I generally don’t chase breaking news stories – my posts come once or twice a week at most. This may seem a disadvantage in the fast moving world of social media. But the slower pace affords some perspective – I try to look beyond the quick headline, see the bigger picture and connect the dots for readers.
And experience has shown that if I miss one news cycle, there will be another right around the corner.
For example, in just a few short weeks, Facebook drew fire for apparent bias in their Trending Now feature. Research came out confirming that it is the number one social network for news – and the chief way many of us get our news. The company changed its algorithm, decreasing the organic reach of publishers. And just this week they’re again catching flack – this time, for not seeming to think through implications of Facebook Live, as citizen journalists broadcast raw footage faster than Facebook can filter the streams (see Farhad Manjoo’s NY Times piece).
On the one hand you have admire their continued innovation. Facebook never stands still, always seems ready to shake things up to keep users engaged and coming back. On the other, you wonder how much they’ve thought through all the implications. It’s a little like the proverbial dog chasing a car. Facebook has caught the news “car”, now what does it do?
They seem to be playing all sides, trying to make everyone happy while increasing their influence. There have been the predictable media responses about impact on journalism, echo chambers and trivializing of news.
The reality is, news is is in the eyes of the beholder – and in a content and algorithm-driven world, Facebook – increasingly the arbiter – says News with a capital N needs to get in line.
Meanwhile, media should adapt their strategies, as it is clearly a mistake to focus on Facebook and platforms at the expense of cultivating other sources of traffic and attention.
Marketers go where media and users do – so they need to take a fresh look and revise their play books.
As to the impact on users, and society at large? There, I am not so concerned. We continue to have endless choices of info, news, opinion and analysis.
If people want to rely on Facebook to stay informed, that is their prerogative. If they want to ignore news and spend their time with baby pictures, that is fine too. These are likely the same people who looked no farther than the bridge of their nose for other views before Facebook.