What is the effect of
algorithmically delivered news?

About 6-in-10 Americans get news from social mediaAlgorithmically delivered news that is based on user actions is reducing the diversity of the news we receive increasing the echoing of ideas.

I was lucky enough to work in a real newsroom right before the industry started to tumble. Every day, the editors gathered at 10 a.m. to discuss what would make the paper the next day. It was not unusual for a heated argument to erupt over what story should be featured. These people believed in what they were doing, they wore their ethics on their sleeves, and they cared deeply about the community they influenced. They were the gatekeepers.

Today, much of our news is delivered through social media platforms. According to the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of US adults get their news from social media (Gottfried and Shearer, 2016):

News plays a varying role across the social networking sites studied. Two-thirds of Facebook users (66%) get news on the site, nearly six-in-ten Twitter users (59%) get news on Twitter, and seven-in-ten Reddit users get news on that platform. On Tumblr, the figure sits at 31%, while for the other five social networking sites it is true of only about one-fifth or less of their user bases (Gottfried and Shearer, 2016).

Reddit, Facebook and Twitter users most likely to get news on each site
The thing is, there is no daily editor meeting at Facebook. There are no local groups of people or community members deciding what is important. The news is being delivered to you algorithmically based on a variety of data points gathered by that particular platform to identify your likes, friends, interest, and actions. Such formulas for news delivery only take you into account. Does this method really give you the information you need to be a healthy, contributing part of a local community? Isn’t that what the editors were doing?

In a video posted in the Facebook Newsroom, Adam Mosseri, VP of product management for News Feed, explains how News Feed works. He also comments that the goal is to “connect people with the stories that matter most to them” (Mosseri, 2016).

In 2016, Facebook updated the News Feed algorithm. Now, “what you see will depend more on who your friends are, what they share, what you click on (Sunstein, 2017).”

News Feed uses data on its users to make decisions about what those users most likely want to read. Thus, News Feed is helping us sort through thousands of articles and delivering exactly what we want, when we what it (Mosseri, 2016). That doesn’t sound so bad, right?

In an attempt to deliver the news you are most likely to interact with, News Feed appears to be strengthening the echo-chamber effect. With regard to media, the echo-chamber effect occurs when when your opinions and preferences are echoed back at you.

As a point of reference, an echo chamber can be described as “a bounded, enclosed media space that has the potential to both magnify the messages delivered within it and insulate them from rebuttal” (Jamieson and Cappella, 2010).

In an opinion piece for Wired Magazine, Kartik Hosanagea, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, calls echo chambers problematic because “social discourse suffers when people have a narrow information base with little in common with one another (Hosanagea, 2016).”

Is his book #Republic, Cass Sunstein cites research by Facebook employees that appears to indicate that the algorithms are responsible, in part, for our political echo chambers: “Evidence shows the algorithm suppresses exposure to diverse content by 8 percent for self-identified liberals and 5 percent for self-identified conservatives” (2017).

In his book The Internet of Us, Michael Patrick Lynch raises the concern that only reading about the things we already agree with is giving rise to “group polarization – that we are becoming increasingly isolated tribes (2016).”

Wasn’t the Internet supposed to open us all up to new people and cultures? It appears the opposite is happening. We are being profiled based on our online actions. Without proactive steps on the part of the user to contradict these affects, it is possible that our scope of knowledge and understanding will shrink.

Next Read: What data do they have on us?

References:

Adam Mosseri explains how the Facebook News Feed works. (April 22, 2016).
Facebook Newsroom. Retrieved from https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2016/04/news-feed-fyi-from-f8-how-news-feed-works/

Lynch, M., P. (2016). The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data. Liverlight Publishing Company. New York.

Gottfried, J. & Shearer, E. (May, 26, 2016) News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016. Pew Research Center, Journalism & Media. Retrieved from http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016

Hosagar, K. (November, 25, 2016). Blame the Echo Chamber on Facebook. But Blame Yourself, Too. Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/2016/11/facebook-echo-chamber/#slide-2

Lynch, M., P. (2016). The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data. Liverlight Publishing Company. New York.

Misconceptions in Content Marketing

Content Marketing is not the silver bullet for online marking, and it ain’t easy, but these days it should be a part of your marketing efforts. The big misconception is that your customers will go directly from reading your content to purchase your product. When that does not happen it is easy to give up.

Content Marketing is about building awareness and being a voice in the market. It is about introducing your brand to your potential audience and building a relationship with them. The only difference between content marketing and traditional networking and PR efforts is that you can do it from home in your PJs.

Video borrowed from SEO MOZ’s Whiteboard Friday series

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What the heck are technical requirements and how do I get some?

So, you want to build a website or an application, and some tech/geek is at your door asking for technical requirements. What do you do?

Don’t panic.

A project manager with strong technical skills could help you navigate the task, but just in case you find yourself in a new found project manager role, here are four tips:

1technical-requirements21. Keep an eye on the prize
The key to getting the technical requirements right is to focus on your project goals first.

Clearly identify what your outcomes should be and get feedback from your stakeholders. If you don’t know what your goals or outcomes should be, your project will be all over the place and it will have a hard time getting off the ground.

Continue reading “What the heck are technical requirements and how do I get some?”

What is Purpose Driven Communications?

In a nutshell it is communicating with an identified purpose. It is when you decide — prior to hiring designers, prior to identifying your target audience and prior to developing a quip tag line — to clearly identify and support the goals of your organization through the use of communication techniques. To be clear we are not talking about your communication goals we are talking about the goals of the organization you are communicating for.I know that sounds obvious and basic, and maybe it is. But I have seen, all too often, professional communicators who work reactively, not proactively and who tend to communicate purely for the sake of communicating.

If every decision you make does not strategically support the goals of your company than you run the risk of wasting money and energy. Once you identify the purpose you will have an easier time developing targeted, effective messages and identifying the audience to which you should deliver those messages.

 

Crowd Accelerated Innovation

“TED’s Chris Anderson says the rise of web video is driving a worldwide phenomenon he calls Crowd Accelerated Innovation — a self-fueling cycle of learning that could be as significant as the invention of print. But to tap into its power, organizations will need to embrace radical openness. And for TED, it means the dawn of a whole new chapter.” — Ted.com

Watch the video. Then step back and ask yourself “how can you as a communicator help your organization accelerate innovation?” (Hint: think outside the box)