Look to the past for lessons on the news industry showdown with Facebook

News and commentary this week that leading news organizations are close to striking a deal to publish directly to Facebook’s platform reminds me, and others, of an industry faceoff six years ago with Google.

As you may recall, Rupert Murdoch had denounced Google for “stealing” content in its news summaries.  William Dean Singleton, chairman of MediaNews and the Associated Press board, threatened a war to protect newspapers’ copyright at AP’s and NAA’s 2009 conferences in San Diego. Google’s Eric Schmidt spoke to the NAA and faced a number of hostile questions.

We all know how that turned out.  Google won.  They continue publishing Google news summaries and referring traffic via search. Except to the AP itself, Google generally hasn’t paid for news it borrows. An AP-led effort to organize a licensing collective (NewsRight), never found its legs.  American publishers have accepted Google as a useful source of digital readers and continue to pay to use Google AdSense and other tools on their sites.

The heart of the parallel is obvious.  Facebook is now quickly supplanting Google as the major avenue to digital content, especially for the millennial/social/smart phone audience so cherished these days.  Publishers might wish it to be otherwise but the dominance of Facebook referrals is a fact of life.

It is what Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of advertising giant WPP, had in mind when he christened the big tech companies “frenemies,” a decade ago, borrowing a term popularized in teen social chat.  On the one hand, they are competitors — potent ones — for advertising dollars.  On the other hand, making peace, dealing with their ubiquity, and looking for mutual benefit, makes a lot more sense than an unwinnable war.

This frame of reference makes me dubious of the deal-with-the-devil nay-saying popping up in tweets and longer posts.  I am also not so sure the boys and girls at the New York Times, National Geographic, BuzzFeed and other potential Facebook partners need a lot of advice from the sidelines about what deal terms to accept.  The principals may know, but we don’t yet, the splits on ad revenue, the integrity of paywalls, and other crucial details.  So it’s early to say they may give away the store.

Some of the differences now and then are relevant to the developing Facebook story too:

  • Google had a simple and powerful negotiating stance with publishers. If you prefer not to give away a news summary in return for the resulting traffic, feel free to opt out.  Few even tried and those who did (including more recently some German and Spanish publishers) found the pain far exceeded the gain.Facebook’s relationship to content and platform issues generally are far more complex now than then.  There is plenty of room to negotiate and define mutual advantage.
  • In particular, data and customized news and advertising content, barely nascent concerns in 2009, are on the radar of any big publisher now.  At the same time, catching up to the Googles and Facebooks, in data sophistication, not to mention their massive raw numbers of users and pageviews, really is not in the cards.
  • The Google showdown was newspaper centered.  Newspapers thought of themselves as the unchallenged center of the news universe.  Walled gardens were still in style. They were also reeling from the sharp revenue declines as a deep recession piggybacked on the secular shift to digital content and advertising. Hence the anger — and search for a convenient scapegoat in Google.Only one of the three named first players headed for the Facebook publishing platform is a newspaper — the Times itself.  BuzzFeed is all digital, and not much affected by the ad revenue split question since it relies on live-anywhere native ads and does not run banners.  National Geographic is a venerable  magazine brand remaking itself of multiple platforms.   Terms that fit for each of those three and other players to be named could be different.
  • Facebook has a lot to gain.  If it directly publishes a much higher volume of quality content, that could bring on board the 15 or 20 people who are not already members.  And it could help hold the group experiencing Facebook fatigue and ready to drop — in the case of the youngest users for a mix of other social platforms.
  • Facebook directly addresses a pain point for publishers.  Evidence accumulates nearly daily of how slow load times, especially for video on smart phones, causes potential users to quit before they even get started.  Facebook has solutions to what even big publishers struggle to perfect on their own or with expensive vendor help.
  • The initial New York Times story was less than definitive about whether we are talking about publishing all of a news organization’s content or some of it.  I am guessing the latter, at first anyhow, which leaves plenty of room for adjustment after the beta pilot.

So, yes, not without peril, but this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  In the not too distant future, publishers and big tech partners may no longer see data as mine versus yours, but rather as ours.

