Tag Archives: fake news

Friday #content reads 19.5.2017

Howdy! 🔥  Apologies for the radio silence but with the upcoming UK Election and preparing for Capital’s Summertime Ball, it’s just been a very busy time.🔥🔥🔥  Here’s some of my top reads from the last few weeks. Enjoy!🔥🔥🔥🔥  PS, I’ve just discovered how to add fire emojis to WordPress! 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

As we all know, linear TV is really challenged at the moment, but these graphs showing how audiences dwindle over time for top US TV shows were pretty jaw-dropping. As Josef Adalian and Jeni Zhen write:

“We’ve been trained to understand that if we fall behind on several episodes of a show, we can always catch up later on streaming. Binge-watching an entire season is, for many, a better experience than watching week-to-week. The enormous sums Netflix and Hulu are paying to stream shows such as This Is Us underlines just how much value remains in network-TV fare. Sure, as measured by Nielsen, Empire is drawing half as many viewers as it did at its peak a couple years back. Some of those early adopters of the series have no doubt given up on the sudser altogether, but odds are many of those viewers are now simply watching in ways not captured by traditional metrics. (Another “encouraging” sign for the health of broadcast TV: Most big cable comedies and dramas are down, too — even the good ones.) None of this makes the double-digit declines shown below any less depressing for executives. Ratings declines result in fewer overall ad dollars, period. While networks are proving adept at opening up new revenue streams, they’d much rather their Nielsen numbers were going up.”

Elsewhere, I really liked the way the social team at Huffington Post are using their editors to front their coverage of news and entertainment on social. Sounds like a win-win to me.

I thought this article looking at why Alt-Right messages and memes during the French election didn’t work was interesting. Also, kinda reassuring that civilisation can’t be entirely derailed by just anyone with a good knowledge of Photoshop and Google Docs. Well, for now.

“There’s a big cultural gap that these groups have to jump over to expand their message,” said Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a think tank, who has studied the far right’s recent efforts in France. “The language and iconography of the alt-right is pretty specific. Most of it just isn’t going to translate well.”

I’m sure you’ve seen this video looking at texting and the internet in film. Just brilliant.

As an avid long-distance runner there’s nothing better than escaping the city for the country, negotiating numerous maps, losing your GPS signal and having to deal with the local farm dogs. Thank goodness for the National Trust Open Data site which launched recently – I now know where I’m bloody going!

Lastly, shameless plug, have you seen our fantastic new Capital Xtra responsive website? 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

Talking About LBC, Opinion and Content Experimentation

I’m pleased to say this year we’ve been invited by those wonderful folk at Newsrewired to talk about audio ‘shareability’. I always love attending this event, it’s a great chance to network and gauge what we’re generally thinking about as Journalists across a whole range of topics.

In the podcast I talk about why opinion is central to LBC and how we format choice moments to give them their best viral potential.

I look forward to seeing everyone in July.

Friday #content reads 24.3.2017

Here’s a selection of some of my favourite articles from the week:

Chris Sutcliffe wrote an interesting piece looking at how the economics driving  journalism influences editorial quality:

“From an outsider’s perspective, it looks as though the UK news media didn’t have a problem with ‘fake news’ until they lost their monopoly on it. They benefited from the system that rewards the creation of heavily partisan, shareable articles by feeding the confirmation bias of their audiences. That was the case before the internet started disrupting their business models, too, but now less truthful news who don’t even pay lip service to truth had proved themselves to be just as adept at abusing that digital advertising paradigm.”

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Friday #content reads 3.3.2017

Here’s a selection of my favourite articles from the week that was…

Axois published a great feature looking at The recent explosion of right-wing news sites and why this has occurred:

“Why it matters: According to experts, digital technology has made it easier to exploit the political divisions that have always existed. Sarah Sobieraj, associate professor of Sociology at Tufts University, told CNN there has been an increase in political polarization in the U.S., but not nearly enough to account for this development. “The technological, regulatory, and media space has shifted into one in which this is profitable, and profit is the driving force.”

How they profit: Google and Facebook’s algorithmically-driven news distribution platforms have created an environment in which:

  • a) partisan news sites can easily reach fringe audiences, and
  • b) news sites are financially incentivized to tilt one way or another.

Facebook, in particular, algorithmically favors content that appeals to user bias and interest. According to comScore Vice President Andrew Lipsman, to elicit high engagement and repeat visitation, “sites must usually speak to a very specific audience.” Although this limits the appeal to a broader readership, it creates a sustained and engaged audience that appeals to advertisers.”

Buzzfeed’s Craig Silverman looked at this in more detail by examining two US news websites with conflicting political views but owned by the same publisher. That’s not itself an issue, but when you see how similar these stories are (apart from tone and political bias) you can understand why trust in the media is at a current low.

