Guardian Pulls Out of Facebook’s Instant Articles and Apple News

Over the past year, a number of major publishers have experimented with distributing their stories through external platforms, including Facebook’s mobile-focused Instant Articles and Apple News. But now some media companies are shutting down those experiments.

The Guardian has confirmed that it is no longer working with Facebook on Instant Articles, nor is it distributing its content through Apple News, according to a report by Digiday. However, the British daily is still said to be working with Google to publish articles using the company’s Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP standard.

“We have run extensive trials on Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News to assess how they fit with our editorial and commercial objectives,” a Guardian spokesman said. “Having evaluated these trials, we have decided to stop publishing in those formats on both platforms.”

The British newspaper company, which has been trying to build up its financial resources with a membership drive, went on to say that its primary objective “is to bring audiences to the trusted environment of the Guardian to support building deeper relationships with our readers, and growing membership and contributions to fund our world-class journalism.”

Facebook launched Instant Articles in 2015, and offered it to publishers as a way to make their content more mobile-friendly. Under the deal, Facebook modified the stories to make them load more quickly on smartphones, and offered publishers a share of advertising revenue.

Initially, there was a large amount of interest in the Facebook deal, since many companies didn’t have their own fast-loading mobile pages or apps. Major publishers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post agreed to be part of the Instant Articles project, and some — including the Guardian — published everything they had through the feature.

Over the past few months, however, there have been rumblings of dissatisfaction among many publishers, including the New York Times, which no longer distributes its content through Instant Articles. Many media companies say the amount of revenue they’ve been getting from the Facebook feature has been lackluster.

Facebook has admitted that it needs to do more work on revenue-sharing options for publishers and media companies, and it is also introducing support for subscriptions and pay models, something more and more publishers and news sites are relying on for income.

The Guardian was also an early adopter of another Facebook venture known as “social reader apps,” which Facebook promoted in 2012. The apps allowed users to sign up for and read news content inside special apps that lived on the social network, but the Guardian pulled out of the deal after Facebook changed the way its algorithm worked and stopped recommending the apps.

While Facebook’s Instant Articles has proven to be less than stellar as a method of generating revenue, some publishers have been more complimentary about the returns they are getting from Apple News, which distributes content from partners through a news-reading app. But The Guardian said it is no longer participating in the Apple project either.

The British publisher has continued working with Google’s AMP standard, however, which like Instant Articles makes it easy for stories and other content to be viewed on mobile devices.

AMP supports subscriptions and pay models, and it is also an open-source project, which means any developer or publisher can contribute to the development of the standard. The Guardian said at a recent conference that more than 60% of its content is distributed through the Google project, in addition to being published on its own website.

Here’s Why a Google-Powered Ad Blocker Is a Really Bad Idea

It seems like a relatively minor announcement, in the grand scheme of things. Google, according to a Wall Street Journal report, is thinking about including an ad-blocking feature in the next version of its Chrome browser. Sounds like a handy feature, right?

It may indeed be a handy feature for users. But the closer you look at this news, the worse it looks, from a whole bunch of different perspectives. Why? Because Google isn’t just any browser maker or app company — it’s one of the world’s largest Internet companies. And how does it make the vast majority of its $90 billion in revenue? Advertising.

Why on earth would one of the world’s largest ad companies want to implement an ad-blocking service in its browser? Google’s answer would probably be that it wants to get rid of the bad actors within the digital-advertising market and ensure users have a good experience.

This is a worthwhile goal. The web is filled with low-quality ad garbage that clutters up the page, makes websites slow to load, and weighs down the browser with popups and interstitials and other hijacking attempts. Even some ad industry executives applaud ad-blocking because it forces publishers and ad networks to confront this problem.

The problem is that Google is hugely conflicted when it comes to fixing this. The browser through which it plans to offer ad-blocking has almost 50% of the market, and Google itself owns and operates two of the largest ad networks in the world, DoubleClick and AdSense. Presumably none of those ads would be blocked by this service.

As Cornell Law professor James Grimmelmann noted in a series of tweets about the news, the prospect of Google laying down which ads are acceptable and which aren’t is hugely problematic, to the point where such a service might even raise antitrust concerns.

