👓 A Close Look at How Facebook’s Retreat From the News Has Hurt One Particular Website—Ours | Slate

Read A Close Look at How Facebook’s Retreat From the News Has Hurt One Particular Website—Ours by Will Oremus (Slate Magazine)
New data shows the impact of Facebook’s pullback from an industry it had dominated (and distorted).

(Roose, who has since deleted his tweet as part of a routine purge of tweets older than 30 days, told me it was intended simply as an observation, not a full analysis of the trends.)

Another example of someone regularly deleting their tweets at regular intervals. I’ve seem a few examples of this in academia.


It’s worth noting that there’s a difference between NewsWhip’s engagement stats, which are public, and referrals—that is, people actually clicking on stories and visiting publishers’ sites. The two have generally correlated, historically, and Facebook told me that its own data suggests that continues to be the case. But two social media professionals interviewed for this story, including one who consults for a number of different publications, told me that the engagement on Facebook posts has led to less relative traffic. This means publications could theoretically be seeing less ad revenue from Facebook even if their public engagement stats are holding steady.


From Slate’s perspective, a comment on a Slate story you see on Facebook is great, but it does nothing for the site’s bottom line.


(Remember when every news site published the piece, “What Time Is the Super Bowl?”)

This is a great instance for Google’s box that simply provides the factual answer instead of requiring a click through.


fickle audiences available on social platforms.

Here’s where feed readers without algorithms could provide more stability for news.

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👓 How Facebook Punked and then Gut Punched the News Biz | TPM

Read How Facebook Punked and then Gut Punched the News Biz by Josh Marshall (Talking Points Memo)
In the digital publishing world, there’s been a buzz about this article in Slate in which slate staffer Will Oremus detailed the impact on the publication of Facebook’s dramatic retreat from the news business. The numbers are stark but not surprising for people in the industry. Indeed, Oremus makes the point that most news organizations are not willing to release these numbers. (We’ll come back to that point in a moment.) In January 2017 Slate had 28.33 million referrals from Facebook to Slate. By last month that number had dropped to 3.63 million. In other words, a near total collapse.
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👓 The platform patrons: How Facebook and Google became two of the biggest funders of journalism in the world | Columbia Journalism Review

Read The platform patrons: How Facebook and Google became two of the biggest funders of journalism in the world by Mathew Ingram (Columbia Journalism Review)

Taken together, Facebook and Google have now committed more than half a billion dollars to various journalistic programs and media partnerships over the past three years, not including the money spent internally on developing media-focused products like Facebook’s Instant Articles and Google’s competing AMP mobile project. The result: These mega-platforms are now two of the largest funders of journalism in the world.

The irony is hard to miss. The dismantling of the traditional advertising model—largely at the hands of the social networks, which have siphoned away the majority of industry ad revenue—has left many media companies and journalistic institutions in desperate need of a lifeline. Google and Facebook, meanwhile, are happy to oblige, flush with cash from their ongoing dominance of the digital ad market.

The result is a somewhat dysfunctional alliance. People in the media business (including some on the receiving end of the cash) see the tech donations as guilt money, something journalism deserves because Google and Facebook wrecked their business. The tech giants, meanwhile, are desperate for some good PR and maybe even a few friends in a journalistic community that—especially now—can seem openly antagonistic.

A stunning and relatively detailed overview of where we’ve been in the last several years on the journalism front with too many questions about where we may be going.

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👓 This Is How a Newspaper Dies | Politico

Read This Is How a Newspaper Dies by Jack Shafer (POLITICO Magazine)
It’s with a spasm of profits.

This article outlines an intriguing method for plundering the carcass of a dying business to reap as much profit from it as it dies as one can. I suppose that if one is sure a segment is on its way out, one may as well exploit its customers to turn a profit.

I wonder how long it will take for traditional television and cable related businesses to begin using this model as more and more people cut the cord.

