But Googlers can also make a strong case that Google makes valuable contributions to the information climate. I learn useful, real information via Google every day. And while web search is far from a perfect technology, Google really does usually surface accurate, reliable information on the topics you search for. Facebook’s imperative to maximize engagement, by contrast, lands it in an endless cycle of sensationalism and nonsense.
I’m not sure I’d give Google as much of a moral edge over Facebook. Both are focused on optimising engagement. That’s pretty much a necessity given their business models. At the same time, Facebook does seem to turn engagement into an art form.
Now and then I look at the trending topics that Twitter presents me with. They usually have some variety based on current affairs in our region but two trending topics seem to be constant fixtures: #Jews and #Israelis.
Sure, Israel and Israelis are in the news a lot and have been for a few decades. We are a convenient target for a variety of organisations that are allied with Palestinians or just looking for ways to target Jews without actually referring to Jews.
The #Jews trending topic amazes me, though. Clearly some cultural fixations don’t wane. Despite numbering in the tens of millions (I believe there are less than 20 million Jews in the world), we remain a popular topic of discussion after more than 2,000 years.
That being the case, is it still appropriate to have #Jews as a trending topic on Twitter? If we are a constant subject of discussion and debate, surely we should be elevated to something along the lines of “Constant Source of Consternation” or “Given Topic of Conversation”?
If we have been trending for so long, surely we have transcended merely “trending”?
In the meantime, here is the latest news about “Jews” on Twitter. I’ve filtered out what Twitter regards as not being “Top tweets” in the hope of achieving some measure of quality control:
A depressing thought from Om Malik about the state of much of the news media these days. Fortunately there are still sources of insightful analysis that is worth reading. You just have to dig a little deeper to find them.
One of the current downsides of news blogging is that we have atomized it to a point where the whole stream is just noise. In the tech industry, funding news and HR moves have been fetishized to a point where there’s no point checking anything. Companies are getting smart and spewing so much PR content that everything and anything seems all the same — important and unimportant, both at the same time.
There is a metaphorical silver lining, though:
I know one thing: there is so little context to what we read that when we find something intelligent, we actually read it, even when there are annoying banners or native ads or teeth-whitening messages.
But be sure the read Malik’s whole post. As with all of his work, it is well worth the read.
Quartz’s article about a tangle with President-elect Trump about a photograph CNN used for a publication about the 2016 Presidential Elections is pretty instructive.
According to Quartz’s Johnny Simon, CNN’s photographer wasn’t granted access to Trump for follow-up photos after his election and resorted to photographing Trump from the crowd at his victory party. The resulting photographs weren’t as flattering as studio photographs made previously.
Trump apparently complained about the victory party photograph used for the second edition of the CNN publication and Simon made a good point:
The dustup around Unprecedented teaches a pretty obvious lesson for the president-elect: If Trump wants better pictures of himself, the first step would be to let photographers in.
The Content Strategist has a news roundup that is worth reading. It is somewhat political. At the same time, it includes a number of articles gathered from various news publications that make for very interesting reading. I am particularly interested in the piece about credibility on Current Affairs:
Current Affairs editor Nathan J. Robinson lays out, with convincing evidence, the many hypocrisies of the journalism establishment, and how the media’s clickbait sensationalism, lack of transparency, and centrist-liberal bent are all partly to blame for the current crisis of misinformation.
The Guardian has a long form, investigative piece detailing confessions of a police assassin which is also a great example of fine journalism. The article is titled “Confessions of a killer policeman” and it definitely falls into what many would consider TL;DR.
Just when people predict the death of good quality, long form journalism, I look to publications like The Guardian that still invest time and money into important work like this.
I don’t always agree with everything The Guardian publishes but this kind of journalism is worth supporting. The Guardian is also one of the many publications testing alternative revenue models. In particular, it offers a membership option where readers can make regular contributions to support the publication and receive more value in the process.
My theory about the future of news is that we will see high quality, investigative journalism become a niche that its readers will pay for as mainstream media skews towards the inane.
I hope I am at least correct that great journalism will survive into the future. The prospect of a world dominated by meaningless clickbait is depressing.
I just read Jeff Jarvis’ Medium post titled “Returning Scarcity to News” and especially appreciated his argument for journalism as a service, rather than as a commodity content business:
Only when we reconceive of journalism as a service rather than as a factory that churns out a commodity we call content, only when we measure our value not by attention to what we make but instead by the positive impact we have in lives and communities, and only when we create business models that reward quality and value will we build that quality and value.
News and entertainment publishers are increasingly looking to major platforms like Google and Facebook for wider distribution of their content and alternative revenue options. It’s easy to understand why: these platforms have far greater reach than any single publisher and with ad blocking increasingly hurting publishers, they need to do something. And soon.
I’m cautiously optimistic that ad blocking will prove to be a positive trend that forces publishers to focus on better content and improve the overall ecosystem. I think we will have to wait a couple years for business models to settle and the dust to settle before we can draw any conclusions.
Still, I am hopeful that good quality content will win.
I recommend reading the rest of Prof Jarvis’ post on Medium:
One of Jeff Jarvis' suggestions for creating a more sustainable news publishing industry is to treat journalism as a service, rather than as a commodity content factory. That appeals to me and I hope that is what the future holds.