Posts Tagged ‘content’

Journalism by Facebook

Journalism was a key component of Facebook's growth. Above: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr)

Journalism was a key component of Facebook’s growth. Above: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr)

The New York Times today published an interesting collection of pieces in its Room for Debate series on if Facebook is saving journalism or ruining it. The series of pieces comes amid accusations last week that the social network was suppressing content supportive of Conservative policies and ideas, and the release of documents giving guidance to editors on trending topics.

Since Facebook launched over a decade ago, it has significantly influenced how we communicate with each other, and ultimately, how news organizations communicate with audiences. Its relationship with journalism has evolved, from the fan page encouraging interaction, to recent new features including Instant Articles, where content from publishers is hosted on the social network itself, and Facebook Live, where any news organization in the world can broadcast a Q&A or do live reporting, all with the touch of a button.

As Annalee Newitz of Ars Technica wrote, Facebook’s role with some media companies became symbiotic, and the social network “could save both mainstream and alternative journalism.”

It was clear that journalism was essential for Facebook’s growth, and Facebook was essential for journalism to engage and evolve in the digital age. Yet, as the relationship evolved, it signified a wider change in the business of social media, as well as journalism. It became a mutual relationship, and though Twitter and Snapchat would later play prominent roles in social journalism, Facebook would still be at the helm of that change.

However, in spite of its advances, the relationship has its share of issues, particularly on the subject of its algorithm. More work needs to be done to address that relationship, and more accountability, as Robyn Caplan of the Data Society argued in her piece, needs to happen. Indeed, as I wrote here last week, Facebook and other sites should hire public editors, in the aim to improve the relationship with platforms and the public, as well as the relationship between social media and journalism.

There are also more complications, particularly when the social network looks to announce changes. As Catherine Squires of the University of Minnesota wrote in her piece, Facebook’s focus ultimately is on the advertisers and other entities that make it run, and when privacy settings are changed and the news feed itself is changed, that becomes prevalent.

“People who are shocked that Facebook might be skewing their newsfeed probably shouldn’t have trusted them with their news diet in the first place, given its history,” Squires wrote. “This is not the company I’d trust to tell me what’s important in the world.”

Nevertheless, Facebook remains at the helm of what is now the norm in the business of modern journalism, and though the relationship can be best summed up as mutually complicated, it is clear that Facebook continues to have the lead in the world of social journalism.

It is, according to Wired reporter Julia Greenberg, “the most powerful distributor of news,” as users flock to Facebook and other platforms instead of directly going to publishers and news organizations themselves, causing publishers to think twice about their engagement strategies.

Platforms like Twitter are at the center of reinventing journalism. (Photo: Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

Platforms like Twitter are at the center of reinventing journalism. (Photo: Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

Facebook and these platforms are not necessarily saving journalism. Instead, they are reinventing journalism, upgrading it in a multi-platform, content focused age. Journalism is still a prevalent part of modern society, and the principles and ideas that remain at its core are still present even as the mediums themselves change.

Yet, the focus is transfixed on the content, and of all the platforms, Facebook remains the most popular hub. However, journalism still remains a constant, signaling a positive notion for an industry that remains in a state of flux.

In spite of its shortcomings, the mutual relationship between Facebook and journalism will continue to be dominant in the industry, and while questions will continue to be asked within newsrooms about how to best engage audiences, the relationship signifies a bigger message.

Even though it is being reinvented, journalism is not dead. It is here to stay, and though the mediums change, the mission remains the same — to inform, educate and enlighten, something that will always remain a quintessential part of the business of journalism.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Facebook: The newest content platform?

Facebook is holding discussions on hosting content from news organizations, which may affect the relationship with users. (Photo: bykst/Pixabay under CC license)

Facebook is holding discussions on hosting content from news organizations, which may affect the relationship with users.
(Photo: bykst/Pixabay under CC license)

It has been a momentous week for Facebook, as it held its F8 developer conference this week in San Francisco, with discussions on how the social network will work and what it can do for the future. One of the most notable features were the plans to make Messenger on a separate platform, creating content apps which include contributions from media organizations including ESPN and The Weather Channel.