According to the Wall Street Journal, decisions about which ad types would be “unacceptable” or suitable for blocking would be made by the Coalition for Better Ads, an industry group that released a set of standards earlier this year. And who created the group? Google, along with partners from the advertising and media industries (including Facebook).

The Journal story also says that the ad-blocking service Google is considering implementing in Chrome would not just disable the offending ads from a site that doesn’t meet the group’s standards, but could block all of the ads from any site that fails the test.

Even if you dislike intrusive advertising, that’s a scorched-earth response to the problem. And it’s a response that is being meted out by one of the world’s largest advertising companies, through a browser that it controls, based on standards that are being set by a group it helped create, along with several of the world’s other major advertising companies.

Google may not feel that it has much to worry about from an antitrust perspective, given the right-ward leaning of the current administration when it comes to net neutrality and other such rules. But that doesn’t mean we should give the company carte blanche to extend its control over the online advertising market in new directions.

Bill O’Reilly’s Career at Fox News Could be Coming to an End

Bill O’Reilly is the star of the Fox News network’s top-rated show, The O’Reilly Factor, a show that just recently set a new industry record for the size of its audience. Despite this success, however, there are growing signs that the network may be looking to cut O’Reilly loose.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the company is “preparing to cut ties” with the Fox News star, after a wave of negative publicity that was triggered by news of more than a dozen sexual harassment allegations made against him by multiple former staffers. That news in turn led to an advertiser boycott of the show that may have helped force the network’s hand.

A number of media watchers noted that the matter-of-fact headline about cutting ties with O’Reilly appeared in the Journal, which like Fox is owned by Rupert Murdoch. A final resolution on the fate of O’Reilly “could come as early as the next several days,” the paper reported. The board of directors of parent company 21st Century Fox meets on Thursday.

New York magazine writer Gabriel Sherman, who has covered Fox News closely, said Murdoch’s sons James and Lachlan — CEO and co-chairman of 21st Century Fox respectively — want O’Reilly to go, but their father has been resisting.

The elder Murdoch has reportedly said he doesn’t want to fire O’Reilly because “it would appear he was forced into a decision by the New York Times.”

The storm of controversy over O’Reilly was touched off by a feature report in the Times on April 1, which described how Fox News had made financial payments to 15 former staffers after they made allegations of sexual harassment against the Fox host.

O’Reilly said the claims were unfounded, and that he settled the cases to avoid causing distress to his family. But after the Times story ran, new allegations arose making similar claims, and a series of advertisers started pulling their ad campaigns from the top-rated show.

The boycott started with automakers like BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but others quickly followed. Within a matter of days, more than 45 advertisers had said that they were pulling their ad spending from the O’Reilly show as a result of the allegations. Although most simply moved their campaigns to other Fox programs, it was still a very visible sign of discontent.

As the boycott gathered steam, O’Reilly announced that he was going on vacation, and that’s when the speculation started in earnest that he might not return.

The Fox star has made it clear that he isn’t prepared to go without a fight — his legal team has released a statement saying the “brutal campaign of character assassination” that has been waged against him is part of a “smear campaign orchestrated by far-left organizations” bent on destroying him for political reasons.

Despite O’Reilly’s bluster, however, CNN’s Brian Stelter has pointed out that when O’Reilly signed a new contract with Fox recently, a number of reports said the deal gave the network more leverage over him than previous contracts. That could make it easier for Fox to cut him loose without having to engage in a long, drawn-out legal battle.

For many observers, the O’Reilly situation feels like a replay of last year’s ouster of former Fox chairman Roger Ailes, who was also the subject of multiple sexual harassment allegations from ex-Fox staffers like Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson.

Towards the end, as Ailes was fighting to retain his position, the Murdoch family appeared to be split along very similar lines to the ones that exist now: James and Lachlan wanted to get rid of the Fox chairman, arguing that his presence was toxic for the network. But their father resisted, until at last the decision was finally made.

Similar wheels appear to have been set in motion for O’Reilly. And if and when he ultimately leaves, it could trigger a significant realignment at the conservative news network, as Fox scrambles to fill the void left by one of their star voices.

Flipboard Expands Support for Video and Video Ads

Flipboard, the magazine-style app that got its start with the original Apple iPad, has been through a number of iterations in the years since its launch. In the latest move, it is expanding support for video in its digital “magazines,” and is also opening up the platform for video advertising as well.

