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Fewer mugshots, less naming and shaming: How editors in Cleveland are trying to build a more compassionate newsroom
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Feb. 28, 2018, 11:19 a.m.
Audience & Social
LINK: digiday.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Shan Wang   |   February 28, 2018

The happy-news-focused, video-dominant, Facebook-dependent publisher LittleThings has some unhappy news. After four years spent accumulating more than 12 million followers on Facebook, doing a lot of video programming (including investment in Facebook Live shows), and building a team of 100 employees across the country, LittleThings is shutting down and laying off all its staff. The closure, announced on Tuesday and first reported by Digiday, is in large part a result of Facebook’s latest news feed changes that re-emphasized friends and family sharing and de-emphasized passive consumption of video. (LittleThings had also been crossposting its shows onto Facebook’s new pet section Watch, though wasn’t monetizing that video, according to Digiday.)

LittleThings CEO Joe Spieser and president Gretchen Tibbits wrote in a memo to staff about the company’s closure that Facebook’s news feed changes were “catastrophic” and led to a 75 percent drop in organic traffic for the publisher. “No previous algorithm update ever came close to this level of decimation.” Business Insider has the full memo here:

As most of you remember, we took some especially large setbacks in August 2017, but were able to quickly right the ship, and rebuild the company with new business lines and revenue streams. Instead of waiting for the next Facebook newsfeed update, we entered into a sale-process in November that would allow us to merge with a large media entity that could bring our business diversification of both traffic and revenue. By early February we had numerous acquisition offers for LittleThings that would have generated a substantial return for everyone’s options, as well as guarantee their careers well into the future.

Unfortunately, as we were receiving those offers a full on catastrophic update to Facebook’s algorithm took effect. The prioritization of friends/family content over publishers was the last straw.

At 10am ET, LittleThings’ last live morning show, Refresh, turned to the absurd and then sadness as its hosts cried, expressed surprise that the company was shutting down so abruptly, talked about leaving New York (“New York is awful”), and thanked colleagues and community. Mournful comments flooded the page.

There are other social publishers working in the same vein as LittleThings to watch:

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