Facebook deals with Warner Music in new video “Slideshow” product

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Facebook is not a very musical service, and has never seemed to care about audio content. Now, though, a report emerges that the 1.5-billion-user social platform is working with Warner Music to test a new product called Slideshow. Slideshow can present a series of photos and/or videos, soundtracked by music. Selected Warner tracks would comprise the available library of music backgrounds.

Understandably, this nascent venture is widely positioned in this morning’s news as a competitive thrust at YouTube. Certainly, YouTube’s intense consumer magnetism is an attractive target. In parallel with its success, YouTube is currently suffering harsh criticism from musicians and labels for issues ranging from royalty payouts to the company’s safe harbor procedures. No doubt Warner is pleased to develop video-related business that might be more tightly controlled.

But the use case of Slideshow does not directly match YouTube’s purpose or popularity. YouTube is an on-demand music discovery platform. Two-thirds of American teens and adults use YouTube to “keep up to date” with music, according to¬†The Infinite Dial 2016 from Edison Research. In the 12-24 age group, that number shoots up to 86%.

Facebook is an effective discovery platform for news, but has never been used that way for music, and Slideshow isn’t designed for music discovery. Facebook’s core mission is to connect individuals with updates and photos. The Slideshow product enhances that mission by presenting photo galleries in a new way, and offering a big-label music library as background. It’s easy to imagine users packaging their vacation photos in Slideshow. As such, its role in Facebook’s business strategy might be more about engagement and retention, rather than taking new market share.

Brad Hill