Hundreds of journalists working at the Times of India and its sister publications have received a peculiar request from their employer: hand over your Twitter and Facebook passwords and let us post for you.
Even after you leave the company.
Under a contract unveiled to employees last week, Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd—India’s largest media conglomerate and publisher of the Times of India, Economic Times, among many other properties—told staffers they are not to post any news links on their personal Twitter and Facebook accounts. This runs counter to many social-media policies in newsrooms across the world, which often encourage journalists to share content widely.
But BCCL, as the company is known, is telling journalists that they must start a company-authorised account on various social media platforms. They also have the option of converting existing personal social media accounts to company accounts. On these, they are free to discuss news and related material. The company will possess log-in credentials to such accounts and will be free to post any material to the account without journalists’ knowledge. It is now also mandatory to disclose all personal social-media accounts held by the journalist to the company.
In other words, use social media for work — but either give us permanent control of the account or set up a new one that won’t benefit you personally after you leave.
Control of personal social media accounts continues to be one of the more interesting labor/management battle lines in news.
Facebook announced a tweak to its News Feed today that aims to reduce unwanted “spammy” content in user feeds. Good news for readers frustrated by those stories, bad news for the publishers that have been making money by promoting their websites via “clickbait.” But what exactly is clickbait?
@greghoward88 lol clickbait now just means "things I don't personally like"
Clickbait is in the eye of the beholder, but Facebook defines it as “when a publisher posts a link with a headline that encourages people to click to see more, without telling them much information about what they will see.” But they won’t be demoting links based on verbal clues.
So how do we determine what looks like click-bait?
One way is to look at how long people spend reading an article away from Facebook. If people click on an article and spend time reading it, it suggests they clicked through to something valuable. If they click through to a link and then come straight back to Facebook, it suggests that they didn’t find something that they wanted. With this update we will start taking into account whether people tend to spend time away from Facebook after clicking a link, or whether they tend to come straight back to News Feed when we rank stories with links in them.
Another factor we will use to try and show fewer of these types of stories is to look at the ratio of people clicking on the content compared to people discussing and sharing it with their friends. If a lot of people click on the link, but relatively few people click Like, or comment on the story when they return to Facebook, this also suggests that people didn’t click through to something that was valuable to them.
In other words, if people aren’t reading or talking about your content, soon they might not see it on Facebook at all.
Lots of people assume that sites that pull in huge traffic from social media — like BuzzFeed, for example — achieve those figures by using “clickbait.” But in reality, original content, even in list format, is something people are likely to read and share and comment on, which means Facebook is probably fine with it. Even lower brow sites that try to churn out viral headlines might evade this new News Feed obstacle if they can get people to spend a few minutes on site. As The Awl’s John Herrman points out on Twitter, that doesn’t jive with how people in the media define clickbait.
@kevinroose I think time-on-site favors a lot of stuff that media people equate with "clickbait"
Facebook doesn’t have any editorial obligation to promote breaking news or think pieces or longform; their obligation, as they’ve repeatedly stated, is to satisfy their users. Apparently, the company feels the best way to determine if users are satisfied is by measuring the length of time they spend looking at something.
Facebook is a platform with enormous power over publishers. If they’re making moves toward time on site as a lead metric, you can bet content strategists across the web are already coming up with ways to hang on to your eyeballs.
With the Ferguson Fellowship, as they’re calling it, The Huffington Post hopes to continue to follow the investigations into Brown’s killing and the deeper issues that fed the protests. (On someone else’s dime, of course — some reader may have questions about donating to a for-profit entity sold for $315 million just three years ago.) The funding will be used to support public records requests and skills training for Stewart. “She’ll use those skills to investigate the funding sources and uses of military gear in St. Louis County, follow efforts to reform police procedures aimed at curbing abuse and monitor the ongoing activity of local police and their unfolding relationship with the local community,” according to the project description page.
Huffington Post Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim writes:
Stewart will work directly with HuffPost’s criminal justice reporter Ryan Reilly to cover the ongoing story of Ferguson, tracking the federal investigation into the killing of Michael Brown and reporting on the empaneled grand jury. She’ll monitor the activity of the local and county police forces once the national spotlight dims, and will learn the intricacies of public records requests in an effort to divine the funding sources and uses of military gear in the county.
