Critical Thinking: Should Newspapers Stop Publishing Their Articles on Facebook Due to the New Algorithm Change?

CriticalThinking-Web-April-2018

Alexa Díaz, 21, senior, Syracuse University (Syracuse, N.Y.)

Díaz is the editor-in-chief of the independent, student-run newspaper, The Daily Orange. She has written for the paper since 2014.

A Facebook without credible, professional news being pumped into newsfeeds in some capacity is a platform that does a disservice to its users.

Newsrooms can’t control algorithms, but the antidote to fake news requires far more than going dark on social media. For some readers, pulling a newspaper’s voice from an echo chamber like Facebook—be it because of increased conspiracy posts or low traffic—is the equivalent of cutting their doorstep news delivery service. These readers may not take the time to input a web address regularly or fact-check suspicious posts that creep up on their feeds. We know that. Out of screen, out of mind, out of consciousness.

Fake news existed long before internet propagandists could stitch together videos spinning national news stories to drown out accurate reporting and accounts from those directly affected. Fake news doesn’t end with social media when it began spreading through print and by word of mouth before the dot-com boom. Digital media is another channel, however more powerful. But it is one newsrooms can use to make sure online users and readers alike know reporting with integrity doesn’t go quiet when false reports are blaring.

Taking ownership in the power of social media to resonate with distinct communities and grow readership is an opportunity to support news literacy by providing accessible, relevant and reliable news. This is why we see the power of audience development and engagement teams in newsrooms.

Be it for power or profit, Facebook sees value in news. In late January, Mark Zuckerberg made clear the platform’s intent to emphasize “quality, trusted news” for users. Zuckerberg highlighted what newsrooms know well: Local news contextualizes daily life on and offline. With fine-tuned engagement practices and strategic coverage, national media can resonate with readers in a similar way.

Newsrooms have adapted to changing industries and technologies to best serve readers. Algorithms are no different.

 

J. Keith Moyer, 65, publisher and editor, Las Vegas (Nev.) Review-Journal

Moyer has led the Review-Journal newsroom since February 2016. He was recently named publisher in March.

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: Facebook is a significant source of readership for most newspapers. Never was it more clear to those of us in Las Vegas as when we used Facebook live to get word out to the community about the Oct. 1 mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay Resort. Facebook’s algorithm changes might seem arbitrary and anti-publisher to some. But, really, they aren’t. The changes are pro-Facebook to be sure, somewhat by necessity, as the company instituted its January Facebook algorithm change with the aim of directing more “friends and family” into users’ feeds. It was an attempt to lessen the amount of fake news any one user might encounter.

That change softens newspaper traffic levels, making publishers’ attempts to grow via Facebook more challenging—but certainly not impossible.

Facebook is well aware of how valuable its audience is to publishers. And as Facebook works out its credibility and user-verification issues, newspapers can continue to benefit, even if not at the same robust rate. For instance, publishers are paying to boost posts now, something they didn’t do as much of before. Facebook has known all along that if it reduces news in the feed, publishers will pay more to be in the feed—to a point. And we haven’t reached the point where using Facebook as an overall-reach builder is financially unfeasible.

Can newspaper publishers say they were 100 percent sure before January that everything users read there was adequately vetted? Of course not. Ditto for any number of other social media streams used by newspapers.

One way to ensure that fewer fake news stories find their way to Facebook is to accept that an even greater responsibility will be necessary by those of us using Facebook to ensure fact-based information is presented in transparent ways. Our Facebook followers, readers, etc. will continue to turn to us if they can trust information provided under our individual nameplates and banners on Facebook streams. That obligation falls to each publishing entity whether posting news or broadcasting live on Facebook.

So, with full acknowledgment that Facebook will never be the perfect social media solution for newspapers, it still makes no sense to walk away from a serious source for eyeballs during a time when digital growth is an absolute must.

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Published: April 12, 2018

One thought on “Critical Thinking: Should Newspapers Stop Publishing Their Articles on Facebook Due to the New Algorithm Change?

  • May 30, 2018 at 10:31 am
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    A critical factor in the perception of so called “fake news” is the presumption that speed is the most important factor in publishing. How soon do you need to know that restaurant is closing or that a new apartment building is being constructed? MOST news benefits from careful consideration. Doing updates every five minutes on a blog is not a replacement for presenting an intelligent summary of the facts. But all media is now in a headlong rocket powered race to get the freshest eyeballs.

    Speed is all that matters.

    Reduced staffs, overworked, and the ability of 15 year olds to publish “news” means that competition (and yes ad dollars) are more fractured than any industry can sustain. The model is irretrievably broken. Facebook would be FAR better served to support more reliable news purveyors by splitting revenue with them. As the best fade (especially in smaller markets) and disappear, the only ones left will be the hobbyists and amateurs. That’s not just dangerous to the nation. It’s fatal.

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