Home » OPINION » Columns » TODD SMITH — Facebook taps journalists, part 2

TODD SMITH — Facebook taps journalists, part 2

TODD SMITH

Facebook grabbed headlines last year when it cut its “trending topics” editorial team. Now, it’s back in editor hiring mode.

Recently, the social media leader announced plans to hire what it is describing as a “small team” of veteran journalists – likely 10 or fewer – to choose content that will be featured in a section of the news tab, a much-discussed product Facebook will begin testing on portions of its U.S. user base toward the end of October.

The journalists will help select the content that users see in a section of the news tab called Top News. Contents of the other sections of the news tab, which will focus on different topics relevant to each specific user, will be chosen algorithmically, Facebook said.

Unlike the independent contractors who worked on Facebook’s “trending topics” module or who moderate the contents of News Feed, these journalists will be full-time Facebook employees, spread across the U.S. with one in London, according to Digiday. 

While the team may get larger, it will be significantly smaller than the curation team that works on Apple News, which had a team of “roughly 30” former journalists stretched from Sydney to New York curating that app’s contents, according to The New York Times.

Facebook decided to add the team after numerous conversations with publishers. Those conversations convinced Facebook that it needed to have human curators with news judgment selecting at least some of the news tab’s contents.

Defining the “right stories” will be challenging for Facebook. In 2016, the   “trending topics” feature was plagued by scandal when a Gizmodo story revealed that the module’s contents, instead of being surfaced algorithmically, were regularly altered by a small team of independent contractors, who were frequently asked to suppress stories about conservative news, as well as news about Facebook itself.

After months of awkward pivoting, apologies and intense scrutiny from conservative lawmakers, Facebook announced it was getting rid of the module last year.

The addition of human curators is the latest detail to emerge about the news feed. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this summer that Facebook intends to pay some publishers up to $3 million in licensing fees to include their content in the news feed.

Gmail Rolls Out Better Spell Check

Services like Grammarly have been trying to improve your email writing for a while, but now Google is taking initiative itself by bringing improved spell check capabilities and grammar suggestions to Gmail. 

The company announced that G Suite users will soon notice inline suggestions, powered by machine learning, that appear as you type out an email. And Gmail will offer some autocorrect “common spelling mistakes” without your having to click anything or take any extra steps. Aside from misspellings, it’ll also detect mistaken verb tense.

From the composer’s perspective, the main benefit is that you’ll no longer have to manually click “check spelling” in the compose window for Gmail to analyze your email. Instead, red lines appear under misspellings and blue lines will be under what Gmail perceives to be grammatical errors.

These new options are all on by default and rolling out to G Suite users over the next few weeks. If you don’t want any assistance with spelling or grammar checks from Gmail, you can disable each of them individually in settings. You can turn off the as-you-type autocorrect and leave on grammar suggestions, for example.

It’s just a modest improvement to the built-in assistance that was already there – now easier and a little smarter. This AI-powered grammar checker has been making its way into Google Docs, and now it’s coming to Gmail. 

Google notes that machine learning and, by extension, some of these suggestions have the potential to “reflect human cognitive biases,” but the company says it’s “committed to making products that work well for everyone, and are actively researching unintended bias and mitigation strategies.”

Fast Food Giants Cluck About Best Chicken Sandwiches

Call it the battle of the chicken sandwiches!

Shortly after Popeyes launched its first nationwide chicken sandwich, the fast-food chain started a Twitter feud with chicken competitor Chick-fil-A.

Chick-fil-A, responded with a new item of its own with its Mac & Cheese, tweeting: “Bun + Chicken + Pickles = all the (heart emoji) for the original.”

Popeyes retweeted the tweet and wrote “… y’all good?”

The Twitterverse was a flurry with some saying they preferred Popeyes’ new sandwich to Chick-fil-A’s, which is best known for its chicken sandwiches and has been voted as America’s favorite fast-food chain in surveys.

Then Wendy’s got into the action with this tweet: “Y’all out here fighting about which of these fools has the second best chicken sandwich.”

The great chicken sandwich social caper continues!

Cheesy Mic: Cheez-It & Wine in a Box?

This campaign takes the cheese!

For National Wine and Cheese Day, consumers could purchase a double sided box with a perfect summer pairing – Cheez-It crackers and red wine. The limited-edition boxes sold out in under an hour!Cheez-It parent Kellogg wanted to highlight that the crackers are made with real cheese. The brand approached Edelman early last year to brainstorm how to convey this in a campaign.

From the beginning, wine was a leading contender. After social media research – which confirmed that people frequently discuss wine and cheese together and, even more tellingly, a small contingent of social media users were already pairing wine with Cheez-Its – Kellogg opted for a wine-Cheez-It marriage.

The campaign was slated for this summer, and the product combined affordable boxed wine and affordable Cheez-Its for a solid seasonal campaign – a time for vacations, picnics, and casual outdoor eating.

The first step was selecting wine brand House Wine to supply the red wine component of the product. Next, Kellogg had to nail down distribution details to ensure that the dual-sided box met all the legal shipping requirements, which were fairly strict, given they contained alcohol.

Because Kellogg assumed the boxes would sell out quickly, it developed an additional element that would allow fans to participate at home. Together with House Wine, Kellogg curated custom wine pairings for various Cheez-It flavors, including white cheddar, hot and spicy and cheddar Jack.

The campaign was unveiled on July 23 and the product itself went on sale two days later.

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 co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Deane | Smith, 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, follow him @spinsurgeon and like the ageny on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/deanesmithpartners, and join us on LinkedIn  http://www.linkedin.com/company/deane-smith-&-partners. 

BEFORE YOU GO…

… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.

If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.

Click for more info

About For the MBJ