The company announced on Tuesday that starting immediately, three of the most popular categories of content on Flipboard—technology, news and lifestyle/entertainment—will see video packages appear inside them, with content from a range of partners including Hearst magazines like Elle, Harper’s, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan, as well as CNBC. Other verticals will also see video added over time.

Flipboard also announced that its platform now supports the VAST video advertising standard, and said it is working with a number of launch partners to bring video ads into its digital magazines, including eBay and Essence. Supporting standard video ads means that brands and publishers can re-use their existing 15-second or 30-second ads inside Flipboard.

“From cooking to product reviews to stand up comedy, video is a powerful part of the media mix people want when staying informed, getting inspired, or learning something new,” Flipboard co-founder and CEO Mike McCue said in a statement. “There’s a growing demand for premium video inventory from publishers and brands—so launching more video on Flipboard is important for all of our audiences.”

In appealing to video advertisers, Flipboard could be facing an uphill battle, since giant competitors like Facebook are also bulking up in video, and offer much larger reach. But the company believes that its platform offers a higher-quality look and experience than many other destinations, and will appeal to premium brands.

Although Flipboard has many more competitors than it used to, including magazine-style news readers from technology giants like Apple, McCue maintains that the company is doing just fine on its own. It has more than 100 million monthly users and its net revenues doubled last year, he said in a recent interview.

There were reports in 2015 that the company was trying to be acquired, and McCue confirmed at the time that there had been discussions about a potential merger with Twitter, but those talks fell through.

Since then, Flipboard has raised $50 million in additional funding and McCue has said the company is well positioned to continue as a standalone business. “There are always conversations going on, but nothing like a serious discussion,” he said in February. “It’s not that we wouldn’t ever sell, it’s just that we’re focused on building something that has value.”

Facebook Goes Head-to-Head With Snapchat for the Future of the Camera

Snapchat’s name didn’t come up during Mark Zuckerberg’s address at Facebook’s developer conference on Tuesday, but the company’s presence was still felt regardless, since Facebook’s vision of the future consists largely of colonizing the ground already staked out by its smaller competitor.

This became immediately apparent even before the Facebook CEO started his keynote, when Snap Inc. announced that it has added 3D “lenses” or filters to its Snapchat app, which will allow users to combine virtual elements like rainbows with real-world locations.

Just hours after that news broke, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook is rolling out a similar suite of 3D add-ons that combine the real world and the virtual, including ways of adding animated effects to real objects. Plants can be given virtual flowers, 3D games can be played on real tabletops, and virtual notes can be left in real locations.

The key insight behind all of this, the Facebook CEO said, is the idea that the near future of “augmented reality” is one in which the smartphone camera is the key interface, not the bulky headsets or eyeglasses that might be used for full-scale virtual reality.


This fixation on the smartphone camera sounds very much like the gospel that Snap Inc. has been preaching for some time, even before it went public in a hotly anticipated $25-billion initial public offering. Snap has been referring to itself as “a camera company” rather than a messaging app since it first filed a prospectus, something that many observers seemed confused by.

What has become increasingly clear is that Snap doesn’t mean “camera company” in the sense of GoPro, the maker of wearable cameras that has lost much of its early luster, or Kodak. Instead, it means a company whose primary user interface is the camera, and everything that can be done with it.

Snap’s goofy “lenses” and filters, which allow users to make themselves look like dogs or cats, or add simulated rainbows pouring out of their mouths, looked a lot like meaningless baubles to some analysts of Snapchat’s popularity, but they were just the beginning. Both Snap and Facebook clearly see them as the early building blocks of an augmented-reality interface.


Facebook has already duplicated virtually every one of Snap’s significant features, including the Stories function — which it has added not just to Facebook but to Instagram and WhatsApp as well — and the filters and lenses features. Now, the giant social network has made no secret of the fact that it is going after the smaller company’s future roadmap as well.

Going head-to-head with a behemoth like Facebook isn’t easy, which could help explain why Snap’s share price has weakened substantially since its IPO. After all, Zuckerberg’s empire has a market value that is 15 times larger, and has an audience of more than 1.8 billion.

