Peggy K's Creator Weekly: YouTube Stories, WordPress at 20, AI Search
Monday is Memorial Day in the US, honoring those who died while serving in the US military. A bit incongruously, it’s also the unofficial start of summer, with backyard BBQs, and, of course, so many sales.
So if you’re in the US, I hope you can have a short remembrance of those who died, before your celebration of summer with friends and family.
This week YouTube announced that Stories will be going away in June (having never left beta), there are more AI-based image editing tools, Google demoed ads in the new AI search results (so many ads!), WordPress turned 20 and more.
Creator Weekly Live
Join me on Sunday for a live recap of this week’s top updates! It’s live at 10:30AM Pacific time (5:30 UTC). Set a reminder or join on YouTube here.
What do you think of this week’s updates? Join the live chat.
Asian and Pacific Islander Month
May is Asian and Pacific Islander Month, and platforms are highlighting their Asian creators:
YouTube Is Shutting Down Stories
Social media Stories are vertical images and videos that expire after a short time, from a day to a week. They are meant to be more casual than permanent posts, with a Stories editor that lets you add stickers, use AR filters, use music and so forth.
YouTube launched its Stories at the end of 2018. It is still in beta (!) and is only generally available to channels with at least 10,000 subscribers.
Back in March 2021 I did a comparison of Stories on different platforms. At the time, it seemed like all the platforms were pushing the format, including Instagram & Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
But that was short-lived. Twitter shut down its Fleets in July of that year. LinkedIn shut down its Stories that September. Only Meta Stories on Facebook and Instagram are still available (although they seem more focused on video Reels). And, of course, there are Stories on Snapchat, the platform that started it all.
To be honest, I’m a bit surprised that YouTube Stories lasted this long. YouTube has a lot going on, and if the channels I’m subscribed to have been using Stories, I haven’t seen them.
YouTube suggests using Community Posts, which are open to all channels, can have interactive polls and quizzes, and can be set to expire after 24 hours. Shorts also fill a bit of the same niche. And YouTube is promising new features for those formats over the coming year.
AI for Marketers in Ads and Search
This past week was Google Marketing Live, where Google promotes itself (and its ad tools) to advertisers. They also announced new tools for merchants. And not surprisingly, generative AI is everywhere.
Provide your landing page URL and Google’s AI will generate an ad campaign, including keywords, descriptions and images, that you can review and edit.
Product Studio is a new tool that lets small businesses use generative AI to create new product backgrounds and “scenes”, create a plain white background, or increase image resolution. It will be available in Merchant Center Next and to merchants using the Google & YouTube app on Shopify.
Google’s AI Search results will have ads, of course, and Google may use generative AI to create “relevant, high-quality ads” customized for those search results.
As a consumer, rather than an advertiser, I’m disappointed that Google’s current vision for the AI Search results is filled with ads that are barely distinguishable from content. In the example they share (which you can see here), on mobile devices the ads take up most of the screen and ads are shown with a “sponsored” label in tiny text.
And as someone who is generating content, I’m concerned that the ad-filled AI-generated results will take traffic away from small sites like mine.
Google is rolling out Search Labs to more people and I’m hoping to get access soon to see for myself.
Try Generative Fill in Adobe Firefly
Adobe Firefly (firefly.adobe.com) is now available without a wait (although there may be country limitations).
Image created in Adobe Firefly with prompt “Middle aged woman sitting in front of a laptop with orange flowers coming out”, followed by editing with the Generative Fill tool.
But if you don’t have Photoshop to play with, you can play with the same tool in Firefly for free.
Note that Adobe says they trained Firefly with public domain and licensed images, so there shouldn’t be copyright issues.
And what about using it to create false images? There is metadata included with the downloaded image that identifies it as being generated by Firefly. Microsoft announced it will similarly mark images created with Microsoft Designer and Bing Image Creator, and Google will use such metadata to identify AI-generated images in Search results (although it’s not clear if that will work with Adobe’s and Microsoft’s markup). Will that help? Only time will tell.