For that matter, six years down the road, tech giant Z, yet to be invented, may be challenging Facebook’s place as the behemoth which publishing cannot afford not to deal with. Read more

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Death and writing short – the missing SXSW session

I once heard the great Francis X. Clines of the New York Times tell a group of journalists never to apologize for writing about death.  “We tell the morbid truth,” he said.

I was scheduled to deliver a workshop on “How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times” on St. Patrick’s Day at SXSW.  But on Friday the Thirteenth my mother, Shirley Clark, died at the age of 95.  I cancelled my trip to Austin and turned my writing skills to crafting her eulogy.

Here are some of the things I would have said at SXSW if I had been able to make the trip.  It riffs off my handout for the session, which you can access here.  When I picked the selections of short writing for study, I didn’t realize how many of them were about death:  dying, almost dying, fear of dying, recovering from a death, remembering a death, the legacy of death.  The death of my mom just brought this into focus.  Frank Clines was right. We tell, if we have the courage, the morbid truth.

I.  Power of Story

When we think of stories, we think of long forms: novels, movies, magazine features, and serial narratives.  But stories come in all shapes and sizes.  This one was sent to me via Twitter, a post on the Facebook page “Humans of New York,”which features a photo of a New Yorker with an accompanying text. (I do not have the author’s name.)

When I was 22, I fell off a fishing boat in the middle of the night.  We were about 200 miles from shore, fishing for swordfish.  I was trying to bend a pipe into place when it gave way and dumped me in the ocean.  They didn’t notice I was gone for about 20 minutes.  The waves were about twelve feet high, and between the waves I could see the boat going further and further and further until it completely disappeared.  You know how they say that when you’re dying, you’re supposed to go toward the light?  Well, when I thought I was dying, the light was moving further and further away.  (112 words)

What surprises me here is how efficiently this story works.  It begins with an inciting incident, the fall off the boat, and raises the stakes as the boat drifts “further and further and further” away, that repetition rolling like sea waves.  It should remind us that narrative is a form of transportation.  Wherever you happen to be sitting, the author lifts you up through scenic action and carries you to another place. In my own life, I have never been lost at sea until I read this and then I am. The metaphor of the dying light is brilliant to me, a great ending, something you can “see” in both its literal and figurative meanings.

When I read a story like that, something that moves me, it inspires me to write.  I often look for a “moment in time,” not a full movie, but a moving snapshot, a bit of story that has a beginning, middle, and end.  By coincidence this one concerned my mom.

Shirley had fallen again, nothing serious at the age of 95, just a couple of days in the hospital – and then rehab.  When she woke in a hospital bed, having already forgotten the fall, she wondered why she was there.  Loopy on medication, she told her youngest son that she had just had a baby.  “Have you seen the baby?”  It was 1943, she thought, 70 years ago, the year of her first pregnancy and her miscarriage.  My older brother – who was never born.  (84 words)

Story, as we know from both fiction and nonfiction, is an expression of memory. By the time of this incident, my mother had lost her short-term memory, not even able to remember a recent fall. And yet she could recall in vivid detail, so that it seemed real to her, an even from 1943.  My brother told me this story just after it happened, and it revealed something profound about my mother’s life. In spite of having given birth to three sons, she clung to the memory of her miscarried child, as if it were unfinished business.  Unlike the first example, I use a piece of dialogue here, which always energizes a narrative, no matter how short.

More and more, I find myself drawing wisdom from some very old forms of short writing, things like proverbs, fables, and parables. I can’t think of a more efficient short story than the one Jesus narrates about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 30-35)

A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell in with robbers, who after both stripping him and beating him went their way, leaving him half-dead.  But, as it happened, a certain priest was going down the same way, and when he saw him, he passed by.  And likewise a Levite also, when he was near the place and saw him, passed by.  But a certain Samaritan as he journeyed came upon him, and seeing him, was moved with compassion.  And he went up to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.  And setting him on his own beast, he brought him to an inn and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the inn-keeper and said, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I, on my way back, wi  l repay you.” (152 words)