At the same time, however, Snapchat and Facebook are very different animals — even Snapchat and Instagram, despite their many similarities, are different in some fundamental ways. For Facebook, everything is about public or semi-public sharing, whether it’s photos or videos or augmented reality games. Boosting public engagement is the company’s raison d’etre.

Snapchat, by contrast, doesn’t focus on public engagement at all. There isn’t even any way to share a Snap photo or video or story outside the platform, nor is there any way to track how many people have seen it or liked it or commented on it — things that Facebook and Instagram are obsessed with.

That raises at least the possibility that Snap and Facebook could develop along very similar lines when it comes to augmented camera-based reality features, with one using them for public purposes and the other for private ones. How investors — not to mention users — wind up valuing those two different approaches remains to be seen.

Facebook Killing Yet Another Example of Facebook Live’s Dark Side

Facebook’s marketing campaign for its Facebook Live video-streaming feature focuses on the potential for sharing intimate moments from its users’ lives — weddings, birthdays, etc. But its video platform is also a popular way to share much darker moments as well.

While many families were enjoying an Easter or Passover meal together on Sunday, a man in ** was busy uploading video of himself shooting and killing a ** grandfather of **. After he was done, the killer logged on to the social network to boast about his actions.

The killing of ** is the latest in a series of incidents that have cast a shadow over Facebook’s video offering. Although the murder was not actually live-streamed (contrary to some initial news reports), it still raises significant questions about Facebook’s responsibilities in such cases, since the video remained available for several hours after the shooting.

The social network released a statement to CNN late Sunday saying **. But for many, the damage had already been done. And the fact that the killer spent time after the murder live-chatting about the incident seemed to add insult to injury.

Since Facebook introduced its live-streaming video service in **, there have been several cases where deaths and other violent acts have been broadcast to the network’s billions of users. In some cases, the company has taken swift action to remove the videos, but in others it has chosen to leave them up with a warning about the content being disturbing.

Last year, for example, Antonio Perkins of Chicago was shot and killed in a drive-by attack while he was live-streaming himself drinking with friends on the sidewalk in a residential neighborhood. The video was watched hundreds of thousands of times within a matter of hours.

Despite the violence of the attack, and the fact that Perkins died as a result, Facebook told CNN at the time that the clip was left up because it didn’t violate the company’s community standards.

In **, Philando Castile of Minneapolis was shot by police during a routine roadside stop, and his death was filmed and live-streamed by his girlfriend Lavish Reynolds, while her young daughter sat in the back seat. In that case, the footage — which Facebook didn’t remove — helped galvanize protests about police violence against blacks in the U.S.

There have also been several cases that were equally disturbing, even if they didn’t involve death. In January, a 12-year-old girl uploaded a live-stream of her own suicide to Facebook, in a clip that showed her tying a rope around a tree and hanging herself. Facebook was criticized for leaving the video clip up for more than two weeks after the incident.

Also in January, a group of four men and women in Chicago live-streamed an attack on a young developmentally-delayed man who was bound, gagged, and cut with a knife (he later escaped, and the four were eventually arrested by police).

At one point, the video stream had more than 16,000 simultaneous viewers, and several Facebook users interacted with the attackers while they were abusing the boy. According to a number of reports, they posted comments that the attackers then responded to on camera.

Just last month, several teenage boys in Chicago live-streamed the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl using the Facebook feature. According to police, at one point more than 40 people were watching the attack, but no one called 911 or contacted the authorities.

Facebook isn’t the only one that has to deal with this kind of violent content — similar clips also get uploaded to YouTube, including the ones of the 12-year-old’s suicide and the latest shooting. But Facebook has spent so much time and energy promoting its live feature that it has become a lightning rod for criticism in such cases.

And whatever the social network may think of the ethics of live-streaming deaths or leaving clips up for weeks, having newspaper and TV headlines using the term “Facebook murder” or “Facebook killing” probably isn’t something the company wants to deal with. But the genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no putting it back in again.

How Instant Articles Turned Into Another Facebook Bait-and-Switch

When Facebook launched its “Instant Articles” feature in 2015, it sounded like a great deal for media companies. All they had to do was hand over the content from their stories, and Facebook’s engineers would magically make those stories look better and load faster on mobile devices.