“Liberal Society and Conservative 101 are among the growing number of so-called hyperpartisan websites and associated Facebook pages that have sprung up in recent years, and that attracted significant traffic during the US election. A previous BuzzFeed News analysis of content published by conservative and liberal hyperpartisan sites found they reap massive engagement on Facebook with aggressively partisan stories and memes that frequently demonize the other side’s point of view, often at the expense of facts.

Jonathan Albright, a professor at Elon University, published a detailed analysis of the hyperpartisan and fake news ecosystem. Given the money at stake, he told BuzzFeed News he’s not surprised some of the same people operate both liberal and conservative sites as a way to “run up their metrics or advertising revenue.”

“One of the problems that is a little overlooked is that it’s not one side versus the other — there are people joining in that are really playing certain types of political [views] against each other,” Albright said.

And all it takes to turn a liberal partisan story into a conservative one is to literally change a few words.”

Joseph Bernstein wrote a great feature on YouTube’s role in the spread of misinformation. Basically, YouTube needs to do a lot more promoting ‘good’ news over ‘bad’:

“YouTube does “demonitize” videos that it deems “not advertiser-friendly,” and last week, following a report in the Wall Street Journal that Disney had nixed a sponsorship deal with the YouTube superstar PewDiePie over anti-Semitic content in his videos, YouTube pulled his channel from its premium ad network. But such steps have tended to follow public pressure and have only affected extremely famous YouTubers. And it’s not like PewDiePie will go hungry; he can still run ads on his videos, which regularly do millions of views.

Ultimately, the platform may be so huge as to be ungovernable: Users upload 400 hours of video to YouTube every minute. One possibility is drawing a firmer line between content the company officially designates as news and everything else; YouTube has a dedicated News vertical that pulls in videos from publishers approved by Google News.”

Elsewhere, I was really inspired by James Tyner’s recent work looking at how young audiences think about online newspaper design and content. Some of the feedback included:

“I don’t find it super appealing all the time to sit down and read a huge article online, but you don’t get all the nuance from just a breaking news headline on Twitter. I wish there was some medium between the two.”

“I don’t like the news stories that are basically slideshows in the format of an Instagram video or something that is 30 seconds long and plays 5,000,000 times on Facebook. I feel like it just leaves out a lot of details and I almost instantly don’t trust those as much as a full news story I read.”

“I always fall for the clickbait, every time.”

That last point is particularly important for younger audiences – the simply won’t put up anymore with your clickbait. You see this with older audiences too now, where commenters bond together to reveal the point of the article, saving you that click.

I also wondered if the students had read Axios as part of this research. They seem to be doing a good job in creating small ‘snackable’ updates around quite complex topics. After some initial reservations about their approach, I do think they are onto something. BUT, if you aren’t a fan of their site, or this kind of editorial strategy, you may still be interested in their newsletter for all its delicious White House gossip.

And lastly, next week one of the best UK synth bands that’s ever been release their new album. I’m currently feeling very conflicted about this – and next week I’m going to tell you why.

Until then.

Friday #Content Reads 03.02.17

Sean Spicer

Here’s my selection of top reads from the last two weeks…

I have to admit when Melody Kramer wrote How do we design the news for people who are burned out? I sort of baulked. Do people really suffer from news burn-out? Do we really need to create tools so people receive less updates about important topics? Don’t we have a duty as editors to inform all of our audience all of the time?

But, the more I’ve thought about this, the more I think it’s an excellent idea considering the political events that have occurred over the last six months. Expect news audience ‘burn out’ to become a regular topic as we explore solutions proposed by platforms, publishers and people.

Elsewhere, there’s been some great discussions this week on the notion of objectivity in journalism. I recommend listening to this CJR podcast as they dissect the impact of the recent US elections:

This week this also happened: Objectivity is dead, and I’m okay with it.
This was followed by this which was a little ironic because this had happened previously.
Then Fusion published this:

A news outlet like Fusion, then, can never be impartial. We are proud to be the voice of theresistance, the marginalized, the underrepresented. We tell the truth, including the truth about ourselves. We will not be censored, we shall not be silenced.

UPDATE: On The Media covered the above topic on their latest podcast. This really is essential listening. 


The theme of objectivity was also tacked by David Greenberg who looked at The Perils of Calling Donald Trump a Liar:

Historians debate the reasons for objectivity’s emergence in journalism. Some emphasize economic motives, the desire to reach a wider readership. Others argue that the idea of objectivity was linked to a growing awareness of subjectivity—that the difficulty journalists faced in pinning down clear-cut facts led them to adopt regular practices that could assure readers of their credibility. Still others point to a new political ethos of the Progressive Era that encouraged citizens to think for themselves and not take cues from corrupt party leaders.

