The Dangers Ahead
It seems like Facebook and Google have a decision to make: friend or foe of the news?
Mark Thompson, chief executive officer of The New York Times, and Robert Thomson, ceo of News Corp., are on ideological common ground in their opposition to the way Facebook and Google are using, or not using, their position as dominant distributors of the news. Both spoke Tuesday at a small conference held by The Open Markets Institute, a think tank focused on the resistance of corporate monopoly power, and pushed not only for more oversight of “Big Digital” (as Thomson put it after comparing the industry to Big Tobacco) but also for the platforms themselves to be more forthright and transparent in their dealings with publishers.
Even though the Times has managed to pull well through the digital disruption to advertising and distribution, Thompson said the paper has “advantages most news providers do not enjoy.” But even with them, “we find the environment for growing our digital revenue — and securing the funding of our newsroom — harder than I believe we should.”
He took direct aim at Google, which owns YouTube, and particularly Facebook for failing to own up to their responsibilities as distributors and de facto publishers, a title the platforms have rejected again and again. But Thompson also admitted that leaders of both organizations are not interested in destroying journalism and have at least shown a willingness to listen and explore possible solutions to the undermining of legitimate news and access to it. But listening isn't enough.
“When it comes to news, Facebook still doesn't get it,” Thompson said. “In its efforts to clear up one bad mess, it seems set on joining those who want to blur the line between reality-based journalism and propaganda. But the underlying danger — of the agency of editors and public alike being usurped by centralized algorithmic control — is present with every digital platform where we do not fully understand how the pro- cesses of editorial selection and prioritization take place. Which right now means all of them. Thus the urgent need for transparency.”
Thomson joined Thompson in critiquing the opacity of algorithms that operate Facebook and Google and the platforms' support of “atomized consumption of single stories and the jumbling of stories of different depth and quality from different sources.” Thompson said this feeds into the recent advent of “fake news” consumption and a distrust of legitimate reporting because “essential signals... about editorial intentionality” are lost or removed.
“Google, which has actually become more responsive under Sundar Pichai, has been tweaking its algorithm in ways that seem to be a mystery to even the company itself,” Thomson said. He noted when The Wall Street Journal saw a “sudden and remarkable” increase in Google referrals to its site one week earlier this year, the search engine explained it as a “bug,” without elaboration.
As for Facebook's plan to introduce a trustworthiness ranking of the news it distributes, both executives maligned the plan as ridiculous and more than a little ironic. Thompson characterized it as “a naive attempt to set itself up as the digital world's editor in chief,” while Thomson asked, “Who is to judge trustworthiness?”
Thomson went a step further by taking issue with the physical and mental effects associated with extensive use of Big Digital platforms, including what he said is a loss of concentration and tolerance, that go wholly undisclosed.
“If the imperative of an algorithm is to be irresistible,” Thomson said, “when does irresistibility become irresponsibility?”
— KALI HAYS
Social Media’s Shining Stars
The CFDA Fashion Awards provided plenty of social media moments. According to Launchmetrics, Gigi Hadid scored the top three spots for most engagements with her Instagram posts. Wearing a bright and multicolored Versace jumpsuit, Hadid's top three posts from the awards generated 1.4 million, 1.2 million and 835,000 in engagement, respectively.
The data team tracked both online and social media from the day of the event, June 4, through the day after.
The most talked about brand, based on Media Impact Value, was Versace, where Donatella Versace was awarded the International Award, and generated $1.4 million in MIV, followed by Swarovski, the title partner of the CFDA Awards, which earned $1.3 million, and then Calvin Klein, where Raf Simons, chief creative officer, took home the Womenswear Designer of the Year, and garnered $1.2 million.
As far as which media sources that covered the CFDA Awards earned the most MIV, first place went to PopSugar, whose MIV reached more than $735,000, followed by Vogue, with $634,000; Buzzfeed, with $499,000; Hugo Gloss, with 406,000, and The Telegraph, with 354,000.
The most talked about designers, based on Media Impact Value, were Calvin Klein, with $1.2 million; Diane von Furstenberg, who won the Swarovski Award for Positive Change, with $1 million; Carolina Herrera, with $816,000; Narciso Rodriguez, who won the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award, with $505,000, and Tommy Hilfiger, with $484,000.
Finally, as far as engagement, the most talked about designers were Zac Zac Posen, which led the pack with 685,000 in engagement, followed by Calvin Klein, 362,000; Swarovski, 346,400; Versace, 346,200, and Ralph Lauren, who received the first Members' Salute, with 335,000. — LISA LOCKWOOD