Facebook Opened Its Instant Games Platform to All Developers

Developers can now create games for Facebook’s Instant Games product, which launched to all Messenger users in May 2017. As part of the change, Facebook’s Ad’s API is also now available to all developers, meaning we can integrate interstitial and rewarded video ads, powered by Audience Network, into games.

In a Facebook Newsroom post, product manager Michael Weingert said, “Monetization Manager will help Instant Games developers maximize revenue with advanced optimization tools, simplify management of ad placements across apps and provide enhanced analytics functionality and deeper reporting. We also added Instant Games-specific reporting into Facebook Analytics to help developers understand and optimize the unique social contexts of the platform.”

Weingert also said Facebook will soon roll out the ability for developers to create user-acquisition ad campaigns that will take players directly into games after they click ads on Facebook.

Why its hot

Instant Games is quickly building its roster of games. There are currently nearly 200 games available, up from 70 last December. By leveraging Facebook’s huge user base, game developers are able to get their games in front of a lot of people right away. And these new ad features opens another channel as well. These games, and ads, are another way Facebook is trying to keep people on the site.

What even is social media anymore?

For the past 24 hours, Wendy’s and Little Debbie have been hosting a “talk show” on Twitter.

Denny’s was invited, but apparently was too busy, so Pop-Tarts stepped in. Moonpie also stopped by to talk about teens and their new interest, tweens.

Why its hot

Twitter is free, by the way! So much of the news around social media today is about Russian bots, toxicity, and fake news. But then, over here, brands are just throwing out the playbook and having fun. Strategy-scmategy. Just hop on Twitter, tweet some stuff, tag another brand, they respond with some more stuff, and so on. They’re not promoting a product, it’s not part of a campaign. Or maybe it is a strategy and the strategy is no strategy. Such is social media today.

Good Riddance Facebook Explore

RIP Facebook Explore feed.

Facebook has decided to end a test of their controversial “Explore Feed,” which separated publisher content from page content. The alternative feed was tested only internationally, in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala and Cambodia, as a response to user feedback saying they wanted to see more from friends and family.

But, unsurprisingly, users were less satisfied with the posts they were seeing in Explore and having two separate feeds made it harder for users to access important information. Publishers saw a decrease in traffic from Facebook during the test, and that decrease was especially large for smaller publications more reliant on Facebook for traffic.

Why Its Hot

For better or worse, people are turning to social media for their news, and anything that takes the news out is going to be a problem. Between live shows, news and information, buying and selling things, and soon job listings, Facebook is becoming less and less the site to go when you want to see pics of your friends.

“Snap” Up Those Jordans

Maybe “I need to snap those sneakers” will become a new thing people say. Young people anyway.

Snapchat launched its first brand collaboration, enabling users to purchase the latest paid of Jordan brand sneakers without leaving the app. The collaboration with Shopify and Jordan Brand launched during the NBA All-Star game. With Shopify facilitating the in-app check out process, the shoes sold out in 23 minutes. To take part, users scanned in a Snapcode, which linked them to the purchase process.

Of course, Snapchat is not the first to do this—Facebook Messenger and Instagram have similar partnerships with Shopify.

Why its hot

While this may have been a self-contained event during a prime moment for the intended audience (Jordans at the NBA All-Star Game!), this could be the way Snapchat grabs back some attention from Instagram Stories, giving brands a way in to that elusive millennial demographic. We could start seeing limited edition QR codes out in the world to discover through Snapchat.

Cuisine that can communicate

Graphene is the world’s only man-made 2D material. It is much stronger than steel and 100 times more conductive than copper, but so far there has been no breakout application for graphene.

But maybe we can just eat it!

Researchers at Rice University have created a commercial laser that can transform the carbon on the surface of foods into graphene. This can create an edible circuit, including fuel cells to store power, radio hardware to transmit data, all sorts of censors, etc.

“Very often, we don’t see the advantage of something until we make it available,” said the lab’s lead James Tour in a press release. “Perhaps all food will have a tiny RFID tag that gives you information about where it’s been, how long it’s been stored, its country and city of origin, and the path it took to get to your table.” via Fast Co Design.

