tech industry woes part 2: news and social media are playing a dangerous game

the second thought from anil dash’s interview in on being that is blowing my mind is about social media and news are changing what news actually is. the full transcript is over here and at the bottom of this post is a part of it where anil explains the phenomenon.

in my mind, what’s happening is that the scale and power of social media is impacting news for the worse. the points are basically this:

  1. most people use one of a very small number of aggregator sites to get news these days. google, facebook, twitter, you know. these act like doors (gates) to media outlets.
  2. these aggregators have interests. they all have monetized by either selling ads or collecting our data and selling or using it directly or indirectly. that makes them non-neutral.
  3. because these sites want to hold our attention (that’s good for them), the way they are built influences what we see and how we see it. remember when facebook switched its timeline away from being chronological?
  4. these circumstances have created a world that prioritizes clickworthy journalism. and because we don’t really get news from other sources anymore, this creates a terribly narrow and slanted viewfield.

hm. that wasn’t as clear as i thought it would be, but time’s up! maybe i’ll explain better tomorrow. or just listen to the episode. it’s a game-changer.

relevant quote from the transcript

The thing that I’ve seen in particular in online media was — the world into which we started creating the social media tools around the turn of the century — it makes me sound like I’m ancient — I am ancient. The thing that jumped out to me was it was not centralized. There were — everybody had an individual site.

And what happened in short order, in about half a decade, was Google became the front door to all the content. You would go through one search engine and one news site, and that would be your entry point more or less. And one or two advertising platforms sort of took over, Facebook, Google.

And the people designing the products are well-intentioned. They are sincere in saying, “I’ll tell you what — we’ll just make it easy. We’ll bring the content from all these different publishers, New York Times, Buzzfeed, and we’ll put it all onto the Facebook platform or onto the Google platform and bring it inside our walls and make it fast and easy for everybody to browse on their phones.

Now incidentally, what happens with that is — “We’re just going to remove all of those other advertising and clutter things that are happening from all other companies that aren’t Facebook or Google.” So you can say, “We have our own staff of journalists and our own writers, and they’re out there reporting, and they’re doing everything. We are the masters of our own destiny.” But I don’t think that the publishers understand the tradeoff they’re making.

And it’s because of the social positioning of, technology as neutral. So like, “We’re a neutral platform anybody can publish on.” And then when you get to the current state of affairs, which is when you sell advertising, you are brokering attention. And so something that draws more attention and has more emotional appeal will be more successful and more lucrative. Then you say, well, some of the things that are most attention-getting aren’t true.

writing spell-check, link-finding, & formatting
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