Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The interesting thing about platforms like Facebook and Twitter is that they are really entertainment companies, with a large news division: They control an increasingly large majority of what you watch, read, listen to, and learn about the world. But they are successful precisely because they have divested themselves of the most burdensome costs of traditional media: They have no responsibility to locate, screen or pay the artists and journalists whose work they distribute.

Instead, social media companies make you do all that work; they trust you to provide an endless chain of interesting links and promotional copy for free. Your “likes” are calculated reward mechanisms, the little bits of validation that create a compulsion to “share” (that is, do unpaid writing, marketing and editorial work) and thereby keep the site relevant and engaging. Meanwhile, the relative “importance” of all this content is not determined by expert judgment, or even by humans: It’s compiled algorithmically, via Trending Topics and the like. The story with the most links is the story that the site officially promotes. So Facebook is, effectively, the single most widely read newspaper in the world — and it has no editors, no fact-checkers, no staff writers, no reporting budget, no political stance and no obligation to pay or provide benefits to any of the millions of people who work there.

- Sady Doyle

Altho the NYT has been doing that for years and years now, with "most e-mailed" and "most blogged" and a lot of other sites now have buttons showing how many times a piece has been shared, liked, blogged, etc. etc. But I do think more people now get their 'news' from Facebook than from anywhere else, which is deeply scary. Even Twitter links are better than that. Maybe.