Instagram’s Adam Mosseri
Dylan Byers: Hey, it's Dylan Byers, senior media reporter for NBC News. You're listening to Byers Market. (MUSIC) Why do we spend so much time on Instagram? Why do we feel the need to document our lives with filters and GIFs and hashtags? Why do we spend every ten seconds of free time scrolling through posts by people that we know. And perhaps more to the point, by people we don't know. What are we looking for? What are we hoping to gain? Why do we care? And why is Instagram still cool even though it's owned by Facebook, a company that has become very uncool in the eyes of its critics. Adam Mosseri took over Instagram about a year and a half ago, just days after the apps co-founders announced that they were stepping down amidst disagreements with Mark Zuckerberg.
Since then, Adam has been pioneering new innovations in video, commerce, advertising, while also trying to keep Instagram cool and avoid the pitfalls that come with being part of the parent company. You know, all that stuff about user safety, harmful content, misinformation, et cetera. Instagram has well over one billion users now. And despite pressure from competitors like TikTok, one gets the sense that Instagram has only scratched the surface when it comes to the ways it might influence our lives.
A quick disclosure. In this conversation, Adam and I briefly discuss the soon to be launched video platform, Quibi. NBC Universal is a minority investor in Quibi and NBC News is producing a daily news show for the platform. Here's my conversation with Adam Mosseri. Okay, so I have like small beef to pick with your use of Instagram.
Adam Mosseri: Please.
Byers: Like, as a user.
Byers: Not as the guy who runs it.
Mosseri: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Byers: Okay, so I'm looking at your recent posts.
Mosseri: What have I got?
Byers: See, this post of a mountain and you're saying it's your first day back on the slopes. Or like, first day out skiing this winter.
Byers: I'm a skier.
Byers: You don't tag the location.
Byers: So I have no clue what mountain you're on.
Byers: And it just seems to me, like Instagram gives you this really great tool.
Mosseri: To tag?
Byers: Where you can be, like, here's where I am.
Byers: The telegraph to someone who might want to know what ski slope you're on.
Mosseri: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Byers: And you don't do that. I'm just thinking you could use Instagram more effectively than you do.
Mosseri: It's intentional.
Byers: Oh, okay.
Mosseri: Security stuff.
Byers: That's fair.
Mosseri: I picked up over the last year. It hurts me 'cause I love skiing and being outside. I snowboard, I don't ski. And I like tagging places. I love eating. I eat at a lot of places.
Mosseri: I try not to post pictures of my food. It's a little bit too stereotypical. But I want to 'cause I want to celebrate these awesome places.
Mosseri: But security stuff has turned into a thing that I've just had to understand over the last year or two.
Byers: Yeah. There's been an issue with, like, people outside of your house even.
Mosseri: Yeah. Do you know swatting is?
Byers: Yeah. They call the SWAT team.
Mosseri: Yeah. So someone calls and they essentially saw something horrible is happening at your house so then the SWAT team shows up. I don't talk about it too much publicly because I don't want to encourage copycats.
Mosseri: But just generally, in the role, people are gonna disagree with decisions with Instagram makes, even if I don't make them personally.
Mosseri: And some of those people are gonna be disgruntled and they're gonna resort to bad tactics.
Mosseri: And I got little kids and so I've just stopped tagging locations.
Mosseri: It's one of the casualties of the job is that I no longer tag locations.
Byers: I didn't even want to dive into all this stuff right away, but do you feel like that is strictly because you are the CEO of a powerful or influential company? Or that very specific because it's a Facebook company and Facebook has been through the wringer of public opinion for the last five years?
Mosseri: A bit of both. I think fundamentally when you're a platform, then you often end up inevitably getting deeply involved in people's lives. They might use you to tell stories that are very personal to them. They might use you to make a living.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: And with that comes a lot of responsibility. We try to take that responsibility really seriously. But when things go wrong, if you get your account disabled, then it creates much more anger than, like, I don't know, if your electricity stops working for a couple hours.
Mosseri: And so as the head of an organization that own and is responsible for that platform, you're inevitably going to be a target of that anger.
Byers: Yeah. Instagram really matters to people. I'm in my mid-30s and Instagram surrounds me. People are on it all the time. It's not just that they have, like, ten seconds to themselves and they're scrolling through Instagram. It's like they might be mid-conversation with you and they'll jump in Instagram. Maybe I need to be interesting interlocutor.
Mosseri: Absolutely not--
Byers: But I do sort of wonder, like, what is it about Instagram as opposed to any other social media network that people just feel the need to, like, check in with what people they now are doing or up to multiple times a day. And then on top of that, check in with what people they don't know are up to. Influencers, celebrities, brands.
Mosseri: A few things come to mind. I'll try not to ramble too much 'cause I do think there's a lot in here--
Byers: You can ramble. That's what podcasts are for.
Mosseri: I know. It's kind of amazing about podcasts--
Byers: This is why I do podcasts, you can just ramble--
Mosseri: You can just go and go and go.
Byers: See, the more you talk, the less questions I have to ask.
Mosseri: That's true. That is a tactic--
Byers: So just talk--
Mosseri: That is a tactic. That's a good tactic. I think a few different things. I think one is, we're all different but we do tend to all have some core basic needs. One is to connect with people that we care about. That could be family, it could be friends. A lot of us have, I think, a core need to express ourselves. Those things are related but they're not quite the same.
A lot of us want to understand what's relevant at any given moment. And there's way more information out there than anybody can process anymore. So platforms like ours that aggregate a bunch of information and try to show you what you're most interested in have more and more appeal every year. As you're just like, I don't want to, like, read 17 different newspapers.
Mosseri: Or go to a bunch of different blogs. I just kind of want to see what's all in once place. I also think that we have leaned into a couple really important, for lack of less sort of Silicon Valley sounding phrase, paradigm shifts. One of 'em is just visual. Like, people respond to photos.
People respond even more to videos. And we've been, you know, visual first always. And that has really helped, I think, as a tailwind for how much people use and like using our platform. Another one is we've been very successful with what we call "creators". And there's this massive shift right now of power from the organizations to the individual. Journalists have more power relative to publications than they used to. Actors have more power relative to, like, show runners or shows or, you know, studios than you used to.
Mosseri: And so some of that was luck, some of that was good planning, but that has also helped us just stay relevant. And maybe the last one is, this is definitely rambly. We've always just focused on young people. We try to design for young people first. And we do that because young people are trendsetters. And also because culture chases youth. And I think that's helped us stay relevant.
Byers: Yeah. Instagram still feels, like, it's still a cool place to go. And I don't know if that's 'cause, you know, I don't know if it's 'cause of the filters or 'cause, like, the culture around Instagram, so much of it is sort of putting your best foot forward and trying to, sort of, not always, but in a lot of cases, showing this (UNINTEL), like, glamorous or cool version of your life.
