Media

Google’s News Initiative heads to APAC with grants of up to $300K for media orgs

Google is expanding its efforts to support media to Asia Pacific after the search giant brought its Google News Initiative to the region. Known as GNI, the program is designed to “help quality journalism thrive in the digital age” by providing grants (i.e. cash without equity) to media organizations that are judged to have potential. The initiative started life in Europe in 2015 with a $170 million fund; a $300 million U.S-based incarnation went live earlier this year. It has also extended to YouTube after GNI set aside $25 million and pledged to work with media figures to combat fake news and develop new features. For Asia Pacific, Google isn’t saying precisely how large the kitty is, but it is promising grants of “up to” $300,000 for publishers developing new and innovative business mode...

Internal Facebook memo sees outgoing VP of comms Schrage take blame for hiring Definers

TechCrunch has obtained an internal memo published by Facebook’s outgoing head of public policy Elliot Schrage in which he blames himself for hiring PR firm Definers. He admits to having the company push negative narratives about competitors, but says Facebook did not ask or pay Definers to publish fake news. COO Sheryl Sandberg left a comment on the memo, saying it was never Facebook’s intention to play into anti-semitic theories about George Soros. The memo includes a Q&A regarding points raised by a New York Times article detailing how Definers worked to spread negative publicity about Google and other tech giants to make Facebook look better, and that the firm’s employees also published biased articles through a news site called NTK Network that’s affiliated with Definers. Facebook...

Piano teams up with True[x] to combine advertising and paywalls

Nearly every online publisher has launched or announced a paywall — but of course, even the ones who are successful won’t convince every reader, or even the majority of readers, to sign up. Now Piano and True[x] say they’ve found more effective way to monetize the rest of the audience, without threatening crucial subscription revenue. Piano is a company that’s built a range of publisher tools, including paywall and subscription management. True[X], meanwhile, is an adtech company that was acquired by 21st Century Fox a few years ago. Piano’s global head of business development Jonas Rideout said the collaboration will allow publishers to present different messages to different audience members. This is something that Piano has been working on already, but by working with True[x] specifical...

On Black Friday, you’ll be able to watch the entire ‘Lego Movie’ in a YouTube ad

On Black Friday, YouTube says it’s teaming up with Warner Bros. Pictures to allow viewers to watch “The Lego Movie” for free as part of a promotion for the upcoming sequel. YouTube recently (and quietly) began making certain movies like “Rocky,” “The Terminator” and “Legally Blonde” available for free, with advertising. This campaign is an interesting twist on that model, where the movie viewing experience isn’t just subsidized by ads — it is, in fact, part of the ad. So if you search for “Brick Friday” or “LEGO Movie 2” on YouTube, you’ll see a promoted video from Warner Bros. with the new trailer for “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.” If you click on the video, you’ll also have the option to watch “The Lego Movie” in its entirety, ad-free (as the movie itself is the ad). YouTube says t...

Original Content podcast: The disappointment of ‘House of Cards’ and its final season

It seems like Netflix’s “House of Cards” had a real opportunity for a fresh start with season six. Granted, the behind-the-scenes turmoil probably made this season particularly challenging: Production was already underway when “Star Trek: Discovery” actor Anthony Rapp came forward with allegations that Kevin Spacey made a sexual advance towards him when Rapp was only 14. In response, Netflix and production company Media Rights Capital halted production and ultimately decided to rewrite the season without Spacey’s character Frank Underwood. If you’ve watched “House of Cards,” you know that this must have been a big change, since Underwood and his political schemes have been at the center of the show for five years. Still, the previous season ended with Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood taking...

YouTube quietly added free, ad-supported movies to its site

YouTube quietly added around 100 ad-supported Hollywood movies to its site, beginning last month, according to a new report from AdAge. The titles include a mix of classics like “Rocky” and “The Terminator,” as well as other family fare like “Zookeeper,” “Agent Cody Banks,” and “Legally Blonde,” among others. Before, YouTube had only offered consumers the ability to purchase movies and TV shows, similar to how you can rent or buy content from Apple’s iTunes or Amazon Video. Currently, YouTube is serving ads on these free movies, but the report said the company is open to working out other deals with advertisers – like sponsorships or exclusive screenings. YouTube’s advantage in this space, compared with some others, is its sizable user base of 1.9 million monthly active users and its abili...

