The News Feed is perhaps the world’s most sophisticated mirror of its readers’ preferences—and it’s fairly clear that news isn’t one of them. We simply prefer stories that fulfill the very purpose of Facebook’s machine-learning algorithm, to show us a reflection of the person we’d like to be, to make us feel, to make us smile, and, most simply, to remind us of ourselves.
Derek Thompson, The Facebook Effect on the News, The Atlantic.
Thompson uses data from the BuzzFeed Partner Network (a conglomeration of popular sites) to compare the type of content that goes viral three different ways: Twitter, Search Traffic and Facebook.
It’s a blend of news, like terrorist attacks and music shows, and evergreen silliness with Ryan Gosling and Kim Kardashian.
In Search Traffic:
Just about all of them arguably count as “news.” They describe recent events, whether it’s a bikini sighting, terrorist explosion, or celebrity death.
Of the 20 most viral stories on BuzzFeed’s network, only seven deal with recent events. Only three deal with what you might call national news stories: the Miss America Pageant, Netflix technology, and the Video Music Awards (not quite A1 fare, but news, nonetheless). But the vast majority of these stories aren’t really news, at all. They’re quizzes about your accent, lists of foods and photographs, funny reminders of what life feels like as you age. For lack of a better term: They’re entertainment.
It felt good. It felt right.
I would lose track of my computer. I’d find it in weird places, buried under stacks of books, under chairs, or creeping toward the appliance garage where the food processor lives.
Alexis Madrigal, Twitter Is Weird—and Other Things Fatherhood Taught Me, The Atlantic.
Madrigal, who recently had a baby, spent two months on break from being a “full-time information consumer,” and deprofessionalized his internet use:
The videogame world has a useful analogy: There people talk about “core” gamers versus other types. Core gamers overwhelmingly come from certain demographics and their behaviors and interests are distinct from the much larger group of people who play games sometimes. They have dedicated gaming hardware and try out lots of games. They care a lot about graphics and don’t mind mastering complex control systems. Casual gamers are different. They like easy-to-play games where the learning curve is not steep. And they don’t spend a ton of time or money on games.
In my normal life, like many other journalists, I am a core Internet user. But in the baby bubble, I became a casual user, just someone looking to read the news and keep up with friends and family.
FJP: The piece has some interesting insights about what the difference between the two is, which news consumption styles are best suited to Twitter, what a phone (versus a laptop) is good enough for and what an intertwined digital-analog life looks like.
This online cultivation of beautiful sadness is easy to join: anyone can take a picture, turn it black and white, pair it with a quote about misunderstood turmoil, and automatically be gratified with compassion and pity. And this readily accessible sea of dark poetry could easily drown out those whose suffering has reached the clinical level. During the vulnerable years during which adolescents seek out self-affirmation and recognition from others, this new, easy promise of being recognized as strong, beautiful, and mysterious by Tumblr “followers” can be very tempting, says Dr. Mark Reinecke, chief psychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Too often, it just leads to more teenagers believing and feeling they are depressed, self-pitying, self-harming.
This will be the part that makes people mad and that makes me decidedly “unfuture” of media: I really try not to get my news from Twitter, which has a reputation as a place where people go and find lots of great news. I find it a place you go to find, I guess, your barbecued potato chips.
A lot of stuff that is kind of interesting, mostly not that good. And it’s absolutely chewed over into cud by the time you get there. So I’ve been making a concerted effort to create structure on my computer using different kinds of software and so forth, that forces me to get less of my news from social media, and more of it by reading my RSS feed, which are blogs, or going to other news sites.
Ezra Klein, as quoted by Conor Friedersdorf in Ezra Klein’s Case Against Getting Your News from Twitter, The Atlantic.
FJP: Very related and very helpful is Paul Bradshaw’s A Network Infrastructure for Journalists Online, which is an introduction to RSS readers, social networks and social bookmarking.
Hanging up on someone is a physical act, a violent one even, one that produces its own pleasure by discharging acrimony. Like the model 500 [phone], the flip-phone supports hang ups because its form is capable of resisting them; because it can survive the force a hangup delivers. Just try to hang up your iPhone or your Samsung Galaxy. I don’t mean just ending a call, but hanging up for real, as if you meant it. For a moment you might consider throwing the handset against a wall before remembering that you shelled out three, four, five hundred dollars or more for the device, a thing you cradle in a cozy as if it were a kitten or a newborn.
Ian Bogost, The Atlantic. The End of the Hangup.
Bogost suggests that cellular devices take the satisfaction out of hanging up — and not just because we can’t slam ‘em down without breaking them — but because we can no longer truly end a call.
Today a true hangup — one you really meant to perform out of anger or frustration or exhaustion — is only temporary and one-sided even when it is successfully executed. Even during a heated exchange, your interlocutor will first assume something went wrong in the network, and you could easily pretend such a thing was true later if you wanted. Calls aren’t ever really under our control anymore, they “drop” intransitively. The signal can be lost, the device’s battery can deplete, the caller can accidentally bump the touch screen and end the call, the phone’s operating system can crash. The mobile hangup never signals itself as such, but remains shrouded in uncertainties.
Whether you’ve slammed down a model 500 phone or you’ve smashed your blackberry, the person on the other end of the line will only hear the “click” (or just silence) as the call ends. That considered, wasn’t the “original hangup” always one-sided and less dramatic for the hangup victim, anyway? Before cell phones, did people never assume that the person they were speaking to may have hung up on accident? Has saying a real goodbye on a cell phone become truly impossible?
