As Facebook pushes yet more fake articles, one news editor tells Mark to get a grip – or Zuck off
Hard to hear when you're buried under piles of $$$
Living in a box
The only real solution is for Facebook to learn from news organizations, let go of its obsession that all things can be neatly boxed up by software, and hire human beings with analytical skills to direct news in the right direction.
Except there is no sign that Mark Zuckerberg or the rest of Facebook's upper management is ready to accept that reality. And so their answer has been to simply get rid of this troublesome news. Real news will be downplayed.
In a conference call with financial analysts on Wednesday, Zuckerberg recognized that dropping current events from its service was going to make its website less "sticky" and hence reduce the amount of time users spent on it: bad news for advertisers.
His hoped-for solution is to steal the success of two competitors in Instagram and Snapchat, and encourage or promote user-created content over professionally produced content. In Facebook world, these are called "Stories" with a capital "S".
Here's what Zuckerberg had to say sbout Stories on the call: "Another important shift we're seeing is the growth of Stories. We expect Stories are on track to overtake posts in Feed as the most common way that people share across all social apps. That's because Stories is a better format for sharing multiple quick video clips throughout your day."
And there's the nub of it: Facebook doesn't care what appears on its service so long as it keeps pulling back its users day after day so advertisers can target them and Facebook can make money.
The company has no interest in offering a public service. It couldn't care less about joining or supporting the Fourth Estate. In fact, news – with its inherent characteristic that it causes discomfort in the rich and powerful – is a giant pain in the ass for Facebook.
But, but, butt
It would love nothing more than if we all became a bit more Kim Kardashian and a bit less Ben Bradlee. Fewer ifs and more butts.
It's for that reason that SF Chronicle editor Cooper's plea to Zuckerberg to be creative in finding a solution to the manipulation of its news algorithms is likely to land on deaf ears. "You can do better than this," she urged. "Each decision you make that limits the reach of our journalism hurts our ability to effect positive change in our city and state."
She also warned that without a proper news function, Facebook users will be sucked into increasingly partisan viewpoints and their own news bubbles. "You're making [America's] absolutism worse and abdicating your responsibility to improve public discourse," Cooper complained.
But all someone has to do is show Zuckerberg the viewing figures from Fox News – a news network that shifted its business model from objective journalism to partisan propaganda, with massively profitable results.
People keep mistaking Zuckerberg's comments about "amplifying the good,” "doing the right thing," and "delivering deeper value" as a sign he is considering the societal impact of Facebook. He's not. He just wants more cash with fewer complications.
At Facebook, money talks and bullshit walks… all over the front pages. ®