In the news this week, the elites at the World Economic Forum will be taking on fake news, while Snapchat, Facebook and Google all make inroads against fake news as well. A new report finds that big publishers aren’t exactly cashing in on social media efforts. And six journalists were arrested covering protests during the Inauguration, and charged with felonies. Politico’s Alex Weprin joins us to talk about the rise of conservative media on Facebook Live, and the latest on Breitbart News trying to go legit. Our Metric of the Week is homepage traffic, and we speak with longtime investigative reporter Dana Priest.
Don’t have a lot of time to spare, but still want to get a roundup of the week’s top news? Then check out our Digital Media Brief below!
Digital Media Brief
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Mark Glaser is executive editor and publisher of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He is an award-winning writer and accidental entrepreneur, who has taken MediaShift from a one-person blog to a growing media company with events such as Collab/Space workshops and weekend hackathons; the weekly MediaShift podcast; and digital training, DigitalEd, in partnership with top journalism schools. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.
Dana Priest is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter whose work focuses on national intelligence and counterterrorism. She spent 28 years at The Washington Post, covering the Pentagon and intelligence agencies. She’s also the John S. and James L. Knight Chair in Public Affairs Journalism at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. She’s the co-founder of PressUncuffed.org, an organization promoting press freedom issues and working to free imprisoned journalists abroad.
Alex Weprin is deputy editor for POLITICO Media. He also writes about TV. He has served as the editor of Mediabistro’s TVNewser blog, and his writing has appeared in Broadcasting & Cable Magazine and Variety.
Top News Of The Week
The World Economic Forum Takes on Fake News
As global elites worry about the growing lack of trust in institutions as President Trump takes office, they’re pointing to fake news as a major problem. So as populism grows, the elites at the World Economic Forum in Davos had two panel discussions and a private roundtable to discuss fake news, and will continue a two-year program to consider how technology platforms can police themselves rather than rely on government regulations. CUNY’s Jeff Jarvis, who ran some of the events, told Quartz’s Alison Griswold that people at Davos felt that Facebook should do something about fake news, not realizing that they were indeed taking some steps. In fact, Facebook recently updated its Trending Topics to fight fake news by using signals from more established publishers rather than from users sharing information.
Snapchat also has been taking action in its Discover section, a walled garden for top content. Snapchat won’t allow click-bait pictures or links to fake news sites from Discover, and publishers can now prevent racier content from getting to users who are under 18 years old. And Google announced it had removed millions more ads in 2016 than the year before, including from fake news sites. Also on the fake news front, a new study from researchers at Cambridge, Yale and George Mason found that “inoculating” people with warnings helped them distrust fake news around climate change when it came up. On the downside, without those contextual warnings, people tend to believe disinformation when it fits their views. With so much interest in fighting fake news and studying it, we’ll be sure to have more updates on this topic for weeks to come!
Publishers Are Not Cashing in on Social Media, or Are They?
We’ve all heard the complaints from major news publishers, who blame social networks like Facebook and Twitter for not generating enough income for them. Well now we have some hard numbers to back up those complaints. A leaked report from trade group Digital Content Next showed that many top publishers aren’t exactly raking in big money by distributing content on social platforms. (And my own disclosure: I write a bi-weekly column for DCN but did not work on the research report.) Some of their findings? Premium publishers at DCN made on average $7.7 million in revenues on social platforms in the first half of 2016, but that represents just 14% of their overall digital revenues.
So where did all the money come from? YouTube actually led the way, followed by Facebook and Twitter. But publishers in the report had complaints about all of them. YouTube had been favoring click-to-skip ads over their own unskippable ads. Facebook Instant Articles were too restrictive on ad formats. Twitter’s video offering wasn’t scaling enough. But what about Snapchat? Only six of the DCN members surveyed actually were making money on Snapchat, and they complained about slow responses to publisher requests. But there was pushback, especially about Snapchat, as Mashable’s Kerry Flynn wrote that some publishers had made “tens of millions of dollars” on Snapchat (without naming names), and that traditional magazine publishers and web-only outfits were doing better by working more closely with Snapchat to produce original content for the platform. And in the end, all the complaining by publishers won’t get them anywhere. The platforms aren’t going away — yet — so it pays to figure out what works and try to work with them rather than fight the future.
Six Journalists Were Arrested for Covering Inauguration Protests
Were journalists at the “wrong place at the wrong time,” with six of them getting arrested in a mass dragnet during violent protests near the Inaugural Parade? No, they were at the right place, covering what was happening on the ground, according to Pen America’s Suzanne Nossel. The six included a journalist for Vocativ, one who works for Russian outlet RT America and some other freelancers. They were handed the harshest felony charge for rioting, which could result in 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine if convicted. The DC police has said it had probable cause but arrested more than 200 people after property was vandalized, and didn’t detail what the journalists had done. All six have denied any wrongdoing.
Jack Keller, a documentary filmmaker who had his cellphone confiscated by police, told the Guardian’s Jon Swaine that “the way we were treated was an absolute travesty.” Keller’s editor told the Guardian that the situation was frustrating, and that the journalists were there to observe and document the situation. The timing with the Inauguration and the police action against journalists only fed into the narrative of the Trump administration taking action against the media. The Committee to Protect Journalists said that police should drop the charges, and that they could lead to a chilling effect on people covering future protests. While it is difficult to tell who exactly is a journalist or activist in a crowded protest where everyone has a smartphone, police should be able to focus on those taking violent action vs. those who are documenting it.
Music on this Episode
Can’t Hate The Hater by 3 Feet Up
Sinking Feeling by Jessie Spillane
DJ by Jahzzar
Backed Clean Vibes by Kevin Macleod
Air Hockey Saloon by Chris Zabriskie
I Never Wanted To Say by Lorenzo’s Music
I’m Going for a Coffee by Lee Rosevere
Jefferson Yen is the producer for the MediaShift Podcast. His work has been on KPCC Southern California Public Radio and KRTS Marfa Public Radio. You can follow him @jeffersontyen.