What's Trending

Watch out Netflix, here comes Facebook Watch

Facebook's foray into the content-producing space to compete with YouTube's Red channel and Netflix includes a trending video series done by Mr Brandon Stanton, the man behind the popular Humans of New York Facebook page.
Facebook's foray into the content-producing space to compete with YouTube's Red channel and Netflix includes a trending video series done by Mr Brandon Stanton, the man behind the popular Humans of New York Facebook page.PHOTO: HUMANS OF NEW YORK/ FACEBOOK

Elsewhere, a blogger's lie about her brain cancer proves costly and rapper B.o.B's campaign falls flat

FACEBOOK WATCH VIDEOS MAKING WAVES

A US Army veteran compares himself to the courageous Bilbo Baggins from The Lord Of The Rings. A young boy has an existential crisis about becoming a teenager. Two girls in a hijab reveal that one of the items on their to-do list is to colour their hair. "Although no one is going to see it, we are going to see it," one girl says. And an elderly Asian man waxes lyrical about mortality. "Time is the most precious asset we have. Money comes back, any time, but time never comes back," he adds.

These are just some of the profiles shown in a trending video series by Mr Brandon Stanton, the man behind the popular Humans of New York (Hony) Facebook page which has more than 18 million followers.

Humans of New York: The Series is a culmination of 1,200 interviews filmed by cinematographer Michael Crommett who partnered with Mr Stanton over four years, masterfully edited down to a dozen 20-minute episodes.

It debuted in August and the videos have already racked up millions of views.

Hony's latest foray into video is part of Facebook's efforts to muscle its way into the content-producing space, competing with the likes of YouTube's Red channel and Netflix.

In an earlier article, Facebook said it was willing to spend up to US$1 billion (S$1.35 billion) to build up its library of original programming as part of its "video-first" initiative.

Facebook's foray into the content-producing space to compete with YouTube's Red channel and Netflix includes a trending video series done by Mr Brandon Stanton, the man behind the popular Humans of New York Facebook page.
Facebook's foray into the content-producing space to compete with YouTube's Red channel and Netflix includes a trending video series done by Mr Brandon Stanton, the man behind the popular Humans of New York Facebook page. PHOTO: HUMANS OF NEW YORK/ FACEBOOK

Other publishers on the Facebook bandwagon to push out videos include personalities like George Takei, as well as popular sites like BuzzFeed, Mashable, National Geographic and Group Nine Media, the holding company of Thrillist, NowThis, Seeker and The Dodo.

Group Nine Media chief Ben Lerer told online magazine Deadline that the new platform has worked for them.

"We've done well over 100 million video views and 100 million minutes of viewing, which is important. So people are staying for longer. We have over half a million followers to our shows in the three weeks," he said.

The Dodo, for instance, is an animal-focused media company that aims to be a social-first publisher. It has a website, but most of its traffic comes from Facebook.

Its videos have an average of 2.1 billion views a month. In the past week, for instance, one video about a dog rescuing its pups from a hole fast filling up with water had more than 60 million views.

It is too early to see if Facebook Watch videos will eventually be a serious competitor to Netflix, which has produced award-winning shows like House of Cards and The Crown, but there are trends which might suggest this to be the case.

"In the earlier days, our views were shorter, I would say (below) seven seconds," The Dodo president YuJung Kim said. "Now we're looking at five-to-seven-minute video episodes we produce, where over 15 per cent of the audience make it to the very end.

" As users' familiarity with Facebook grows, we've kind of ridden that wave and set the bar higher for how long people should watch a given video."

  • NOTABLE TRENDS

  • SIBERIAN HUSKY: A disturbing video of a husky attacking a toy poodle in a pet cafe in Seoul has been trending on YouTube, garnering more than one million views since it was uploaded on Sept 21.

    STEVEN LIM: The "celebrity" who took part in an ill-fated fight that led to the death of bodybuilder Pradip Subramanian was one of the top searches last week on Google.

    HUGH HEFNER: The publishing icon who created Playboy died on Wednesday at the age of 91. He will be buried next to Marilyn Monroe.

A PRICEY LIE

In 2013, blogger Belle Gibson told a very convincing lie through her Facebook and Instagram accounts - that she had been diagnosed with brain cancer as a 20-year-old and had been given four months to live.

However, she said she had "cured" the disease through natural therapies and alternative treatments including Ayurvedic medicine and a gluten-free diet.

With her sob story, she launched an app and a cookbook which made close to A$450,000 (S$473,000).

But in March 2015, things began unravelling for her after it was revealed that she was born in 1991, casting doubt on the claim that her cancer diagnosis was made in 1999.

That year, she confessed to an Australian magazine that she had not only lied about her illness, but she also did not make the donations she had said she would make to charities. One of her nominated charities had also raised an alarm after no donations materialised.

It turns out that she donated just A$13,000 to charity.

"If there is one theme or pattern which emerges through her conduct, it is her relentless obsession with herself and what best serves her interests," said Justice Debra Mortimer, who presided over her case.

After being told she was being fined A$436,000 last week, Ms Gibson responded to the court in an e-mail: "Thank you for the update. Much appreciated."

FLAT FUNDS FOR A FLAT EARTH

In this day and age, it's hard to imagine that there are people who believe that the Earth is flat.

But US rapper B.o.B, whose real name is Bobby Ray Simmons Jr, is not only convinced, he is crowdfunding to get evidence that our planet is disc-shaped.

Simmons Jr, who calls himself Flat-Earth Bob, hopes to raise US$1 million for his "experimental exploration".

Initially, he had sought just US$200,000 but raised his target after feedback from his supporters.

"Instead of sending several satellites into space, I will be raising funds to try every available test including weather balloons, drones and even blimps," he said.

Simmons Jr has so far donated US$1,000 to the cause, and says he will document every part of this "exciting journey" for his viewers.

But he might be in for a long wait.

In the span of a week, the project has collected only about US$4,600.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 01, 2017, with the headline 'Watch out Netflix, here comes Facebook Watch'. Print Edition | Subscribe