Yet, as the conference was taking place, news emerged that could significantly affect Facebook’s relationship with news organizations.

The New York Times reported this week that the social network had been in conversations with various publishers to host content on Facebook itself, instead of being directed to the publisher’s site from a Facebook post.

The Times added that this would be tested within the next few months, with potential partners including BuzzFeed, National Geographic, and the Times itself. However, nothing has been confirmed and a specific timetable is yet to be established. Some concerns had been raised of the loss of some data when it came to readership, as well as a loss of readership within the publisher’s ecosystem, the Times report adds.

So, what would this mean for Facebook’s role with journalism, and journalism’s role with social media itself? Could publishers and Facebook make this work?

Jason Abbruzzese, a reporter with Mashable, says these discussions were expected, as Facebook and media were becoming increasingly intertwined.

“This was almost inevitable,” Abbruzzese said in a telephone interview. “It seemed to a lot of people we were heading this way for at least a couple of years.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr under CC license)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg wants to create a perfect, personalized newspaper for every single user. (Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr under CC license)

Abbruzzese says the big concern should not be on the loss of readership. There is larger readership, and the ability to reach more people quicker, but readership is being done on Facebook’s terms. Readership is being gained despite a loss in traffic to the site itself, Abbruzzese says, as Facebook looks to gain value from an audience used to getting news from smartphones and mobile.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said he wants to create a perfect, personalized newspaper for every user.

Lindsey Wiebe, the Associate Online Editor for Maclean’s Magazine in Toronto, Canada, says that the conversations with Facebook and publishers seemed to have been in work for a while, and notes a similar model from LinkedIn, where content can be submitted onto the platform, albeit it being less scrutinized.

“It’s an exciting time for publishers, and a scary time,” Wiebe said in a telephone interview. “Having more avenues for powerful storytelling isn’t a bad thing, [but] there are challenges and issues to ponder within publishing organizations.”

Wiebe adds that while it is a promising development, issues such as monetization and wider reader engagement need to be debated within newsrooms. It did, however, Wiebe says, grab the attention of many digital journalists, and showed the influence Facebook still has in social journalism.

“Facebook may not be the new shiny thing at the moment, but journalists who work more actively in a digital space would never underestimate it,” Wiebe said. “This has made us sit up and take notice, but no one was underestimating it. It was already a major player for newsrooms.”

Yet, should Facebook go ahead and adapt this wider strategy, are there plans for new social strategies to be in place? Will other social networks be abandoned in favor of Facebook, and perhaps create new content?

“If Facebook can deliver on the traffic promises, it can be hard to not tailor content to the Facebook experience,” Abbruzzese said, adding that Snapchat is already doing so via its Discover platform. “If Facebook can provide me with a tremendous audience, it would be hard not to alter the strategy perhaps at the risk of moving resources from Twitter or Pinterest.”

Wiebe says newsrooms must stay up to date on new technology, and as for Facebook, there is still a value, despite the criticism because of changes in the algorithm, and how that influences what news stories users see.

“It can be at times mystifying of being at the mercy of algorithm changes, but also you have an established reader community,” Wiebe said. “We need to stay on top of changes. Any newsroom cannot afford to rely on one social network. There is always a new platform to be investigated.”

Abbruzzese says its about getting great journalism out to as many people as possible, but the balance is still trying to be figured out. Abbruzzese adds that it can be positive in the short term, but there are questions to be answered long term.

Wiebe says Facebook and publishers are working towards the same goal of great storytelling and great content before a wide audience.

“We’d like to think of a relationship as mutually beneficial where each party has a need that is being filled,” Wiebe said, adding that she hoped content needs would mutually benefit both parties. “Whatever direction, I hope that Facebook will continue to work with publishers.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, blogs on social media’s role in journalism for Net Worked, and serves as Community Coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also is Deputy Editor, Media Editor and a writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.


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