WordPress Turns 20
It’s hard to believe that an entire generation has passed since the launch of now-ubiquitous blogging tools.
WordPress 20th Anniversary Logo
WordPress launched to the public on May 27, 2003. It’s still open source and totally free, and now powers more than a third of all websites.
Automattic, WordPress’s parent company launched two years later, and now includes WordPress.com hosting, Jetpack, Tumblr and other sites.
Watch Automattic’s CEO and WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg chat with co-founder Mike Little and Drupal founder Dries Buytaert about WordPress and Open Source.
Also watch: a Brief History of WordPress
It’s been neat to watch WordPress celebrating two decades of bloggers and developers and their whole blogging and website management ecosystem.
There are meetups and celebrations happening through the end of the month all around the world.
Check out the calendar here to see if there is one near you.
(I’m still a bit sad that Google said nothing when Blogger turned 20 in 2019. Of course they could celebrate 20 years since Blogger became part of Google, which would be in May 2024, but I’m not holding my breath.)
Image source: Official WordPress 20th Anniversary swag downloads
YouTube and Video
YouTube Creator Liaison Rene Ritchie interviewed YouTube’s Director of Growth and Discovery, Todd Beupre, about what creators need to know about the YouTube Algorithm. The important take-away message: create content for your audience, not the algorithm. Watch it!
On May 25 AdSense hosted a webinar about the latest updates and best practices for publishers in Google Search, presented by John Mueller. You can register to watch on demand.
Google explained how they use “topic authority” to improve news searches. Factors that are considered include how notable a source is for a topic or location, whether it has original reporting and is cited by other news organizations, and the source’s reputation. If you have a news source, Google’s recommendation is to create “helpful, people-first content” about topics you know well.
Medium CEO Tony Stubblebine says he wants to see a “link love” culture (bloggers linking to each other) on the platform, and explains what he means when he says “it’s nice to get paid twice” (once with Medium monetization, then again with a book or client work or similar that comes out of your blog writing).
Meta is selling GIPHY to Shutterstock. When you add a GIF to a post on Twitter, Snapchat, Meta, Slack or many other platforms, that’s powered by GIPHY. The sale was forced by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, and apparently the sale price was at a loss of almost $350 million.
Meta was also fined $1.3 billion for violating EU privacy laws by transferring European user data to American servers.
You can now search for public Lists to add on Twitter. I use Twitter Lists to create specialized topic feeds that don’t require me to follow all of the List members. And if you Pin a List it creates a dedicated tab in the mobile app. So I have a local news List and a video news List, in addition to some private Lists.
Twitter apparently has a bug that can restore deleted Tweets, sometimes months after the deletion. And yes, that means they were never actually deleted at all.
The US Surgeon General posted an advisory on the effect of social media on youth mental health. Casey Newton has a good overview at Platformer.
More AI Updates
For some positive AI fiction, read or listen to Naomi Kritzer’s “Better living through algorithms” in this month’s Clarkesworld Magazine. Clarkesworld has been struggling under a flood of low quality AI-generated submissions, and this feels almost like a response.
David Calano on the Web Science and Digital Libraries Research Group blog writes about using AI to recreate images missing from archived web pages. It doesn’t really work well at the moment, and Calano notes “With web archives being a crucial tool for research, politics, and understanding a more "authentic" past, the ability to fabricate digital history is a bit terrifying in an already post-truth era. This also begs the question of how will we train future artificial intelligence systems in the future when we no longer have any reliable ground truth on which to base the accuracy of our information?”
Microsoft is working closely with OpenAI (makers of ChatGPT). Bing Chat is powered by GPT-4 and ChatGPT is getting integrated web search with Bing. ChatGPT and Bing will also use interoperable plugins.
Microsoft is also rolling out 3D animated avatars for Teams and metaverse “immersive spaces” as part of its Microsoft Mesh platform. I personally don’t see the appeal unless the technology improves significantly, but maybe some people like this.
That’s all the updates for this week!
Header image background: Get your summer started with this closeup image of the sun from the Solar Dynamics Laboratory. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.