A year ago, I wrote a blog on why no one has solved event discovery. I described the fundamental difficulties presented by events as a content type and stated how easily Facebook could dominate event discovery with a stand-alone app. Finally, on October 7th, Facebook launched the greatest stand-alone event discovery app ever created, but Facebook could go a lot further.
I have written about how Facebook could expand on this events app with ticketing and live streaming, but why stop with just events? Using Events by Facebook's simple feed, map/list search, and save format, Facebook could add local content from several of its other features to create a very powerful local area guide. The Facebook app has many features rich with local content that could easily replace Craigslist, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Reddit, Nextdoor, and more to become one of the most successful products in the Facebook family of apps.
In 2011, our team set out to create an app named Hugecity to help people discover what is happening around them in real-life, rather than simply connecting online as most social networking applications had done. Over three years we grew Hugecity to a million visitors a month but struggled with retention. We observed real user behavior and received great feedback. Instead of raising additional rounds of investment to experiment on how to retain users, we decided to sell Hugecity to the global "things to do" company, Time Out. Since then I have run the Labs division of Time Out where we are using what we learned to personalize and grow our monthly audience of 137 million around the world. This summer we completed our IPO which raised $130 M and most recently we bought the event startup YPlan.
Events by Facebook
100 million people use Facebook events every day. Most of these users stumble across events in their News Feed rather than navigating to the Events section from the Facebook menu. An important fact is that most people, around 90%, do not regularly search for events to attend. This lack of a regular need to find events accounts for why events in the News Feed have proved so popular, and why no stand-alone event discovery app has been successful. On October 7th, Facebook launched a stand-alone event discovery app called Events by Facebook. This app is aimed at the smaller sect of hardcore extroverts who discover these parties and meet-ups daily, then invite everyone else.
As far as event discovery goes, Events by Facebook is the best app ever made. It has access to the world’s largest event database, as well as all of your friends, your likes, and everywhere you have been. It understands you and you can use it in any city no matter how small.
The layout of this new app is significant because events are more complicated than messages or photos. The events team at Facebook has combined a feed, a map/list search, and a calendar to handle this extra complication.
Events have a short shelf-life which makes them consumed differently. In the music industry, there is rule of thumb that 50% of tickets are sold when the event is first announced and the next 50% are sold the week of the event. The week of announcement is handled by the feed section of Events by Facebook, while the week of the event is handled by both the search and calendar section.
The feed simply allows the user to endlessly scroll through the relevant events that have just been created or have recently been engaged with by the user's friends. Just like feeds in any other Facebook owned app, content appears in the feed as long people or pages affiliated with the user continue to engage with it. The only difference is that an event will not be shown in the feed if it has ended because it has little use to the user.
On the other hand, the map/list search is very different from anything else Facebook has created and more similar to Google Maps or Yelp. This type of search is normally used when a user needs to find something to do that week or that day. Searching events is difficult because events live in three dimensions with the X and Y axes defining location and the Z axis defining time. Events by Facebook handles this complexity with ease using a couple filters on a combination of a list and a map.
The calendar is similar to the popular Facebook Save feature. It reminds users of what they have engaged with in the past, that are now relevant again.
This is Facebook’s first attempt at an event discovery app and we know more is coming. Facebook’s ads already have a large share of the event promotion market and this Events by Facebook is ripe for ads featuring events. We also know the event team is preparing to take a share of the $22B American ticketing market. Events by Facebook will be a great place to quickly discover and buy event tickets.
The combination of a feed, a map/list search, and save format cover's basic event discovery completely. The challenge of events as a content type has allowed Facebook to create an experience that is unlike any other apps in its family.
Facebook's Family of Apps
At F8 this year, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was going to concentrate on building products that it thinks a billion or more people will use. Each app in the Facebook family has reached or will reach that benchmark soon. WhatsApp and Instagram joined the family through acquisitions while Messenger, Groups, and Events were features that were released as stand-alone apps. Unlike Messenger, Facebook does not force users to download the Groups and Events apps. This is why Messenger is the second most downloaded app and why Groups and Events don't even make the top 500. The community section is different from the rest of the family because its two apps receive the majority of their engagement from the News Feed and Notifications within the main Facebook app. Only a small sect of hardcore users download the Groups and Events apps. The bigger goal of these apps is to find out which features work so the company can take the best parts and put them back in Facebook.
The Community section of the family of apps does not need to be limited to test apps. Rather than using this section to test stand-alone features from the main Facebook app, perhaps some of these features could be combined to create a worthwhile experience for more than a few groups of hardcore users.
The majority of content from Groups and Events is more relevant to the user the closer it is. This highlights location as an important factor for relevant content within communities. If the community section created an app concentrated on location engagement and discovery, many other location-based Facebook features could be included.
- Events - Things to do
- Nearby Places - Restaurants, bars, cafes (Far better than Yelp, Foursquare, and TripAdvisor)
- Marketplace - Classifieds (Much better than Craigslist! I have seen 10x more responses for things I have posted and a higher sales price than I do on Craigslist.)