Given its cultural importance – we even have Good Samaritan laws – it surprised me that this parable was so short.  Its efficiency still startles me. First, we don’t know anyone’s name or anything about their appearance. More important is what Tom Wolfe might call their “status.”  The priest and the Levite, given their elevated role in the Jewish religion, should feel a special responsibility to help the victim.  Instead, Jesus gives the role of “neighbor” to the Samaritan, a despised outsider.  It would be like a Sunni Muslim coming to the aid of a Shiite, or a Catholic in Belfast coming to the aid of a Protestant victim. The Torah may ask you to love God and your neighbor as yourself, but can you take it to a higher level and love the stranger?

And consider the use of details.  What do we know about the Samaritan?  He had a beast with him, a donkey. He carried oil and wine.  He had money, denarii.  Each of these things was intended for his comfort on his journey.  But he turns each of them over the care of the fallen man. Nice work, Mr. Samaritan.  Good story, Jesus.

I often highlight the work of Joanna Smith, who covered the earthquake in Haiti five years ago for the Toronto Star. Because of power failures, she resorted to covering the disaster as an eyewitness using tweets as the elements of a live blog. The resulting work turned into a kind of serial narrative, with each chapter 140 characters:

  • Fugitive from prison caught looting, taken from police, beaten, dragged thru street, died slowly and set on fire in pile of garbage.
  • Woman shrieking, piercing screams, “Maman! Papa! Jesus!” as dressing on her wounded heel is changed outside clinic.  No painkillers.
  • Little boys playing with neat little cars constructed from juice bottles, caps.  Fill with rocks and pull with string. Fun!

Remarkably, those tweets have characters, scenes, settings, chronologies, motives, the building blocks of story.

II.  Emphatic Word Order

Great short writing, in any generation, shows signs of focus, wit, and polish.  By “focus,” we mean that the text captures one thing.  By “wit,” we mean it exhibits a governing intelligence.  And by “polish,” we mean that it has been delivered in its best form:  the best words in the best order.

One strategy of revision adds that polish.  It’s called emphatic word order and is best exemplified by a line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth:  “The Queen, my lord, is dead.”

Friends know that this is my favorite teaching example, sometimes called a mentor text.  After all, Shakespeare could have written:

The Queen is dead, my lord.

Or:  My lord, the Queen is dead.

If Yoda had a shot, it might have come out: Dead the Queen is, my lord.

These last three take the Bard’s six words but arrange them in a different order.  Shakespeare’s is the best.  Why?  Because he places an important word at the beginning (Queen), a less important word in the middle (lord), and the most important word at the end (dead).  Any word that appears before the period, what Brits call the “full stop,” gets special attention.

You can take that emphasis and heat it up by placing the most important word or number at the end of a paragraph, as Thomas French does in this passage from Zoo Story on the violent death of a chimp named Herman:

Altogether he lived at Lowery Park Zoo for 35 years.  He lasted there longer than any other creature and longer than any of the humans.  Each of the 1,800 animals at the zoo is assigned a number.  His was 00001.

Tom could have written:  “His number was 00001, first among the 1,800 animals at the zoo,” but that would have drained the juice.  That primal primate’s number was the key, so Tom places it at the end of a sentence, a paragraph, a section. It also comes at the end of the shortest sentence in the text, which gives it the ring of gospel truth.

III. Juke Joint Juxtapositions

In addition to focus, wit, and polish, a great piece of short writing benefits from a little rub, some friction, tension, ambiguity that creates some heat and light.  Take my sub-headline “Juke Joint Juxtapositions.”  I could have written, “Do the Juke Joint Boogie Woogie,” colorful, but redundant.  Juke Joint does not belong next to Juxtaposition, which is why I put it there.

I see this most often in titles:  The Great Gatsby, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Paradise Lost, The Catcher in the Rye, Duck Dynasty, even my book The Glamour of Grammar.

I guess we’re back to death again.  Look at the stories attached to each of those titles:

Gatsby:  He is murdered.

Buffy:  Kills the undead.

Prufrock:  Depressed by the ravages of old age.

