Posts Tagged ‘Mark Zuckerberg’

The same old Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg’s new plans for Facebook have serious implications for journalists and news organizations. (Photo: pestoverde/Flickr)

“Nobody knows exactly what impact it’ll have, but in a lot of ways, it looks like the end of the social news era.”

That is how Jacob Weisberg, the chairman and editor-in-chief of The Slate Group, summed up Facebook’s planned changes to its News Feed last week. In an interview with The New York Times, Weisberg noted that while publishers have had declines to traffic by Facebook, no one was expecting the planned changes.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, in a separate interview with the Times, said this was a way to maximize content with “meaningful interaction,” and saying the social network had studied what posts had stressed or harmed users.

“When people are engaging with people they’re close to, it’s more meaningful, more fulfilling,” said David Ginsberg, Facebook’s Director of Research, speaking to the Times. “It’s good for your well-being.”

The changes come amid continuing criticism regarding the social network’s algorithm, especially with its role in prioritizing inaccurate stories ahead of the 2016 elections. Facebook executives acknowledged to the Times that there would be some anxiety from publishers as to how to reach people.

The relationship between journalism and Facebook has been, at best, complicated. News organizations had looked to the social network in an attempt to expand their reach online, through articles or video content, to the social network’s over 2 billion users. In the short span of a few years, Facebook became a media company, and relied on the content as a way to keep users on the site.

There is however, one positive to the relationship between Facebook and journalism – the common thread of public service. Journalists saw Facebook as a way to inform, educate and engage audiences in the news of the day, and Facebook managed to accomplish its goal of keeping its users on the site.

Now, with the social network’s plans to share more of what friends and family share, there is great uncertainty as to how significant the impact will be – though it is suspected, according to the Times article, advertising revenue may be impacted, as well as shrinking audiences.

Journalism is a public service, and despite the uncertainty of what is ahead, one thing is for certain – the algorithm reigns supreme, and the public service values embodied by journalists and news organizations won’t be enough for Facebook to change its plans.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist in Minneapolis and a member of SPJ’s Ethics and FOI Committees. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the 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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