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

Posts tagged social networks

Ello, the social network you’ve forgotten about, is to launch its own magazine:

Not For Print will help bring the best of Ello into the real world with a tangible, show-it-off-on-your-coffee-table magazine featuring the art of 50 creators on Ello. And we want to see your work in it! Not For Print is another way Ello is committing to provide visibility and opportunity for our incredibly talented community.

I’m sure it’ll be a high quality effort.

And to make a rad fucking magazine.

Well, fairly sure.

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.

Silvia Killingsworth on Instagram ads:

Today I was fed a full commercial from Karlie Kloss, which was amazing because it was just a fully produced video ad like the ones you used to see on television when you used to watch live television.

And it is:

Yup, that’s a full-on TV advert. And it’s been commissioned and shot for play on Instagram.

It seems that social networks are becoming the new TV. And in that light the latest “Twitter for sale” rumour makes sense:

Walt Disney Co. is working with a financial adviser to evaluate a possible bid for Twitter Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.

Now streaming on Twitter

Why? Because Twitter is quietly becoming a video company. Mathew Ingram:

With its resources, Disney would be able to help Twitter improve its video streaming and possibly strike new deals with other content providers. As a result of a recent acquisition, Disney owns a stake in BAMTech, the digital arm of Major League Baseball, which runs streaming services for ESPN and others, including Twitter.

As John Gruber put it:

Twitter is a media company and a publishing service, not a social network.

Increasingly I wonder exactly what is a social network in 2016. Snapchat and WhatsApp are less social networks than communication tools. Instagram is a picture sharing service with comms element. Twitter is a publishing platform. Does that just leave Facebook?

Not everyone is certain about Disney making a good partner for Twitter, though:

But if you’re going to spend $18 billion, $20 billion, $30 billion on something, you need a little bit more than “I like the dude who runs the company.”

Bear in mind that Disney acquired Marvel AND Lucasfilm AND Pixar, for $15 billion. Is Twitter really worth as much to it as those three properties put together?

What has killed social media? Vanity:

At some point in the not so distant past, we knowledge (Web) workers decided to, collectively, kill one of the most profound and deep reaching components from all of these social networking tools out there: our very own conversations and, instead, we embarked on that frantic, unstoppable rush to become publishing machines blasting out marketing messages non stop that continue to be impregnated all over the place with our very own vanity.

Luis Suarez is worth listening to on this. He was one of the early people to completely transform his working life using social tools, and now he’s finding the potential he saw then destroyed:

This is where blogging and the original social networking tools differ tremendously from today’s world of media tools, more than anything else, because they have never been about you, but about the collective, the network, the community, in short, the conversations.

You can still find great conversations on social media – but it’s getting harder to find them.

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.

Twitter’s fundamental problem is that it has got seedy

Julieanne Smolinski:

Twitter is like a beloved public park that used to be nice, but now has a rusty jungle gym, dozens of of really persistent masturbators, and a nighttime bat problem. Eventually the Parks Department might rip up the jungle gym, and make some noise about fixing the other problems, because that’s what invisible administrators like Twitter staff and municipal recreation departments tend to do. But if the perverts and the bats got to be bad enough with no recourse, you’d probably just eventually stop going.

Yes. That’s exactly it. And the problem is that the very presence of these people changes the behaviours of others. They become more uptight, vigilant and careful. It makes debate stilted and uncomfortable. And you live in quite dread of being sealioned.

And this is insightful, too:

(Additionally frustrating is that everybody is complaining about the safety issues at the park, and instead of addressing them, the city installs a crazy new slide. What? Nobody was calling for that. What about the perverts? What about the bats?)

It does feel like Twitter is putting a lot of time and effort into making its service more appealing and easy to use for newcomers – while ignoring the major challenge for existing users.

One of the original social media sites is dying. From the “notification of death” e-mail:

Not long ago I was approached by the FriendsReunited owners, to see if I wanted to take it back and try some new projects with it. It was evident that putting the site back to be more like its original form was not a service people would get excited about using again. The site is still used by a handful of members however it has become clear that the site is no longer really used for the purpose it was built for. For the site to continue it needs a complete re write and this is just not viable.

The life of friends reunited

Over on Medium, one of the founders has written extensively about its rise, fall, and what will replace it:

One of my biggest gripes with Facebook are the times people tag or share photos of you and everyone sees them. And I too dont want to see everyone else’s group party shots. Plus the fact that they are lost in a mass of vacuous information. Don’t get me wrong, Facebook is fantastic for lots of things and keeping in touch, but as a tool to plot my life its rather cumbersome.
Liife will be a great way to store the life of a child through pictures and memories. I also want to go back and plot the life of my late father through talking to my mum. There are lots I don’t know that won’t take that much research.

It’s a brave idea – and I hope it succeeds. But it’s hard to bet against Facebook right now.

The social networks of Star Wars, visualised

Some of us are looking forward to Christmas, and some of us are looking forward to the new film in the Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens. Meanwhile, I decided to look at the whole 6-movie cycle from a quantitative point of view and extract the Star Wars social networks, both within each film and across the whole Star Wars universe.

Movies, social network analysis and data visualisation, meet they do.

Medium, the blogging platform created by Ev Williams, has just take on a big new chunk of investment:

Medium, the publishing platform hatched by Twitter co-founder Ev Williams, has raised $57 million in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz.
It’s the three-year-old company’s second funding round, and people familiar with Medium say it places a $400 million pre-money valuation on the startup.

Those figures alone are interesting (but then, a bet on the guy who co-founded both Blogger and Twitter doesn’t seem like a bad bet, does it?). But just as interesting are the figures quotes on content creators and users:

Content creators:

Williams and Medium are famously averse to talking about metrics, so the only one you’ll find there is that 20,000 people are creating Medium posts each week; Doyle tells Re/code that that number is up 4x in the last year.

Users:

In May, Medium said it was attracting 25 million unique visitors a month.

That puts Medium squarely back in the old model of a “superuser” community, where the 90/9/1 rule of “lurkers/occasional posters/superusers” applies. Not a surprise, pehaps, given that Medium is at its best with long form content, and only a proportion of people are ever motivated enough to write long form.

The interesting bit is that, by riding on top of Twitter’s social graph, AND creating an internal social graph derived from that, Medium is making it much easier for new or occasional writers to find audiences.

My own experience is that putting a post on Medium brings me less traffic than a post here – but this blog has been going well over a decade and I have an established audience. Medium’s social features are far more useful to an emereging writer looking to find some readers.

It’s going to be very interesting to watch how this develops – and how they monetise.