Facebook returns to No. 2 spot among U.S. video sites, beating Yahoo, Vevo

Facebook is once again the second largest video site in the U.S., according to ComScore.

The social network saw 53 million unique video viewers in July. That’s about a third of Google’s audience, but higher than the number of unique viewers on Yahoo sites and Vevo, both of which were ahead of Facebook in May.

Although Facebook’s viewers are up from 44 million in May, average minutes watched per user is down from 27 to 21.7. That’s fewer minutes per viewer than any other site in the top 10 besides Amazon. Google sites, by comparison, averaged about 525 minutes per viewer. However, ComScore’s data only looks at U.S. video views, so Facebook’s global reach is not reflected in the chart below.

With YouTube, Google still dominates the U.S. web video space, but Facebook could possibly capitalize on its own reach if it ever pushed more in that direction. It seems the social network is heavily focused on photos first, but a number of video sites and apps, including Vevo, Socialcam, Viddy and Chill, have seen positive results from integrating Facebook Open Graph.

With advertisers constantly pushing for new ad formats, we wonder whether Facebook might introduce more video advertising opportunities. With the page post ads now being tested in News Feed, advertisers have more prominent ad space than ever. We could see some companies, particularly movie studios, pushing video ads in this spot.

Among online video ad properties measured by ComScore, Facebook doesn’t even rank. Google, Hulu and a number of video ad networks and exchanges make up the top properties in terms of total ads and minutes viewed.

Google acquires Wildfire, maker of social marketing software

Google today announced that it agreed to acquire Wildfire Interactive, a social media marketing software company that is a popular solution for managing pages and apps across platforms.

Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but AllThingsD reports that it could be around $250 million, plus earnouts and employment agreements. Wildfire was widely expected to be acquired this summer, after other major players in the space — Buddy Media, Vitrue, Involver — were also bought.

Wildfire is a member of Facebook’s Preferred Marketer Developer program, certified in pages, apps and insights. Co-founders Victoria Ransom and Alain Chuard started the company four years ago focused on building apps for sweepstakes, user-generated contests, quizzes, coupons and incentive-based surveys. In 2011, Wildfire broadened its service offering to include page management and monitoring tools. Besides Facebook management, the platform now allows marketers to manage Google+, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn. The company serves clients including Virgin, Cirque du Soleil, Gilt Group and Spotify. It also helps build apps for Facebook’s own use, including the voting app it used for its proposed policy changes earlier this year.

Google was reportedly interested in Buddy Media, but that company sold to Salesforce. Now with Wildfire, Google gets a popular platform and large sales team. The Redwood City, Calif.-based company has about 350 people. Unlike Buddy Media, Wildfire doesn’t have access to the Facebook Ads API, but it’s unclear to what degree Google was interested in that aspect of the platform. Wildfire works with Adaptly to provide social advertising services for its clients.

In an announcement about the acquisition, Google wrote:

In a complex and changing landscape, businesses want to manage and measure these efforts in an integrated way. We’ve been working towards this end for some time. For example, Google Analytics helps businesses measure the contribution of hundreds of social sites; our Admeld service has helped to serve ads in Facebook developers’ social apps; and our DoubleClick platform enables clients to run and measure ads across social websites. On Google+, brands use services like Vitrue, Buddy Media and others to manage their pages, with many more to come.

With Wildfire, we’re looking forward to creating new opportunities for our clients to engage with people across all social services. We believe that better content and more seamless solutions will help unlock the full potential of the web for people and businesses.

Facebook roundup: Instagram, IPO, pages, Google+, Pinterest

Facebook’s Instagram acquisition was all Zuckerberg – The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg basically acted independently when pursuing the company’s latest acquisition of photo app Instagram. The board was “told” that the company would be bought.

Facebook IPO set for mid-May – TechCrunch reports that Facebook’s IPO date is set for May 17; The San Jose Mercury News reports it could be as early as May 14.

Class-action suit seeks refund for Credits purchased by minors – Arizona-resident Glynnis Bohannon filed a class-action suit against Facebook this week. She is seeking a refund after her young son bought Facebook Credits without her consent.

Facebook replacing corporate blogs – A recent survey found that companies are increasingly choosing to create and manage Facebook pages rather than blogs.