And it has somehow, like, maintained that cool despite the fact that Facebook has been portrayed, at least by critics, and in this sort of, like, narrative for the last however many years, as being very uncool. It seems to me, like, one of your jobs is keeping Instagram cool despite what has been, like, a greater integration of Facebook and Instagram and all the family of apps, as it's called.
Mosseri: I think that's reasonable. I think that we've stayed relevant because of those two things I said before, primarily because I think we try to really build things that are meaningful for young people. And we try to build things that are really helpful or useful for creators.
And those, I think, you know, they're both trendsetters. They're both, I think, you know, define a lot of ways, what is cool. There is tension. I mean, man, we're stronger with young people and we're stronger with creators than Facebook is.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: I don't think that's a bad thing. I think it's good to have different strength, complementary strengths. Yes, I think being part of the Facebook company is a complexity in terms of, like, staying relevant. But the truth is, it's always hard to stay relevant. People move on. People get interested in the new thing for a whole bunch of different reasons.
Mosseri: And so I think of that as a challenge that's primarily just because, you know, we're still around, you know, seven or eight years later.
Mosseri: But yeah, so these, I think, complicated slightly further by the fact that we're part of Facebook.
Byers: But then in terms of, like, staying relevant, a new service like TikTok comes along, for instance. And, like, overnight seemingly, it's surging and it's like this new thing. And the use among a very young audience is, like, really high. And it is offering something very different from what Instagram offers. Like, what are the lessons that you learn from that? Do you look at TikTok and you say, okay, they're doing x, y, and z right, we gotta figure out how to do x, y, and z the same?
Mosseri: Try to go one level deeper. We try to learn from competitors.
Byers: Well, isn't there a thing with, like, TikTok trying to pick up all the talent in the Bay--
Mosseri: Oh yeah. They're very aggressive. They're very aggressive at pushing talent from us.
Mosseri: Interesting, TikTok and, more specifically, ByteDance has been around for a long time and has been trying to compete with Facebook and the family of apps, so to speak, for a long time. They have really taken off in the U.S. over the last, let's say, year or two, in terms of, like, their cultural relevancy. But that's not new. I mean, we take the competition really seriously. But you have to also really appreciate just the tenacity and the determination and the success that they've had.
Byers: So what do you learn? First of all, do you use TikTok?
Mosseri: I do. So just to answer your question from before what do you learn from it? You try and take your ego out of it for a second. Whether that is about, like, feeling threatened or not or willing or not being willing to build futures that super similar or the same. You try to understand what is the reason behind their success?
What are they tapping into that is valuable and important to understand? And then does that thing overlap with our core reason to be? And then if so, then how can we learn from them and then maybe build things that are similar or maybe evolve what we do or maybe some combination of both. TikTok is, I think, really good at a couple different things. And you can talk about the success just in how they run their business and how much money they've put into acquisition and content--
Mosseri: But I think the things that are most interesting lessons for us to learn from them are, one, they are a place where people really feel like they have an opportunity to break. You can just sort of make it on TikTok.
Byers: Oh, you mean, like, break out.
Mosseri: And that is a really appealing exciting opportunity that a lot of young people are really interested in.
Mosseri: And so you spend hours working on your thing all afternoon, 'cause you might just make it. And you hashtag (UNINTEL) and the rest of it.
Mosseri: And actually I think people break in Instagram but we're much better at growing people that have that spark.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM)--
Mosseri: From small to big, than we are at getting your from someone who no one knows about to that spark.
Mosseri: And then the other thing that they're really good at is a place just to go and be reliably entertained.
Mosseri: It's fun go watch a bunch of TikToks. They're gonna make you laugh.
Mosseri: They're gonna suck you in. And that overlaps heavily with a lot of what we do, actually. You know, particularly in explorer where you go to discover new things and just to pass time and to be entertained.
Byers: Yeah. You know, I'll say, and again, maybe this is anecdotal. Maybe I just missed the boat. I remember, like, I tried diving into TikTok. And I will say having not fed the algorithm with my interests.
Byers: You know, like, maybe if I had, like, searched out for, like, NBA highlights and stuff like that I would have gotten a more curated feed. But I remember diving into TikTok and just feeling like it was extremely voyeuristic.
Mosseri: It is.
Byers: And in a way that was, we can get into talking about harmful content and all that, but, like, how did I just open this app and I'm just watching, like, I'm gonna guess, like, 14, 16, 18 year old girls just, like, basically dancing, being sexually exploitative and, like, guys running into walls. I don't know. I was like, how is this good content? How is this time well spent?
Mosseri: Yeah. I mean, it's the right question. I think that there's different types of content in TikTok. There's definitely content that feels borderline problematic, if not just straight up problematic. And your two examples are good ones. Certainly, anything that's violent or anything that just feels like you're sexualizing minors is, like, just a real problem.
Mosseri: But there's also a lot of just fun, just entertaining, stuff. You know, lip syncing is like karaoke.
Mosseri: You know, it's funny. Dancing. Actually dance on Instagram is a really, well, important (UNINTEL)--
Byers: Dance on Instagram or dance on TikTok?
Mosseri: But I'm saying we see that too. I'm not saying you should be excited about watching some young girl in an overly sexual way.
Mosseri: But a lot of dance isn't about that. A lot of dance is about expression. It's fun. It's about life. It's about beats. It's about your heart.
Mosseri: The renegade dance. That actually blew up on TikTok but that was started by a 14 year old girl from Atlanta actually.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: On Dubsmash. And the TikTok took it and then blew up on TikTok. That's awesome.
Byers: Yeah. No, that's good.
Byers: No, I get it. There's good and there's bad.
Mosseri: There's always good and bad.
Byers: I just felt like they were frontloading the bad.
Mosseri: Well, it's tough because their default experience is an unconnected experience. Meaning that the default thing when you open up TikTok is this thing called "for you" and it's just stuff that is super popular.
Mosseri: And then you have to be careful because ranking is, to a certain degree, at the whims of masses. Whereas, Instagram starts with content from people you've decided to follow.
Mosseri: And so we can tap a little bit more into your preferences. First order of preferences and second order preferences.
Mosseri: But all media platforms run the risk of, you know, overly optimizing for, like, the base of your, like, brainstem or whatever--
Byers: Yeah. Yeah.
Mosseri: And I think the trick is to make sure you're thoughtful about the incentives that you set and what you optimize for.
Byers: We'll be back in just a minute.
Byers: So let's talk about your incentives and what you guys are optimizing for. You guys are working on Project Daisy.
Byers: Is that what it's called?
Mosseri: Yeah, actually I made that public. I'm not sure I should have. It's a codename for making like counts private. Yeah.
Byers: Yeah. So why make like counts private?
Mosseri: So the idea was to depressurize the experience. Was to make it so that people focused a little bit less on how many likes they get and a little bit more on connecting with people they care about or being inspired by people they look up.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: And that's still the idea. It's not that like counts are bad. Like counts are actually really good in a lot of ways.
