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TikTok is launching a series of online safety videos in its app – TechCrunch

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On the heels of news that TikTok has reached 1 billion downloads, the company today is launching a new initiative designed to help inform users about online safety, TikTok’s various privacy settings and other controls they can use within its app, and more. Instead of dumping this information in an in-app FAQ or help documentation, the company will release a series of video tutorials that are meant to be engaging and fun, in order to better resemble the other content on TikTok itself.

The safety series, called “You’re in Control,” will star TikTok users and make use of popular memes, in-app editing tricks and other effects, just like other TikTok videos do. The videos will appear in the app and be available through the new @tiktoktips account. 

The videos will focus on a range of privacy, safety and well-being settings and other safety-related policies. This includes TikTok’s Community Guidelines, how in-app reporting works, plus other settings for protecting your privacy, how to control comments, settings to manage your screen time and more.

They’re not exactly your traditional how-to videos, however.

Instead, the videos showcase what’s often more serious issues — like being overrun with unwanted messages — in a humorous fashion. For example, in the video about configuring your message controls, angry commenters are depicted as shouting passengers on an airplane while the user is depicted by an overwhelmed flight attendant.

“Too many DMs?,” the video asks. The flight attendant snaps his fingers, which causes most of the passengers to disappear. The scene returns to peace and quiet. It’s a simple enough analogy for TikTok’s younger user base to understand.

This is then followed by a screen recording that shows you how to turn off messaging within the TikTok app’s settings.

Other videos have a similar style.

A barking, growling dog is used to demonstrate Restricted Mode, for instance. A noisy crowd overlooking someone’s shoulder is the intro on the video about using comment controls.

Another video encourages the use of screen time controls, asking “can’t put your phone down?” and shows someone so wrapped up in their phone they aren’t watching where they’re walking.

But the video about the Community Guidelines is maybe the most cringe-y, as it feels a bit like your parents reminding you to “play nice.” However, it still manages to set a tone for what TikTok wants to promote — a community for “positive vibes” where everyone feels “safe and comfortable.”

At launch, there are seven of these short-form videos in the safety series, which will launch in the TikTok app in the U.S. and U.K on Wednesday. In time, the company plans to add other tutorials and expand the series across its global markets, it says.

Of course, TikTok needs more than a series of videos to make its app a safe and welcoming community, the way it desires. It also needs a combination of policies, settings, controls, technology, moderation and more, the company says. And it needs to comply with COPPA laws – which it’s basically skirting.

That said, a focus on user education is an important aspect to this larger goal — and it stands in stark contrast to how Facebook intentionally made its privacy settings so complex and difficult to find and use for so many of its earlier years that people gave up trying.

How well TikTok can execute on user privacy and safety as the app grows still remains to be seen. For now, it tends to be talked about as either a wholesome and fun video experience, or an online cesspool filled with hateful content and child predators. It’s an app on the internet, so both versions of this story are likely true.

There is no large user-generated content site — even those run by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — that has figured out how to properly police the hatefulness and evil contained in humanity. But TikTok, at least, takes care not to showcase that content in its main feed — you have to seek it out directly (or train its algorithm by never clicking on anything wholesome).

But, so far, TikTok has been better reviewed by child safety advocates than you might expect. For instance, Common Sense Media — a nonprofit that provides unbiased and trusted advice about all sorts of media, including apps — said that the app, used with parental supervision, can be “a kid-friendly experience.”

The launch of the video series comes at a time when TikTok’s growth is surging. The app recently surpassed a billion installs across the iOS App Store and Google Play, including Lite versions and regional variations, but excluding Android installs in China, according to data from Sensor Tower.

Roughly 25 percent of those installs are from India, the report said. And around 663 million of TikTok’s total installs occurred in 2018, which made the app the No. 4 most downloaded non-game for the year.

However, installs alone don’t tell the story of how many people actually use the app or how often. And a chunk of these could be the same user installing the app on multiple devices, or even bots used to push the app up the charts. In addition, parents often download the app their tween or teen is using for monitoring purposes, but don’t engage with the app or its content on a regular basis.

Below, is a compilation of all the new videos launching today:

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Feels is a new dating app with profiles that look more personal – TechCrunch

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Meet Feels, a new French startup that wants to change how dating apps work. According to the company, scrolling through photos and reading descriptions tend to be a boring experience. Feels want to improve profiles so that navigating the app feels more like watching TikTok videos or browsing stories.