FJP: I missed out on the thrill of the model 500. I didn’t start violently hanging up on people (or even talking much on the phone) until I turned 16 in 2006, and by that time I had gotten a flip-phone. It may not have been the slickest hunk o’ plastic money could buy, but man, could that thing snap shut on an annoying phone call from my mother. I must say, now that I’m 23 and sporting an iPhone 5… it’s just not as satisfying to be rude to my mom. Somehow, though, I think I’ll get through it. Doors still slam, you know.
It’s a shame that future tweens and teens won’t know the thrill of an authentic phone hang-up, snap, or slam, but it’s also no tragedy. Like any other technology that was popular 20+ years ago: younger generations won’t know about it, because they really don’t have to. I guess we have no choice but to leave them “shrouded in uncertainty.” — Krissy
Bonus: How Millennial are you? Behold: The Pew Research Center Millennial Quiz.
Jonathan Peters and Frank Lomonte in The Atlantic’s College Journalists Need Free Speech More Than Ever:
This is not your father’s journalism industry.
NBC News has a Storify page, the New York Times has a Tumblr, and PBS has a Pinterest board. The Associated Press has built a partnership with dozens of news companies to collect royalties from aggregators. The Wall Street Journal has produced original videos for YouTube, and the people formerly known as the audience can submit photos to CNN through its iPhone app.
In short, the two argue that today’s college journalists are being asked to fulfill community needs for professional news, but are not provided with the legal assurances of safety that professionals are afforded.
For years, they explain (and applaud), there has been a growing consensus that journalism programs ought to become something like teaching hospitals for news production:
* In a 2010 report on sustaining democracy in the digital age, the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy concluded that colleges and universities needed to enhance their roles as “hubs of journalistic activity.”
* In a 2011 report on twenty-first century journalism, the New America Foundation challenged journalism programs to become “anchor institutions involved in the production of community-relevant news.”
* In a 2011 report on the changing media landscape, the FCC Working Group on the Information Needs of Communities recommended that foundations fund “journalism-school residencies” for recent grads to manage “efforts to produce significant journalism for the community, using journalism school students.”
* In a 2012 letter to university presidents, leaders of six of the nation’s largest foundations argued that journalism programs must “recreate themselves if they are to succeed in playing their vital roles as news creators” and that “universities must become forceful partners in revitalizing an industry at the very core of democracy.”
But they worry about the impacts of such legislation as Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, a 25-year-old Supreme Court decision that has been extended to college settings by four federal courts of appeals covering 16 states. It states, in short, that educators may regulate school-sponsored speech “so long as their actions are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.” An open invitation to limit free speech.
Peters and Lomonte make two suggestions:
Read the full piece here.
FJP: This is a discussion I’ve had both in college, when I was editor of our campus news magazine, and in J-school. I’ve seen undergraduate students repeatedly hesitate to produce hard-hitting pieces that criticize their university because they can’t rely on their work for the school publication to remain uncensored by the school administration. In J-school—and I’m lucky enough to attend the big C, which has the resources to protect its students in certain cases—legal protection is certainly not available in the same way it is at many news organizations. Yet in both places, I’ve witnessed students repeatedly called upon to produce professional work and serve well-reported, fact-checked news to their local communities.
What worries me the most, however, is a potential cultural byproduct of these limitations: I worry about the impact these constraints have on the development of a student’s ethical framework and confidence as a reporter during his or her most formative years as a young journalist. How many potentially brilliant investigative journalists are we discouraging by limiting their opportunity to freely practice at the university level? Happy to see The Alantic cover this, and happy to see California, Illinois and Oregon’s statutes.—Jihii
Or, if you want (I’m serious here!), I’ll provide you with some more detailed social media consulting, helping you create a presence that’s actually useful. These tools are only as good as the network you create on them. And if you’re being honest about what you see on Twitter and Facebook, you’re a terrible builder.
Alexis Madrigal, Your Anti-Social Media Rant Reveals Too Much About Your Friends, The Atlantic.
FJP: I’ve had similar—albeit less dramatic—exchanges on this topic before. Social media networks, like the rest of this 21st century nonsense, are tools. Building intelligent networks is a skill/craft/opportunity/privilege. —Jihii
Publishers are innovating in various ways across digital platforms. Digiday’s Josh Sternberg caught up with Jay Lauf, publisher of The Atlantic, to discuss how The Atlantic will generate digital revenue in the future:
The Atlantic, the venerable155-year-old publication, is doubling down on its approach to the new wave of digital advertising: native ads. Launched three years ago, Native Solutions creates ad programs that have the look and feel of The Atlantic’s content. The goal: help brands create and distribute engaging content by making the ads linkable, sharable and discoverable. For example, take a look at the work it did with Porsche on the image-heavy sponsored post, “Where Design Meets Technology,” which was shared 139 times on Facebook and 80 times on Twitter.
The Native Solutions programs has been so successful that it now accounts for half of digital ad revenue, which is up over 50 percent so far this year.
“A lot of people worry about crossing editorial and advertising lines, but I think it respects readers more,” Lauf said. “It’s saying, ‘We know what you’re interested in.’ It’s more respectful of the reader that way.”
Read the entire article at Digiday.