Byers: And aren't they part of the appeal for some people? I mean, I feel like part of the reason people keep going back to Instagram and posting, you know, stuff about their lives with hashtags and filters and whatnot 'cause they want the little endorphin rush from, like, people like my stuff. That feels good.
Mosseri: It definitely feels good to get positive feedback. In the experience that we're testing, and most all of them, you still get likes, just nobody can see how many likes you have. So you don't have to feel like you need to perform or you need to reach some sort of threshold in order for it to be okay. Which is nice, I think. Like, I have it on my Instagram. And obviously trying to experience it. But I don't really have it because people can still see how many likes I get on my posts.
Mosseri: And the whole point is that I could feel free of that pressure of having to perform at some level. The other cost, though, which is separate from what we're talking about now which is really the producer's experience. Do I share? Do I feel like I get positive reinforcement for my sharing?
Is that good? Is that bad? Is Instagram is also a place to understand what's culturally relevant, to our conversation from before. And like counts are pretty useful way to get a sense for how relevant something is. Particularly if you're looking at unconnected content in explore.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: And without like counts, that's harder to do. There are other challenges, too. Creators use Instagram to make a living. Like count is an important indication of their relevance, et cetera. So we're trying to work through all of these. And in conjunction, also do so in collaboration with the Facebook app team. And make sure that what we're doing makes sense. We don't necessarily need to both do it or do the same thing, but we can't do things that don't make sense together.
Mosseri: And so that's what's taking the time.
Byers: So like counts aside, there's all this great stuff about Instagram which you've talked about. And then there's also the, you know, the person who, before they know it, is procrastinating all day long. Experiences an extraordinary sense of FOMO. Because, like, they're just watching other people go out and live their lives.
There's the sense that people are putting forward, sort of, false, overly glorified versions of themselves. Whatever. Like, in terms of talking about what you guys optimize for, big picture, can you optimize people away from that sort of addictive, that sort of like (UNINTEL), just like hitting refresh on your feed all day.
Byers: Without getting rid of what you ultimately want which is, like, a very engaged user base who's spending significant time on the app.
Mosseri: I think so. I think it's important to divide the problems up. Because they all can get conflated really easily. So I'll start with something more specific and then broaden. On the more specific side, I think problematic use is a thing. There's such a thing as using Instagram too much.
I think there's such a thing as being addicted to any social media platform or anything, really. I think we generally use the word "addiction" too loosely. I think addiction is about a compulsive behavior that's bad for you that you can't control--
Byers: Yeah. What do you call it? What do you call the person who's like, just thumb on the screen over and over. What do you call it?
Mosseri: I don't know that I have a good name for it. Maybe I probably should, now that you say that.
Mosseri: But I think for that problematic use, you know, whether or not you call it addiction. I think that's probably reasonable to call it. If you were using, I don't know, Instagram for, like, six to eight hours a day every day. Then I think there's probably lightweight interventions that we can and should and have done.
Like, for instance, we let you set time limits for yourself, reminders, et cetera. But I could imagine more nudges. Nudges are this sort of a concept of, like, not being paternalistic and telling someone what to do. But giving them some information and a bit of a mirror and suggesting, hey, you know, you've been on Instagram from a long time maybe take a walk.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM). Or, like, time to stand up.
Mosseri: Yeah, if you want to stay cool.
Mosseri: But, you know, thought you should know. It's been three hours--
Byers: But I feel like all of Silicon Valley or, like, social media, let's call it. But what else? Like, Apple. There is this weird time we're in where is, like, we're really stoked that you guys love our stuff. But we're gonna remind you to, like, cool it a little bit. Is that, like, a PR thing? Is that, like, we want to look good and, like, we care about you? Or do you genuinely feel like you want people to not become overly addicted to this platform? Sorry, I should stop using the word "addiction".
Mosseri: Yeah. I mean, for real addiction, which can happen.
Mosseri: I feel a genuine sense of responsibility to make sure that we do something reasonable in those cases.
Mosseri: The same way I feel real responsibility for any type of negative, like, acute outcome or thing that happens on our platform. But I do think that is different than, just generally, what usually people mean when they talk about addiction and I think they use that word, if I'm honest with you, a little too loosely.
Byers: Yeah. Yeah. Sure, sure, sure--
Mosseri: Using it really often, et cetera.
Mosseri: I think that is a little bit less about addiction and what to do. And so generally, there I just think we have to be thoughtful about how the product works, you know, at its core. Because, you know, that's what, sort of, Daisy is trying to do. Really, a lot of what we need to try and do and continue to work on in ranking. So we rank content. That's contentious. I do an "Ask Me Anything" every Friday. I get multiple questions that are consistent. One of them is, like, can you please go back to chronological feed?
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: I don't think we should. People have more content than they can consume. We try to make the most of their time by making an educated guess about what they're most interested. We don't always get it right.
Byers: Would you ever just give people the option? Like, you can do that in Twitter.
Mosseri: Yeah. And I think Twitter found an interesting balance. I know there's people who are still frustration about the Twitter solution 'cause it did get bounced back.
Mosseri: If you don't get bounced back, then people forget and they get stuck in the chronological feed. We actually had this a long time ago at Facebook. And they actually become less happy overall.
Mosseri: And so I'm not saying there's not a good solution out there. But it's sort of like what's the least bad.
Mosseri: But I am generally a believer in ranking. That said, ranking is only as good as what it optimizes for. And we talked about preferences before. This sounds a little bit academic, but I believe people have different types of preferences. They have first order preferences and second order preferences. First order preferences is, like, what do I want right now. Second order preferences are what do I want to want? Or what do I want over the long run.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: So I exercised this morning. I want to be someone who exercises 'cause I want to be healthy.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: That's a second order preference. This morning when my alarm went off, I did not want to get up and exercise.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: That's a first order preference.
Byers: Got it.
Mosseri: They're often in conflict with one another, but they're both real. They're both genuine--
Mosseri: Generally for all ranking systems, whether or not it's a social media company or Netflix or Amazon or whatever, it doesn't matter what it is. If you're ranking, if you're predicting something, it is usually true that you unintentionally biased towards first order preferences. Because they're easier to measure. So bear with me for a second.
Mosseri: When we rank content, so when you open up Instagram and we look at all the stories you could see or all the feed posts that you could see 'cause you follow someone. We try and predict interested you are in each one and then order those by how interested you might be in them. Recency is an important factor. So it's loosely chronological but it's not the only factor. I'm more interested that my sister got engaged four hours ago than my brother had a po boy sandwich one hour ago.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: And the way we do that prediction is, yes, we look at how old it is, but we also look at how likely are you to act on that? How likely are you to like that post or to comment on that post?
Byers: Or share it.
Mosseri: Or share it.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: But we've optimized for those things because they're proxies for how interested you are in 'em. But they are, if we're honest, first order preferences. What are you gonna do the next 500 to 1500 milliseconds? They're not how you're gonna feel about this post being in your feed over the long run.