Why its hot

The possibilities could be endless. An actual apple with 1,000 songs on it? Any bit of clothing is potentially a wearable.

Who Needs an Ad Budget When You Have a Rocketship?

On Tuesday, Elon Musk made history…twice.

Not only did his private space-flight company, Space-X, pull off one of the greatest feats of engineering in history when they launched and successfully landed the Falcon Heavy rocket, but they managed to turn it into an ad opportunity for Tesla.

Tesla famously has a $0 ad budget, but who needs money when you have your own rockets? Right now, you can go onto YouTube to watch a cherry red Tesla, complete with passenger, nicknamed Starman, floating appropriately through space. The original plan was to go nearly 250 million miles from Earth and approach Mars, according to Space.com. However, a rocket carrying the car overshot, meaning it’ll pass Mars’ orbit and enter the asteroid belt.

Watch Starman here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBr2kKAHN6M 

Why its hot

No need for a green screen or Photoshop when you can literally launch your product into space!



It’s a nAPPkin! Get it!?

That wild idea for an app you sketched out on a napkin could become real easier than you think!

An experimental Windows app called Ink to Code lets you sketch out your app design then export a machine-readable layout file to Microsoft’s Visual Studio. You can then add code for either a prototype or fully fledged Widows and Android apps.

“We have all these app ideas sketched out on paper,” says George Matthews, who managed Ink to Code. “Every time one of our teams will build out a feature, the first thing we do is we draw it by hand, before we even touch a computer. For me it’s natural, it feels more natural. [But] we thought we could do something better.”

While drawing your app, the program reads images for their intent. A box with many lines in it is for text. A box with a circle is a button. A box with a circle is an image. And so on. But while it helps you generate an annotated layout for your app, you still have to connect all those placeholder buttons and images with real code inside another editor.

Why its hot

While Ink to Code isn’t yet the easy-to-use app for first time builders, it could be a great step toward a turnkey program that makes app creation as simple as sketching.,

Spotify gets in on pet adoption

I love this!

According to a recent study by the University of Glasgow, dogs each have their own unique taste in music—and that’s music to Spotify’s ears. Spotify partnered with agency Serviceplan and an animal shelter in Germany to create Adoptify, which matches people with adoptable pets based on their taste in music. Did I mention I love this!?

The website features dogs available for adoption and shows what kind of music each dog prefers. Users can also watch videos about the dogs and find their musical match! I love it!

You can watch some of the videos here.

Why its hot

Spotify loves to leverage all that user data and this is a great campaign for a great cause!

Facebook wants newsfeed to be more ‘meaningful’

Facebook really, really wants your experience to be “meaningful.” In a recent blog post, Facebook researchers announced changes to the algorithm that controls its newsfeed that will put greater emphasis on content from friends and family, and give more weight to posts that encourage users to interact and comment.

This change is so “meaningful” that the word “meaningful” appears seven times in the blog post!

“We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness,” Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post. “But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content – posts from businesses, brands and media – is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other. Based on this, we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”

Facebook wants your experience to be less about how long you spend on the site, and more about what you do while you’re there. Comments are more important than likes, and posts with longer comments will get more weight than those with shorter ones. Shares of videos will also matter more than a video’s overall popularity.

Why its hot

These changes are going to have a big impact on how news surfaces in your newsfeed. If users aren’t sharing and engaging with a news story, it’s less likely to spread organically. But opinion pieces that usually generate more debate in the comments section will have a better chance of being seen. And Facebook has always put the emphasis on engagement with posts to determine how content surfaces.

Facebook is constantly making changes to its algorithm to “improve” the experience you have on the site, but in the end Facebook’s business depends on turning your attention into dollars. Sure, organic reach is going way down, and publishers are always trying to keep up with changes to Facebook’s performance, but money will always cut through all the changes.

Explore the largest early map of the world

Drawn by hand in 1587 by Italian cartographer Urbano Monte, the above map is the largest known early map on the world, now digitized for the first time at the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection at Stanford University.

