Instagram now lets you share Stories to a Close Friends list – TechCrunch
No one wants to post silly, racy or vulnerable Stories if they’re worried their boss, parents and distant acquaintances are watching. So to get people sharing more, and more authentically, Instagram will let you share to fewer people. Today after 17 months of testing, Instagram is globally launching Close Friends on iOS and Android over the next two days. It lets you build a single private list of your best buddies on Instagram through suggestions or search, and then share Stories just to them. They’ll see a green circle around your profile pic in the existing Story tray to let them know this is Close Friends-only content, but no one gets notified if they’re added or removed from your list that only you can view.
“As you add more and more people [on any social network], you start not to know them. That’s obviously going to change the things that you’re sharing and it makes it even harder to form very deep connections with your closest friends because you’re basically curating for the largest possible distribution,” said Instagram director of product Robby Stein, who announced the news onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin. “To really be yourself and connect and be connected to your best friends, you need your own place.”
I spent the last few days demoing Close Friends and it’s remarkably smooth, intuitive and useful. Suddenly there was a place to post what I might otherwise consider too random or embarrassing to share. Teens already invented the idea of “Finstagrams,” or fake Instagram accounts, to share feed posts to just their favorite people without the pressure to look cool. Now Instagram is formalizing that idea into “Finstastories” through Close Friends.
The feature is a wise way to counteract the natural social graph creep that occurs as people accept social networking requests out of a sense of obligatory courtesy from people they aren’t close to, which then causes them to only share blander content. Helping people express their wild side as must-see content for their Close Friends could drive up time spent on the app. But there’s also the risk that the launch creates private echo sphere havens for offensive content beyond the eyes of those who’d rightfully report it.
“No one has ever mastered a close friends graph and made it easy for people to understand,” Stein notes. The path to variable sharing privacy winds through a cemetery. Facebook’s “Lists” product struggled to find traction for a decade before being half-shut down. Google+’s big selling point was “Circles” for sharing to different groups of people. But with both, users found it too boring and confusing to make a bunch of different lists they could share to or view feeds from. Snapchat launched its own Groups feature two months ago, but it’s easy to forget who’s in which list and they’re designed around group chat. Most users just end up trying their best to reject, unfollow or mute people they didn’t want to see or share with.
Now after almost 15 years of Facebook, 12 years of Twitter, eight years of Instagram and seven years of Snapchat, that strategy has failed for many, leading to noisy feeds and a fear of sharing to too many. “People get friend requests and they feel pressure to accept,” Stein explains. “The curve is actually that your sharing goes up and as you add more people initially, as more people can respond to you. But then there’s a point where it reduces sharing over time.”
So Instagram chose to build Close Friends as just a single list in hopes that you won’t lose track of who’s part of it. As the feature rolls out today, there’ll be an explainer Story from Instagram about it in your tray, you’ll get walked through when you hit the Close Friends button on the Story composer, and there’ll be a call out on your profile to configure Close Friends in the Settings menu. You’ll be able to search for your close friends or quickly add them from a list of suggestions based on who you interact with most. You can add or remove as many people as you want without them knowing, they just will or won’t see your green circled Close Friends story. “We’re protecting you and your right to share or not share to certain people. It gives you air cover,” Stein tells me.
From then on, you can use the Close Friends shortcut in the Stories composer to share it with just those people, who’ll see a green “Close Friends” label on the story to let them know they’re special. Instagram will use the signal of who you add to help rank and order your Stories tray, but it won’t automatically pop Close Friends Stories to the front. When asked if Facebook would use that data for personalization too, Stein told me, “We’re the same company,” but said using it to improve Facebook is “not something that we’re actively working on.”
There’s no screenshot alerts, similar to the rest of Instagram Stories, but you won’t be able to DM anyone someone else’s Close Friends Story. That’s it. “We haven’t invented any new design affordances or things you need to know,” Stein beams. For now it’s meant for user profiles, but publishers, social media celebrities and brands would probably love ways to build fan clubs through the feature. Perhaps Instagram would even allow creators to charge users to be admitted to Close Friends. If not, some savvy influencers will probably do it anyways as they try to make Instagram more like Patreon.
The one concern here is that Close Friends could create little bunkers in which people can share objectionable content without consequence. It’d be sad to see it harbor racism, sexism or other stuff that doesn’t belong anywhere on Instagram. Stein says that because you’re talking with friends instead of strangers on a Reddit, “it self regulates what it’s used for. We haven’t seen a lot of that usage in the testing that we’ve done. It’s still a broadcast channel and it doesn’t generate this group discussion. It doesn’t spiral.”