The Criterion Collection is launching its own streaming service

When WarnerMedia announced last month that it would be shutting down its streaming service FilmStruck, the team at the Criterion Collection said it would be looking for a new digital home. Today, Criterion announced that it will be building that home itself — namely, launching a streaming service called The Criterion Channel. The company remains best known for its beautifully restored and packaged DVDs and Blu-rays of classic art-house films, but it’s also moved into streaming, first by offering selections from its film library on Hulu, and then by creating its own channel within the larger FilmStruck service. In a blog post, Criterion described The Criterion Channel as “picking up where the old service left off, programming director spotlights and actor retrospectives featuring major Holl...

Sweet Escape connects travelers to photographers for truly Insta-worthy holiday pics

The rise of smartphone cameras and social media in recent years has fuelled a new level of marking and sharing memories using photos, but one startup is betting that people are prepared to go the next level and spend money to hire professional photographers to make their photos even better. Focused on travel, Sweet Escape is an Indonesia-based startup that to work with over 2,000 photographers across over 400 cities in some 100 countries. The idea is simple. If you’re traveling — overseas or locally — and want high quality photos of your trip, or just part of it, you can use Sweet Escape to find and book out a local snapper for you and your group. Photo shoots last for two hours and are charged at $300, Sweet Escape founder David Soong told TechCrunch in an interview, while activities vary...

YouTube VR finally lands on the Oculus Go

Today, Google’s YouTube VR app arrives on the $199 Oculus Go, bringing the largest library of VR content on the web to Facebook’s entry-level VR device. YouTube brings plenty of content in conventional and more immersive video types. It’s undoubtedly the biggest single hub of 360 content and native formats like VR180, though offering access to the library at large is probably far more important to the Oculus platform. One of the interesting things about Oculus’s strategy with the Go headset is that gaming turned out to be the minority use case following media consumption. If you find it hard to believe that so many people are out there binging on 360 videos it’s because they probably aren’t. Users have kind of co-opted the device’s capabilities to make it a conventional movie and TV viewin...

Facebook Portal needs more. At least it just added YouTube

To offset the creepiness of having Facebook’s camera and microphone in your house, its new Portal video chat gadget needs best-in-class software.  Its hardware is remarkably well done, plus Messenger and the photo frame feature work great. But its third-party app platform was pretty skimpy when the device launched this week. Facebook is increasingly relying on its smart display competitors to boost Portal’s capabilities. It already comes with Amazon Alexa inside. And now, Google’s YouTube is part of the Portal app platform. “Yes, YouTube.com is available through an optional install in the ‘Portal Apps’ catalog” a Facebook spokesperson tells me. You can open it with a “Hey Portal” command, but there currently seems to be no way to queue up specific videos or control playback via voice. The ...

David Attenborough to voice Netflix’s nature conservation series, Our Planet

Netflix has persuaded everyone’s favorite naturalist, David Attenborough, to voice its forthcoming original nature documentary series, Our Planet, which is slated to put conservation squarely in the frame, not just offer glorious animal eye-candy. It’s a timely moment to focus on conservation with climate change posing existential threats to global biodiversity — unless humans act to limit temperature rises. Since the 1970s Attenborough has voiced and fronted myriad major BBC nature documentaries, including the recent critically acclaimed Blue Planet series. Some of his output has been available to stream on Netflix. But now the on-demand video platform has signed the 92-year-old to voice an eight-part original nature series it’s been creating in collaboration with Silverback Films — whose...

Roku expands its free streaming channel with entertainment and live sports

Roku’s ad-supported free streaming channel is expanding. No, not to more platforms – it already did that. But rather, it’s expanding its content lineup. While before the channel offered free-to-stream movies and news, it will now feature live and linear sports and entertainment content, the company says. As of earlier this year, The Roku Channel added live news from ABC News, Cheddar, Newsmax, Newsy, People TV, Yahoo, and most recently, The Young Turks, from the TYT Network. It will now add entertainment content from partners including TMZ, AFV, FailArmy, People Are Awesome, Pet Collective and more. As with the channel’s other offerings, none of these streams will require a subscription. Meanwhile, the channel will also begin to stream live sporting events from the Adventure Sports Network...