Mosseri: That is much harder to measure.
Mosseri: And so as a result, we overfit or overoptimize for people's shorter term preferences. And we don't do enough to optimize people's longer term preferences. My belief is, the better we get at the latter, and we still have a long ways to go, the more people will feel good about the time they spend on the platform. Which is really what we're talking about here--
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: For me, if you'd be like, all the way up one further level, if you think about our responsibility as a platform, right? We have lots of responsibilities. We're responsible for create value for people. We have a responsibility to open and transparent about how we work and how effective we are at our work because of how big we are.
But we also have a responsibility to be thoughtful about people's, you know, safety, integrity, well-being to the degree that we can, et cetera. I feel like there's three buckets of work or three approaches in there. One is, identify acute problem. So yeah, if you are addicted and you're using Instagram eight hours a day, that's probably a problem.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: But hate speech is also a problem. Nudity, for a variety of reasons, is also a problem. More on the safety side than the cultural side. You know, we can't verify consent, for instance. Elections integrity's a problem. So for those areas, yes. Be clear, define them, and attack every which way you can.
The second bucket, I think is, find opportunities to let our acute problems, where you can not only address them but you can really innovate in those areas. You can try and lead because you have some sort of, I don't know, structural opportunity or advantage. That's what we're trying to do in bullying.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: Disproportionately affects young people. We've got a lot of young people on the platform. You know, it's certainly in young people's interests, in our interests, to do stuff there. We don't want to just identify and remove bullying, we want to be really inventive in bullying. And we've tried to do stuff with things like restrict. Which actually, I even use, which I wasn't anticipating when we designed that.
Third is just rethink the fundamentals of how you work. And that's where things like, making like counts private or being more thoughtful about how to measure and consider people's long term preferences and ranking come in. And if you do all three of those things well or you try to, and you're open and transparent about the work you do in all three, maybe, if you're lucky, you'll start to actually move the needle and, if you're luckier still, get some credit for it.
Byers: We'll be right back with Adam after this break.
Byers: I'm gonna posit a thesis and tell me if you agree with it. All these problems you talk about addressing, you certainly have not come under the same level of scrutiny as Facebook. And I'm not saying there haven't been stories about bad content on Instagram or problems with Instagram or bullying. Of course they have. But Instagram is somehow shielded a little bit from the shit storm that Facebook has been going through.
Byers: And on top of that, when you talk about being transparent with people on how you're working on problems, there's greater leniency, people give you a longer line to trust that you are actually working on these problem than when Mark Zuckerberg or Sheryl Sandberg comes out and says, "Believe us, we're working on these problems." Everyone's like, oh, no you're not, you're Facebook, you're terrible. Whatever. First of all, why is that? And second of all, do people just somehow trust Instagram more even though it's part of Facebook?
Mosseri: There's a lot in there. Yes. I think that's generally the case. For a lack of a more elegant phrase, I think Facebook as a company serves as a shit umbrella for Instagram a lot of the time.
Mosseri: In a way that I personally really appreciate 'cause I've worked on all parts of this company and I've been on the front lines--
Byers: Right. And you were the head of Newsfeed.
Mosseri: I was managing Newsfeed during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Mosseri: And one of my responsibilities in the wake of that election was addressing fake news on Facebook. I've been deep in these areas.
Mosseri: And on the front lines. I've been all over the world--
Byers: But your face isn't on the front of Wired all, like, bandaged.
Mosseri: Oh yeah, that was intense one. Yeah, no, but, you know, I mean, I travel the world and I've been yelled by CEOs of newspapers telling me I was on the wrong side of history. I've been called every name you can think of.
Mosseri: But more in the industry, I'm not nearly as big a public figure as Mark is.
Mosseri: I'm fine with that. Actually, I kind of like that. But to answer your question why. My educated guess is there's a few reasons. One is we have been able to learn from some of Facebook's mistakes. I think that's one of the really valuable things that people often miss about, even at Instagram, about being part of that company is we can really see very close what works and what doesn't even more than the public can.
I think, two, people for a couple different reasons, I think feel a little bit better about their time on Instagram. It's probably because it's a bit more focused on things that are less contentious. Like, you know, it's your close friends and it's people you are inspired by.
Byers: And it's just sleeker. It's cleaner. It's well designed. It feels more like walking into a Blue Bottle than a Starbucks.
Mosseri: It's also a lot less news. No criticism towards news, news is super important. But news is about debate.
Mosseri: It's about important issues. It's about politics. These things exist on Instagram but at a way smaller scale than on Facebook. And they have a very strong negative charge. I don't know that I feel great about watching the news at night or reading the news always these days. But I think it's important to do, but it doesn't change how I feel about that experience. Another one is actually very related. Because Facebook is much more involved in the news industry, it's under an immense amount of scrutiny from the news industry.
Mosseri: And the news industry's going through an immense amount of pain and change. As business models get completely flipped on its head. And for better or for worse, some of it justified, some of it not, Facebook is the poster child for the internet. And the internet is what fundamentally disrupted the news industry's business models--
Mosseri: And they always say, I forgot who said it, but, like, don't pick a fight with anyone buys ink by the barrel. I think it's a very good, there's a wisdom in that. And just to be super clear, I think we made some mistakes along the way. We certainly overpromised and under delivered and that's a classic no-no in any industry.
Byers: Sure. Do you feel like the shit storm has been proportional to the mistakes you've made? And I'm talking about your time in Newsfeed. I'm talking about Facebook as a whole.
Mosseri: It's hard to say. Mark has always said, since I've been at Facebook, and I've been at Facebook for almost 12 years now. We are never as good as people say we are and we're never as bad as people say we are.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: And we've had a lot of highs and lows during my time. And a lot of 'em are long before 2016. So generally I believe in that. I'll say this. I think that two, three, four years ago, a lot of the criticism, I think, was well-merited. There are certain things I disagree with. All these issues are just impossibly nuanced. I mean, you try to explain something like Cambridge Analytica, there's, like, no winning.
Mosseri: But that I do think there's a lot of misunderstanding and so maybe some of it isn't quite as earned. But a lot of it is. Fundamentally we were not invested enough. Oh, here's the most important takeaway in this. We were too late to take our responsibility to identify acute issues and address them seriously.
And it takes years to get good at that and we should have started years before we did. No start up when they're, you know, tiny and growing and trying just see if they're relevant in the world, is super focused on that. Maybe they should be more than they are, but I think that's generally understandable. Once we got to, I don't know, hundreds of millions of users, we probably should have been much more involved.
And I think we need to take a lot of responsibility for that mistake. I think we were more invested in this than I think anybody else at this point. And so we're just playing catch up. But I think that is really the root cause of a lot of troubles.