Lost:  Loss of paradise leads to death.

Catcher: Dream of protecting children from fall off a cliff.

Dynasty:  Killing ducks.

The Glamour of Grammar:  Hey, mom, here’s one for me (and for you):  living a life of language!

Anyway, that’s what I would have said at SXSW, and now I get to share it with all of you. Read more


6 questions raised by Facebook’s reported deal with publishers

If Facebook is able to persuade media organizations to go along with its newest idea, it will be, no kidding, a game-changer.

The New York Times reported last night that Facebook is talking with the Times, National Geographic, BuzzFeed and others about a plan that would have the news organizations hosting their mobile content on Facebook rather than linking back to their own sites.

When I teach newsrooms how to smartly use Facebook, I tell them that it is vital that most posts push the reader back “to the mothership.” By that I mean get the reader onto the newsroom’s website. The reasons are simple: That’s where the ads are, that’s where the metrics are and that’s where the other content that publishers want people to read, watch and listen to is posted. The plan, as spelled out in the Times’ article, would be to place the content somehow on Facebook on the condition that the social network shares revenue with the news organizations that provide it.

RELATED: Twitter reacts to Facebook’s deal with publishers: savior or Faustian bargain?

Think about all of the issues that would raise. These are the first that come to my mind:

  • If the content news outlets generate is posted on a free social media site, how would this affect organizations that are increasingly turning to subscription models?
  • How would such an agreement affect who holds the copyright to the information? If Facebook publishes an entire copyrighted work, wouldn’t the originator have to sign over some rights to use the entire work? Likewise, how would corrections or changes to the original copy be addressed?
  • What about defamation and libel? Would Facebook be willing to expose itself to libel and defamation claims if a story proved to be untrue and defamatory? Wouldn’t litigants love to go after such a big target rather than a little website or news organization with limited capital?
  • Would Facebook archive everything it posts?
  • How would this affect referent traffic, the traffic that news sites get when readers bounce from the story that brought them to the site to other things they see on the page?
  • What data might Facebook collect about the readers that consume the news content? What could they do with that?

As the Times article points out, Facebook is so large that publishers may have little choice but to cooperate or potentially lose a major source of traffic:

And if Facebook pushes beyond the experimental stage and makes content hosted on the site commonplace, those who do not participate in the program could lose substantial traffic — a factor that has played into the thinking of some publishers. Their articles might load more slowly than their competitors’, and over time readers might avoid those sites.

And just as Facebook has changed its news feed to automatically play videos hosted directly on the site, giving them an advantage compared with videos hosted on YouTube, it could change the feed to give priority to articles hosted directly on its site.

The sobering news may not be surprising to those who have been paying attention. Last fall Facebook launched a “Listening Tour” for publishers. In October, former New York Times columnist David Carr sent a signal of the story that unfolded today. He wrote this passage:

Chris Cox, chief product officer for Facebook, knows that the frightened chatter is out there, but says those worries are unfounded because the interests of Facebook and digital publishers are pretty much aligned.

We are at the very beginning of a conversation and it’s very important that we get this right,” he said in a video call. “Because we play an increasingly important role in how people discover the news that they read every day, we feel a responsibility to work with publishers to come up with as good an experience as we can for consumers. And we want and need that to be a good experience for publishers as well.”

Fortune.com also reminds us that the past may teach us lessons worth recalling. There was a time when AOL was a key distributor of news. Then came Yahoo, then Google News. Now Facebook. Desperate publishers have a lot to lose when they give up content too quickly and they have a lot to lose if they get left in the dust. Read more


News orgs may sign on to an even closer partnership with Facebook. Like?

Good morning. Here are eight media stories.