This is the first time anyone can see the map as a single unit, as Monte intended 430 years ago. It is available for viewing using AR Globe, an iOS augmented reality app, or via download in Google Earth.

Rumsey told Fast Co. Design, “the 60-plus sheets “were digitally assembled by Brandon Rumsey using Photoshop” totally by hand, without having to use distortion or custom programming, just “alignment of layers and edges” tools.”

The map uses azimuthal equidistant projection, a circular projection of Earth from the North Pole, which Monte believed shows the world more accurately by showing a three-dimensional sphere as a two-dimensional surface.

Why its hot

My favorite thing about technology isn’t the new things it can create, but the old things it can preserve. This incredible piece of history is now available to just about anyone, anywhere in the world, right on their mobile phone. Technology has increased access to history, which I think gives us lessons that will inform our future.

Your Ad on the Moon




A Japanese spaceflight company called Ispace plans to fund future missions to the moon by selling ad space to brands looking to literally leave their mark in space.

Ispace hopes to finance a manned mission to the moon by 2020 and it will be branded like crazy, according to Bloomberg. The company was started through Google’s Lunar Xprize, a competition that will award $20 million to whoever can land and drive a spacecraft on the moon’s surface. It’s worth noting that the target date for the program’s first mission was 2012.

Why its hot

Which brands could you see being first to jump at a chance to put their name on the moon?

Private space flight has become the big thing in tech thanks to companies like SpaceX. Funding will be crucial to keeping missions going, so perhaps there is a “space” for brands to get in on the fun.

Stock Photos of Dads Evolve Along With Fatherhood

As dads, statistically, become more involved with raising kids at home, stock image leader, Getty, is evolving the photos usually used to depict fatherhood.

The two most-downloaded photos from Getty in 2016 and 2017, respectively, depict a dad wearing a feather boa and a tiara while painting his daughter’s nails and a dad holding a rolling pin, helping his kid bake something. Ten years ago, the top-selling stock photos were the typical ideas of fatherhood—dads roughhousing, playing football, etc.

By 2013, images were showing fathers taking care of babies. In 2015, they showed dads reading to their daughters and helping with chores.

Via Mashable:

The evolution of fatherhood in stock photos didn’t occur in a vacuum. In 2013, the same year dads nurturing babies took the spotlight, Getty noticed photos of women adjusting, too. Women began to transcend the dominant “sexy look” of years past. And this year, the “gritty woman,” a Getty photo trend that features women getting sweaty, unconcerned with how they look, came to the foreground. By 2015, a new advertising trend nicknamed “dadvertising” was in full force, with several Super Bowl commercials focused on fathers and their kids. The clueless, aloof father figure of the past was transforming into an emotionally available guide and supportive partner.

Getty’s made big strides, but there’s still more work to do to accurately reflect fathers, and families, of today. Families are multiracial, and it’s not just mom-and-dad any more. Getty searches for “gay dads” and “single dad” are up 53 percent and 60 percent respectively over the past year. But when one searches “gay dads” in Getty’s public-facing collection, roughly 1,700 results pop up. Comparatively, there are about 325,000 results for “mom and dad.”

Why its hot

Stock images are interesting because they present the way we see ourselves and the world. They are the idealized versions of the world around us. And as those ideas evolve, and our priorities change, so much stock images.

Facebook Wants to Improve Disaster Relief

Using a aggregate user data funneled to their new Community Help API, Facebook hopes to make it easier for disaster relief organizations to target their aid.

According to Fast Co., the Red Cross and NetHope will be the first partners to use the new API, which will take data collected through Safety Check, Community Help, a classified ad-type section where users can ask for help or offer goods, and Disaster Maps, which uses Safety Check data and other publicly-available data to develop an aggregate picture of an area after a disaster.

The Community Help API will show organizations how many people are calling for a specific type of aid, but also where they are coming from thanks to geotagging.

Why its hot

Facebook has a lot of data. A LOT of data, and it’s nice to see it using all of that information in constructive, and even life-saving ways. That said, it will be interesting to see how organizations are able to handle sorting the data from Facebook and what exact role Facebook itself will have past collecting the data. Could this be the first step toward a nonprofit arm of Facebook? Facebook-branded disaster relief?