Google+ developer to bring hangouts to Facebook - Mohamed Mansour is a Google+ extension developer who plans to enable Google-like hangouts on Facebook allowing multiple people to video chat at once. Mansour became frustrated with Google+ after a redesign broke some of his extensions.

PinView turns Facebook into Pinterest – A new app, PinView, visualizes Facebook Timeline as a Pinterest board.

Facebook becomes No. 1 most visited site in Brazil, according to Experian Hitwise

For the first time, Facebook is getting more visits in Brazil than Google and all other sites on the Internet, according to data from Experian Hitwise.

Facebook initially surpassed Google Brazil on April 1, and has had the lead four other days since then. On Sunday, the social network accounted for 10.98 percent of visits across the Internet in Brazil. The search engine dipped to 10.55 percent that day. The stats represent major growth on Facebook’s part. In six months, the site has experienced a 5.3 percentage point increase in share of visits in Brazil — a nearly 87 percent relative increase, as shown in the graph below.

Facebook officially passed Orkut as the most popular social networking site in Brazil in January, according to Hitwise. Facebook says it had 37 million monthly active users in Brazil as of Dec. 31, 2011, an increase of 268 percent from the prior year, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Because of Brazil’s size — it is the fifth most populous country in the world– it remains a large source of future growth. Facebook estimates that it has only 20 to 30 percent penetration in the country.

Facebook roundup: platform updates, trading, IPO, Google, more

New platform policy more mindful of developer schedules – Facebook updated its policy to make any breaking changes to the API on the first Wednesday of every month. Previously, changes were pushed on the first of the month, which sometimes fell on a weekend. Now all changes will be made during the work week.

Facebook works to stop secondary market trading - Bloomberg reported that Facebook is working to curb trading of company shares on secondary market by early April, ahead of the company’s initial public offering in early May. This means there will be no new trades and the IPO won’t be until at least May 2.

Facebook to investors: Zuckerberg won’t be overly involved in IPO – Reuters reported that Facebook representatives at a recent investor meeting told those in attendance not to expect much involvement from CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Specifically, the report said that “expectations should be set pretty low.” [Image via Facebook]

Zuckerberg’s lawyers expedite disclosures – The Federal and Trade Commission agreed to eliminate the 30-day waiting period and expedite the approval of a filing for Zuckerberg. The CEO plans to exercise stock options worth about $5 billion in Facebook’s initial public offering, according to the New York Times.

Rumor: Facebook works on its search engine – According to anonymous Business Week sources, Facebook has hired a former Google engineer to work on the company’s search function to make it easier for users to access users, photos, videos and other Facebook information, possibly including elsewhere on the web.

Google launching commenting system – Google is set to launch a commenting system for third-party websites that is likely meant to rival Facebook’s plug-in.

Facebook launches cover photo contest – Facebook Marketing Solutions is sponsoring a contest for businesses to get featured in the cover photo of the page. The photos are supposed to capture a business in a “different or new” way. The winning photo will become the cover photo for the page, which has nearly a million Likes.

Facebook addresses threat of Google, other competitors in S-1

Facebook named Google as its prime competitor among others including Microsoft and Twitter in its filing for an initial public offering today.

The Securities and Exchange Commission requires a company to describe all the risk factors associated with investing in its business before it goes public. One of these issues for Facebook is “significant competition” from companies including Google, Microsoft and Twitter. The social network notes that Google or others could use dominant positions in one market to gain an advantage in one of Facebook’s areas of operation.

With 85 percent of its revenue coming from advertising, Facebook competes with both traditional and online media businesses. Advertisers tend to have fixed budgets, and the social network will have to continue to make a case for its ads and Sponsored Stories. We have seen businesses spent significant amounts to generate Likes for their pages, but it is unclear how much advertisers will devote to Facebook once they have amassed an audience. Facebook did not address this in the document today, but it is a trend to watch.

Also critical to maintaining and expanding its position as a display ad platform is user growth and engagement. If users spend less time on Facebook in favor of other social networks or offerings, the company will be negatively affected. It mentioned Google+, along with regional networks Cyworld (Korea), Mixi (Japan), Orkut (Brazil, India) and vKontakte in Russia. The company also recognizes that other Internet or mobile companies could offer products and services that compete with individual Facebook features. It didn’t name names, but these can include everything from Apple’s iMessenger to startups like Instagram.