  1. Update status

    The New York Times reports that Facebook is in talks with several news organizations, including BuzzFeed, National Geographic and the Times itself, to host content on Facebook. "Such a plan would represent a leap of faith for news organizations accustomed to keeping their readers within their own ecosystems, as well as accumulating valuable data on them." (The New York Times) | Facebook "isn’t just another platform," Joshua Benton writes for Nieman Lab. "It’s dominant in a way no other platform is, which makes it understandable that publishers might be weighing the cost-benefit — or control-benefit — analysis differently than it does for, oh, WhatsApp or Snapchat." (Nieman Lab) | John Battelle has five questions for organizations considering the partnership, including "Do you have any proof that publishers using another company’s proprietary platform have ever created a lasting and sustainable business?" (Medium) | On Monday, Poynter's Ben Mullin wrote "How Vox Media gets readers to share on Facebook." (The answer is that Vox creates content just for Facebook.) (Poynter) | Vox also wrote about its approach to Facebook. (Vox) | Related: In a piece out Monday, Quartz Senior Editor Gideon Lichfield spoke with ICFJ and included a few lines about the love-hate relationship with Facebook. (ICFJ)

  2. The Charlottesville police department did its own reporting on the Rolling Stone story

    On Monday afternoon, police in Charlottesville, Virginia announced they were suspending an investigation into the alleged rape that Rolling Stone detailed in a November article. "Some of the stuff that was in the article, we were able to actually go through and get a little more detail than what was actually printed." (Huffington Post) | "That doesn't mean that something terrible did not happen to Jackie on the evening of September 28, 2012. We are just not able to gather sufficient facts." (Jezebel) | Erik Wemple details how the police did their reporting. (The Washington Post) | Columbia University's review of Rolling Stone's article is expected soon. (CNN) | "Phi Kappa Psi is now exploring its legal options to address the extensive damage caused by Rolling Stone..." (Business Insider)

  3. No prison furlough for Jason Rezaian

    The Washington Post's Jason Rezaian won't get a furlough from prison in time for the Iranian new year, Rezaian's brother told The New York Times. Courts often allow non-violent prisoners to take furloughs for the holiday. (The New York Times)

  4. The first Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award has been given

    Freelance photographer Heidi Levine is the first winner of the International Women's Media Foundation's Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award. "Anja was both a photojournalist and a person I admired, respected, and often consulted with in the field under extreme circumstances. There was an incredible professional bond and sense of trust, a sisterhood so many of us felt, and she is greatly missed by us all." (IWMF)

  5. Cox Media Group wants to work with Facebook

    In an interview with NetNewsCheck, Mark Medici, Cox Media's senior vice president for audience strategy, spoke about switching to metered paywalls and working with Facebook. "As Facebook will look to change its business model, we’ll have to adjust accordingly. But right now I don’t look at it as a threat." (NetNewsCheck)

  6. The NYT published the word 'apotheosis' a lot last year.

    Reporters with The New York Times used 'apotheosis' 45 times last year. "Its fundamental meaning is deification or elevation to divine status; by extension it can mean glorification or a glorified ideal. Given those meanings, we can end up with some startling contrasts. In recent months, The Times has used the word in connection with Martin Luther King Jr., the brutality of the Islamic State and a soggy sandwich." (The New York Times)

  7. Front page of the day, selected by Seth Liss

    A graphic tornado on the front today of the Omaha World-Herald. (Courtesy the Newseum)


  8. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin

    Juliet Williams is now an administrative correspondent for The Associated Press. She joined the AP's Sacramento bureau in 2005. (San Francisco Chronicle) | James Oliphant is now a political correspondent at Reuters. Previously, he was deputy editor for National Journal magazine. (Email) | Eric Markowitz is now a senior technology writer at International Business Times. Previously, he covered business and tech for Vocativ. (Fishbowl NY) | Job of the day: The Memphis Business Journal is looking for an editor in chief. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org.

Corrections? Tips? Think Facebook is the apotheosis of platforms? Please email me: khare@poynter.org. Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here. Read more


How Vox Media gets readers to share on Facebook


Vox Media

Before and after Vox released its interview with Barack Obama in February, the outlet teased viewers with a series of video previews. Each a couple of minutes long and seasoned liberally with swooping graphics, the videos were uploaded directly to Facebook and contained excerpts of the president’s conversation with Vox journalists Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein.