- Live - What is happening around you now (Eventually a great partner with Events and Oculus)
- Nearby Friends
- Movie Tickets
- Deals - a now removed Groupon competitor
Today, most of these features are hidden in the menu of the Facebook app. If Facebook put some or all of these products together in a similar format to its current Events app (Feed, Map/List Search, Save), it would be a very compelling ecosystem for local information.
Having the ability to tap into my local environment with a complete understanding of a my social network is an absolute dream of mine. We created something similar to this idea for Time Out a year ago. Unfortunately, we did not release this product to the public to learn if it had product market fit. I believe the ability to socially sort a user's surroundings would allow Facebook to rival Google Maps as the ultimate local search tool. Facebook could take a giant leap even further by adding Messenger to allow users to easily contact local places to reserve a table, book a show, or order a cab.
The large piece missing that would allow this Facebook app to complete its local information ecosystem, is local news. The News Feed algorithm rewards media companies that post content that appeals to larger and larger audiences. As a result, media companies have selected to produce national journalism while ignoring local news. Our society knows less about our local community today, than we ever have before. Many companies have failed to create a local news platform because, like events, articles have a short shelf-life and scaling a business in multiple locations is difficult. Unlike Patch, which used local editors to gather and analyze local news, media companies survive post all of their articles to Facebook. The problem here is determining which articles are locally relevant and to where. Small startups, like Ripple, have begun to work towards a solution. Facebook could also train its News Feed artificial intelligence to recognize the locations and topics discussed in each posted article.
Facebook can rival Google Maps with an extremely powerful local discovery tool created by expanding Events by Facebook's simple feed, map/list search, and save app to also include its database of places, articles, and things for sale. This "Facebook Local" could be the flagship product to fill the community section of its family of apps. A local discovery app like this will have the power to open huge avenues for local businesses to reach hyperlocal audiences and generate revenue. Simultaneously, the app will open the door for individual bloggers to raise awareness of locally relevant topics that are missed when we only follow the national news. Such an app will become a lifeline to all of us because it will carry information that we care about and need. Information that will increase our knowledge about our local neighborhood and lead to a strengthening of our communities throught better support networks, communication and interaction.
A Note for the Facebook Events Team
First of all, thank you! If you have read this far, you can probably tell I have wanted this app for a long time and I do have a small wish list for changes.
Event pictures can be more descriptive than event titles so I wish the images in the search list were larger.
I know this app is only available in the US right now, but I had a chance to use it in Madrid last week and despite my wife’s best efforts, I don’t speak Spanish. I would love translations for foreign languages similar to the normal Facebook app or automatically translate.
Finally, the algorithm for sorting events in search seems much weaker in locations where I do not have many friends or pages that I have liked. I would like to be able to fix this by sorting by most popular (most attending + interested).
2011/08/26 Facebook Kills Off Deals, Its Groupon Competitor, Ben Parr, Mashable
2012/12/17 Discover New Places with Nearby, Josh Williams, Facebook Newsroom
2014/01/15 AOL sells Patch to tech investment firm, Roger Yu, USA Today
2014/04/17 Introducing A New Optional Feature Called Nearby Friends, Andrea Vaccari, Facebook Newsroom
2015/08/18 Facebook has taken over from Google as a traffic source for news, Mathew Ingram, Fortune
2015/09/25 Hugecity: Beginning to End, Hugh Malkin, hughmalkin.com
2015/09/26 Why no one has solved event discovery, Hugh Malkin, hughmalkin.com
2016/04/05 Introducing New Ways to Create, Share and Discover Live Video on Facebook, Fidji Simo, Facebook Newsroom
2016/04/11 Ticketmaster Will Sell Tickets Directly On Facebook In Coming Weeks, Alex Kantrowitz, Buzz Feed
2016/04/12 Facebook's buried Save feature has 250 million users a month, and a new button to help it spread, Casey Newton, The Verge
2016/04/25 Time Out Feed, Hugh Malkin, hughmalkin.com
2016/05/10 Ripple wants to deliver local news — and it wants your help writing it, Peter Kafa, Recode
2016/08/07 Journalism, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, HBO
2016/09/06 How Facebook News Feed Works, Josh Constine, TechCrunch
2016/09/15 Buy Movie Tickets on Facebook? Fandango Makes It Possible, Brooks Barnes, The New York Times
2016/09/16 How Facebook News Feed Works, Josh Constine, TechCrunch
2016/10/03 Introducing Marketplace: Buy and Sell with Your Local Community, Mary Ku, Facebook Newsroom
2016/10/07 Introducing the Events from Facebook App, Aditya Koolwal, Facebook Newsroom
2016/10/21 Time Out acquires events discovery and booking platform YPlan for as little as £1.6M, Steve O'Hear, TechCrunch
Pricing Secrets of Ticket Scalpers Sarah Green and Rafi Mohammed, HBR IdeaCast from Harvard Business Review
TimeOut.com, Time Out Group
About Time Out, Time Out Group