How brands should respond to the upheaval at Twitter
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Thursday, we are exploring how entertainment companies and other brands should respond to the crisis at Twitter. Also: What’s next for OBS Studio, and what if every VR ad looked like the ones in Japan.
Brands are wondering, is Twitter OK?
You know who still hasn’t commented on Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter and everything that has transpired since? Chipotle.
The fast-food brand appears to have taken a bit of a Twitter break this month, and it’s not alone: Usually sassy brand accounts like Wendy’s and Panera have notably dialed down their output on the social network in recent days, apparently waiting to see what Twitter will look like once Musk’s verification and content moderation changes take effect.
How should brands respond to Twitter changing hands? It’s a good question, and one that matters a lot to media and entertainment companies as well. After all, Twitter has long been one of the spaces where brands have been able to talk directly to some of their most engaged customers. For answers, I caught up with Myles Worthington via email this week.
- Worthington used to be central to Netflix’s social media strategy, which involved creating dedicated brands and accounts to talk to segments of its audience that often fall by the wayside when companies attempt to speak with one voice to everyone.
- As part of these efforts, Worthington and his colleagues at Netflix created accounts like Strong Black Lead and Con Todo to engage specifically with Black and Latinx viewers.
- Netflix laid off many of the people behind these accounts in May as part of broader cost-cutting efforts, and Worthington launched his own company to advise brands on how to best engage with diverse audiences online.
Memo to brands: It’s time to take a breather. Worthington’s main advice to brands right now is to pause what they’ve been doing and wait for the dust to settle.
- “Any splashy moments (i.e. Twitter Spaces with celebrities and brands) or big paid spends should be paused for the time being,” Worthington told me.
- Part of the problem is that there’s just too much uncertainty: Twitter has announced major changes since Musk took over, only to roll them back almost immediately. “I’m telling brands to monitor the daily (sometimes hourly) shifts and … plan accordingly,” he said.
- “Elon Musk changed his pricing model when Stephen King tweeted back at him, so nothing is set in stone until it is,” Worthington said. (Musk also killed a new effort Wednesday to label individual verified accounts as “official” mere hours after the feature went live.)
- However, Worthington also advises against overreacting. Stephen Fry may have deleted his Twitter account, but that doesn’t mean your brand should do the same.
- “I’ve noticed a few notable people have left the platform,” Worthington said. “But as of right now, I wouldn’t tell any of the brands we work with to make any sudden decisions until we see official announcements of product changes, and deeper insights on audience perception.”
The big question: Mastodon or Mastodon’t? Many people have discovered the federated social media network Mastodon as an alternative to Twitter in recent days. Should brands follow them, or is it too early for that?
- “I’m a fan of grabbing your domain/handle in every social media platform for security purposes, but being a first-mover on social platforms rarely pays off,” Worthington said.
- Not only is the Mastodon audience still small, but also Mastodon users may not react too kindly to your thirsty brand energy right now.
- “Social media is created to connect people and share organic conversations first and foremost, so if a brand enters too early, they run the risk of rubbing those early adopters the wrong way and putting a stain on the brand,” Worthington said.
Maybe it’s time to build your own thing. One of the big lessons of Twitter’s current struggles might just be that brands should spend more resources on building and maintaining first-party platforms.
- “I believe that every brand (inclusive of people with personal brands) need to invest in first-party, wholly owned means of distribution and connections with their communities,” Worthington said.
- He doesn’t think that brands should abandon social networks. “It’s very necessary to have a presence in the spaces where your consumers spend their time, and brands should continue to smartly invest there,” Worthington said.
- However, brands should be aware that they don’t actually own those social media profiles, but merely lease them from people like Musk.
- “You wouldn’t do major construction in your apartment rental, because at the end of the day you don’t own that unit,” he said, arguing the same should be true for social networks. “Invest there because that’s your home right now, you want to be comfortable and for your guests to be welcome and understand your vibe when they walk through your door.”