“For the past 10 years, there’s been little innovation in the industry,” co-founder and CEO Daniel Cheaib told me. “The reason why many people uninstall dating apps is that it’s boring. Profiles all look the same and we feel like we’re browsing a catalog.”

In that case, Cheaib is thinking about Tinder, but also other dating apps that feel like Tinder but aren’t exactly Tinder, such as Bumble, Happn, etc.

Feels’ founding team has spent two years iterating on the app to find out what works and what doesn’t. Now that retention metrics are where they’re supposed to be, the company is now ready to launch more widely.

Image Credits: Feels

If you want to show interesting content to your users in a dating app, you have to rethink profiles. Arguably, this has been the most difficult part of the development phase. When you install the app, it takes around 15 minutes to create your profile.

At first, only 30% of new users finished the onboarding process. Now, around 75% of new users reach the end of the signup flow.

So what makes a profile on Feels different? In many ways, a profile looks more like a story, or TikTok posts. Users can record videos, add text and stickers, share photos, answer questions and more.

“When you’re done with the onboarding process, you have consistent profiles with people sharing content about them,” Cheaib said.

Like other dating apps, there are many options when it comes to gender identity — you’re not limited to woman or man. You can then say that you want to see all profiles or just some profiles based on various criteria.

After that, you can look at other profiles. Once again, Feels tries to change the basic interaction of dating apps. Most dating apps require you to swipe left or right, or give a thumbs up or a thumbs down. When you think about it, it’s a binary choice that requires a ton of micro decisions.

Sometimes, you don’t have any strong feelings about someone. Or maybe you just want to go to the next profile. And the fact that you have to triage profiles like this leads to a lot negativity, whether it’s conscious or subconscious — you keep rejecting people, after all.

When you’re looking at a profile on Feels, it fills up your entire screen. Videos start playing, you can see what the person likes and who they are in front of a camera. You can react on some content or you can simply move on by swiping up. There’s no heart or like button.

When the startup thought they finally were going somewhere, they raised a $1.3 million funding round (€1.1 million) from a long list of business angels, such as somebody in Atomico’s business angel program, Blaise Matuidi, Eric Besson, René Ricol, Ricardo Pereira , Yohan Benalouane, Nampalys Mendy, Jean Romain Lhomme, Julien Radic and Jean Michel Chami.

Now, Feels plans to attract new users with organic TikTok posts, some TV ads and more. The company wants to reach one million users by the end of the year with a big focus on France for now. There are 100,000 users right now.

When it comes to monetization, Feels started offering a premium subscription to unlock more features. The company is still iterating on that part.

Feels is just getting started in a crowded and competitive industry. Unlike other companies, Feels has invested heavily in its own product before working on user acquisition and paid installs. It’s an ambitious strategy but it has a lot of potential as it could lead to a truly different dating app.

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Social audio startup Stationhead looks beyond music as it hits 100K monthly active users – TechCrunch

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When I’ve written about Stationhead in the past, I’ve focused on how the startup aims to recapture bring personality and interactivity of a live radio broadcast to streaming music. But CEO Ryan Star said his ambitions are broader now: “We’re going to be the largest social audio platform in the world.”

The startup says it’s growing quickly, with 100,000 monthly active users — a number that’s growing by 65% each month — and 500,000 total users. There are 6,300 hosts on the platform, and they created nearly 2 million live and recorded streams in the first three months of the year.

COO Murray Levison told me that the pandemic has brought more artists to the platform as they look for new ways to reach their fans. For example, Cardi B joined the fan show Bardigangradio last month, prompting 132,000 paid streams of her new single on Apple Music and Spotify during the broadcast. (Stationhead integrates with both music streaming services — when a DJ cues up a song, it’s actually playing through your account.)

At the same time, both Star (who co-founded the company due to his own frustrations as an independent musician) and Levison suggested that playing music is not quite as central to their vision as it used to be. Instead, they said Stationhead is all about live audio broadcasting, with or without music.

From a product perspective, Levison said they’re trying to build “the best broadcasting tools for creators and everybody people to use.” At the same time, he added, “Music is still at the core of what we’ve built. Just like games are to Twitch, music is our social glue.”

