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A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Posts tagged facebook

Chartbeat have been diving deep on the data and the answer is…

Facebook shares and reading time

While there is a small positive correlation between shares and total engagement, the relationship between the two is quite weak. For stories that attracted 1000 shares on Facebook, the Total Engaged Time they earned ranges from around 14 hours to over 1000 days. This tells us that social media interaction and actual reader engagement are not as closely aligned as many tend to think.

…sometimes.

It’s clear that just tracking Likes and Shares is not enough to understand the impact of social on your site. You need to related them to reading time, too.

This afternoon, I took a little light mockery from a friend for posting a Facebook update that looks like this:

Colour facebook post

He had assumed I was algorithm-gaming by posting my update as an image, not text. But I wasn’t. Instead, while making the post, I’d discovered a button in the interface I hadn’t had access to before:

Facebook colour options

This stirred a distant memory: it was announced and rolled out on Android back in December:

Colored status backgrounds are rolling out globally over the next few days. Only Android users will be able to create them, but everyone on iOS, Android, and web will be able to see them in the News Feed.

A spokesperson writes “We’re rolling out a change to help people make their text posts more visual. Starting today, people can update the background color of their text-only posts on Android.”

The Android experiment was clearly successful enough that the rollout is slowly happening to the web – some of my friends have it, others don’t. And it certainly gives short text updates more “oomph” in the feed, without being as ugly as the “huge font” short updates were. Using colours is a smart move, both through being eye-catching and because they’re emotionally resonant, which is the secret to making anything work in the feed.

But will it be enough to get people sharing personal information again?

Two bits of feedback to yesterday’s piece on the Google News Lab University Network.

The Frenemy Dance

It’s interesting isn’t it? Only a few years ago, Google was the enemy because it atomises our content (people find articles through search, not index pages) and provides an alternative front page via Google News – thus, indirectly, making money of four content. And now, all of a sudden Google is an ally, and Facebook is the enemy because FAKE NEWS.

Of course, it’s more complicated than that. Google has its own fake news problems, and Facebook is now our dominant traffic source. But the journalism world’s odd whiplash between perceiving tech platforms as friend or enemy – and then back – betrays nothing less than the insecurity we feel about our place in this new world.

It’s almost like we want a junior partner to guide guys into the digital reality, while failing to realise that we are very much the junior partners in this relationship.

Get your digital production right

It’s a fair point. If you’re going to make point about how you’re supporting journalists in digital, failing to show decent digital production standards isn’t a great start. And Medium, where the post is hosted, makes it really easy to do.

Here’s the Europe list, as it appears in the article:

In Europe: Hamburg Media School (strategic partner for DACH region); Deutscher Journalisten Verband (DJV); Studiengang Journalistik, Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt; Technische Universität Dortmund (Prof. Dr. Lobigs); Fjum_forum Journalismus und Medien Wien; Deutsche Journalistenschule (DJS); EPFL Extension School; Le Centre de formation des journalistes (CFJ); City, University of London; Cardiff University; Dublin City University, Future Media and Journalism (FuJo); Master in Journalism — University of Turin, centre de formation des journalistes

And here it is properly formatted:

In Europe:

  • Hamburg Media School (strategic partner for DACH region);
  • Deutscher Journalisten Verband (DJV);
  • Studiengang Journalistik, Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt;
  • Technische Universität Dortmund (Prof. Dr. Lobigs);
  • Fjum_forum Journalismus und Medien Wien;
  • Deutsche Journalistenschule (DJS);
  • EPFL Extension School;
  • Le Centre de formation des journalistes (CFJ);
  • City, University of London;
  • Cardiff University;
  • Dublin City University,
  • Future Media and Journalism (FuJo);
  • Master in Journalism — University of Turin, centre de formation des journalistes

That was less than a minute’s work (editing using Markdown in WordPress).

Attention to detail on production isn’t just pedantry, it’s paying a fundamental respect to the idea of making the copy more usable for the reader. And it’s certainly a LOT easier to browse that list in the second format.

Interesting – and quite important – experiment from The Guardianexposing the right and left in the US to Facebook newsfeeds from the other side of politics:

Tobias said that exposure to the other side made her realize how difficult it might be to find common ground after the election.

“It’s frightening to me to see how much the left and the right are divided right now,” she said. To bring us back together, I don’t know what it’s going to take.”

I have much to say about the recent kerfuffle over fake news – but I’m still working it through. In the meantime, it’s important to remember that what Facebook has created in its newsfeed algorithm is a dark mirror of humanity, one that feeds on our own confirmation bias to reinforce a cosily reassuring view of the world, in the sense that our existing opinions are rarely challenged.

That said, exposing people to new views doesn’t mean they’ll shift the way you might want them to:

“Seeing the liberal feed pulled me further to the right,” said Loos. “Without getting the counterpoint, I was drawn more and more to the conservative side. Instead of luring me in, it pushed me away.”

The filter bubble is us – Facebook just makes it easier.

I have discovered – much to my surprise – that I am not a journalist.

This comes as something of a shock, as that’s exactly what I’ve though of myself as for a quarter of a century now. From the latter days of my student life, working on student magazines, through to my recent career, helping national – and international – newspapers do better digital publishing, journalism is at the very heart of my working life.

Cub editor Adam Tinworth circa 1993

Portrait of the author as a young student magazine editor.

But I am not a journalist. So says Twitter and Facebook. And, as they are now the arbitrators of who is a journalist and who isn’t – I cannot be a journalist.

Twitter says: you’re not a journalist, Tinworth

Twitter declared its verdict first. I popped off a speculative application, once it opened up verification to all comers. The criteria are pretty clear:

We approve account types maintained by users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business, and other key interest areas.

Well, I’m clearly in both journalism and media, so an easy accept, right?