Not only that, but Facebook promised to help publishers make money from the content they distributed through Instant Articles — they could keep 100% of the advertising revenue for any ads they sold, or take 70% of whatever Facebook sold for them.

Some observers were skeptical of the offer, since Facebook seemed poised to gain far more from the deal than media companies ever would. Others recalled how similar efforts aimed at encouraging publishers to distribute their content through the social network — including the “social reader” Facebook apps that were popular in 2012 — ultimately fizzled.

At the same time, however, many publishers were desperate to find new ways of reaching readers, and Facebook offered a cheap and easy way to reach more than a billion. Some, including the Washington Post, started publishing 100% of their content through Instant Articles.

Despite multiple iterations of the product, however, Instant Articles has never really delivered on its initial promise, and many of Facebook’s initial partners — including the New York Times and Hearst — have dropped out of the program. Many say they have never been able to generate much revenue from the format, and Facebook hasn’t really helped much.

There’s a big clue to why this happened in a recent piece by The Verge about Instant Articles and its lack of success. According to a former staffer who worked on the project, the idea that media companies would need to make money from the feature was never really factored in to its development in any significant way.

“The idea that these products could meaningfully impact the revenue of the news industry just didn’t really come up,” the former employee told The Verge’s Casey Newton. “I don’t know that anyone [at Facebook] took that piece all that seriously.”

Senior Facebook executives dispute this in the Verge piece, but it seems clear from the outcome that even if they did consider monetization to be important, the social network didn’t spend nearly enough time on that piece of the puzzle. Why? Because the bottom line was to get media companies to hand over their content, not to make money for them.

Facebook has one over-riding mandate, and that is to buy, borrow or create content that will generate more engagement and time spent on its platform. And that takes precedence over just about anything, especially the desires of traditional media outlets.

The giant social network also routinely changes its mind in the process of trying to maximize those goals, and media companies often get caught in the cross-fire. That’s what happened with the “social reader” apps, and it arguably happened with Instant Articles as well. The goal posts changed, and therefore so did Facebook’s behavior.

In the case of the social-reader apps, Facebook changed the algorithm to focus more on personal sharing, and that caused the apps launched by the Washington Post and The Guardian to suddenly crater in terms of audience. In the case of Instant Articles, they were seen as important right up until Facebook decided to go all in on video, and then they became an afterthought.

As tech analyst Ben Thompson pointed out in a recent edition of his Stratechery newsletter, Facebook was trying to create a three-sided market with Instant Articles, by serving consumers on one side and media companies on the other. But while it created a great product for users, it “completely dropped the ball” when it came to making it a good deal for publishers.

According to The Verge, many publishers have found Google’s competing Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP project to be much more effective for their purposes.

Although some have criticized Google for trying to take too much control over media companies’ content with AMP, it has the benefit of being an open-source project that anyone can participate in. And it also supports subscription and paywall options, something Facebook has been slow to incorporate.

Twitter Should be Applauded For Standing up to Trump’s Attack on Free Speech

Twitter is often criticized—and rightfully so—for some of the decisions it has made in the past, including the fact that it moved too slowly to try and stop abuse of the service by trolls and bots. But there is one thing the company routinely does right, and that is to fight back against government attempts to force it to reveal user information.

It did so again on Thursday, by filing a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security in San Francisco. In the suit, Twitter has asked a judge to block the government’s order to divulge the personal details of the user behind a so-called “rogue” account, which claims to be run by employees of the Citizenship and Immigration Services department.

According to the company’s filing, the @ALT_uscis account “has often criticized immigration policies” introduced by Trump, including the travel ban imposed on a number of Muslim countries. The account, which was created right after the first Executive Order that introduced the ban, is one of a number of accounts that purport to be run by either current or former government employees.

“Defendants may not compel Twitter to disclose information regarding the real identities of these users without first demonstrating that some criminal or civil offence has been committed,” Twitter argues in its complaint. “Defendants have not come close to making any of these showings.”

This is not the first time Twitter has used the courts to fight such demands by the U.S. government. One of the first was in 2011, when the Justice Department ordered it to produce information about several of the people associated with the WikiLeaks account, including founder Julian Assange, hacker activist Jacob Appelbaum and Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir.