Byers: Yeah. There was a characterization, it was even the headline of a New York Times piece, was there a philosophy on the inside to sort of, I forget what all the Ds were, but it was like delay, deny, deflect. Was there a sense that, like, you were actually aware that there were problems and it was just easier to make them go away and pretend they weren't happening?
Mosseri: No. So in the first phase or maybe, like, when this started to get hot at the end of 2016 and into 2017, I think a lot of criticism was, I think, merited. Not all of it, but, you know, we can debate details--
Mosseri: I think the thing that I disagree with more is, and that was a bit later, that was probably two years later.
Mosseri: That was a New York Times piece if I remember correctly. I think those is where I disagree more. I think we invest more than anybody else in these problems. You can disagree with specific policy decisions or enforcement decisions, et cetera. But I think people who accuse us now of not having good intent.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM)--
Mosseri: And not actually trying to take our responsibility seriously and are actually investing appropriately to those challenges, are just not looking at the actual facts. If you look at how many people we have working on these things.
Mosseri: How much we've done. I think then that's where I disagree with more of it.
Mosseri: Not at of it. There's some reasonable criticism always.
Now we're addressing the problems. We're throwing more money at this and more manpower than any other company does or even possibly could. But there's a little bit of a boy who cried wolf thing where people are just like not willing to give Mark and Sheryl, et cetera, the benefit of the doubt on that. And what's your relationship with Mark like?
Mosseri: Healthy, I guess. I mean, we talk often.
Byers: Do you feel like you guys are, like, in sync on this sort of vision for what Instagram's role should be within Facebook? 'Cause obviously that was an issue with the founders--
Mosseri: Yeah. For the most part, yeah. I mean, we disagree. And when we disagree, you know, we can disagree passionately. But I think there's a lot of mutual respect which I think is good. I think there's a lot of trust.
Mosseri: But that's really what we're talking about with the broader is, too, is trust--
Byers: Yeah. Right.
Mosseri: I think that it's important to be honest, no matter who you are as a person or an organization, with yourself that trust is easy to lose and hard to earn back. If I lie to you, you're gonna immediately just not believe anything I say that's important.
Mosseri: And I'll have to not lie to you and I'll have to say true things to you and deliver on those true things and prove they're true for probably years.
Mosseri: Before I earn that trust back. That is how we work. That makes sense. That is actually rational. And I think that is what we're dealing with at a pretty big scale at the Facebook company. And I think that is not good or bad, that is just real and we need to be practical about that.
Byers: And I know you're using this as an analogy, but was there a time when you feel like Facebook lied to the public--
Mosseri: No. No. The closest thing would be, like, it took us too long to respond to something. There's a bunch of examples of that. I think part of that is because there's a lot of pressure that whenever we say something, we're 100% confident it's 100% correct. 'Cause as soon as there's any mistakes, we just get hammered for it, and then burn trust.
But part of it is, I think, ironically, we didn't evolve our ability to communicate as quickly as communications broadly evolved. And it's not lost on me the irony that we are part of the reason why the velocity of communications has sped up over the last decade--
Mosseri: And so that's on us. And, you know, I think that more and more you're seeing us, I think, get faster and more nimble at using our own platforms to communicate. And using other platforms to communicate. I'm on Twitter all the time. But I think we weren't nimble, we weren't fast.
Byers: So Mark has this thing now which is he's rather be understood than liked.
Byers: It's more important to him that he's understood than liked.
Mosseri: Yeah. What does that mean--
Byers: What does that mean? I mean, I think I know what it means which is, like, look, here's who fundamentally are. Here's our view of the world, here's what we're trying to do. We believe in what we're trying to do. We're not the terrible people or I'm not the terrible guy that I've been made out to be. Rather than trying to satisfy all of my critics, let me come forward and present the vision I have for what we're trying to do. And make sure you understand it. And then if you don't like it, whatever. What does it mean to you?
Mosseri: Something along those lines. I mean, a few different things. One is, we were just really late to being understood seriously. We would just launch things. And be like, cool. We launched Newsfeed.
Mosseri: A year and a half before I started, but I have a bunch of friends who were there at the time. We launched Newsfeed and there was literally a protest outside and they had to escort the employees out the back of the building. The way we communicated Newsfeed and also what we called "Minifeed" at the time which was, like, you know, your profile having a list of things you did.
Mosseri: Which now just seems normal.
Mosseri: Was not normal then. The way we communicate it was we did a popup, again, Facebook, really a website in 2006.
Mosseri: In November, September, something like that. October. It was a pop up that said, "We built Newsfeed and Minifeed. This is what they are." And there's only one button you could press and it said, "Awesome". And you had to press that to get back to Facebook. This is not exactly nuanced, thoughtful communication or marketing.
Mosseri: You know, and it's not really explaining why we're doing it in the first place. It's not just, like, we weren't taking being understood seriously, we just, like, had this so much, honestly, it was just ignorance. If you have a desk and you spent, you know, half an hour, an hour at that desk every day to, like, I don't know, write friends, organize your photos or whatever. And I came by one day and I just reorganized your desk. I didn't tell you about it, I didn't explain why it's better to give you a heads up. You'd be pissed.
Byers: What was the philosophy there? That it was your desk all along?
Mosseri: We just weren't thinking about it.
Mosseri: You know, we were trying to make it better. It was well-intentioned, it just wasn't understanding some of the practical implications of being a platform that people used a lot and cared about and felt they had ownership of.
Mosseri: And so we were just late. The product was successful and grew quickly. And was creating real value for people. That making it so that we didn't have to build up certain muscles that normal companies build. We just built those muscles late. And I think that we are just way too big at this point not to be very transparent about how we work.
Byers: So what is an example? Because I think what I hear when I think about being understood is more important than being liked, what I hear is a tension being understood and liked. Which is, if you actually understand me, you might not like all of this. What is something that you guys do which you're willing to say, you know what? This is what we do and you might not like it.
Mosseri: I think it's about prioritization. I think it's like, look, it's more important to be understood than to be liked 'cause it's more important to be honest than to just be liked--
Mosseri: And we have a responsibility to be transparent. So we're certainly gonna prioritize one over the other. It would be nice to be liked. I think it's valuable for people to be rooting for you. But that is not gonna come at the expense of being forthcoming and doing what we think is right. And that is just how it has to be. I think also is about the fact that it is impossible to be universally liked.
Mosseri: Given how big we are and what we do. There's too many strong opinions that differ too much to actually be liked by everyone.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: And so you've got no real choice if you're honest with yourself than to just what you think is best and explain why and, you know, hope for the best.
Byers: We'll be back right after this. This ambiguous idea people have about how much data a company like Facebook is collecting. And Facebook is seen as sort of the worst offender because Facebook is tracking you even when you're not on Facebook. You can around the web and anywhere there's a Facebook button, your data's being tracked there.
And for a long time, it felt like the argument coming out of Facebook, coming from Mark, was, like, no, we're actually not tracking that much of your data, don't worry. And from where I was sitting, I wanna be like, if you really want to be understood, why don't you come forward and say, "Yes.