The videos — some of which contained a link to the full interview — drove traffic back to Vox’s website. But that wasn’t their purpose. The previews were self-contained pieces of content that lived exclusively on Facebook, designed primarily to entice readers to share. The most popular video was published a day before the interview went live, and racked up 4,606 shares, more than the other three previews combined.

“When you directly upload a video to Facebook, folks just share it at a much higher rate,” said Chris Thorman, director of audience development for Vox Media.

How much more? The numbers vary, but Facebook-native content is frequently shared at rates ten times higher than non-native content across Vox Media’s seven brands, according to a company spokesperson. Even though making content for Facebook doesn’t necessarily mean more inbound traffic to Vox Media’s sites, it does help the company extend its brand visibility on the social network.

“We’re looking at our audience not just in terms of people who come to our website, but we’re also looking at it in terms of our social reach,” Thorman said.

Vox Media is one of a growing number of publishers — think Fusion and BuzzFeed — that are designing videos and images specifically for social media. Although pageviews and uniques remain crucial ingredients for success, these media companies are also trying to reach readers on their own turf.

This platform-specific content could also pay dividends down the line if social networks like Facebook decide to give publishers some of the ad revenue generated by native video, as Lucia Moses wrote for Digiday in January.

The Obama clips, which were heralded as a successful case study in a post on Vox Media’s media and marketing blog, offer a glimpse at a few of the company’s tricks aimed at creating shareable content for Facebook.

First, give readers something they can’t find anywhere else. The first preview was likely the most popular because it came out a day before the interview, making it the only taste of the presidential back-and-forth available online.

“It was also the first piece saying ‘Hey we interviewed the president,’ so I think there was some natural excitement and intrigue about it,” Thorman said.

Another strategy to persuade readers to click the share button: Get the audience development team involved early in the planning process. In this case, Vox’s social media team coordinated with other editorial staffers to make sure they had clippable excerpts from the question-and-answer session. When it was time to post the preview online, they were ready with bite-sized presidential monologues on a variety of subjects including foreign policy, income redistribution and the polarized political climate.

Vox Media staffers also try to wring the most information they can out of their Facebook posts, which they’ve found readers reward with shares, Thorman said. This means taking care to ensure that the headline, the anchor text and the summary blurb for the preview are all different and each contribute to the reader’s understanding of what they’re about to see or hear. Vox Media’s content management system, Chorus, has different fields that allow reporters and editors to write in a headline and pick an image optimized for social media.

Thorman also encourages social media teams to build their previews and native Facebook posts for the busy reader who will likely see the content for a fraction of a second while swiping through his or her feed. With such an small window to reach audiences, catchy headlines are critical because video is muted by default on Facebook. Vigorous, miserly preview blurbs also help, as does a quick entry point to connect with audience members.

One other takeaway from the campaign is that native image posts performed just as well as native video uploads, Thorman said. Despite a report claiming Facebook’s mysterious News Feed algorithm de-emphasized photos, Thorman reports that Vox’s promotional photos had about the same sharing rate as its videos. Read more

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New study finds millennials are strong news consumers, but take an indirect path

Millennials are getting a bad rap as a newsless and disengaged generation, according to a new study of their news habits. But print newspapers and digital home pages are not their main way of finding what they are looking for.

Rather social media and search are the two top avenues for finding news, according to a report released today by the American Press Institute, Associated Press and NORC center at the University of Chicago.  Facebook is the top way of encountering news, used by 88 percent of those who do.

Eighty-five percent of 1,000 millennials surveyed said that news is at least somewhat important to them. News is their third top digital activity after e-mail and check of weather and traffic. Games and keeping up with friends came in fourth and fifth.

Sixty-nine percent check news at least once a day, and 49 percent do so several time a day.  Forty percent themselves pay for some form of news, and 57 percent said they follow at least four hard news topics.

You Tube and Instagram were also popular ways to access news, used by a majority of those surveyed. The study found some dissatisfaction with Facebook, especially among the youngest of the cohort.

Predictably, too, millennials tend to consume news episodically through the day as they check their smart phones as opposed to sustained sessions like older readers.

The findings are to be presented today in Nashville at the annual mediaXchange conference of the Newspaper Assocation of America, Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, told me that the implications for newspaper organization executives are mixed.