Just don’t get too comfortable in your rental, as someone like Musk could rip up the lease agreement any day. “If you haven’t started building your own space that is owned and governed by your choices alone, that should be a big business priority for 2023,” Worthington advised.
— Janko Roettgers
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What’s next for OBS Studio
When I first began working on a story on OBS Studio, an app that is being used by many Twitch and YouTube live streamers to power their broadcasts, I simply wanted to highlight yet another open-source project that’s been essential to a massive and growing trend in online media.
Then I talked to OBS founder Hugh “Jim” Bailey, and it became clear that OBS didn’t just change online media. “I didn't have anything, and was thinking that my life was just going to end up pretty terrible,” Bailey told me about the time before he started the project. “It just turned my life around entirely.”
You can read all about Bailey and OBS Studio on Protocol.com, but a few tidbits about the future of the broadcast tool didn’t make it into the story.
- Bailey told me that one of the areas he wants to work on is a new rendering system. “Our rendering APIs are last-generation at this point, so we need to switch to the current-gen rendering APIs,” he said.
- The OBS team is also working on implementing the AV1 video codec to make streaming more efficient. “For codecs, AV1 is our big priority,” he said.
- Not only are chipmakers adding AV1 hardware codecs to their products, but Bailey also expects many of the live streaming services to support AV1 streaming soon.
- “The big thing on the horizon at this point is AV1,” he said. “It’s just a huge compression boost.”
- There are also plans to overhaul the OBS interface. “The settings window has a lot of issues,” Bailey admitted.
- Lastly, Bailey has aspirations to overhaul the OBS backend … eventually. “I just want to focus on making the software internals better,” he told me. “But I never have the time to really do that.”
— Janko Roettgers
In other news
Netflix is eyeing sports. The streaming service doesn’t want to bid for expensive sports rights, so it is considering investing in niche sports leagues instead.
Wordle gets its very own editor. The New York Times announced this week that Tracy Bennett, an associate puzzle editor, will now be the dedicated editor of Wordle. She’ll be responsible for curating the word list and daily programming.
Pioneering streaming device Slingbox is dead. Dish Network’s Sling Media unit officially pulled the plug on existing Slingboxes this week — but there may be a work-around.
FIFA goes big on blockchain gaming. No, not the gaming franchise from EA, but the actual international footballing body. FIFA, which will split with EA next year, now plans to launch four blockchain-based games in time for the Qatar World Cup this month.
Google begins winding down its Stadia cloud gaming service. The company began issuing refunds this week to people who bought games on Stadia.
The midterms had a gaming angle. Maxwell Alejandro Frost, a Florida Democrat elected to the House of Representatives this week, might be the first-ever fan of Square Enix RPG series Kingdom Hearts to join Congress. He’s just 25 years old.
Disney+ added 12 million subscribers in Q3. Disney’s streaming businesses lost nearly $1.5 billion during the quarter, but company executives believe losses will decline going forward.
Lionsgate will stop streaming in seven markets. The company is shutting down its Starz/Lionsgate+ services in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Benelux, the Nordics, and Japan.
Does VR just need better … ads?
This week, Singapore-based YouTuber Lazius Kaye made waves on Twitter for posting a Japanese ad for Meta’s Quest 2 headset. “Love dem or hate dem, you can’t deny this is something that makes people feel excited about VR,” he wrote, and lots of people on Twitter agreed. “[W]e’re finally getting decent VR commercials with the energy it deserves,” one Twitter user responded, while someone else tweeted, “[I]f only Meta Connect looked more like this.”
The Quest 2 has arguably done pretty well, with analysts estimating that Meta surpassed 15 million unit sales this summer. Still, Meta’s messaging has at times been a bit … challenged. Remember those fake legs? Granted, the Japanese commercial also relies heavily on visual effects, and some Twitter users took issue with the fact that it may be overselling VR.
Then again, some pointed out that marketing has long been a challenge for VR. “[It’s] very much a ‘you have to see it to believe it’ [kind of medium], and pictures don’t do it justice,” as one Twitter user put it, only to add, “But that ad is really cool!”
— Janko Roettgers
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