Check-pocalypse on Twitter

What started as a simple way for Twitter to show who was really who on their platform has turned into a major headache. Last week, Twitter “verified” Jason Kessler, the white supremacist organizer of the Charlottesville rally in August that left one woman dead.

Less than a month after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recommitted to eliminating hate speech, hate symbols, and violent groups from the platform, Twitter goes ahead and, in the eyes of many users, legitimizes a noted racist. The Twitter verification badge was never meant to act as an endorsement, however. It was simply to establish authenticity so no one could impersonate a celebrity or notable personality.

The backlash to Kessler’s verification was swift and this week Twitter decided to throw it all out the window and remove check marks from a handful of prominent white nationalists and far-right conservatives, including Richard Spencer, Laura Loomer, and Tommy Robinson.

Unsurprisingly, those who lost their check marks (and it’s important to note they were not suspended from Twitter) were upset.


This was Twitter’s response:

Why its hot

Honestly, this is Twitter’s own fault. Verification started in 2009 and over time verified users were given access to special privileges, including analytics normally only available to advertisers. For years there was no obvious way to apply for a badge; either Twitter reached out to you or you knew someone at the company. This made the badge a symbol of prestige or authority—a status symbol.

And application of the badge was always inconsistent. Milo Yiannopoulos was de-verified in January 2016, yet Twitter verified Kessler? Why?

Twitter’s lax and inconsistent verification process led to the badge being viewed as an endorsement mark and anyone who had one, someone worth following and their opinions worth listening to.

So far, backlash to Twitter recent decision to remove badges has been countered only by those who lost their badges or those agree with the views of those users.But this opens up the discussion to exactly which views will have your badge taken away or your account suspended. Twitter is all over the map when it comes to enforcing their rules. I personally have been suspended for tweeting angrily at the MTA about subway service. Until Twitter creates clear terms of service and enforces them fairly and consistently, these sorts of stories will continue.


IBM Wants to Design the “New Helvetica”

IBM is hoping to be everyone’s “type.”

The company hopes its new bespoke typeface, IBM Plex, launched in beta this week, could become the next iconic type. The official version won’t be released until early 2018, according to Fast Co. Design.

“When I came to IBM, it was a big discussion: Why does IBM not have a bespoke typeface? Why are we still clinging on to Helvetica?” Mike Abbink, the typeface’s designer and IBM’s executive creative director of brand experience and design, says in a video explainer. “The way we speak to people and the conversations we need to have and we’d like to have, is that still the right way to express ourselves? We should really design a typeface that really reflects our belief system and make it relevant to people now. Helvetica is a child of a particular sect of modernist thinking that’s gone today.”

Looking back to IBM’s postwar years, Abbink’s team saw a contrast between hard edges and curves. The typeface is still a work in progress, but the company is sure about what the end result will be, at least–as Abbink proclaims in the video, “IBM Plex is the new Helvetica.”


Why its hot

Typeface is often overlooked for something we literally look at every day. It’s easy to forget how much time and effort goes into designing the look of letters and symbols, the message trying to be conveyed, hiding within the words themselves. Even the books we buy usually contain a note about the typeface used. It’s a reminder to take a closer look at things.

Fake News and Faker Faces

As if fake news isn’t a big enough issue, soon we may have to debate whether a person is real. Electronics manufacturer, Nvidia has debuted a new method for generating unique faces. The technique uses a generative adversarial network (GAN), “a class of algorithm where researchers pair two competing neural networks against each other,” according to Sploid. In a GAN, one of the two neural networks is put to a generative function (like rendering images or trying to solve a problem) while the other is put in an adversarial role, challenging the first’s results.

Nvidia writes:

We describe a new training methodology for generative adversarial networks. The key idea is to grow both the generator and discriminator progressively, starting from low-resolution images, and add new layers that deal with higher resolution details as the training progresses. This greatly stabilizes the training and allows us to produce images of unprecedented quality, e.g., CelebA images at 1024² resolution.


