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Facebook launches its new TikTok clone, Instagram ReelsSubmitted: 08/06/2020
Facebook launches its new TikTok clone, Instagram Reels
Story By Associated Press

- Facebook's Instagram is officially launching its answer to the hit short video app TikTok - Instagram Reels.

The new Instagram feature will let users record and edit 15-second videos with audio, and will let users add visual effects. Users will be able to share Reels with followers in Instagram in a dedicated section called Reels in Explore, or in the Story feature where posts disappear after 24 hours.

The Reels option will be available in the Instagram app. The company has been testing Reels in Brazil since November and in France, Germany and India since earlier this summer.

Facebook has a long tradition of cloning competitive services. The Instagram "Story" feature, which lets people share photos and videos that expire in 24 hours, is similar to Snapchat. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced tough questioning about the company's habit of copying rivals before a congressional hearing on July 29.

Facebook earlier launched a TikTok knockoff called Lasso in 2018, but closed that down in July. It also tried services similar to Snapchat called Slingshot and Poke before Instagram Stories caught on. But those were separate apps - it might have more success with a feature built into Instagram.

In fact, copying Snapchat's features was successful for Instagram in part because Snapchat was difficult to figure out for new users. They were already comfortable with Instagram. But TikTok is very easy to use -- easier than Instagram -- and part of its appeal is that you're able to sit back and scroll endlessly with just swipes, without the need to follow anyone or post anything.

Even with the success of Stories, Snapchat remains popular with younger people, though the Instagram feature has likely limited its growth. Snapchat has more daily users than Twitter.

For Reels to succeed, Facebook will have to lure video creators away from TikTok. This might be easier to do with Reels since many creators are already on Instagram. In response to published reports that Instagram is paying TikTok influencers to join Reels, Instagram said in a statement that the company "have a long history of reaching out to emerging creators and working to break new stars on Instagram."

"As with previous products, we remain committed to investing in both our creators and their overall experience, and in certain cases, we may help cover production costs for their creative ideas," the company said.

TikTok, in turn, launched a $200 million "creator fund" in July that it says will grow to over $1 billion in the U.S. in the next three years and more than double that globally, to pay video creators for their material.

TikTok, however, is under fire, possibly opening an opportunity for Facebook.

Microsoft is in talks to buy part of TikTok in what would be a forced sale, following threats from President Donald Trump to ban the Chinese-owned video app, which claims 100 million U.S. users and hundreds of millions globally.

Experts think Facebook has an opportunity to lure in young users with Reels, but its success is not guaranteed.

"Social media users, especially younger users, tend to use social platforms for different things," said eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson. This means Snapchat to message friends privately, Facebook to keep up with school groups or check up on parents and grandparents, Instagram to follow their passions and TikTok for entertainment.

"Instagram has put a lot of effort into developing Reels and making it attractive to TikTok users and the creators who work on the app, but I'm not sure it can replace TikTok," Williamson added. "Even if TikTok were to be banned in the U.S. (which I think is unlikely to happen), users would find a way to keep using it. They are incredibly loyal and protective of TikTok."

Since early July, some TikTok users have been posting videos urging viewers to follow them to other platforms like Instagram, reflecting the threat of a TikTok ban. Mary Keane-Dawson, Group CEO at the influencer marketing agency Takumi, said the creators she works with have been sad, angry and upset about the threat of a ban. Still, they're "pragmatic," she said, and the smart ones were already active on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.

Reels is debuting in over 50 countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Japan, Australia and others, as well as officially launching in the test countries - Brazil, France, Germany and India.

Instagram has more than a billion users worldwide.

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MADISON - The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature on Wednesday appealed a federal court ruling that allows for absentee ballots to be counted up to six days after the Nov. 3 presidential election in the battleground state.

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Farm adapts to COVIDSubmitted: 09/24/2020

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MERRILL - Grampa's Farm in Merrill like a lot of businesses have had to adapt because of COVID.

"We've expanded our hours and we've expanded our play areas to include more things and outdoor space," said Jered Severt, operator at Grampa's Farm.

But change is something that Severt and his family are used to.

"The dairy industry just wasn't working out for the smaller farmer," Severt said.

Severt and his family have had their barn for over 100 years.