Facebook acknowledged that Google in particular could gain a competitive advantage by integrating its social networking platform into its existing search product, web browser or mobile operating system. On these fronts, Facebook might have to spend significantly to acquire or partner with other companies. This will be difficult, though, as many companies in the position to help Facebook fight Google are threatened by other aspects of Facebook’s business.

Facebook Roundup: EU Privacy, economic impact, games, Google, security, more

Facebook COO Shifts Europe focus from privacy to economy -  At a recent conference in Europe, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told the audience that the economy is probably more of a concern than privacy. She said so given an impending privacy law draft that would affect 27 European Union countries. Specifically, she suggested that the law could have a negative impact on the EU economy. [Image via Facebook]

Facebook has a €2.6 billion U.K. impact -  A study from Deloitte found that Facebook’s overall economic impact in the United Kingdom was €2.6 billion, or 35,200 jobs in the U.K. and 32,000 jobs in the European Union and Switzerland.

Facebook ads game categories to News Feed -  Facebook now displays the genre category below game names and stories in News Feed stories. As we reported on Inside Social Games, users might be more likely to click on games when they know more about them.

Facebook engineer creates Google hack -  An project called Focus on the User, created in part by a Facebook engineer, provides a bookmarklet that forces Google Search Plus Your World to display results from social networks besides Google+.

Causes now a standalone website – TechCrunch reported that the charity app Causes has re-launched as a standalone website.

85K Arab Facebook logins hacked – ZDnet reported that Israel and Saudi Arabia are in the midst of a hacking war, and 85,000 Arab Facebook logins are one casualty.

Washington state AG targets clickjackers -  Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna announced suits against two companies thought to encourage clickjacking on Facebook. The suit was announced at Facebook’s Seattle office.

Facebook registers ‘FB Origin’ domain - Facebook registered several domains, .com and .biz for example, for something called FB Origin via the company MarkMonitor.  Fusible speculated that this means the company is set to launch a new product along with Timeline apps.

Facebook gaining edge with journalists using subscribe

Facebook’s heavy push of the subscribe feature has apparently paid off as thousands of journalists enabled subscribers after its launch in September, according to a note on the Journalists + Facebook page.

The social network’s outreach among public figures and the prominence it gives subscribe suggestions on the site show a level of commitment to taking away some of Twitter’s power and preventing Google+ from gaining traction as a source for news.

Journalists like Ann Curry, Nicholas Kristof, Katie Couric and Don Lemon have converted to Timeline and enabled subscribe. Some of these figures have hundreds of thousands of subscribers. More than 90 journalists from the Washington Post and more than 50 from The New York Times have made their profiles available to public subscribers, according to the Journalists + Facebook note. The Washington Post recently published a list of all its staff members who are accessible on Facebook.

Many users have been able to accumulate Facebook subscribers at a much faster rate than they gained Twitter followers. A sample of 25 journalists showed the average journalist had a 320 percent increase in subscribers since November 2011. This is largely due to the “People To Subscribe To” sidebar that shows up on several pages prompting users to follow updates from journalists, celebrities and other public figures. Of course, when one user subscribes to another, it generates a story in friends’ News Feeds in a way that Twitter hasn’t taken advantage of. (Twitter added an activity feed in August 2011, but users have to visit a separate tab to view it.) Facebook has also offered a subscribe button plugin for third-party sites and added a subscribe call to action within its comments plugin and the “page owners” section of pages.

Notably, Facebook has employees dedicated to outreach, not only to bring the right personalities to the platform but also to provide best practices. Journalist Program Manager Vadim Lavrusik has been extremely active in sharing examples of how reporters can use the social network and producing resources like the Facebook + Journalists note today, which included recommendations such as “reader shoutouts can increase feedback by as much as 4x.”

Twitter might have to start implementing changes or better courting public figures to convince them not to neglect Twitter in favor of Facebook. Google+ has an advantage with the way Google Search now displays results from its social network, which could help keep it in the race for public attention. But for Facebook, a key point will be letting users choose whether to post to subscribers or friends. Because posts have to be public for subscribers to see them, a user is forced to also share that content with friends. Unlike Twitter, users can only have one profile so they have to mix business and personal. Another issue is that Facebook does not have a way to designate a profile as “official,” which has long been a problem for pages. And because many people who have subscribers also have pages, the social network will need to determine how to balance these in search.