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👓 Opinion: Silicon Valley Can’t Be Trusted With Our History | Buzz Feed

Read Opinion: Silicon Valley Can't Be Trusted With Our History by Evan HillEvan Hill (BuzzFeed)

We create almost everything on the internet, but we control almost none of it.

As time passes, I fear that more and more of what happened in those days will live only in memory. The internet has slowly unraveled since 2011: Image-hosting sites went out of business, link shorteners shut down, tweets got deleted, and YouTube accounts were shuttered. One broken link at a time, one of the most heavily documented historical events of the social media era could fade away before our eyes.

If Edward McCain (t) hasn’t come across this article yet, it might make an interesting case study for this year’s Dodging the Memory Hole conference. Definitely an interesting case of people archiving their online content.

cc: Journalism Digital News Archive (t); Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (t)

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👓 Twitter Pushing More News Links In The Home Timeline | BuzzFeed

Read Twitter Pushing More News Links In The Home Timeline by Alex Kantrowitz (BuzzFeed)
A Twitter spokesperson confirmed the new Twitter feature to BuzzFeed News. Twitter's aggressive move into news continues.
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👓 The five ways we read online (and what publishers can do to encourage the “good” ones) | Nieman Lab

Read The five ways we read online (and what publishers can do to encourage the “good” ones) by Laura Hazard Owen (Nieman Lab)
New metrics specifically for news articles.

I love that there’s research1 going on in this area and it portends some potentially great things for reading, but the devil’s advocate in me can also see a lot of adtech people salivating over the potential dark patterns lurking in such research. I can almost guarantee that Facebook is salivating over this, though to be honest, they’ve really pioneered the field haven’t they, just in a much smaller area of use. Of course I’m also curious if they did or are planning any research in how people read content on social media?

I wonder what it would look/feel like to take each of these modalities and apply them individually for long periods of time to everything one read? Or to use them in rotation regardless of the subject being read? Or other permutations? I suppose in general I like to read how I like to read, but now I’m going to be more conscious of what and how I’m doing it all.

References

1.
Grinberg N. Identifying Modes of User Engagement with Online News and Their Relationship to Information Gain in Text. WWW ’18 Proceedings of the 2018 World Wide Web Conference. https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=3186180. Published April 23, 2018. Accessed April 27, 2018.
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👓 Fox’s Hannity, named as a client of Michael Cohen, spent days attacking FBI raid | Politico

Read Fox’s Hannity, named as a client of Michael Cohen, spent days attacking FBI raid (POLITICO)
The host cited the seizure of Michael Cohen’s documents to blast Mueller’s Russia investigation.
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👓 The Google News Initiative: Building a stronger future for news | Google

Read

This article is even more interesting in light of the other Google blog post I read earlier today entitled Introducing Subscribe with Google. Was today’s roll out pre-planned or is Google taking an earlier advantage of Facebook’s poor position this week after the “non-data breach” stories that have been running this past week?

There’s a lot of puffery rhetoric here to make Google look more like an arriving hero, but I’d recommend taking with more than a few grains of salt.

Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish what’s true (and not true) online.

we’re committing $300 million toward meeting these goals.

I’m curious what their internal projections are for ROI?


People come to Google looking for information they can trust, and that information often comes from the reporting of journalists and news organizations around the world.

Heavy hit in light of the Facebook data scandal this week on top of accusations about fake news spreading.


That’s why it’s so important to us that we help you drive sustainable revenue and businesses.

Compared to Facebook which just uses your content to drive you out of business like it did for Funny or Die.
Reference: How Facebook is Killing Comedy


we drove 10 billion clicks a month to publishers’ websites for free.

Really free? Or was this served against ads in search?


We worked with the industry to launch the open-source Accelerated Mobile Pages Project to improve the mobile web

There was some collaborative outreach, but AMP is really a Google-driven spec without significant outside input.

See also: http://ampletter.org/


We’re now in the early stages of testing a “Propensity to Subscribe” signal based on machine learning models in DoubleClick to make it easier for publishers to recognize potential subscribers, and to present them the right offer at the right time.