Wrong:

Twitter verified denied

I am not a journalist. Or in media. Twitter says so.

Now, I’m not that bothered on a personal level – sure, it would have been handy to show my students, many of whom go on to be verified users very quickly, some of the tools that verified status gives you access to. But I can appreciate that I’m an edge case, because I train journalists more than I produce journalism right now.

But when I posted about my rejection on Facebook, many of my journalism friends reported the same experience. It became very clear that Twitter only counts those on national newspapers as journalists. In consumer or business press? Forget it. You are not a real journalist. Twitter says so.

Look at that description above:

We approve account types maintained by users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business, and other key interest areas.

(Emphasis mine.) There’s no qualification there of “national” or “newspaper” journalism. Just “journalism” and “media”. Twitter has set itself up and an arbiter of who counts as a journalist – and who doesn’t – and most of us don’t count.

Are journalists journalists? Ask a microblogger.

Those with long memories might remember the seemingly endless debates a decade ago about whether bloggers were journalists. There’s not small irony in the fact, that Twitter, a direct descendent of blogging (it was described as “microblogging” in its early days) has now set itself up as an arbiter of who is a journalist and who isn’t. And it’s chosen a very, very tight definition of that. I suspect that has been done to make the verification process easier – and certainly much journalism verification is done directly between social media editors and their liaisons at Twitter – but once they opened up verification, that needed to be rethought. And it wasn’t.

Would any other social networks do something similar? Like, say, Facebook?

A couple of weeks ago, the spawn of Zuckerberg announced that it was helpfully going to educate journalists. (But it’s not a media company, remember)

The social network has created an learning environment, to help journalists use Facebook better. Handy. That’s part of what I do for a living, but having tools like that to support our work. Great.

As part of this journalists are invited to join the News, Media & Publishing group on Facebook. So, I applied:

Applied to Facebook

And that’s how the group looked for a few days. I waited patiently – confident of inclusion, as I could see a friend who works for Twitter and another who runs a technology company were members, surely both more marginal than my case. Hell, there’s other lecturers in there, so I’m at least as qualified as them. Oh, foolish me.

Facebook: denied

And, after a few days, that Pending button turned into:

Denied

Denied. And silently denied, at that.

Yes, Facebook, also now apparently an arbiter of who is a journalist and who isn’t, has declared that I am not a journalist, either. Nor am I in media. Nor publishing, apparently.

So, we might never have solved the question of whether bloggers are journalists. But apparently, I’ve been deluded for the past 25 years that I am a journalist. I’m not. I’m just a blogger, because Facebook and Twitter tell me so.

The power of social networks to define journalism

Given how much power Twitter and, especially, Facebook, have in driving traffic to our sites and mediating our relationships with our readers – are we comfortable with this? Are we happy for them to give a subset of journalists special privileges over others? Because that’s the situation right now. If you’re not a mainstream journalists, working on a know large news site, forget it. Freelancer? Go away. Trade press? You and your professional readers don’t count. Consumer press? No important. That’s just interest not news.

Once upon a time, in the UK at least, the NUJ was pretty much the arbiter of who was a journalist and who wasn’t. I’ve had my issues with the NUJ in the past, but at least they took a wide and thoughtful view on who was entitled to a press card. As the “verfified” tick becomes an de facto mark of journalistic status, we’re now being assessed by people who active claim not to be media companies – and yet who control our traffic and our access to readers.

And the implications of that should give us pause.

Facebook fired the human journalists working on its trending section (see posts passim) and replaced them with algorithmic journalists. It went…uh…well:

Over the weekend, the fully automated Facebook trending module pushed out a false story about Fox News host Megyn Kelly, a controversial piece about a comedian’s four-letter word attack on rightwing pundit Ann Coulter, and links to an article about a video of a man masturbating with a McDonald’s chicken sandwich.

You can thank me (and The Guardian) for that final mental image later. What the hell is going on with that algorithm?

Well, Quartz thinks it knows:

Facebook hasn’t been forthcoming about how its algorithm works; the company declined to answer any questions for this article. It’s exceedingly vague in blog posts about the algorithm’s methodology, and the software is absent in every engineering blog. But company patent filings, along with general information Facebook has shared publicly and with Quartz in the past week, and interviews with previous Facebook curators, give us a glimpse into how the Trending algorithm works.

It all smacks of Facebook arrogance: thinking it can automate journalism without understanding the basics of journalism.

The sheer power of Facebook’s news feed is not a matter of debate – especially for publishers. But Om Malik makes a different challenge in this thoughtful piece for the New Yorker:

However, every time Facebook’s news feed, introduced almost a decade ago, is manhandled, I am left wondering whether it has to change the feed with brute force because its algorithms are just too dumb to improve the service in a way that suits both Facebook—by making money and monopolizing our attention—and its 1.6 billion users.

Facebook Newsfeed

In short: every time Facebook has to manually intervene in the workings of the newsfeed like this – it’s an indication of a failure of the algorithm.

What are the realistic abilities and limits of Facebook’s news feed? The more the company tweaks the feed in a crude and blunt manner, the more one has to wonder if Facebook’s alogrithms are not only rudimentary and basic but also possibly the company’s Achilles’ heel.

Snapchat updates:

Snapchat introduced Memories, a way for users to save their Snaps and Stories for later viewing and sharing.

That’s muscling on Facebook territory, that is.

Users can swipe up while on the camera screen to open their Memories. From there, users can browse all of their saved content, or they can search for specific Snaps by typing keywords.

Oh, good. Because what Snapchat needed was to become more complicated to use.

Here’s a video with the obligatory implausibly attractive people and inoffensive “current” music:

And can I recommend Elise’s guide to Snapchat for Journalists if you’re still baffled?