For Beacon, it’s another attempt to vary its funding models for journalism. Initially founded under a pay-for-one-of-our-journalists, get-access-to-all-of-their-work model, it’s since added discrete multi-author publications and now partnering with an established outlet.
Gawker reports today that at least one Time Inc. property internally ranks — and fires — its editorial employees using a rather unethical calculation.
Based on a spreadsheet made available to the Newspaper Guild, it would seem that Sports Illustrated has calculated the worth of staffers based on categories including “Quality of Writing”; “Impact of Stories/Newsworthiness”; “Productivity/Tenacity”; “Audience/Traffic”; “Video”; “Social”; “Enthusiasm/Approach to Work”; and “Produces content that beneficial to advertiser relationship.” From Hamilton Nolan:
Anthony Napoli, a union representative with the Newspaper Guild, tells us: “Time Inc. actually laid off Sports Illustrated writers based on the criteria listed on that chart. Writers who may have high assessments for their writing ability, which is their job, were in fact terminated based on the fact the company believed their stories did not ‘produce content that is beneficial to advertiser relationships.’” The Guild has filed an arbitration demand disputing the use of that and other criteria in the layoff decisionmaking process. In a letter to Time Inc., the Guild says that four writer-editors were laid off “out of seniority order” based on the rankings in the spreadsheet above.
Time Inc. has recently laid off hundreds of employees and restructured internally such that magazine editors report to the business side of the company. Whether this rubric is actively used across other Time Inc. properties is unclear.
Plenty of media companies — Gawker included — measure employee performance based on how much web traffic their writing drives, but the values on display in the Sports Illustrated spreadsheet have left lots of media folks on Twitter feeling deflated.
Update: A Sports Illustrated spokesperson reached out to me with the following comment:
“The Guild’s interpretation is misleading and takes one category out of context. The SI.com evaluation was conducted in response to the Guild’s requirement for our rationale for out of seniority layoffs. As such, it encompasses all of the natural considerations for digital media. It starts and ends with journalistic expertise, while including reach across all platforms and appeal to the marketplace. SI’s editorial content is uncompromised and speaks for itself.”
There’s no need to enumerate the breadth and variety of godawful content published by millennial angst engine Thought Catalog. The site’s propensity for publishing garbage is so well known, they actually address it in the FAQs.
But today, the site published and tweeted a short article so egregiously racist, it could not be ignored.
The Internet responded emphatically. From the comments: “This ‘article’ is absolutely disgusting.” “This is an absolute embarrassment.” “This is some racist shit. Good Job TC — you are now a White Supremacist publication.” From Twitter:
Though author Anthony Rogers wasn’t the only person to point out today that looting is illegal, the offensive nature — not to mention incomprehensibility — of his post was enough to make me wonder how it could have gotten past a human editor or producer at Thought Catalog.
In an email, Thought Catalog publisher Chris Lavergne told me that, in fact, “This particular piece was not screened by a producer.” The bar is extremely low for becoming an approved Thought Catalog contributor — “basically just email us,” according to Lavergne — and then you can publish whatever you want. Then, via SocialFlow, a tweet will be sent from the Thought Catalog account automatically. Writes Lavergne:
Today, in response, we deployed code that blocks community uploads from going straight to our social feeds without human approval. Only staff, independent contractors, and vetted community contributors will now be put into the SocialFlow queue.
The inherent risk of giving contributors free rein of your publishing platform was raised earlier this week when Gawker Media was overrun by users posting abusive gore and rape GIFs on Kinja. Gawker responded, shutting down image posting or comments entirely on some posts. Thought Catalog, which hasn’t taken down Rogers’ post, would appear to prefer allowing the trolls to have their way.
Editor’s note: Caroline tried very hard to avoid using the word “platisher” in this post, but it really does need to be mentioned here. Platisher.
First, Tufekci compares how the story is unfolding on different platforms. While Twitter catapulted Ferguson into the national media, she says, Facebook’s algorithms obscured what was happening in Missouri early on. She goes on to illustrate how algorithms on social sites control the way a news story is brought to our attention.