Image Credits: Shervin Lainez / Stationhead

While the company emphasizes the live experience (which Levison described as “the core value prop”), Stationhead also supports recording shows for listening later, and apparently 50% of users are listening to both live and recorded shows. It has also been beta testing a tipping feature that will allow broadcasters to monetize their shows.

Of course, you can’t talk about social audio without talking about Clubhouse, which was attracting 2 million active users each week in January, according to CEO Paul Davison. Levison suggested that the buzz around Clubhouse has also benefited Stationhead as potential acquirers and investors get more excited about social audio. And Star argued that the companies are taking very different approaches.

“It’s in the name Clubhouse, it’s exclusive,” Star said. “It’s about social climbing and getting closer to the stage. [Stationhead is] living in the world where Cardi B was excited to meet her fans. We are for the 99 percent.”

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TikTok funds first episodic public health series ‘VIRAL’ from NowThis – TechCrunch

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TikTok is taking another step towards directly funding publishers’ content with today’s announcement that it’s financially backing the production of media publisher NowThis’ new series, “VIRAL,” which will feature interviews with public health experts and a live Q&A session focused on answering questions about the pandemic. The partnership represents TikTok’s first-ever funding of an episodic series from a publisher, though TikTok has previously funded creator content.

Through TikTok’s Instructive Accelerator Program, which was formerly known as the Creative Learning Fund, other TikTok publishers have received grants and hands-on support from TikTok so they could produce quality instructive content for TikTok’s #LearnOnTikTok initiative. The program today is structured as four, eight-week cycles during which time publishers post videos four times per week.

NowThis had also participated in the Creative Learning Fund last year and was selected for the latest cycle of the Instructive Accelerator Program. But its “VIRAL” series is separate from these efforts.

NowThis says it brought the concept for the show to TikTok earlier this year outside of the accelerator program, and TikTok greenlit it. TikTok then co-produced the series and provided some funding. Neither NowThis nor TikTok would comment on the extent of the financial backing involved, however.

The “VIRAL” series itself is hosted by infectious disease clinical researcher Laurel Bristow, who spent the last year working on COVID treatments and research. Every Thursday, Bristow will break down COVID facts in easy-to-understand language, NowThis says, including things like vaccine efficacy, transmission timelines, and treatment. The show will also bust COVID myths, provide information about ongoing public health risks, and feature interviews with a cross-section of experts.

Each episode of the will be 45 minutes in length and will also include an interactive segment where the TikTok viewing audience will be able to engage in a real-time Q&A session about the show’s content. In total, five episodes are being produced, and will air starting on Thursday April 15 at 6 PM ET and will run through Thursday May 13 on the @NowThis main TikTok page.

@nowthisTune in to our new TikTok live show VIRAL on Thursdays at 6pm ET with host @kinggutterbaby

♬ original sound – nowthis

NowThis has become one of the most-followed news media accounts on TikTok, with 4.6 million followers across its news and politics channels, since launching a little over a year ago. Because of its focus on video, it’s been a good fit for the TikTok’s platform.

The approach TikTok is taking with “VIRAL’s” production, it’s worth noting, stands in contrast to how other social media platforms are handling the pandemic and COVID-19 information. While most, including TikTok, have pledged to fact check COVID-19 information, remove misinformation and conspiracies, point users to official sources for health information, and provide other resources, TikTok is directly funding public health content featuring scientists and researchers, and then promoting it on its network.

The company explained to TechCrunch its thinking on the matter.

“As the pandemic continues to evolve, we think it’s important to provide our community an outlet to dispel misinformation and communicate with public health experts in real-time,” said Robbie Levin, Manager of Media Partnerships at TikTok. “NowThis has consistently been a great partner that produces engaging and informative content, so we felt this series would be an impactful and important avenue for our users to receive credible information on our platform,” Levin noted.

While the pandemic has driven the topic of choice here, paying creators for content is not new. And TikTok isn’t the only one to do so. Instagram and Snapchat are both funding creator content for their TikTok clones, Reels and Spotlight, respectively. And new social platforms like Clubhouse are funding creators’ shows, as well.

TikTok says it’s not currently talking to other publishers to produce more series like “VIRAL,” but it isn’t ruling out the idea of expanding its creator funding and producing efforts. In addition to its accelerator program, which is continuing, TikTok says if “VIRAL” proves successful and the community responds positively, it will pursue similar opportunities in the future.

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