As it has in the current case, Twitter rejected the order and also defied the government’s demand that it not inform the individuals in question about the agency’s request for information.

Ultimately, Twitter lost that case, which was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. But it at least tried to resist the government’s demands, and it tried to force the incident out into the public eye as much as possible. Many other tech companies—including Facebook—comply with such requests but say very little about them.

Twitter fought a government order in 2012 that tried to get it to reveal information about an account associated with the Occupy Wall Street protests. And it has also fought in court to block demands by other governments, including those from the Turkish authorities, that have tried to force it to shut down accounts critical of those in power.

It appears from the evidence introduced by Twitter in the current case that the government has been trying to identify the users behind the rogue account since early March, when the Customs and Border Protection agency sent the company a court order demanding the personal information of whoever created it. The order also forbid Twitter from informing those users of the government’s request.

Instead of complying, however, Twitter told the users behind the @ALT_uscis account about the agency’s demands, and filed suit to try and have the order struck down.

In its legal argument, the company makes the case that the CBP order goes beyond the scope of what is normally permitted by subpoenas of that kind, and it also argues that submitting to the agency’s demand would have a chilling effect on the users’ freedom of speech and therefore is in contravention of the First Amendment’s protections for such speech.

“The CBP Summons is unlawful and unenforceable because it violates the First Amendment rights of both Twitter and its users by seeking to unmask the identity of one or more anonymous Twitter users voicing criticism of the government on matters of public concern,” the filing states.

The company’s submission to the court goes on to point out that a “time-honored tradition of pseudonymous free speech on matters of public moment runs deep in the political life of America,” and that these First Amendment rights are “at their zenith when, as here, the speech at issue touches on matters of public political life.” The Supreme Court has written about the necessity for anonymity to allow for criticism of the government, the filing says.

Whether Twitter is ultimately successful or not in its latest attempt to resist the government’s attacks on the free-speech rights of its users, it deserves a lot of credit for at least trying to do so. That’s more than many companies do.

Here’s Why Twitter Lost the NFL and Will Probably Lose Similar Deals in the Future

It may have come as a surprise to many last year when Twitter struck a deal with the NFL to live-stream Thursday night games. But it wasn’t much of a surprise when the league chose to sign a similar deal with Amazon on Tuesday instead of renewing its arrangement with Twitter.

Why? Because there are two things that leagues like the NFL are usually looking for when it comes to signing those kinds of streaming contracts: One is money, and the other is reach. And as much as it might like to, Twitter [fortune-stock symbol=”TWTR] can’t really compete with giants like Amazon or Facebook when it comes to either one of those factors, nor will it be able to any time soon.

The deal that the NFL signed last year with Twitter, for example, was worth $10 million. The deal that the league signed with Amazon on Tuesday—which was virtually identical in almost every way—was worth $50 million, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Twitter might have been able to justify spending $10 million on the digital-streaming rights to football games that are already available on traditional television (where NBC and CBS own the rights). But it would be hard for it to justify spending five times that much, especially since it is currently under a lot of financial pressure after missing its revenue targets.

Amazon [fortune-stock symbol=”AMZN], however, has oceans of cash available to spend—not just because it has over $20 billion in cash on its books, but because its AWS hosted-computing platform spins off huge amounts of money. And the company has made it clear that it wants to expand in the area of streaming not just sports but other kinds of traditional TV content as well.

On top of that, the online retailing giant also has a much stronger strategic case to make for bidding on rights like the NFL, and that makes it easier to justify paying a higher price. That’s because the streaming will be offered through its Amazon Prime subscription service, where it will be able to promote the rest of its retailing interests to a captive audience.

Twitter likely hoped that offering Thursday night football games through its platform would generate significant amounts of new sign-ups or boost engagement, or produce a bump in advertising revenue. But it doesn’t seem to have accomplished any of those things to any great extent.

There haven’t been any signs of a real increase in new users as a result of having the broadcasts available. Twitter’s user growth in the U.S. remains stuck at zero, which is part of what has investors concerned. And the fact that the company missed its revenue estimates last quarter suggests the video deal didn’t really help the bottom line much either.

When it comes to reach, Twitter said the NFL games got about 300,000 simultaneous viewers per minute. That’s by comparison to more than 15 million who watched the games on traditional television, which means that for the NFL, the Twitter deal was more or less a rounding error.