Why Its Hot

Right now this system can only create static images. Could we get to a point where we can generate faces for people that don’t actually exist to be used in ads? If this technology advances to the point of animation and video, we could create movies with no real people or even fake events and news.

Twitter Says It Overstated Monthly Users for 3 Years

Twitter said it uncovered an error in the way it has calculated the size of its user base since 2014.

Twitter admitted it had overstated its monthly-user figures since 2014 after mistakenly including data from third-party applications, according to The Economic Times.

The revelation comes as Twitter reported that its number of daily active users had risen 14 percent. And despite this news, Twitter shares were up 10 percent in pre-market trading Thursday and Twitter said it could turn a quarterly profit for the first time ever.

From The Times:

The company said it had discovered that its measure of monthly active users had been improperly including figures from third-party applications that used Digits, a software-development program. Digits is part of the Fabric mobile application platform that Twitter sold to Alphabet, Google’s parent company, this year.

As a result, Twitter lowered the number of monthly active users by 2 million for the first and second quarters of this year and by 1 million for the fourth quarter of 2016. Jack Dorsey reported Twitter has 330 million active monthly users in the quarter ending September 30.

Why its hot

Twitter turning a quarterly profit for the first time is a big deal, but the platform still faces an uphill battle. From increasingly louder calls from users to curb hate speech and harassment, to revelations of foreign advertisers trying to influence the election (Twitter just banned RT and Sputnik from running ads on the platform), Twitter is having to make quick adjustments while also apparently combating an inability to accurately assess user numbers.


NYT Issues New Social Media Guidelines for the Newsroom

Image result for new york times

Last Friday, The New York Times announced an updated an expanded set of guidelines for their journalists’ use of social media, posting them publicly online.

“The new guidelines underscore our newsroom’s appreciation for the important role social media now plays in our journalism, but also call for our journalists to take extra care to avoid expressing partisan opinions or editorializing on issues that The Times is covering.”

Some key points:

• In social media posts, our journalists must not express partisan opinions, promote political views, endorse candidates, make offensive comments or do anything else that undercuts The Times’s journalistic reputation.

• Our journalists should be especially mindful of appearing to take sides on issues that The Times is seeking to cover objectively.

• These guidelines apply to everyone in every department of the newsroom, including those not involved in coverage of government and politics.

• On that same note, we strongly discourage our journalists from making customer service complaints on social media.

• If you are linking to other sources, aim to reflect a diverse collection of viewpoints.

Why its hot

Employers often don’t pay attention to what their employees are posting on social media until there is an actual problem. Some people will include their work information in their public social media profile, leaving them open to repercussions from angry followers. It’s certainly not uncommon to hear about a post going viral and the author losing their job.

In this case, The New York Times is in an interesting position. As journalists, they should remain impartial and report on news and current events. However, most people won’t follow a particular journalist just because they like their writing; they follow because they want a certain viewpoint. If journalists aren’t able to freely express themselves on social media, will people be less inclined to follow them? Additionally, should journalists express themselves publicly at all? Our country has perhaps never been more divided in terms of where we choose to get our news, and journalists have increasingly found themselves having to draw a line in the sand and defend themselves publicly from criticism. Taking their power away on social media makes this more difficult.

Bookmark your tweets!

Twitter's Adding a New Bookmarks Feature to Help Keep Track of Tweets | Social Media Today

So much content, so little time. I see so much throughout the day that I cannot read it all, so I save links as much as possible. Facebook lets you save articles and videos, and even reminds you about unread saves, but Twitter has only just now added a save function.

Previously, most users would “like” a tweet to be able to come back to it, or email the link to themselves. “Liking” a tweet is a public action, and not all users want that event out in the world for all to see. Also, a “like” will influence Twitter’s algorithm and what ads and recommended accounts they show you. The ability to bookmark tweets makes it easier for users to save what they’re interested in and improves overall platform performance.

Why its hot

Bookmarking tweets seems like an obvious idea, even if it flies in the face of Twitter’s position as the “live news” platform. I like this change as someone who frequently sees content I’m interested in, but don’t have time to read it. I am also curious to see if “bookmarks” becomes a part of Twitter’s standard analytics offered to brands and publishers.