Interestingly the technology here isn’t that different than the Facebook Data that Cambridge Analytica was using, the difference is that they’re not using it to directly impact politics, but to drive sales. Does this mean they’re more “ethical”?


With AMP Stories, which is now in beta, publishers can combine the speed of AMP with the rich, immersive storytelling of the open web.

Is this sentence’s structure explicitly saying that AMP is not “open web”?!

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👓 Introducing Subscribe with Google | Google

Read

Interesting to see this roll out as Facebook is having some serious data collection problems. This looks a bit like a means for Google to directly link users with content they’re consuming online and then leveraging it much the same way that Facebook was with apps and companies like Cambridge Analytica.

Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

Paying for a subscription is a clear indication that you value and trust your subscribed publication as a source. So we’ll also highlight those sources across Google surfaces


So Subscribe with Google will also allow you to link subscriptions purchased directly from publishers to your Google account—with the same benefits of easier and more persistent access.


you can then use “Sign In with Google” to access the publisher’s products, but Google does the billing, keeps your payment method secure, and makes it easy for you to manage your subscriptions all in one place.

I immediately wonder who owns my related subscription data? Is the publisher only seeing me as a lumped Google proxy or do they get may name, email address, credit card information, and other details?

How will publishers be able (or not) to contact me? What effect will this have on potential customer retention?

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👓 For Two Months, I Got My News From Print Newspapers. Here’s What I Learned. | New York Times

Read For Two Months, I Got My News From Print Newspapers. Here’s What I Learned. by Farhad Manjoo (nytimes.com)
Our tech columnist tried to skip digital news for a while. His old-school experiment led to three main conclusions.

A somewhat link-baity headline, but overall a nice little article with some generally solid advice. I always thought that even the daily paper was at too quick a pace and would much prefer a weekly or monthly magazine that does a solid recap of all the big stories and things one ought to know, that way the stories had had some time to simmer and all the details had time to come out. Kind of like reading longer form non-fiction of periods of history, just done on a somewhat shorter timescale.

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👓 Facebook’s Campbell Brown: “This is not about us trying to make everybody happy” | Nieman Journalism Lab

Read Facebook’s Campbell Brown: “This is not about us trying to make everybody happy” by Laura Hazard Owen (Nieman Lab)
“If someone feels that being on Facebook is not good for your business, you shouldn’t be on Facebook. Let’s be clear about that…I don’t see us as the answer to the problem.”
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👓 How Facebook Is Killing Comedy | Splitsider

Read How Facebook Is Killing Comedy by Sarah Aswell (Splitsider)
Last month, in its second round of layoffs in as many years, comedy hub Funny or Die reportedly eliminated its entire editorial team following a trend of comedy websites scaling back, shutting down, or restructuring their business model away from original online content. Hours after CEO Mike Farah delivered the news via an internal memo, Matt Klinman took to Twitter, writing, “Mark Zuckerberg just walked into Funny or Die and laid off all my friends.” It was a strong sentiment for the longtime comedy creator, who started out at UCB and The Onion before launching Pitch, the Funny or Die-incubated joke-writing app, in 2017.

This article really has so much. It also contains a microcosm of what’s been happening in journalism recently as well. I have a feeling that if outlets like Funny or Die were to go back and own their original content, there would still be a way for them to exist, we just need to evolve the internet away from the centralized direction we’ve been moving for the past decade and change.

Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

eliminated its entire editorial team following a trend of comedy websites scaling back, shutting down, or restructuring their business model away from original online content.  Hours after CEO Mike Farah delivered the news via an internal memo, Matt Klinman took to Twitter, writing, “Mark Zuckerberg just walked into Funny or Die and laid off all my friends.” It was a strong sentiment for the longtime comedy creator, who started out at UCB and The Onion before launching Pitch, the Funny or Die-incubated joke-writing app, in 2017.


“Mark Zuckerberg just walked into Funny or Die and laid off all my friends.”


