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Focus on People Drives Results at Facebook

Some might think that technology is making the world go round, but it’s focusing on how people are connecting to each other and to content that is becoming increasingly important in the ever-shifting video landscape, a top Facebook executive said.

“We think that focusing on people, instead of technology, is a really good business strategy,” Jonathan Murtaugh, the U.S. head of industry for fi lm and television and the head of the L.A. office at Facebook and Instagram, said during a keynote presentation at the Next TV Summit. “Technology changes fast, but people change slow.”

Facebook has applied that philosophy across its business, from how its users share digital photos, to, more recently, how the platform delivers streaming video.

Murtaugh said Facebook’s original photo-sharing feature came about after engineers realized that users were changing their profile photos after the weekends, from weddings and other social gatherings. Rather than replicating online photo services from companies like Snapfish, Facebook opted to simplify the process and deliver a product “that stripped away all of those capabilities, and added only one — the ability to tag a friend in a photo.”

The results were big and rapid — within six months of launch, users had uploaded more photos than all the months before combined.

“They got there by focusing on people … And not focusing on technology,” Murtaugh said.

Facebook has since expanded into video. “We are not a content company,” Murtaugh stressed. “What we’re interested in is, what the experience is like for someone who’s receiving that content?”

Facebook has found success with the auto-play video feature that, Murtaugh confirmed, was inspired by the interactive newspapers that appear in some of the Harry Potter movies.

The auto-play concept has removed the friction for accessing streaming video and fueled Facebook’s growth from 1 billion views per day to about 4 billion.

“Again, this is all about following people and where they want to go,” Murtaugh said.

Murtaugh also discussed the rise of mobile content consumption, and the perhaps surprising effectiveness of the smartphone screen.

TV partners, he said, have asked about the impact of how trailers and promos have on the tiny screen versus the big screen. To answer that question, Facebook commissioned a study with Sales- Brain that evaluated the impact of stimuli on each platform.

Interestingly, the results were that the brain “basically tricks your experience into thinking that your mobile phone is much bigger than it really is,” Murtaugh said, adding that the rate of distraction was about 79% lower when content was viewed on a mobile phone.

The theory is that’s because of the personal nature of mobile phones. “People are just more zoned in … when they’re watching content on their mobile phone,” he said.