Home » MBJ FEATURE » TODD SMITH — Is Facebook creating its own news cycle?

TODD SMITH — Is Facebook creating its own news cycle?



After a tsunami of accusations that Facebook showed political bias, the Senate demanded answers. Now it has them –12 pages of them.

In a lengthy response to lawmakers, the company says it found no evidence that anyone on its Trending Topics team suppresses conservative content, as Gizmodo alleged in a story quoting unnamed former workers.

Nevertheless, Facebook said it is making changes in response to incident, which prompted Mark Zuckerberg to meet with influential conservatives.

While the specifics sound modest, they amount to a major new experiment in journalism.

Facebook is effectively erasing its peripheral vision to make decisions based not on what the media is covering but what its 1.6 billion users are talking about. The fact is, journalism doesn’t exist in a vacuum, never has! That’s particularly true in the age of 24-hour cable news and digital media, where one story leads to another and another in an endless cycle of breaking stories, aggregated news hits, hot takes, and think pieces.

This cycle exists because journalists are forever looking over their shoulders, racing to break news even as they scramble to find fresh angles on news other journalists have broken.

For a while, Facebook did much the same thing, giving stories appearing in at least five of 10 predetermined major outlets a boost in the Trending Topics section.

Now, it’s doing away with that practice, and with its list of media outlets. Employees will no longer be allowed to “boost” content simply because it’s leading coverage on, say, The New York Times and Fox News.

That means that although Facebook employees retain the power to review stories identified by the algorithms, they will rely on what Facebook users are sharing and discussing to determine what’s deemed important news.

Coming Twitter attraction: expressing more in 140 characters

Over the past decade, the Tweet has evolved from a simple 140-character text message to a rich canvas for creative expression featuring photos, videos, hashtags, Vines, and more. In just the past few months Twitter added the ability to poll your community, react quickly and cleverly with GIFs, and share and enjoy Periscope broadcasts in Tweets.

So, you can already do a lot in a Tweet, but Twitter wants you to be able to do even more. In the coming months the social platform will make changes to simplify Tweets including what counts toward your 140 characters, so for instance, @names in replies and media attachments (like photos, GIFs, videos, and polls) will no longer “use up” valuable characters.

Here’s what will change:

» Replies: When replying to a Tweet, @names will no longer count toward the 140-character count. This will make having conversations on Twitter easier and more straightforward, no more penny-pinching your words to ensure they reach the whole group.

» Media attachments: When you add attachments like photos, GIFs, videos, polls, or quote tweets that media will no longer count as characters within your tweet. Yes, more room for words!

» Retweet and quote tweet yourself: The retweet button on your own tweets will be enabled, so you can easily retweet or quote tweet yourself when you want to share a new reflection or feel like a really good one went unnoticed.

» Goodbye, @: These changes will help simplify the rules around Tweets that start with a username. New Tweets that begin with a username will reach all your followers. (That means you’ll no longer have to use the ”@” convention, which people currently use to broadcast Tweets broadly.) If you want a reply to be seen by all your followers, you will be able to Retweet it to signal that you intend for it to be viewed more broadly.

These updates will be available soon. The updates have a significant impact on Tweets, so Twitter wanted to provide its developer partners with time to make any needed updates to the hundreds of thousands of products built using Twitter’s technology.

In addition the new Twitter will help you get even more from your Tweets. It is exploring ways to make existing uses easier and enable new ones, all without compromising the unique brevity and speed that make Twitter a great place for live commentary, connections, and conversations.

Google Maps to include local ads

Expect to see more digital strangers along your routes: Local ads are coming to Google Maps.

Now that nearly one third of all mobile searches are related to location, Google is looking for more ways to connect marketers with users walking, biking, driving and otherwise commuting around any given city.

In a recent blog post, Google said it’s investing more in “branded, customized experiences” for businesses to help increase store visits.

Users will be able to tell the difference between a promoted location and an organic location by the color of the pin on the map and the word “ad” in the text at the bottom of the screen.

Google says its mobile ads across other products are already working. The search engine giant said AdWords store visits have generated more than 1 billion physical visits around the world since it was introduced in 2014. It cited Nissan UK, which found around six percent of ad clicks led to trips to a dealership that resulted in a return on investment that was 25 times higher than the cost.

Along with bringing ads to Maps, the company is also increasing the amount of copy on text ads across both desktop and mobile. The expanded text ads in AdWords will allow marketers to have more ad space to display information about products and services before a user clicks.

Golden Mic | America is still a gift to the world!

Memorial Day got the Spin Cycle thinking about how awesome America is – still!

I paused to think of those brave souls who died, were injured or who had their lives altered forever so we could be free, that shining city on a hill. I thought about a country fighting two wars for 15 years. A country where few of our citizens carry the burden, the anxiety and the daily danger of those fights. A country where many of the politicos in Washington still seem unaware of the fracture that broke so many families in the latest depression – when millions lost homes, jobs, income, hope, faith in the future and certainly in politics!

A country now witnessing campaigns that revolve around insult rather than ideas. A campaign driven by fantasy and fear and mudslinging, plodding toward November, turning politics into an absurd spectacle where dreams go to die.

But when you look away from the daily false promises, forced empathy and foolish rhetoric of Clinton and Trump, when you put your phone down and stop staring at the screen, when you pause – actually take the time – to stop, think and remember who we are, still, and have always been, you can’t help to feel a renewal of optimism as well as an obligation to those who flew over the Pacific, landed on Okinawa or Omaha Beach, hunkered down in Korea, fought in Vietnam, or went door to door in Fallujah. We remain the greatest beacon of hope and freedom of expression the world has ever known. For that all Americans can share a Golden Mic!

» 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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