Mosseri: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Byers: We are. We are collecting a ton of your data and we doing it not for any nefarious purpose. We are doing it in order to curate a better experience for you so that you actually can enjoy the web in ways that if we stopped collecting all of your data, you would go back to way, like, the web looked in, like, 2002. And that would not be as convenient and frictionless an experience for you." And I guess that to me would be an example of being, like, you are. You're a collecting a shit ton of data. But here's why that's okay. And here's that's why not a problem.
Mosseri: I think we're trying to lean into that sort of philosophy now. I think we were just late to get to there, you know, for a couple different reasons. Some of which I alluded to before. How do I say this? People's awareness of how important data is and how important privacy is, is really growing very quickly.
And that is fundamentally a good thing. 'Cause there are a lot of companies like Facebook that know a lot about you. And your data is super important. It's also, though, what's not growing quite as quickly for my liking is an understanding of the tensions.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: The way I maybe embody the sentiment that Mark was communicating with that phrase, with that sentence, I just try, I mean, I spend a lot of time on Twitter. My Twitter's a really dark place.
Mosseri: Which is just 'cause I follow all of our biggest critics not because there's anything bad about Twitter--
Byers: Right. You are rather communicative on Twitter.
Byers: Like, you DM with reporters.
Mosseri: A lot.
Mosseri: Yeah. Well, because, journalists live on Twitter.
Mosseri: And so I just think it's just good.
Byers: Which is terrible.
Mosseri: Yeah, well.
Byers: I mean, it's good, it's great. It's like endless stream of information, every piece of breaking news you want. But it's not a great place to articulate points.
Byers: It's not like a podcast. You can't ramble on Twitter and not get in trouble--
Mosseri: You cannot ramble.
Mosseri: You can ramble on Twitter.
Mosseri: It doesn't usually end well--
Byers: That's right. That's right.
Mosseri: I think what's good for my side is it's good to show up on someone else's turf, so to speak.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM)--
Mosseri: I literally feel like, when I talk to a journalist on Twitter, whether it's in public or in a DM, I'm--
Byers: It's an away game.
Mosseri: Yeah. Exactly. I'm goin' to their house.
Mosseri: And that's good. I think that's a good thing. I think it shows some humility on my side. But it's also just practical. And I think you have better conversations there. But the reason why I venture into the dark negative place that is my personal Twitter feed is because I really believe that reasonable people can disagree on a lot of contentious decisions, but if you really care, you need to acknowledge that all of these things have trade-offs.
And I bring that up because privacy, I'm actually really glad that people are becoming more savvy to how important privacy is and how important data is. I actually think Facebook and Instagram do a lot here now. We didn't used to. But now that data you're talking about, that data, you know, over on the web about where you might go. It's based on ads, tracking pixels. You can now go on Facebook and your ad preferences and you can see, like, who is targeting you based on that data. You can opt of letting us use that--
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: You can see who's actually brokering data.
Mosseri: Behind the scenes on this.
Byers: This, I will just say, is one of the great examples of, like, years and years of clamoring for, like, stop. Like, give us more transparency. Stop tracking us so much, yada, yada, yada. And then, like, okay, here are your options. Here, you can go, you can see it all. And people are like, ah, I'm good, just keep giving me the content.
Mosseri: Yeah, yeah--
Byers: You know what I mean?
Mosseri: It's tough. Well, because it's complicated and there are trade offs here. But this is my whole point is if, you know, that data helps people make more relevant experiences. Netflix knows what you watched to the end and what you bounced after two minutes and they're gonna give you better recommendations next time.
Yes, that's also in their interest. But the trick here for any company is to find the overlap of interests between a person's interests and the business interests. And for someone like us, those should be really aligned. Because fundamentally, consumers have so much more power with platforms like ours than they do with, I don't know, like, which auto body shop they go to or whatever--
Mosseri: And they have a choice. They can vote with their feet. And so you have to optimize for the user experience. Often at the expense of the advertiser's experience or the publisher's experience or the business' experience. And so I think all of that is good and that is moving power into the consumers' hand. But again, the trade offs are always real. We're talking about data. There's a huge tension between privacy and safety.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: The less data we have access to, the harder it is to find bad guys. That's a tough one. And reasonable people can disagree on this. But reasonable people cannot pretend that there isn't a real trade off.
Byers: For sure.
Mosseri: Because, look, the world has very little tolerance for nuance. And I get that we are part of that.
Byers: Especially on Twitter.
Mosseri: Yeah. Fair. But the reality is, the tradeoffs are complicated and they're tricky. And if you're really genuine about caring about it, I think you have to embrace that reality. And then make a call and then disagree--
Mosseri: And argue passionately. Fine.
Byers: So different trade off from the business perspective just 'cause you mentioned advertising which I just want to touch on really quick. It's a two part question. The first one is, how much can advertising be integrated into Instagram before Instagram becomes less cool? Because it just becomes too crowded with advertising?
And then I think the second question is actually, it seems to me there's so much potential which you guys have already capitalized on to just integrate advertising and content in a way that feels so seamless that often times the user doesn't know.
And I'm thinking about you can buy clothing through an Instagram post. You've got influencers who are like, you know, hawking stuff online but people are following them 'cause 70% of their content is really good. Like, what's the next phase of, like, commerce, advertising, marketing on Instagram?
Mosseri: A few different things. So one on the first question, how much advertising that can be an experience, I think, is really a function of how relevant the advertising is. If the advertising is super uninteresting to me, I'm gonna have a lot less tolerance for it than if it's super compelling. Our aspiration on the ad side is to show you stuff that you're just straight up interested in.
Mosseri: And we're getting better at it. We're not where we should be, I think. There's always room to improve. But I see ads for sneakers I'm into. And that's actually every bit as exciting to me as, you know, seeing a post of, you know, someone I think dresses well and how they dressed well. Even though it's not actually an ad.
Mosseri: I think, in terms of the future, I really believe that given the, like what we talked about before, there's so much information out there and how do you sort through it all is one of core value propositions that we have. That also applies in commerce. I think that shopping is interesting. There's a spectrum of intent. There's, like, I want to buy these shoes. I know these shoes, I'm gonna online, I'm gonna find those shoes.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: That's, like, highly intentful. At the other end of the spectrum there's, like, for lack of a less corporate-y sounding word, like, serendipitous stuff. This is what ads really is on Facebook and on Instagram.
Mosseri: You're just passing the time, waiting for your sandwich or whatever and you come by something that seems cool and surprise you. I think there's something really interesting in the middle which we talk a lot at Instagram which, you know, window shopping. I'm in the mood to shop. Shopping and buying are not the same thing.
I might buy it, I might not. And overall, in the world, malls and brick and mortars are really struggling for a bunch of reasons. And I don't think anyone has really cracked that window shopping experience online. There's a couple places that do interesting things--
Mosseri: But I think that's an area that we can plan and we can do really interesting stuff in. And on top of that, I think that creators are gonna be an important part of the future of shopping. I think Mahershala Ali just dresses better than anybody else in Hollywood right now--
Byers: Yeah, sure.