Most of the 18 to 34-year-olds “will not age into print….Most will never see your homepage,”  he said. On the other hand, the social and search companies are not themselves news producers.

So the best strategy, Rosenstiel said, “is to accept these as gateways,” and deliver high-quality branded content when they arrive (preferably optimized for smart phones).  Winning audience should come first, monetization later.

A separate API study has recommended that newspaper organizations identify as a few “franchise topics” of particular local interest and provide heavy coverage of those.

Another recommendation is to tailor social media communication to the particular strengths of a given platform — Twitter for influentials and serious news followers, Instagram for photos, and Pinterest for hobbies.

The research included focus group discussions, which uncovered a preference among the millennials for multiple viewpoints and some disdain for clickbait frivolity:

One theme we heard was a desire that the crowded media marketplace would calm down, and that there would be less fear mongering — which interestingly is a theme scholars have identified in the digital landscape. “I’d like if the media in the next five years is actually stripped down and is more factual as opposed to sensationalized,” said Marwa, age 25 in Chicago. “I feel like the news creates so much drama for us, it creates so much fear instead of just saying, ‘okay, this is what happened.’”

Similarly, there were complaints about the negative frame of many stories, a sense that good news, like a falling crime rate, did not get equal attention.

Another theme we heard is a desire for the news media to be more of an arbiter of truthfulness and not just a carrier of potentially polarizing rhetoric or alarming allegations.

And millennials would welcome a few more voices of their own generation as reporters and commentators.

To my mind, the study seemed a little light on gauging the millennials’ appetite for local news compared to topics like national politics, sports and social issues.  For local publishers, it remains a tough call whether to go all in for their strengths covering the community or to cater, as well, to some of the broader interests of the millennials — and older readers too. Read more


Here’s what Facebook knows about ethnic minorities on social media

There were a few relevant insights for journalists in a SXSW session Friday that was primarily designed to motivate advertisers and marketers to target Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians on Facebook.

If you want to get relevant content in front of a diverse audience on social media, you have to understand the nuances of how that audience is different from the general population, the presenters argued.

Christian Martinez, head of U.S. multicultural sales for Facebook, described a study that Facebook and Ipsos MediaCT performed last August on 1,600 Facebook users.

Where ethnic minorities used to see their physical neighborhood as the primary way they connect to their culture and heritage, now it’s through social media, said Virginia Lennon, senior vice president of partnerships for Ipsos. Where minorities used to connect in person and on the telephone, now social media provides a constant connection to their family and friends, especially for those who are separated by physical distance and even national borders.

“What it means is that these multicultural consumers live digital lives more so than their gen-pop (general population) counterparts,” she said. “They are creating neighborhoods that are fully-formed and self-formed. They are acting in an enhanced way when it comes to communication.”

Among the findings from the study that journalists might find relevant:

African-Americans are:

  • Three times more likely than the general population to make a status update
  • Three times more likely to upload a video
  • Six times more likely to physically check-in to a location on social media.
  • 39 percent use social media to discover content
  • 51 percent click on video ads

U.S. Hispanics are:

  • Three times more likely to message their friends on Facebook
  • Twice as likely to check in
  • Three times more likely to upload video
  • 78 percent access the internet on mobile, more so than any other ethnic group
  • 49 percent share brands on social media
  • 70 percent consume ads that were recommended to them by friends
  • Many prefer content that blends Spanish and English

Asian-Americans are:

  • Slightly more likely to upload photos and videos
  • Slightly more likely to message friends
  • 40 percent use social media to discover content
  • 60 percent consume ads that were recommended by their network
  • Primarily consume social media on desktop computers
Read more
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Facebook is purging fake news stories, but The Onion probably won’t be affected


Social networking giant Facebook announced Tuesday that it’s taking steps to stamp out malicious fake news stories while leaving funny fake stories unaffected.

The company is tweaking its inscrutable News Feed to cut down on the number of “stories that are hoaxes, or misleading news,” Facebook software engineer Erich Owens and research scientist Udi Weinsberg write in a post on the company blog.