This isn’t about Facebook per se—maybe it will do a good job, maybe not—but the fact that algorithmic filtering, as a layer, controls what you see on the Internet. Net neutrality (or lack thereof) will be yet another layer determining this. This will come on top of existing inequalities in attention, coverage and control.
Twitter was also affected by algorithmic filtering. “Ferguson” did not trend in the US on Twitter but it did trend locally. So, there were fewer chances for people not already following the news to see it on their “trending” bar. Why? Almost certainly because there was already national, simmering discussion for many days and Twitter’s trending algorithm (term frequency inverse document frequency based) rewards spikes… So, as people in localities who had not been talking a lot about Ferguson started to mention it, it trended there though the national build-up in the last five days penalized Ferguson.
Algorithms have consequences.
Tufekci goes on to imagine a near future in which control over Internet access is used to control media coverage of breaking news stories like this one. For example, livestreams of protests require high-speed Internet connections, and in California, legislation that would make it easier to disable smartphones remotely is being considered.
The issue of access to devices and the network is poignantly underscored by the arrest of two reporters who were charging their phones and using the Internet at a Ferguson McDonald’s. Quartz’s Adam Epstein writes today about how the fast and free connection at the fast food chain has an unintentionally democratizing effect — when news is breaking, free Internet has the power to bring people together in unusual places.
I hope that in the coming days, there will be a lot written about race in America, about militarization of police departments, lack of living wage jobs in large geographic swaths of the country.
But keep in mind, Ferguson is also a net neutrality issue. It’s also an algorithmic filtering issue. How the internet is run, governed and filtered is a human rights issue.
CBS fired an opening salvo in what could become a disruption for network affiliated television stations.
WISH TV, the LIN Broadcasting owned station in Indianapolis will no longer be the CBS affiliate starting January 1, 2015. CBS is moving from LIN owned WISH-TV to the Tribune owned station WTTV, currently the CW affiliate. Tribune also owns the FOX station in Indy.
The move will cost WISH about half of its revenue, according to one media analyst, who added it will serve as a warning to other network affiliated stations. CBS is sending a signal that it is prepared to play rough when it comes to the percentage of revenue that local stations pass along from the retransmission fees that cable companies pay the local stations. In TV terms, the money that an affiliate pays a network is “network compensation” often called “net-comp.” Side note: A couple of decades ago, networks sent compensation to local stations and it is now the other way around.
This is worth watching because of a few simple facts:
— Despite the fact that discussions about the future of news are dominated by digital people and newspaper people, local TV news is still the No. 1 source of news for Americans.
— Even though the Aereo decision at the Supreme Court came down in favor of the broadcasters, the threat of Aereo made it obvious that the traditional relationship between local stations and national networks is not carved on stone tablets. Just as NPR is slowly building a brand and products that have less need for local stations, it’s not difficult to imagine a future where you watch “CBS” or “NBC” rather than your local CBS or NBC affiliate. The delocalization of media continues apace.
— If networks keep trying to soak local stations, it likely only speeds up a more fundamental reshaping of their relationship.
SNL Kagan, a leading media research firm, says within three to five years local stations may be handing over 50-to-60 percent of their cable retransmission income to the networks. The cost of resisting could be high.
Local TV news isn’t as sexy as digital startups, and its decline hasn’t been as dramatic (or important journalistically) as newspapers’. But there are real changes coming that could have a real impact on how informed people are about their communities.
We don’t spend a lot of time focusing on what happened to the American newspaper industry in the first decade-plus of this century — what’s past is past! — but this piece by Joel Mathis in Philadelphia magazine is a useful visual reminder. They obtained an internal document from the company that owns The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News detailing the decline in the papers’ financial state from 2000 to 2012. (One presumes the document comes from the financial data distributed to potential buyers of the papers in that last year.)
You can go there to see the plummeting totals and get some more context. But I think you’ll get the point with these two charts:
(One gloss on that first chart: You might see the difference between “Print Ads” and “Total Ads” and assume the difference is online advertising. That’s part of it, but the significantly larger part is preprint advertising — mostly the loose circulars that get packed in with the Sunday paper. Yeah, that’s all printed too, but it’s not included in the “Print Ads” segment above.)
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