The embrace of the objective news model didn’t happen all at once. But a critical moment was undoubtedly Adolph Ochs’s purchase of the New York Times in 1896, when the new publisher resolved, in his famous credo, “to give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved.” Over the next decades, news organizations championed objectivity, and with the development of radio and TV, network news followed suit. Not only revenue but—more important—credibility, prestige and influence flowed from being seen as a reliable source to all consumers, no matter their ideology.

It wasn’t long, however, before pitfalls became evident. No master text set down the tenets of objectivity and how to adhere to it. Journalists had to find their way. Some interpreted the idea as an adherence to factuality, seeking to strip out the writer’s personal voice. For others, the key was nonpartisanship—presenting the news so as not to favor one party or the other. Others emphasized the disavowal of advocacy. Most journalists probably operated—and still operate—with all these interrelated principles at play to some degree.

 

NPR’s Dana Fox had some great ideas around driving maximum return from Facebook for Publishers. I thought this was a healthy reminder that we need to really understand these platforms in order to reap the rewards:

If we are putting the audience first, consider how the average person on Facebook uses the network: It’s a mix of links, statuses, photos and videos. Different stories require different treatment. Facebook itself recommends this approach (and 11 other best practices for media organizations), and when we are talking about succeeding on Facebook, guidance from the platform itself is not insignificant. It is possible to both stay true to our journalistic integrity and respect the rules of the social space.

Do we need to dump the current economic model that fuels our journalism? Probably, but can it actually be done? And what would that exactly look like? These were the questions poised by Victor Pickard this week:

America’s commercial media system might be great for business, but it’s terrible for democracy. Uncoupling journalism from commercialism requires a structural overhaul. Alternative models from the American past and from other countries demonstrate that different systems are indeed viable. But they require policy interventions that establish safeguards and incentives for responsible and informative media. Ultimately, these policies must remove profit motives from the news.

So that’s it for this week folks, apart from this amazing PopBuzz quiz of course…

Sean Spicer

 

 

 

Friday #Content Reads 27.01.17

Here’s my selection of top reads from the last two weeks…

Buzzfeed have started to take a leading in the Fake News debate. Their feature suggesting that the UK newspaper industry has been peddling fake news for yonks was inspired and shows just how complex this issue has become:

BuzzFeed News has revealed how Macedonian teenagers could make tens of thousands of dollars fabricating stories about Donald Trump, how fake news is spreading to Germany and Italy, and how fake news stories outperformed real news outlets during the US election.

But equivalent analysis of UK social media habits reveals the most popular dubious stories on British politics were almost always the work of long-established news outlets and relied at most on exaggeration rather than fakery. The evidence suggests that rather than reading complete lies, British audiences appear to prefer stories that contain at least a kernel of truth, even if the facts are polluted or distorted.

“We have always had a partisan press that people enjoy and have become acclimatised to,” said Charlie Beckett, professor of journalism at the London School of Economics. “Hyperpartisan news has always been part of our audience’s culture – and we do it better in some ways than fake news.”

Elsewhere, in What does a news organization optimized for trust look like? Melody Kramer wrote:

Perhaps that means thinking more closely about design and editorial choices in terms of media literacy. Maybe that means indicating to readers how many sources were used, or how facts were obtained. Or, if you’re using algorithms to make editorial decisions, maybe that means making that clear and obvious to the reader on every page where the technology is used. Or maybe it means developing more tools like the one The Wall Street Journal made, so that people can realize that what they’re seeing may not be what everyone else is also seeing.

Snapchat have become more vocal about their editorial guidelines:

The new rules more clearly state that publishers should not use overly sexualized or violent images as the initial visual that users are exposed to when they look at Discover and that content intended simply to shock or disgust is not allowed. Some exceptions are made for otherwise-forbidden material that has news value.

For the first time, the guidelines have a dedicated section detailing the warnings that publishers must run when graphic images are deemed newsworthy, as well as when to age-gate that content.

Meanwhile, Axios has launched. I’ve already subscribed to their excellent newsletter and their editorial strategy (Twitter meets The Economist’) is worth keeping an eye on:

The overall feeling these features create is that of a nesting doll, with individual articles nestled within excerpted summaries within a larger news stream. This idea runs counter to the principles of news design on many major websites, which put greater emphasis on article pages. But because every excerpt can be shared on social media, readers are left with a single page that’s composed of dozens of mini-articles.

The design was based on a listening tour undertaken by Axios’ co-founders, who wanted to better understand how people were consuming the news, Schwartz said. The prevailing response: People felt inundated with news and information and spent too much time deciphering what was worth reading and what wasn’t.

