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TODD SMITH — It’s harder to separate news from opinion online

TODD SMITH

The line between news and opinion is increasingly becoming blurred online.

News organizations aren’t doing enough to help readers understand the difference between news, analysis and opinion, according to a recent Duke Reporter’s Lab study that found only 40 percent of large news organizations provide labels about article types – and nearly all of those only label opinion columns.

The Duke Reporters’ Lab examined 49 publications – 2 5 local newspapers and 24 national news and opinion websites – to determine how many consistently use labels to indicate article types.

In general, the report found inconsistent terminology and a lack of labeling. Some organizations provide a mix of labels that merge article types such as news and opinion with topic labels such as local, politics and sports. The result for readers is a jumbled approach that fails to consistently distinguish different types of journalism.

The findings are significant because journalists and educators are focusing on article labels as one way to address the decline in trust of the news media. Labels help readers distinguish between news and opinion so they better understand different forms of journalism and can assess allegations of bias. Readers often come to articles from links in social media and don’t know if an article is published in a news or opinion section unless it is labeled.

The Reporters’ Lab study found The Washington Post has the most extensive system for indicating article types of the 20 organizations that use labels. The Post website uses four main labels – opinion, analysis, perspective and review – and when readers scroll their cursors over those labels, a box appears with a brief definition.

Of the 20 organizations that did label article types, 16 only used them for the opinion section. Those labels included editorial (used on 15 news sites), commentary (seven sites), column/columnist (six sites) and letters (seven sites). Ten of the organizations that used labels were local and six were national.

The study indicates that news organizations can make some easy fixes to provide better guidance to readers. They should:

» Use consistent labeling on all articles to indicate analysis, opinion, reviews and news. Although The Post is a good model for a labeling system, the lack of labels on news stories could still confuse many readers.

» Place the labels in a prominent place at the top of articles.

» Conduct research with readers about the most effective labels and incorporate the lessons in their publications.

Facebook Tests Targeting Ads To Brick-and-Mortar Visitors

Facebook has rolled out ways for retailers to push people from Facebook to their brick-and-mortar stores over the past couple of years. Now the company is trying out the opposite.

Facebook is testing an option for advertisers to target people who visited their real-world locations with ads on Facebook, Instagram and Facebook’s Audience Network ad network, according to a new ad-targeting option provided by Moshe Isaacian.

The offline-to-online retargeting feature will be a new option within Facebook’s Custom Audiences ad-targeting product, which originated as a way for brands to convert their existing customer bases into an audience to target on Facebook, and has expanded to doing the same for brands’ followings on Facebook and Instagram, most recently with the addition of people who RSVPed to a brand’s event.

According to Isaacian, brands must have multiple locations enabled to create a Custom Audience of store visitors, and that audience can only include people who visited a brand’s location within the past 30 days at the maximum.

Facebook’s store visits retargeting option could boost the company’s share of retailers’ ad budgets heading into the back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons.

The store visits retargeting option could also put pressure on Snapchat to follow suit. Facebook’s chosen nemesis has been quickly building up bridges between ads in its app and foot traffic in advertisers’ stores, restaurants and other locations.

To rival Facebook’s own online-to-offline ad measurement, earlier this year Snapchat rolled out its Snap to Store measurement and acquired Placed, a location analytics firm that tracks people’s locations throughout the day and cross-references those coordinates with businesses’ locations to attribute ads. Through a deal with location analytics firm PlaceIQ, it has a way for brands to target ads to people who have visited certain types of locations as well as specific brands’ locations. But it has yet to roll out a way for any brand to retarget people who visited its own individual locations — though Placed could probably help with that.

In addition to straightforward retargeting of store visitors using Facebook’s Custom Audiences, brands could use the lists of people who visited their locations as proxies to target ads to people who have similar characteristics and who may be likely to visit their store, restaurant or other location. Marketers can also use a store visitor’s list to exclude those visitors from a campaign.

The ability to retarget people who visited an advertiser’s store, restaurant or other location appears to apply the same method that Facebook has employed when targeting ads to people near an advertiser’s chosen location and when estimating how many store visits were driven by a brand’s Facebook campaign. In those cases, Facebook uses the permission people give the company to track their locations via its location services options in their settings. Facebook then cross-references that information about a person’s location with background signals like WiFi and Bluetooth to determine if someone is within a business location’s boundaries.

Stellar Mic | Solar Eclipse Stole the Show

When the moon and sun did their celestial dance for the first complete solar eclipse across much of the U.S. in nearly a century, the whole world stopped to marvel at the stellar performance. And what a performance it was! Nashville was at the epicenter of the solar eclipse last Monday, and more than a million people from around the world gathered in Music City to take in the spectacle.

For months on end, we all heard about this science Super Bowl, and when it got here, the brief, stunning performance made the world pause to witness the grandeur unfold. The build-up was a lot like pensive thoroughbreds trotting to the starting gate at The Kentucky Derby.

Who would seize the day? The sun? The moon? Both? For a brief moment, we unplugged, put down our phones and gazed skyward at the awe racing across the sky in a blaze of glory. Students got out of class. The business world stopped spinning. Everyone was united in the heavenly glory.

And then it happened. Slowly the moon inched its way across the fiery orb – like a silver dollar across the top of a light bulb – to slowly obscure the radiance.

Then it was night in the middle of the day! It was surreal, electrifying, jaw dropping and out-of-this-world breathtaking. Adults, children, young and old bounced around like teens on the last night of the state fair! But it was so much more than that. It was the whole world singing a song of unity. It was hard to feel anything other than sheer joy, inspiration, hope and wonder.

For a brief moment, we all put aside terrorism, racism, and any other “ism” to soak up this utmost beauty. For once, it wasn’t what Trump tweeted or who was protesting what – but utter quiet and amazement. Who could dare get angry, dogmatic or egotistical when what was going on in the sky outshined all these petty people problems? So thank you sun. Thank you moon, for putting on a show for the ages. No one alive today will ever look at the sunrise, sunset or full moon in the same light. It was – and is – life changing.

Each week, 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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