Overall, I think Close Friends will be a hit. When it started testing a prototype called Favorites in June 2017 it worked with feed posts too, but Instagram decided the off the cuff posts wouldn’t fit right next to your more widely broadcasted highlights. But confined to Stories, it feels like a natural and much-needed extension of what Instagram was always supposed to be but that’s gotten lost in our swelling social networks: giving the people you love a window into your life.
The first round of Disney layoffs begins this week, CEO Bob Iger shares in memo
In February, Disney CEO Bob Iger told shareholders in an earnings call that the company plans to lay off 7,000 employees as part of a significant restructuring. Today, in an internal memo to employees, which TechCrunch was able to obtain, Iger revealed that there will be three rounds of layoffs, with the first beginning this week.
“This week, we begin notifying employees whose positions are impacted by the company’s workforce reductions,” Iger wrote. “Leaders will be communicating the news directly to the first group of impacted employees over the next four days. A second, larger round of notifications will happen in April with several thousand more staff reductions, and we expect to commence the final round of notifications before the beginning of the summer to reach our 7,000-job target.”
The job cuts will reportedly affect Disney’s media and distribution segment along with ESPN and the parks and resorts division, according to CNBC.
“For our employees who aren’t impacted, I want to acknowledge that there will no doubt be challenges ahead as we continue building the structures and functions that will enable us to be successful moving forward. I ask for your continued understanding and collaboration during this time,” Iger added.
Iger returned as CEO in November 2022, replacing Bob Chapek. Since the takeover, Iger has already made significant organizational changes to the company. In addition to the layoffs, the company will also cut down on spending. Disney plans to cut $5.5 billion in costs, including $3 billion in content spend.
Iger has also admitted to being “open-minded” about the sale of Hulu, which Comcast partially owns.
Despite Disney’s direct-to-consumer division increasing in revenue by 13% to $5.3 billion, the company reported an operating loss of about $1.1 billion, which it blamed on higher costs at Disney+ and Hulu.
While Disney+ reported its first-ever subscriber loss in Q1 2023, the company noted that its streaming business — Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ — will become profitable in late 2024. Netflix is one streaming service that has managed to turn a profit.
Disney+ lost 2.4 million global subscribers in the first quarter of 2023. However, it managed to gain 200,000 subs in the U.S. and Canada. Hulu and ESPN+, on the other hand, added 800,000 and 600,000, respectively.
Disney’s annual shareholder meeting is set to occur on April 3.
As media companies continue to face losses in the current market, many are adopting the same strategy as Disney. In 2022, Warner Bros. Discovery dealt with job cuts and removed HBO Max content as it confronts a debt load of $53 billion. This company intends to save $3 billion in 2023.
You can now bundle Frontier internet with YouTube TV on the same bill
YouTube TV announced today that it expanded its partnership with internet service provider Frontier to launch a single billing option, which will allow customers in the U.S. to bundle fiber internet with YouTube TV on one bill.
YouTube TV teamed up with Frontier in 2021 to give customers access to fiber internet and a live TV streaming service. However, they had to pay the providers separately. Today’s launch of integrated billing will make it more convenient for users.
Also, Frontier fiber internet customers will now get $10 off the YouTube TV subscription for one year, whereas existing Frontier TV customers will receive $15 off.
The offering is likely to convince customers to switch to YouTube TV as Frontier no longer offers its TV service. After filing for bankruptcy in 2020, Frontier stopped offering cable television in 2021.
Many cable TV companies have decided to either launch streaming services or partner with services like YouTube TV. For instance, in 2021, Disney announced plans to shut down hundreds of cable channels as it shifted focus to its flagship streamer Disney+.
“Our partnership with YouTube TV makes it easier for customers to ditch cable,” John Harrobin, Frontier’s Executive Vice President of Consumer, said in a statement. “We take our position as the un-cable provider seriously and are constantly listening to consumers. Many want one source for internet and TV, and that’s what this partnership is all about.”
It’s important to note that Frontier is only available in 25 states. However, YouTube TV also partners with other internet companies, such as Verizon.
YouTube TV has more than five million paid subscribers and trialers in the United States. Earlier this month, the company increased its subscription price to $72.99 per month, up from $64.99.