The whole story is basically that Facebook gets so much traffic that they started convincing publishers to post things on Facebook. For a long time, that was fine. People posted things on Facebook, then you would click those links and go to their websites. But then, gradually, Facebook started exerting more and more control of what was being seen, to the point that they, not our website, essentially became the main publishers of everyone’s content. Today, there’s no reason to go to a comedy website that has a video if that video is just right on Facebook. And that would be fine if Facebook compensated those companies for the ad revenue that was generated from those videos, but because Facebook does not pay publishers, there quickly became no money in making high-quality content for the internet.


Facebook has created a centrally designed internet. It’s a lamer, shittier looking internet.


The EU has a bunch of laws kicking in to keep this in check — one is algorithmic transparency, where these places need to tell me why they are showing me something.


If someone at Facebook sees this, I want them to know, if they care at all about the idea that was the internet, they need to start thinking through what they are doing. Otherwise, then you’re just like Lennie from Of Mice and Men — a big dumb oaf crushing the little mouse of the internet over and over and not realizing it.


And I want it to feel that way to other people so that when they go to a cool website, they are inspired: They see human beings putting love and care into something.


Facebook is essentially running a payola scam where you have to pay them if you want your own fans to see your content.


It’s like if The New York Times had their own subscriber base, but you had to pay the paperboy for every article you wanted to see.


And then it becomes impossible to know what a good thing to make is anymore.

This is where webmentions on sites can become valuable. People posting “read” posts or “watch” posts (or even comments) indicating that they saw something could be the indicator to the originating site that something is interesting/valuable and could be displayed by that site. (This is kind of like follower counts, but for individual pieces of content, so naturally one would need to be careful about gaming.)


Here’s another analogy, and I learned this in an ecology class: In the 1800s (or something), there were big lords, or kings or something, who had giant estates with these large forests. And there were these foresters who had this whole notion of how to make a perfectly designed forest, where the trees would be pristinely manicured and in these perfect rows, and they would get rid of all the gross stuff and dirt. It was just trees in a perfect, human-devised formation that you could walk through. Within a generation, these trees were emaciated and dying. Because that’s how a forest works — it needs to be chaotic. It needs bugs and leaves, it makes the whole thriving ecosystem possible. That’s what this new internet should be. It won’t survive as this human-designed, top-down thing that is optimized for programmatic ads. It feels like a desert. There’s no nutrition, there’s no opportunity to do anything cool.


Recommending things for people is a personal act, and there are people who are good at it. There are critics. There are blogs. It’s not beneficial to us to turn content recommendations over to an algorithm, especially one that’s been optimized for garbage.


the internet was a better place 3-4 years ago. It used to be fruitful, but it’s like a desert now.


Facebook is the great de-contextualizer.

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Dodging the Memory Hole 2017 Conference at the Internet Archive November 15-16, 2017

RSVPed Interested in Attending https://www.rjionline.org/events/dodging-the-memory-hole-2017
Please join us at Dodging the Memory Hole 2017: Saving Online News on Nov. 15-16 at the Internet Archive headquarters in San Francisco. Speakers, panelists and attendees will explore solutions to the most urgent threat to cultural memory today — the loss of online news content. The forum will focus on progress made in and successful models of long-term preservation of born-digital news content. Journalistic content published on websites and through social media channels is ephemeral and easily lost in a tsunami of digital content. Join professional journalists, librarians, archivists, technologists and entrepreneurs in addressing the urgent need to save the first rough draft of history in digital form. The two-day forum — funded by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute and an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant awarded to the Journalism Digital News Archive, UCLA Library and the Educopia Institute — will feature thought leaders, stakeholders and digital preservation practitioners who are passionate about preserving born-digital news. Sessions will include speakers, multi-member panels, lightning round speakers and poster presenters examining existing initiatives and novel practices for protecting and preserving online journalism.

I attended this conference at UCLA in Fall 2016; it was fantastic! I highly recommend it to journalists, coders, Indieweb enthusiasts, publishers, and others interested in the related topics covered.

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