Home » MBJ FEATURE » TODD SMITH — Journalists get new social media tool from Facebook

TODD SMITH — Journalists get new social media tool from Facebook

TODD SMITH

TODD SMITH

Facebook is rolling out a new tool for journalists in hopes it will encourage them to find and share news from the network.

The media industry is used to thinking of Twitter as a journalist’s best friend – after all, many use it to track breaking news, and also to share their work, in the hope that it will be redistributed. But Facebook has been making a strategic effort to break into that cozy relationship, by offering journalists and media outlets a range of tools and services for finding and distributing their content.

The latest is a tool that the social network launched last week called Signal, which is designed to help media outlets find, filter and embed content from Facebook and Instagram (owned by Facebook) for news purposes.

According to a description on the Signal launch page, it’s supposed to give journalists a look at what is trending on both social networks, and then make it easy for them to embed that content in stories they are working on. Journalists “can monitor which topics are trending and then quickly display related content that has been shared publicly – unranked and in chronological order — from both people and Pages for deeper context on those trends,” the site says.”

Twitter has been working on its own trending and discovery tools, but it has been a bumpy road (although there are high hopes for a news curation tool called Project Lightning). And while the network has a tool for finding and curating tweets around a specific topic – which it calls Collections – it is little used.

Twitter also has a tool aimed specifically at journalists called Curator, which is similar to Signal. And embedding tweets is such an easy thing to do that some news stories consist of a few sentences of text and then a bunch of tweets from famous users or newsmakers. Facebook is clearly hoping that its new tool will encourage more journalists to use its network in the same way, which in turn would boost engagement.

Facebook says the tool is powered by its own Media Solutions API, as well as by APIs from third-party providers including CrowdTangle (which many media companies already use to track trending content) and Storyful, the social-media verification service that is now owned by News Corp.

The new addition comes on the heels of several other important media-related offerings from the giant social network. One was the opening up of the Mentions tool to users with verified profiles (a group that includes many journalists). This service was originally promoted as a way for celebrities to chat with their fans, but Facebook is also pitching it as a tool for journalists to interact with readers.

Facebook also launched FB Newswire last year, a selection of news headlines from a variety of sources who post content to the network, which is filtered and verified by editors working for Storyful. And then there’s Instant Articles, which Facebook launched with partners like the New York Times and the Guardian that will be publishing articles directly to the network’s mobile platform.

There’s no question that Facebook has become a powerful platform for finding and sharing news. A recent survey found that more than 60 percent of millennial users found news on the social network, compared with a relatively tiny proportion who did so on Twitter. Whether new tools like Signal will shift media awareness away from Twitter and towards Facebook remains to be seen.

Pinterest targets search ad budgets

Pinterest is trying to distance itself from the Facebooks of the world in an effort to convince advertisers that it deserves a piece of their search advertising budgets.

Over the past few months, the image-bookmarking service has been making the rounds with advertisers trying to convince them it’s not a social network but rather a place where consumers search for and discover products.

Part of the challenge for Pinterest has been to shake the image that it’s merely a scrapbooking tool where users can save images to “pin boards” based around themes like authors, home improvement, fashion and dessert recipes, which can then be shared with other users. The company has created a library of more than 50 billion user-collected pins and according to Pinterest executives it is that trove that sets Pinterest apart from its social networking cousins.

Pinterest’s positioning makes financial sense. While social media has dominated the headlines over the past few years, search advertising has remained the dominant force in the digital ad ecosystem, grabbing the biggest share of marketing dollars.

According to estimates from eMarketer, search ads accounted for more than 45 percent of all digital ad spending in the U.S. in 2014. Advertisers are expected to shell out roughly $26. 5 billion on U.S. search ads this year while ad spending on social media is expected to reach $10.4 billion, according to the research firm.

And the social media arena is getting crowded – with giant Facebook looming large alongside Twitter, Snapchat, and a host of other smaller players.

It will take time for advertisers to understand how Pinterest fits into the search picture. One thing in its favor is the site isn’t solely dependent on one type of ad budget and already pulls dollars from marketer’s display budgets.

Pinterest, which investors have valued at $11 billion in an investment round earlier this year, has significantly ramped up its push for revenues by launching multiple ad products and most recently adding “buyable pins,” which allow users to buy products directly via Pinterest.

ComScore estimates Pinterest had about 76.2 million unique U.S. visitors in July, up 24 percent from a year ago.

Wrecked Mic | Volkswagen brand totaled by emissions scandal

Volkswagen’s brand has careened off a cliff and crashed on the rocky cliffs of scandal after it was revealed that Europe’s biggest automaker used software on many VW and Audi diesel cars to manipulate the results of emissions tests.

The crisis threatens to spill beyond the automaker to the broader German – and world – economy. Now, the CEO has been fired, and the new executive faces a daunting task of cleaning up the scandal – the scope of which is still unclear – and keeping the company’s reputation on track.

The fallout will be astronomical – and the company’s stock has plunged by more than 40 percent initially. The Justice Department has opened an investigation, and so, too, has the EPA.

In response to the scandal, Volkswagen has also said it is setting aside the equivalent of $7.3 billion to pay for the fallout, according to a Bloomberg report. Anecdotally, it seems confidence in the brand is all but destroyed, as enthusiasts who evangelized ‘clean-burning’ diesel have become disillusioned.

Whether consumer confidence will ever be able to return to VW is up for debate. But it is hard to imagine the company will ever be trusted by buyers or the EPA to make accurate claims about its emissions – and its brand and reputation may be totaled! For that, VW, and its fraudulent practices, get a Wrecked Mic!

The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.

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