Mosseri: If he is wearing a cool jacket, I am gonna be interested in buying it. I can't pull it off probably, so maybe I shouldn't. But, like, that is an interesting thing. And it's a win, win, win. It's a win for whoever made the jacket.
Byers: It's a win for him.
Mosseri: It's a win for him if he's getting paid.
Mosseri: And it's a win for me if I think it's cool and interesting and I know he's getting paid. The transparency here is key. No one wants to be duped. No one wants to be surprised--
Byers: Right. Right.
Mosseri: But it's not just true with clothes. It's true in other ways that I think are more personal. There's a woman on the team who works at Instagram, her name is Leila (PH) and she's Persian. And she always talks about how, look, if a lipstick or some makeup looks good on someone that she looks up to who has similar skin tone to her, is also Persian.
Mosseri: She can reasonably feel confident that that lipstick or that tone's gonna look good on her as well. That's important. That's interesting. That's valuable. That is more interesting a shopping experience than opening up a magazine and coming toward a generic, sort of, spread of lipsticks.
Mosseri: Or a person who you'd look at who doesn't actually look like you or you identify with at all.
Mosseri: Hawking something that's not gonna look good on your in the first place.
Byers: What does your personal feed look like?
Mosseri: My feed?
Mosseri: It's a mix. It's a mix. I have biased towards a few different types of content.
Mosseri: It starts with friends. But I'm actually in my late-30s now. I'm 37. Is that late-30s? It's on the bubble.
Byers: You're on the bubble.
Mosseri: I'll call it late-30s. I'm just gonna embrace it. I got the grays.
Mosseri: I got the grays.
Byers: You're two-thirds of the way there.
Mosseri: Yeah, I've got two kids. And so I get a lot of baby content.
Mosseri: I got a lot of friends who got little kids.
Byers: Head of Instagram, just like us.
Mosseri: Yeah, of course. Of course. A couple things I'm really interested in. I love photography.
Mosseri: I love architecture. I loved furnished design.
Byers: Yeah? Cool.
Mosseri: And I'm more and more interested in, like, fashion. And so there's a lot of that kind of stuff in my feed. And then lately I've been trying to get into some funny stuff. Like there's an account someone told me about recently, Subway Creatures.
Mosseri: It's basically like videos and pictures of ridiculous stuff that happens in the New York subway.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: And being from New York it always gets me.
Mosseri: And I think those little moments of delights. Comments By Celebs.
Mosseri: I don't follow that many meme-type accounts, but the ones I do are the ones that really, really get me.
Byers: Yeah. Totally. The first time you and I met was in Cannes at Cannes Lion.
Byers: And you mentioned something to me which I've never forgot in which I didn't even know about. And I've never heard anyone else talk about this.
Mosseri: I have no idea what it was--
Byers: There are unspoken rules of Instagram.
Mosseri: Oh yeah.
Byers: Like, how often you post.
Mosseri: Yeah. Don't double-Insta.
Byers: Double-Insta, that was the term.
Mosseri: Yeah. Can't do that. I actually think you can. But people don't feel like you can--
Byers: But here's the thing. Like my mom is gonna be bereft 'cause she, like, quadruple-Instas some days.
Mosseri: That's okay.
Byers: But it's not. You just said it's not okay. You said you can't.
Mosseri: I think it's okay. Young people don't usually think it's okay.
Byers: Yeah, and why? Because it's like, you're just.
Mosseri: It looks like you're tryin' too hard.
Mosseri: But you can post multiple.
Byers: Multiple images and scroll through.
Byers: Okay. And then are there rules on stories? 'Cause, like, sometimes you see the bar at the top and you see that it's like, dit, dit, dit, dit, dit. And you're like, okay, how long am I in here for--
Mosseri: Yeah. There's a little etiquette on overdoing level.
Mosseri: I mean, one of the reasons why I think stories has been so successful is because it feels less pressurized than feed.
Mosseri: So you talked about, like, you know, people feeling like they need to look glamorous on Instagram. I think that's much more true in feed than it is in stories. Stories, the feedback is private. This is important and people often don't think about it. So there's no comment thread or anything. It's just a message. People really feel that it's a pull, not push, experience. People ask to see your story. 'Cause a lot of people actually hunt and peck--
Byers: Oh, right.
Mosseri: They, like, click on one, go out, click on another.
Mosseri: So you're not bothering someone necessarily. And then, yes, they only stick around for 24 hours which is the thing that people usually go to first.
Mosseri: The combination of those things, I think, makes it feel that it's just okay to share more. And also, the whole idea is to share your story over the course of the day. And so sharing five times is totally fine. Sharing 25 times, may or may not be okay depending on who you are.
Byers: Yeah. So just while we're on stories, do you and this sort of larger Facebook family, does it still bug you guys when Evan Spiegel and the folks at Snapchat are like, oh, you ripped that off from us. You ripped off ephemerality and stories and all that?
Mosseri: No. I don't know Evan. I've never met Evan. But what I know of him--
Mosseri: --is that he's super smart.
Byers: You guys don't all hang out?
Mosseri: No. I guess I could reach out to him. I don't think he would get back to me--
Byers: I feel like you guys would benefit from, like, a cup of coffee.
Mosseri: I would love to have a cup of coffee.
Mosseri: If he's down, I'm totally down--
Byers: You can Snap it, he can Instastory it.
Mosseri: It'd be great. I don't know if that would ever happen. But it would be great. I've talked to a couple people in similar roles. But I remember when there was that Sony-like forever ago? Was it Korea? What was it? I forget--
Byers: Yeah, yeah, yeah. North Korea, Sony.
Mosseri: A bunch of his emails got exposed and I read a bunch of them and I was like, this guy is really sharp.
Mosseri: And he was really young at the time. He was like in his early 20s. I remember being really impressed with it.
Byers: Not impressed enough to reach out.
Byers: Buy him a cup of coffee.
Mosseri: Yeah, no, I mean, you're right. I should have. I've reached out to a lot of people but haven't reached to him. I just have assumed he doesn't want anything to do with me.
Byers: I mean, there is this beef. Well, tell me how you would characterize it. You've had to talk about this a lot in the past. Were you inspired by Snap?
Mosseri: Yeah. They invented that format. They get the credit for that format. We are in a place where we have to be willing to acknowledge when someone did something awesome and try to learn from it.
Mosseri: Ideally, we learn why it works on a fundamental level and we do a version of it that, you know, makes more sense given our specifics.
Mosseri: In this case it was just a format. There was no way to really do that. And it would have been insane, honestly, for us not try and learn from it.