Instagram Adds New Features to Stories

Instagram Adds Polls in Stories, New Creative Tools | Social Media Today

Instagram has added three brand new additions to Stories that will make creating engaging content easier.

A new sticker options for Instagram Stories lets users add polls easily and see the results from their followers. The votes are not anonymous. Like stories, the pull and results will disappear after 24 hours.

Color Picker
Users can duplicate the tone of any color in an image and use it in text. Tap on the eyedropper and you’ll be able to select any part of the image to duplicate its tone.

Instagram Adds Polls in Stories, New Creative Tools | Social Media Today

Alignment guide
The new alignment guide helps users avoid placing content anywhere it might get covered up when someone watches a story. When you rotate text or a sticker, the new guides will help snap the sticker back to horizontal.

Instagram Adds Polls in Stories, New Creative Tools | Social Media Today

Why its hot

These new features make it easier to create more personalized, better composed stories in Instagram. The poll feature is especially interesting since Facebook, which owns Instagram, has pushed down the reach of “live” videos that use reactions in voting. These updates will be especially useful for brands creating stand-out content in Stories.


Snapchat Announces New 3D AR Lenses for Ads

Snapchat Announces 3D AR Lenses as a New Ad Option | Social Media Today

Snapchat’s 3D World Lenses are now available as an ad option, according to Social Media Today.

The new ad format, unsurprisingly, will be at the higher end of Snapchat’s ad options, and can only be purchased through Snapchat’s direct sales team, not the platform’s recently launched self-serve platform.

The campaigns will be available in two formats – as explained by Marketing Land:

  1. They can run as traditional Sponsored Lens campaigns, where they’ll only show up when people swipe through the gallery of Lenses to apply one to their post. As with a normal Sponsored World Lens campaign, a Sponsored 3D World Lens must be bundled with a traditional Sponsored Lens that’s available through the phone’s front-facing camera in order to appear in the Lens gallery, according to a Snapchat spokesperson.
  2. Or they can be attached to a Snap Ad and be promoted outside of the Lens gallery. Users can swipe up on the vertical video ad to use the Lenses, marking the first time that a Lens can be used as a Snap Ad attachment.

Why Its Hot

Seems like every week we’re talking about new applications for AR. As an ad buying option, it will be interesting to see which brands are able to take advantage of AR. With the high price tag, Snapchat will have to make sure they’re delivering the ROI buyers are looking for.

Chili’s Latest Menu Item Is Healthcare Advice

Image result for i feel god in this chili's tonight

Everywhere you look, people are talking about healthcare. The issue has become so complicated that one curious Twitter user turned to Chili’s for advice—which they gave.

Colin Gray (@subtlerbutler) ranted that people should talk to each other for information outside of the internet, even if it means asking your local restaurant for help. Another user wanted to know what his question for Chili’s would be. The exchange:

After that, Twitter jumped all over Chili’s with questions of their own.

Why its hot

It’s risky for any brand to wade into a current issue, and healthcare is probably never a good idea, especially now. But this was a low-risk moment to chime in, and the question had an easy answer. I imagine they checked and double checked though. It seems people like when their favorite brands get political—as long as their politics are the same. The lesson here could be helpful advice: yes, political opinions: no.

Facebook Lets Advertisers Target ‘Jew Haters’

According to a report by ProPublica, Facebook’s self-service ad-buying platform allowed you to direct content to the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics “Jew hater,” “how to burn jews,” or “History of ‘why jews ruin the world.'”

ProPublica paid $30 to target three promoted posts to those groups and all three ads were approved within 15 minutes. After ProPublica contacted Facebook, the categories were removed. Facebook famously takes a hands off approach to ad categories, letting an algorithm do all the work, and generating ad categories based on what users share on the platform and what they convey in their online activity.

“In all likelihood, the ad categories that we spotted were automatically generated because people had listed those anti-Semitic themes on their Facebook profiles as an interest, an employer or a “field of study.” Facebook’s algorithm automatically transforms people’s declared interests into advertising categories.”

