HBO’s John Oliver takes on the media’s attempts to sell his show’s content through sensational headlines and clickbait.
As media outlets look to grow their shrinking audiences and advertising budgets, they are turning to popular online platforms to share stories and drive engagement.
The New York Times for instance, is setting the bar for how it presents its stories online, by including video, graphics, podcasts and photos. It’s refreshing compared to the tired ink and paper version that fewer and fewer people find on their door steps each morning. But, as some media outlets are looking to truly engage and embrace online platforms, there are others that are simply driving their audiences to digital properties to drive clicks, which they will somehow count as audience growth and sell to advertisers.
This trend is called clickbait, content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page or to comment, with the goal of growing audiences and digital revenue. It has nothing to do with journalism, although it can be cloaked as such.
No matter what side of the aisle your political beliefs fall, it’s hard not to watch the very public antagonistic relationship President Trump and his administration are having with the media.
While President Obama had his fair share of scuffles with the media, they didn’t get the kind of attention President Trump’s school-yard battles are getting now. After several decades during which the media has lost trust, credibility and interest among Americans, will the new President bring back the Fourth Estate to its former glory?
I recently came across a Politico article titled: Trump Is Making Journalism Great Again. According to the article, there’s always been a quid pro quo in Washington, where journalists groom sources, but sources also groom journalists. “There’s nothing inherently unethical about the back-scratching. When a reporter calls an administration source to confirm an embarrassing item, the source may agree to confirm as long as the reporter at the very least agrees to listen sympathetically to the administration’s context.”
There was a lot of news coverage of “fake news” leading up to and following the recent presidential election, but after doing some digging, it became clear that fake news and fake news sites are nothing new.
And it’s not just fake news that’s getting attention. I came across a story about how a police department in Central California issued a fake news release to the media to protect a person who was sure to be killed by rival gang members. Many in the local media were highly critical of the police’s actions, but the Santa Maria police made no apologies.
In an ever-shrinking media landscape with fewer and fewer “real” media and reporters, how do you tell real from fake news? The New York Times covered this topic in an appropriately titled headline: Inside a Fake News Sausage Factory: ‘This Is All About Income’. The article covered how a computer science major from Georgia (the country), started creating fake stories about Hillary Clinton on a website he set up, and watched his Google ad sales soar as more and more people found the site. He really started making money when he began creating content about Donald Trump.
This year, Patagonia announced that it would donate all Black Friday proceeds to grassroots environmental groups fighting to protect natural resources like water, oil and soil. The company expected to rake in about $2 million across its 80 global stores and Patagonia.com. In reality, Patagonia recorded $10 million in revenue – five times what the company expected – and is still promising to donate 100 percent of that revenue to the environmental groups.
The chief executive of Grubhub, an online and mobile food ordering company, learned a lesson last week after he sent out a companywide email that implied that employees should resign if they supported President-elect Donald Trump.
The backlash was immediate and sustained. CEO Matt Maloney quickly moved to clarify his comments, but he damage was done. There were calls for a boycott and media pounced on the executive.
Responding to questions from a Ragan’s PR Daily reporter about the issue, GroundFloor Media’s Vice President Gil Rudawsky said that he began advising clients to update their policies concerning making public political statements earlier this year, and re-emphasized this in the weeks leading up to the election.
“Public comments, even from personal accounts, can be—and often are—misconstrued as being representative of their company’s views,” Rudawsky told Ragan’s. “As a best practice, it is not appropriate for executives to make decidedly one-sided political comments or to push their views on employees.”
And regarding Maloney’s missive to his staff, Rudawsky offered this lesson:
“We remind our clients that while free speech is right, just because you can make political mandates doesn’t mean you should.”
No matter where you stand on politics, these past few months have sure been a roller coaster. And whether you’re currently at the high point or the low, there’s no doubt that algorithms from Google to Facebook are feeding you news and information that align closely with your personal beliefs and validating your position.
The Benefit and Challenge of Algorithms
Eli Pariser’s illustration of a filter bubble.
Algorithms aren’t new, and as communications professionals we benefit from their ability to help serve information directly to our target audiences. But as conscious consumers, algorithms can present challenges that are perhaps amplified in light of this recent election.
Interestingly, this 2011 TEDTalk by Eli Pariser, founder of Upworthy, has been circulating the Twittersphere lately and while the talk, titled “Beware online ‘filter bubbles,’” is five years old, it’s pretty incredible how little seems to have changed. Read more after the jump…
The company said it would not delete any Vines that have been posted — for now, anyway. “We value you, your Vines, and are going to do this the right way,” the company said in a Medium post. “You’ll be able to access and download your Vines. We’ll be keeping the website online because we think it’s important to still be able to watch all the incredible Vines that have been made.”
The 2016 Wright finalists on stage with Governor Hickenlooper.
Last week marked the fourth straight year that GroundFloor Media/CenterTable has sponsored The Wright – a Shark Tank–esque event focusing on Colorado companies who work in the outdoor/lifestyle industries, and love to give back to their respective communities. Companies are nominated, finalists are required to produce a short video about their business, a panel of judges narrows the list to three finalists at a live event and then questions those companies before selecting the winning contestant.
Some of these companies are big, some are small, some are new and some are more established. The common theme is that they’re all amazing Colorado-based companies who have great entrepreneurial spirit. It’s truly one of my favorite events each year – and one where everyone can learn a thing or two from the contestants. Here are a couple of things we took away from, or were reminded during the 2016 Wright: Read more after the jump…
Not surprisingly, Americans disagree about how the media cover the news, and what they believe are the media’s best and worst traits. According to a Pew Research Center study that was conducted in early 2016, Americans were asked to share what they thought were the most positive and negative things the news media do.
The most positive thing the media do, according to 30 percent of respondents, is to report the news. Next, 25 percent say the media provide a public service, like providing information or serving as a watch dog. Last, people say the media share uplifting stories (8 percent).