded to the web, documenting the world’s latest headlines. In today’s internet-driven society, video has now become proprietor for the world’s social commentary. Audiences will tune into YouTube channels for current events before turning on the television or picking up a paper. Online video allows the public to give immediate opinion on world events and have dialogue with others, internationally, all at the touch of a button. These opinions have begun to shape the way that society as a whole functions. The court of public opinion now has major influence in politics, social change, psychology, and marketing, and video has given audiences the tools to become judge, jury, and at times, executioner.

Take for instance Donald Trump’s recent calamities involving video of him making sexually inappropriate comments regarding women. One particular video went viral immediately and has fueled an already controversial campaign’s implosion. The public took to the internet to respond to his comments, leading droves of Trump’s GOP colleagues to revoke their support for him. As social media posts were shared and commented on regarding his remarks, political opinion was swayed primarily against the Republican candidate. With this case, the public was shown evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing, deliberated as a group, and passed forth a sentence of potential death to his political career. The immediacy with which information traveled and that audiences voiced their criticisms prompted a swift form of “internet justice” by which Donald Trump was held accountable in the public eye, and both he and his supporters were forced to answer for his actions.

Several similar cases arose over the past couple of years, but more dynamically over the past several months involving police shootings caught on civilian video. Most notably is the Philando Castile shooting live streamed on Facebook. An unarmed, compliant African-American man was fatally shot while in the car with his girlfriend and four-year-old daughter in the back seat. Facebook’s adaptation of the live streaming feature due to the surge of video posts had just recently been released when the shooting occurred. After a series of controversial shootings of African-American men, Mr. Castile’s girlfriend began live streaming the police stop to her Facebook account. As the video recorded, the audience was able to react in real-time to the event as it unfolded. In the aftermath of the tragic event, comments continued to fly across the internet, with protests erupting and further shootings occurring in the months following. Using the video as a “smoking gun,” the public lambasted the officer for poor training and an itchy trigger finger and demanded charges be filed. However, in this case, the “jury” was unable to sway the “court” enough and the officer was placed on administrative leave then returned to work on desk duty.

Catching the Buzz: Buzzfeed Content Takes Internet by Storm

Social media information sharing has a new leader, BuzzFeed.com. Originally started in 2006 as a kind of “Cliffs Notes” for online content, Buzzfeed has quickly launched itself into the spotlight with engaging and share-worthy media like: Listicle, quizzes, and DIYs. Today, the information sharing giant now includes 700+ pieces of content in over 25 categories. The site now incorporates investigative journalism, current event analysis, as well as the items trending the most on the internet. Buzzfeed recently reported that the majority (over 75%) of its content comes from off-site entities: 50% from Snapchat, 27% from Facebook, and 14% from YouTube views.

According to Tubular data, 5 out of the top 20 most watched videos on the internet are Buzzfeed articles. This data also revealed that while the brand has more views on YouTube, Buzzfeed’s Facebook engagement is much higher. The site has also reported that only 5% of videos streamed are from Buzzfeed itself. The majority of the combined video content from the brand has been uploaded to YouTube (46%) versus uploaded to Facebook (37%) or other platforms such as Vine or Instagram (17%). The viewership on YouTube is unsurprisingly higher at 8.2 billion (53%) versus 6.8 billion (45%) from Facebook. Facebook, however, accounts for 61% of all shares, likes and comments in comparison to the 38% from YouTube. Videos like “Cookie Dough Dip” and “Banana Nutella Sushi” were among the highest ranked for engagement.

Last year, under the umbrella of Buzzfeed Motion Pictures, there were an estimated 2,760 videos uploaded to YouTube (about 53/week) that generated the combined 6.5 billion views. Buzzfeed also uploaded around 3,103 videos to Facebook last year (about 60/week), a 122% increase to the social media network. This increase is higher than the average all-time upload rate from the previous year. With Facebook playing such a dynamic part in the success of the Buzzfeed brand, President of Buzzfeed Motion Pictures has stated, “Facebook’s decision to lean into auto-play has really fundamentally changed the way we think about the first five seconds of content.” With the rapid-fire scrolling used on many social media platforms, viewers need to be engaged immediately. This has made eye-catching visuals key in grabbing audiences and keeping them interested enough to hit “share.”

Buzzfeed has been social-sharing focused from its inception, and founder, Jonah Peretti understood that relieving the boredom of millions of workers during the day would be a success. The site claims to use its posts and videos as a means of communicating and not just as content filler. Peretti has stated that he would like to extend the brand into TV and film, and with $200 million contributed by NBCUniversal, it’s expected that Buzzfeed will makes its mark beyond the internet.