ProPublica’s ads reached 5,897 people, generating 101 clicks, and 13 engagements.

An anonymous Facebook official claimed that these targeting categories were not widely used.


Why Its (Not) Hot

Last week Facebook announced $100,000 worth of ads had been placed during the 2016 presidential election by “inauthentic” accounts that appeared to be affiliated with Russia. Last year ProPublica was able to block ads from being shown to African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans. Whatever Facebook is trying to do to limit hate speech and promote a healthy social environment, it’s not working.

Kentucky Fried VR

We’ve entered a new reality of fried chicken.

KFC has started using VR to teach employees how to cook their famous original recipe. The chicken chain claims they can teach employees in just 10 minutes compared to the usual 25 minutes in the real world. According to The Daily Dot, the program is titled “The Hard Way—a KFC Virtual Training Escape Room.”

The VR program teaches employees the five steps to creating the delicious fried chicken: inspecting, rinsing, breading, racking, and pressure frying.

“In 1940 the Colonel was just one man frying chicken by hand. Now we have nearly 19,000 trained cooks across the U.S., but they’re still doing it by hand,” said George Felix, KFC’s U.S. director of advertising. “Our cooking process hasn’t changed much in 70 years, but the way we can train our cooks using modern technology sure has.”

The VR training program, despite it’s apparent rapid education, is not replacing the normal training program for employees; it is merely an ad-on.

Why its hot

As more companies look to VR for training, and products like Oculus become more available to the public, it may be a matter of time before we’re able to access a “hands on” education in just about any subject. It could revolutionize not only how we learn, but what we learn.

Instagram Inception

Instagram has released a new feature which lets users interact with the photos and videos messaged to them in private conversations.

If you receive a photo or video, you can take that photo and draw on it, and then respond back with that photo in your new photo. If you’re replying to a video, Instagram only saves the first frame for replies.

Apply a filter, draw on your photo, add stickers, write text, and send it back with the original message included. According to TechCrunch, if you’re watching a story, you can either send a text reply, or you can send a photo/video, adding context to when someone is replying to part of your story.

Read more here.

Why its hot

Instagram is giving you more reasons to stay within the app, messaging more with your friends. You can do more than just watch a story or reply to a message with another message. This is much more engaging, allowing users to actually interact with the messages themselves and include them in a fun way to tell an even richer story.

‘Watch’ Out YouTube

Yesterday, Facebook launched Watch, a new service providing live or recorded video content. It has only rolled out to a handful of users and would appear as a tab in Facebook’s mobile, desktop and TV apps. Watch showcases channels, called Shows, and currently features content from a limited pool of content creators, including Nas Daily, which features one-minute clips from around the world each day, and motivational speaker Gabby Bernstein.

Perhaps most notably, Watch will feature a different game each week from Major League Baseball.

According to The Next Web, “[Facebook] is funding some shows and inviting independent creators to sign up to the platform on their own as well; once they’re in, they’ll get a Show Page (similar to Pages for brands) that fans can follow and find clips on.

For viewers, Facebook has included a watchlist that lets you save episodes to catch later; you’ll also be able to discover videos based on how people interact with them, in sections like “Most Talked About,” “What’s Making People Laugh,” (which includes shows where people have hit the “Haha” reaction button), and “What Friends Are Watching.”

Why Its Hot

Facebook may be out to eat YouTube’s and Netflix’s lunch, but will people want to spend even more time on Facebook? Of course, Facebook has a massive user base of two billion people monthly worldwide, and the eventual introduction of ads could attract major brands. This will come down to a question of quality. If Facebook can bring in major talent to produce content, combined with their user base, it could mean a real challenger for video king YouTube.

Microchip Implants for Employees? One Company Says Yes

On Aug. 1, employees at Three Square Market, a technology company in Wisconsin, can choose to have a chip the size of a grain of rice injected between their thumb and index finger. Once that is done, any task involving RFID technology — swiping into the office building, paying for food in the cafeteria — can be accomplished with a wave of the hand.