Remember photo galleries? That’s right, those things we were told to avoid because it’s all about video now. Well, apparently, people are still clicking on them.

Lastly, in other news, I recently presented at the London Agile Content Meetup group. You can find out what happened here.

Thanks y’all.
 

Friday #Content Reads 13.01.17

Happy 2017 Y’all!

It’s been a sensational start to the year with Trump’s first press conference in six months, the general confusion around the term ‘Fake News’ and Section 40 discussions here in the UK. What an exciting time to be a journalist!

I’ll kick off then with Margaret Sullivan’s campaign to ditch the term ‘Fake News’. This was discussed at the end of 2016 – as a catch-all, the term is rapidly losing meaning and significance:

“The speed with which the term became polarized and in fact a rhetorical weapon illustrates how efficient the conservative media machine has become,” said George Washington University professor Nikki Usher.

As Jeremy Peters wrote in the New York Times: “Conservative cable and radio personalities, top Republicans and even Mr. Trump himself . . . have appropriated the term and turned it against any news they see as hostile to their agenda.”

So, here’s a modest proposal for the truth-based community.

Let’s get out the hook and pull that baby off stage. Yes: Simply stop using it.

Instead, call a lie a lie. Call a hoax a hoax. Call a conspiracy theory by its rightful name. After all, “fake news” is an imprecise expression to begin with.

Elsewhere, Laurie Penny wrote a great call to arms in The New Statesman:

There is a certain kind of stupid mistake that only smart people make, and that is to assume that a sober set of facts can step into the ring with an easy, comforting lie and win. We have entered a new moment in public and political conversation, a moment which many pundits have dubbed the “post truth” age. I prefer to think of it as the age of bullshit.

In the Guardian, Lindsey West wrote an extremely funny and poignant article on why she’s left twitter. I have to admit, I’m still hooked:

I talk back and I am “feeding the trolls”. I say nothing and the harassment escalates. I report threats and I am a “censor”. I use mass-blocking tools to curb abuse and I am abused further for blocking “unfairly”. I have to conclude, after half a decade of troubleshooting, that it may simply be impossible to make this platform usable for anyone but trolls, robots and dictators. 

On 29 December, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted: “What’s the most important thing you want to see Twitter improve or create in 2017?” One user responded: “Comprehensive plan for getting rid of the Nazis.”

“We’ve been working on our policies and controls,” Dorsey replied. “What’s the next most critical thing?” Oh, what’s our second-highest priority after Nazis? I’d say No 2 is also Nazis. And No 3. In fact, you can just go ahead and slide “Nazis” into the top 100 spots. Get back to me when your website isn’t a roiling rat-king of Nazis. Nazis are bad, you see?

Still on the subject of Twitter, The NYT’s Pagan Kennedy wrote about about a group that are flagging to advertisers ads that are being served programmatically on Breitbart News. The team simply screengrab the ad and tag the advertiser in the tweet:

More important, the screenshot activists are forcing companies to pick a side. After pressure from consumers, Kellogg’s became one of the first big brands to announce that it would remove its ads from Breitbart News. In retaliation, Breitbart called for a boycott, and the cereal brand seems to have suffered from the uproar on social media. At the same time, it received lots of good press for taking its stand; in early December, many consumers announced that they would reward the company by making all-Kellogg’s donations to soup kitchens.

I expected that other companies would want to trumpet their own Breitbart departures. It seemed an easy win for corporate P.R. to distance itself from Klan-rally-like riffs like this one — “every tree, every rooftop, every picket fence, every telegraph pole in the South should be festooned with the Confederate battle flag.” (Telegraph poles!?)

But when I reached out to several organizations that seemed to have joined the ban, they didn’t want to talk about it. A bank and a nonprofit group did not respond to my queries. Two companies — 3M and Zappos — declined to talk about the matter. A Patagonia spokeswoman said that her company did not advertise on white-supremacist sites — but she would not comment on the screenshots that activists had sent to Patagonia in early December showing the company’s logo on Breitbart’s Facebook page. Warby Parker was the most forthcoming; a representative pointed me to a statement that thanked a Twitter activist for inspiring its own ban on Breitbart.

In the behavior of some of these companies, you can detect the way our norms have already shifted. In the old normal, it would have cost little to stand up against neo-Nazi slogans. But in the new normal, doing so might involve angering key players in the White House, including the president-elect, Donald J. Trump, who has hired the former editor of Breitbart as his senior adviser. Mr. Trump recently proved the damage he could do to a company by criticizing Lockheed Martin on Twitter; soon after, its stocks prices tumbled.

Thus ends my weekly-ish update. Apart from my funniest #saltbae gif of the week of course