Analysis: What Facebook could gain with Vevo

Facebook and Vevo have met at least twice and the most recent talks took place earlier this month about bringing the popular music video service to the social network’s platform and sharing ad revenue, according unnamed CNET sources.

Scoring a deal with Vevo would be a huge win for Facebook over Google. The social network drives a lot of traffic for videos around the web, but is not a video destination itself. Vevo is an industry-backed website for music videos that are also syndicated on YouTube. According to CNET, the discussions are very preliminary — Vevo’s contract with Google is not up for another year yet – but could result in an ad revenue sharing model similar to what Google and Vevo have now. In November 2011, the NY Post reported that Vevo was looking to renegotiate its deal with Google, which since 2009 has given the company 35 percent of its revenue from the ads played before Vevo’s videos on YouTube.

According to ComScore, Google was the top online video content property in December with 157.2 million unique viewers, mostly on YouTube.com. Vevo ranked second with 53.7 million, and Facebook was fifth overall with 42 million. Vevo, though, is YouTube’s top channel overall, with over 53 billion views generating major revenue for both companies.

What Google could lose, Facebook stands to gain and possibly improve upon. Although YouTube is far and away the most popular video site in terms of unique viewers and time spent per viewer, it has not capitalized on its opportunity as a social network. There is little incentive for users to log in to YouTube and the site is filled with spam and hate from anonymous commenters. Google is likely looking for ways to incorporate Google+ to address these issues, but it’s interesting to see how Vevo is already using Facebook on its standalone site.

Vevo has Open Graph integration, which means that when users watch videos on Vevo.com, the activity shows in Ticker, Timeline and News Feed. When people watch the same videos on Vevo’s YouTube channel, the activity is not shared on Facebook. Vevo.com also uses the Facebook comments plugin, which surfaces comments from a user’s friends first and helps demote spam. Vevo.com similarly includes Like buttons that YouTube does not.

The social network currently offers video ads as a premium unit on the homepage, but because the units are small and opt-in, they are not ideal for advertisers who can get guaranteed views on other sites that run pre-roll ads. Facebook wants to preserve the user experience by keeping ads minimal, but billions of Vevo views suggest many users will accept these ads. A partnership with Facebook could allow Vevo ads to play directly in News Feed and Timeline. Currently Vevo.com links do not embed video on Facebook. Videos from Vevo’s YouTube channel do play directly within Facebook, but do not include pre-roll ads.

What is unclear, though, is how deeply the social network would incorporate music videos into its core product. For instance, Facebook could make Vevo videos discoverable from search as opposed to requiring users to visit a canvas app. The company positions itself as a platform for others to build upon, not a media site like MySpace, but to compete with Google, Facebook has to offer Vevo a bigger or at least more profitable audience.

Google+ Adds Features to Compete with Facebook

Google+ implemented a number of changes today that give the social network more parity with some of Facebook’s products. The most prominent new feature is the ability to control how much content from each Circle is shown in a user’s stream, similar to what Facebook allows users to do for individual friends.

Relevance in the feed is one of the most critical factors for any network and will be especially important in the ongoing competition between Facebook and Google. Facebook has gone back and forth over the years, sometimes giving users granular control, other times favoring algorithms. Google is known for its use of algorithms, but seems to be testing human curation potential with its new sliders.

In 2007, Facebook provided sliders for users to indicate the type of content they wanted to see in the News Feed. Users could also list friends they wanted to see more or fewer updates from. Now Facebook provides controls on individual profile pages, giving users the option to subscribe to or opt-out of different types of updates. Here is the old interface:

Google+ also made improvements for page owners, now allowing multiple admins and providing notifications about activity on the page. These changes are important for marketers using the site similarly to Facebook pages. Google+ pages now also include a total count of users that have connected with a page by adding it to a circle or clicking +1. This is similar to Facebook displaying total Likes, which has been a major driver for brands to spend money on ads and marketing campaigns to increase their count. By presenting a similar public metric, Google+ gives brands a reason to drive consumers to their pages there.

Other Google+ updates reminiscent of Facebook features include previews of content in the notifications window and a lightbox display for photos. For more details, see Google’s blog post.

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