Here’s how to stream Major League Baseball games in 2023
Major League Baseball (MLB) regular season is back this week, with Opening Day beginning on Thursday, March 30. MLB Opening Day 2023 will be one to watch since all 30 teams play their first game of the regular season on the same day– the first time since 1968 when such an event occurred.
With so many major league teams, it can be tricky to figure out where and how to watch the games you want to watch—especially for cord-cutters. For instance, nationally televised games will be broadcast on Fox, FS1, TBS, ESPN and MLB Network, whereas local team’s games will air on regional sports networks (RSNs).
Another channel worth watching is MLB Network Strike Zone because it provides highlights, updates, scores, standings and stats from teams across the league. The channel broadcasts on Wednesdays and Fridays, when several games are going on at once, to ensure you don’t miss out on the action.
Plus, this year will be the second time that Apple TV+ is the exclusive home of “Friday Night Baseball” games. Peacock also livestreams exclusive MLB games with its Sunday morning package, “MLB Sunday Leadoff.”
In total, the MLB regular season consists of 2,430 games.
Here are some of the best live TV streaming services to watch MLB games this 2023 season:
- Sling TV
- Hulu Live TV
- YouTube TV
Starting off with an obvious one, MLB.TV is a streaming package that Major League Baseball directly offers.
The subscription costs $24.99 per month or $149.99 per year and allows fans to watch every out-of-market game, making it a great option for viewers who want to watch a team that doesn’t play in their home city.
While MLB.TV subscribers won’t be able to watch a livestream of their local team, the games are available to watch on-demand 90 minutes after they end.
Fans can sign up for MLB.TV either on the MLB website or through streaming services like Prime Video and Fubo.
The most expensive on the list is DirecTV’s “Choice” plan, which is $84.99 per month. Fortunately, the plan is also the most comprehensive, with access to every national MLB channel, including Fox, FS1, TBS, ESPN and MLB Network.
You’ll most likely get your local RSN as well, depending on your location.
DirecTV also has the MLB Extra Innings add-on, which is $149.99 per season, and gives you every out-of-market game along with MLB Network Strike Zone and MLB Extra Innings Mix, which lets users stream up to eight games at the same time.
Sling TV, on the other hand, is arguably the best bang for your buck. For $70 a month, users can sign up for the Orange & Blue bundle ($55/month), as well as the Sports Extra add-on ($15/month), to get access to Fox, FS1, TBS, ESPN, MLB Network and MLB Network Strike Zone.
However, there are no RSNs or out-of-market games on Sling TV.
Fubo (formerly FuboTV) offers MLB Network, MLB Strike Zone, ESPN, Fox, FS1 and RSN coverage. One caveat is that Fubo doesn’t broadcast TBS.
Fubo has three subscription plans: Pro ($74.99/month), Elite ($84.99/month) and Premier ($94.99/month).
The streaming service recently announced it is launching an MLB.TV add-on for $24.99 per month.
Hulu Live TV is great for fans who want to watch nationally broadcast games on FOX, TBS and ESPN. However, the streamer doesn’t have as many RSNs as it used to, so there may be blackout restrictions. For example, Hulu Live TV doesn’t offer RSN groups like AT&T SportsNet and Bally Sports.
Also, out-of-market games aren’t available on Hulu Live TV.
ESPN+ is home to daily regular-season games that air live on ESPN. Note that MLB games on ESPN+ may have local blackout restrictions.
While YouTube TV ($72.99/month) dropped MLB Network this year, it still carries most RSNs and national networks like Fox, ESPN, and TBS.
The reason YouTube TV dropped MLB Network was because of a carriage dispute, which is becoming more common recently. These disputes are making it very difficult for sports fans to find RSNs across both live TV streaming services and linear television.
Plus, YouTube TV is another streaming service that doesn’t offer Bally Sports RSNs.
Speaking of Bally Sports, 19 of its RSNs may be in trouble. Recently, Diamond Sports Group (DSG), an independent subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcasting Group that owns these 19 RSNs, filed for bankruptcy.
But the good news is that Major League Baseball will likely take over the RSNs if DSG is no longer able to broadcast them.
Here are some of the most important dates to keep an eye on this season, including Opening Day, which starts at 1:05 p.m. ET with the first two games scheduled: Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants vs. New York Yankees.
- March 30: Opening Day
- April 29-30: Mexico City Series
- July 11: All-Star Game
- October 1: Final day of MLB regular-season
- October 3: MLB Playoffs
Note that the dates for the World Series, Division Series and Championship Series are TBD.
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