The program — a partnership between Three Square Market and the Swedish company Biohax International — is believed to be the first of its kind in the United States, but it has already been done at a Swedish company, Epicenter. It raises a variety of questions, both privacy- and health-related.

“Much to my surprise, when we had our initial meeting to ask if this was something we wanted to look at doing, it was an overwhelming majority of people that said yes,” said Todd Westby, the chief executive of Three Square, noting that he had expected more reluctance. “It exceeded my expectations. Friends, they want to be chipped. My whole family is being chipped — my two sons, my wife and myself.”

British ASA Takes a Hard Line Against Stereotypes

Earlier this week, British regulatory body, the Advertising Standards Authority, announced plans to take a “tougher line” on “ads that mock people for not conforming to gender stereotypes” in order to better serve the public. While the ASA cannot outright ban offensive ads, it can publicly recommend that certain campaigns be pulled. Most U.K. media companies follow the guidelines of the ASA.

Why Its Hot

Could something like this happen in the U.S.? There is no ASA-equivalent in the United States and consumers are more than happy to vote with their wallets and voice their disapproval loudly on social media. We all know the stories of brands having to pull ads after intense consumer backlash. And we’ve also seen several brands, such as Carl’s Jr. and Unilever, moving away from racy and stereotypical ads. With the shift into the digital age, it’s also harder for brands and agencies to justify their need for stereotypes.

The United States and Great Britain have effectively come to the same conclusion in very different ways as brands realize that stereotyping one or more segments of their audience will not help boost sales.

This New ‘Brandless’ Online Grocery Store Sells Everything for $3


Hate chain stores or big brand items? A new start-up, Brandless, has what you’re looking for. Co-founder and CEO, Tina Sharkey, writes in a post on Medium, “For us, Brandless is about more than any individual product we sell. It is about the true democratization of goodness. Meaning everyone deserves better stuff at affordable prices.”

Perhaps best of all? Every item is $3! Black beans? $3. Fair-trade Colombian coffee? $3. Peanut butter? You guessed it, $3.

But, as The Wall Street Journal points out, not every item is a money-saver. “The 115 products that will be initially available are generally more expensive than their big-brand rivals,” it notes. Jif beats Brandless by nine cents per ounce on peanut butter, for example, while Kraft is a 42-cent cheaper option for macaroni and cheese.

Brandless also doesn’t do anything perishable, which means no produce, meat, bread, dairy, or frozen goods. But the ostensible trade-off is that with Brandless, you get products that are non-GMO, enviro-friendly, and free of preservatives or other artificial ingredients. In addition, “well over half” are organic, the company says.

Why Its Hot

With Amazon seemingly taking over and changing how people shop, shoppers are looking for brands that are different, and what can be more different than a non-brand-brand? Despite their intention, however, you have to market yourself, and Brandless is a brand. It will be interesting to see if Brandless is able to find a foothold in the market or if their goods become just an interesting item you find in your friend’s kitchen.

Get Your Kicks on Instagram

Buy Nikes on Instagram.

After recently announcing a pilot sales program on Amazon, Nike has announced they will “seamlessly” offer shoes to consumers on Instagram. The new commitment positions the sneaker brand as one of the first major companies to invest its resources in Instagram as a way to sell products directly to consumers.

Most other brands have only experimented with shoppable tags since Instagram introduced the e-commerce feature in November. Brands can tag their photos with links to products that show up the same way a tag of a friend or another Instagram user would. Instagram, for its part, is still navigating how to support brands without turning the app into an e-commerce site.

Selling through social media is a way of circumventing wholesale partners such as department stores, and taking more control of their distribution. Nike’s initiative highlights this idea, as it is aimed at selling athletic gear directly to customers.

Read the full story here.

Why Its Hot

There is a delicate balance to be struck between being social and pushing sales. Social media is like a friend you want to spend time with. You wouldn’t like it if your pal turned round and started flogging you a new handbag. Instagram is not taking a cut of any revenues generated from shopping through the app. But there’s always a possibility that strategy could change in the future. Many luxury brands have a huge following on Instagram, so it will be interesting to see which other brands follow Nike if they experience success.