Stories are the most interesting and important product on Facebook.
So much was apparent during Facebook's third quarter earnings call, an interesting and insufficiently transparent conversation with investors where CEO Mark Zuckerberg mentioned more competitors and admitted that Facebook has had trouble building a business around some of its core competences like video and private messaging services.
Stories, the ephemeral photo and video posts that Facebook copied from Snapchat, was told continuously throughout the full-time call – a total of 71 times, according to the notice.
Stories have been a big hit in Facebook's apps, especially Instagram and WhatsApp. Zuckerberg even said people would share more stories than they want to Facebook or Instagram's feeds in "not too distant future", making stories one of the most dominant ways people share pictures and videos online.
"I just think this is the future," said Zuckerberg. "People will share in ways that are not stuck and I want to make sure we fully embrace this."
It's a problem with Facebook's obsession with stories, but: The business is not there yet, which means that as users put their time and attention to stories, and away from the feed, Facebook is scrambling to build a business that can capitalize on that shift in attention.
"This happened very quickly. This whole trend has been ̵
Facebook has talked about this before, but the interest in stories has never been so high. Part of the reason is that Facebook has said for many years now that it is looking for places outside the core feed to sell advertisements, which is especially important given that Facebook does not grow as fast as it has before.
Despite selling ads in Messenger, inside the Craigslist competitor market, and in its new video section, Watch, Stories looks to be Facebook's best opportunity to make more money on the set of users it already has.
Meanwhile, Facebook's revenue growth is expected to decline while the company allows advertisers to purchase stories and vertical video ad formats.
"I'm optimistic that we get ads in Stories to perform as well as feed over time and that the opportunity gets even bigger because it looks like stories will be a bigger medium than feed has been" Zuckerberg said.
"I can not tell you exactly what the time frame should look like," he added.
Facebook wants you to know that it has competitors
Zuckerberg rarely mentions Facebook's competitors. When he does, it's usually because Facebook surpasses them, and he's almost never called them by name.
It was not the case on today's earnings call. In the first few minutes of Zuckerberg's prepared comments, he mentioned YouTube, Apple (especially iMessage), Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn.
"While [Facebook’s video section] Watch grows very quickly, we are well behind YouTube and are still working to make this a unique public experience," said Zuckerberg, offering a rare acknowledgment that Facebook not only competes with anyone but actually losing to the competitor.
Zuckerberg talked a bit about Facebook's strength as a messaging service – it owns WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, each with more than 1.4 billion users – before mentioning Apple.
"We are leading in most countries, but our biggest competitor is far inMessage," said Zuckerberg. "In key countries like in the United States where the iPhone is strong, Apple iMessage packs as a standard text program and is still going forward."
What … happens? It is certainly possible that Zuckerberg hurts the idea that Facebook is not as dominant as everyone thinks to ward off potential antitrust problems. It was not long ago that Zuckerberg was asked by the congress that Facebook's competitors are and he did not have a good answer. Many people left that consultation with the idea that Facebook may have an internet monopoly.
Like my former colleague Tony Romm pointed out Twitter Zuckerberg may be bracing for a change in congressional control. For whatever reason, it was rare.
More Facebook video is on your way
You should expect to see even more Facebook video in your feed in the future.
It's because Zuckerberg claims that Facebook has had to "limit its growth" on the network because it happened on other behaviors Facebook wanted to encourage, such as "social interactions."
"We needed to figure out that the video could grow, but people can continue to interact and do what they tell us that they want unique from Facebook," said Zuckerberg. "And now I think we're starting to work through what the formula should be so that we can take some of these limit values off and let the video grow at the speed it will. "
On the one hand, it is bizarre that Zuckerberg and Facebook would cut the video distribution, considering how hard it has pressed video – both live and produced video – on its publishers over the years. (Although the company has said before, it will cut out on passive video usage.)
But the bad news with more video is that Facebook, like Stories, does not have built the kind of robust business around video ads that it has around its regular feed ads.
"Video monetizes significantly less well per minute than people interact in feed," said Zuckerberg. "As the video grows, it will continue t interfere with any other services where we are likely to make more money. "
It was the second recording from Zuckerberg, along with stories that users are beginning to spend time using products and features like Facebook does not work well. You can expect these to come back if and when Facebook's sales growth starts to be a problem down the line.
Facebook is not growing in its most valuable market
Facebook's user base in its most valuable markets – the United States, Canada and Europe – is no longer growing.
It's not a shock, as we've seen this trend come for the last few quarters, but today's earnings call made it official. Facebook's American audience has not grown in the last two quarters, and the company reported its second correct audience case in Europe.
Facebook is huge in the United States and Europe, and eventually the company had to run out of potential new users in these markets. But it is still important because these markets are most valuable to Facebook's business. Each US user generated $ 27.61 in revenue for the Facebook last quarter. Each user in the Asia-Pacific region generated only $ 2.67 in revenue.
The three best emerging markets for new Facebook users last year: India, Indonesia and the Philippines.