"When I was born I came back to this farm," Severt said. "When my father was born he came back to this farm. My grandfather and his father and the previous father have all worked the soil here and have been a part of Grampa's Farm."

And without all the help from his family and friends, he knows none of this would be possible.

"It still continues to be family run but friends and neighbors," Severt said. "A lot of people working together to make this happen for a lot of other people." 

For more information on Grampa's Farm check out their website.

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MILWAUKEE - Demonstrations in Wisconsin over a grand jury's decision not to indict Louisville, Kentucky police officers in Breonna Taylor's death were relatively peaceful with protesters in Milwaukee blocking traffic on an interstate.

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MADISON - On September 22nd the United States hit a staggering 200,000 COVID-19 deaths. Wisconsin alone has 100,000 cases. The high numbers of deaths and cases can be lowered by modifying our behaviors and by wearing a mask properly.

There have been revisions to the mask mandate. Originally, it was said that only people not feeling well are required to wear it. It was changed when it was discovered that just talking could cause an outbreak.

Dr. Jeff Pothof of UW Madison Health spoke about how not wearing a mask can affect your long term health.

"People who had no idea they were sick had enough virus where they could spread it and the only thing they needed to do to spread it was talk to someone else," said Pothof.

COVID-19 is all across the country and not wearing a mask is putting yourself and the people around you at risk.

"There is no way you can know. It is everywhere right now. To think that you live in a location where COVID-19 hasn't reached yet is just not true," said Pothof.

To ensure you're protected, wear a cloth mask that is two layers thick to prevent your droplets from escaping and to protect from other droplets.

Make sure to wash your cloth masks once a week and change paper masks once every three to 5 days.

"They need to cover your nose and your mouth. If you only cover your mouth, the mask is not effective. Those droplets are coming out your nose and it just doesn't work," said Pothof.

For those thinking there's no repercussions from catching COVID-19, there are health risks that can be long term and affect your everyday life.

"People who have had COVID-19 may not ever return to normal lung function and that can impact them in ways such as in physical exertion and their ability to do things. Their physical stamina may decreased because their lungs are no longer as effective as they were before they had COVID-19," said Pothof.

The other long term health risks of COVID-19 is an inflamed heart.

"Likewise people that have an inflamed heart muscle tissue their hearts don't pump as effectively. The more severe COVID-19 the more inflammation they saw in the heart muscle. And we don't know how long that will last. The more severe the COVID-19 the more inflammation they saw in the heart muscle," said Pothof.

In cities like Madison and Milwaukee, their hospitals are equipped to handle a large influx of people and have special wards to combat COVID-19--unlike the smaller hospitals in our communities.

"Even if you have a small outbreak , you're going to quickly strip the healthcare resources in your community and when that happens only bad things happen to those people," said Pothof.

Make sure to mask up properly, to keep your loved ones and your community safe. For more information, you can visit the CDC website.

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MEDFORD - Medford Area School District is voting this November on a 39.9 million dollar referendum for Medford Area High School. If approved the district plans to build additional classrooms to help promote a more creative, collaborative and hands on learning environment. Superintendent Pat Sullivan says, the small classrooms at the school have been a struggle for years for the District.
"We don't have enough classroom space. The classroom space we have was built in '68 so they were built small. Very little daylight. Some of them don't have any windows," Sullivan said. "We're using every nook and cranny. Every office space we can.
The referendum will also provide an additional gym and theater space.The proposed referenda would cost the public 53 dollar tax impact on a 100,000 household property. The district has already lowered their original proposal to match the public's feedback after the District released a survey.
Ultimately, the lack of space is not just an academic struggle for students, but one regarding their safety.
"If you had a situation where a student was positive, there's no doubt going to be a number of close contacts. We've been very honest about that and up front. We cannot social distance in many of our classrooms," Sullivan said.
As many districts move away from in-person classes, Sullivan says that this is the time to act in order to secure a better tomorrow for the community.
"Yeah, COVID-19 I get. It, [there's] a lot of uncertainty. But again, your always going to have something," Sullivan said. "It's never going to be a perfect situation."
The district will be having open house Q & A sessions about the proposal later next month. In the mean time, families can reach out to the district to schedule a tour to see the school for themselves. 

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