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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.  Read more

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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. Read more

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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.

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How Vox Media gets readers to share on Facebook

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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. 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. Read more

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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. Read more

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Facebook is purging fake news stories, but The Onion probably won’t be affected

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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.

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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. Read more

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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. Read more

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Facebook makes some changes, offers more transparency about where traffic comes from

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Facebook announced some new tools and improvements on Wednesday in response to conversations the company has had with both big and small news organizations, a Facebook spokesperson tells Poynter.

The three new publishing tools will allow publishers to reach people based on other things they’ve liked, put a post-end date to posts that can go stale and identify stories doing well on Facebook.

There are also, the announcement notes, some improvements that will help media companies better understand where traffic is coming from:

Accurate and actionable analytics are critical for media organizations to understand and optimize how their content is performing on Facebook. We’ve made a variety of improvements to Domain Insights to show how Pages and social plugins drive traffic to websites.

We’ve added a new “Top URLs” section, which displays URL-level reporting and shows when other Pages and influencers reshare your content.

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