The Amazon streaming deal is only available to Prime members, and that is a smaller number than the 300 million that Twitter claims to have. But those viewers are theoretically much more inclined to buy things (since they have already shown a willingness to pay for Amazon’s service) and that makes them a much more desirable audience than random Twitter users.

If Amazon wins over Twitter in this kind of contest, then Facebook [fortune-stock symbol=”FB] is even more likely to come out on top, because the ocean of cash it has to draw on is even more massive, and so is its reach. And it too has shown an interest in expanding its offerings of TV-style content.

Twitter has said that it wants to do more NFL-style deals—and it points out that it aired more than 800 hours of live-streaming content in the first quarter of this year, including sports, news and entertainment. But that doesn’t change the fact that in any bid that forces it to go up against Amazon or Facebook, the odds are stacked against it.

Here’s Why ESPN’s New Guidelines for Talking About Politics May Not Help

Thanks to the current super-charged political climate, discussion of political issues seems to pop up almost everywhere, even during coverage of football games. In recognition of that, ESPN has issued new guidelines for how and when its staff are supposed to mix sports and politics.

In a blog post about the new rules, ESPN public editor Jim Brady acknowledged that coming out with these kinds of guidelines is something that typically happens before an election, not after. But “we are living in unique political times,” he said, and so the Disney-owned network decided it was necessary to clarify the rules.

Patrick Stiegman, ESPN’s head of global digital content and the chairman of the company’s internal Editorial Board, said that “given the intense interest in the most recent presidential election and the fact subsequent political and social discussions often intersected with the sports world, we found it to be an appropriate time to review our guidelines.”

The network’s managing editor of newsgathering, Craig Bengtson, said both the tense political climate in the U.S. and the changing media environment made it necessary for the network to revisit the topic.

“We have the convergence of a politically charged environment and all these new technologies coming together,” Bengtson said. “We wanted the policy to reflect the reality of the world today. There are people talking about politics in ways we have not seen before, and we’re not immune from that.”

The ESPN executives said that no specific incidents that led to the changes, but the issue of politics and the sports network has been the subject of much conversation of late. Some conservative websites and news outlets have criticized what they say is a a left-leaning agenda at ESPN.

It’s not just external critics of the network that have raised the issue. As Brady noted in a blog post in November: “There’s a feeling among many staffers—both liberal and conservative—that the company’s perceived move leftward has had a stifling effect on discourse inside the company and has affected its public-facing products.”

Brady quoted one conservative staffer at the time as saying “If you’re a Republican or conservative, you feel the need to talk in whispers. There’s even a fear of putting Fox News on a TV.”

The network’s updated political guidelines state that “our reputation and credibility with viewers, readers and listeners are paramount. Related to political and social issues, our audiences should be confident our original reporting of news is not influenced by political pressures or personal agendas.”

Despite this statement of intent, however, it could be difficult—if not impossible—for the network to convince its critics that it is not being influenced by political beliefs or agendas. In fact, even the fact that it has issued updated rules is being used by some sites as evidence that the network wants to become more political rather than less.

The new guidelines state that anchors and other journalists at the network are free to discuss political issues, but that they should be connected directly to a sports-related topic. And those who are in commentary roles are free to discuss politics if it’s relevant, the network says.

The Daily Wire said that the new statement of objectivity “isn’t going to help much: CNN believes the same, and their reporting is slanted heavily to the left.” The site added that the sports network engages in “selection bias” by choosing to cover stories with a political agenda, such as Caitlyn Jenner’s gender change.

The new rules boil down to “talk politics, so long as it’s leftist,” the Daily Wire said, arguing that former coach Mike Ditka “lost his job for speaking up in favor of Donald Trump and against Barack Obama on NFL Countdown” and other on-air personalities such as Curt Schilling and Chris Broussard have also been penalized for stating conservative views.

Commentator Sage Steele was also replaced on the network’s NBA Countdown show, something critics portrayed as payback for making statements that were seen as controversial politically, including a comment about Trump’s immigration bam

So while ESPN may have wanted to clarify what is expected of its staff when it comes to political discussion, in the process it appears to have just given its critics even more ammunition with which to attack the network for its alleged political leanings.