The change isn’t intended to remove stories that people report as false or allow Facebook to decide what’s factual and what isn’t, they explain:

To reduce the number of these types of posts, News Feed will take into account when many people flag a post as false. News Feed will also take into account when many people choose to delete posts. This means a post with a link to an article that many people have reported as a hoax or chosen to delete will get reduced distribution in News Feed. This update will apply to posts including links, photos, videos and status updates.

Publishers of satirical content, like The Onion and its sister site Clickhole, likely will not be affected by the change because testing indicates “people tend not to report satirical content intended to be humorous,” according to the post.

Rather, publishers who try to pass off scams or “deliberately false” stories will see a reduced circulation in their posts after readers flag the articles as such.

Facebook’s News Feed has been a source of much speculation and frustration among news outlets that want their content viewed by the vast audience that Facebook offers. In October, Sam Kirkland examined why the mysterious rhythms of the News Feed are driving news organizations up the wall. Read more


Sorry, journos: Heavy use of social media is not stressful, study says

The Pew Research Center’s latest internet study, out this morning, uses some intricate survey methodology to come to a straightforward finding: heavy users of social media, Facebook particularly, are not stressed by the experience.

That’s noteworthy in light of a spate of think pieces and entire books arguing that digital information overload is messing with our minds and lowering the quality of life for many.

But a survey of 1,800 people, using a established scale for measuring stress, found that internet/cell phone/ social media users are not finding “that their life is is overloaded, unpredictable and uncontrollable” as a result.

I asked whether the study tried to measure the impact of heavy news consumption via social media. Co-authors Lee Rainie of Pew Research and Keith Hampton of Rutgers University both said no — but that might be a good question for another day.

The report noted one interesting exception to the overall finding: heavy Facebook users, especially women, said they are now more likely to learn of adverse events like illness, breakups and job loss among friends and family.  They find themselves saddened by some of that  — a phenomenon the authors describe as “the cost of caring.”

However, pressure to participate and “not miss out” via social media is not viewed as stressful by those who do it, nor does hearing about the successes of others via Facebook make them anxious about their own situation.

UPDATE, 11 a.m.:  Coincidentally Steve Rubel, chief content strategist for the Edelman public relations firm, has just posted a related story on journalists and social media, based on a survey of 250 journalists.  He finds that three-quarters of journalists now feel pressure to produce stories that will be shared on social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter. Read more


Why editors shouldn’t call readers a**holes

New York Times Editor Dean Baquet called a college professor an asshole on Facebook and some people cheered.

It’s possible that those who recognize how hard it is to create great journalism every single day of the year were animated by the idea of the polite and prestigious editor of the country’s biggest newspaper swinging back in response to a cheap shot.

I wish he wouldn’t have.

Creating dialogue in the face of hostility is a challenge in social media – and in real life, too – but it can be done. And it should be done. And it’s in the best interest of journalism that the editor of the New York Times set that example.

Baquet’s comment under University of Southern California’s Marc Cooper’s Facebook post had 53 likes as of this morning.

Marc Cooper seems to reveling in the attention it brought.  He posted every article written about Baquet’s outburst, more than once pointing out to his followers, “I’m the asshole.” And he posted a lengthy response.

I’m sure Baquet expected the scrutiny. Teachers, politicians, newspaper editors, cops – they all hold power over others. They all have the ability to force others to listen. They command a microphone and a spotlight.

I’m not saying they should roll over. Almost everything else Baquet said in his comment was legitimate dialogue. Even the wish that Professor Cooper’s students are more open-minded was fair game.

But the name-calling diverted our attention. I bet it felt good in the moment. And for others, perhaps it provided a vicarious moment of satisfaction in the face of smug self-righteousness. But in the long run, calling Cooper an asshole harms the very condition that Baquet and the rest of journalism strives to create: an informed and engaged citizenry.

Name-calling starts when reasonable listening stops. In doing so, Baquet signaled that he was no longer listening. And that’s a dangerous place for the editor of a newspaper to be.

screenshot-cooper Read more


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