Mosseri: And I get how that probably would be frustrating for Evan or anyone on staff. But I'm not trying to take any credit for them. I think they deserve all the credit. And also, I think they're still a formidable competitor. You know, they're doing well. They're super relevant. They're growing. I think they all sorts of interesting stuff.
Byers: They don't have your scale, though. I mean, it's not.
Mosseri: No. They're not as big. But, you know, they're not small.
Mosseri: And they're not goin' away.
Mosseri: And I think of them as a really important competitor to consider and think about. And I think it's fundamentally a good thing. Competition is good. It's gonna, you know, pressure people to think of a new thing. So I don't know. I have a lot of respect for them.
Mosseri: I think they do a few things particularly well. And I think they're really, really creative. And I think that's hard to do once you get to scale. And so I think that's one thing I've been particularly impressed with.
Byers: So I want to dive into (UNINTEL) question which is what we're talking about, whether you are an Instagram user, a Snap user, a TikTok user, is those minutes in a day or seconds in a day when you're like standing in line for the bathroom, waiting for your cup of coffee, procrastinating at your desk. So Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Mosseri: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Byers: Is launching Quibi.
Byers: Quibi. Which is the talk of Tinseltown.
Mosseri: Yeah, it is.
Byers: Because everyone's like, look, most of the people I talk to, most of the Hollywood executives I talk to, are bearish on Quibi, but for no one bets against Jeffrey Katzenberg. Because.
Byers: He's got a track record of success.
Mosseri: Yeah, he does.
Byers: To me, I'm less interested, although if you have thoughts on Quibi, I want to hear 'em.
Mosseri: I will pass on that.
Byers: What I'm more fundamentally interested in is the bet that he is making is that, whereas right now, people are spending time looking at user generated content, very often content from their friends, contents that's a little rough around the edges. That people actually be willing to supplant that time with, like, premium HBO Netflix-level content that's coming from celebrities, right?
And I guess what I'm wondering is, forget about how you feel about Quibi and whether or not Quibi's gonna work. Or how you feel about Jeffrey Katzenberg. But do you think that there's something fundamental about the way we use mobile phones and the way that we use social media that, like, what we really want is content from our friends? User generated from our friends?
Maybe it's Ephemeral, maybe it's not. As opposed to the experience that has history been one of sitting down on the couch and watching things for 30 minutes or 60 minutes? Or can you bring that world of old premium content television over to the mobile experience that is now dominated by Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat?
Mosseri: I think of them, them being, like, connecting with friend content, which is not quite the same as user generated content. 'Cause you connect with user generated content from people you don't know. So, like, maybe we can it user generated content and professional content. Or personal content and public content as two different markets that definitely compete for your attention. I don't think either is ever gonna go to zero. I think that people have a fundamental need to connect with people that they care about.
Byers: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Mosseri: That is a different need than the need to be entertained. They're both really valuable. I think that the former is more important in the long run and is less commoditized--
Byers: Connecting with friends?
Mosseri: Connecting with friends.
Mosseri: And less commoditized. There's lots of ways to, you know, be entertained with video. But that doesn't meant that that's not important. But I think that, you know, those aren't the only two markets, attention markets, that compete. Gaming's another big one. You know, they talk about Fortnite a lot in terms of its scale. They don't talk about Fortnite in the sense that it is not only entertaining, it's actually a social network. People just hang out.
Mosseri: I was talking to, I will leave his name out of it, it'll embarrass him otherwise, but a guy who's a friend in the business. And he was talking about Fortnite 'cause he was playing it a bit. And I was like, yeah, people hang out in Fortnite. And he's like, no, they don't. The other guys, like, kill me in, like, three minutes. I was like, yeah, dude, 'cause you're old, dude. And they shoot you and then they hang out.
Mosseri: It's, like, kind of what happens.
Byers: They talk about how you're gone. Yeah--
Mosseri: Yeah, exactly. And he's like, oh damn.
Byers: Yeah, Fortnite's a whole world. There's the whole meta-verse thing.
Byers: And you can go to a concert. Before you know it, we'll all be spending more time than we will here.
Mosseri: So these all compete with each other at some level and how much time people spend on one versus the other will shift over time. You see interesting trends, though. So even within the world of personal content there's, you know, broadcast networks like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. And then there's more messaging based networks like WhatsApp and, honestly, Snapchat, and iMessage.
And for any group of people that came on line after the shift to mobile, so teens everywhere, but also most people in India, for instance, the thing that they do within that personal content space the most is actually message. It's not those broadcast-based networks. And people who came online before the shift to mobile are the opposite.
And so again, these things all move, they will shift over time, how people communicate shifts. They will cannibalize each other. The big player we haven't talked about at all yet is YouTube which I think Quibi's probably learning some and competing directly with them. 'Cause there's a ton of professionally generated content that's sort of mid to short length.
Mosseri: That actually people watch when you're stuck on a train or on your commute.
Mosseri: It's different than, you know, watching Netflix (UNINTEL)--
Byers: Which, by the way, is mostly free.
Mosseri: Yeah, I think these things compete. I think that you can make something super compelling in one area so you can do really amazingly professional content and people might message less or connect with their friends or vice versa. We see this all the time. But I think at the end of the day, the need to connect with people you know is gonna continue to exist. The need to be entertained is gonna continue to exist.
Mosseri: The distribution of time between one and other will shift. But they will both continue to be.
Byers: Yeah. Speaking of distribution of time, we're probably out of it.
Mosseri: Yes. That's the whole point of a podcast.
Byers: This is great. So I have an account recommendation for you.
Byers: Insta account.
Mosseri: I'm always trying to get better--
Byers: I'm not plugging or anything. This is totally serendipity discovery.
Byers: I was thinking about you can't, for reasons that are not great, that you can't always post your location.
Mosseri: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Byers: Do you Somewhere Magazine?
Mosseri: No, what's Somewhere Magazine?
Byers: I don't even know. I don't think it's a magazine. It might be.
Byers: But it's definite an Insta account. And they never post the location which is the whole conceit. Which is like, this is just beautiful art.
Mosseri: Oh interesting--
Byers: And it doesn't matter where it is.
Byers: This is just aesthetically beautiful or crazy or intriguing.
Byers: Because you can't always post your location, maybe it'll help how you think about.
Mosseri: Oooo, yeah--
Byers: How you interpret those shots.
Mosseri: Yeah, that could be an interesting way to inspire what I actually share. The other thing I can do is just share places after I left.
Mosseri: That just feels a little bit after the fact, lame.
Mosseri: But I probably should just do that, too.
Byers: Adam, thank you so much for doing this.
Mosseri: Thanks for having me. It was real fun--
Byers: I really appreciate it. Okay. I really appreciate it. My guest was Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram. Byers Market is a production of NBC News and is produced by Junaki Mehta (PH), with help from Tanner Robins (PH) of Neon Hum Media (PH). The show is engineered by Scott Somerville (PH). Steve Lickteig is the executive producer of podcasts for NBC News. And I'm Dylan Byers. Thanks for listening.