The Dan­gers Ahead

WWD Digital Daily - - News -

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?”


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

Gigi Ha­did

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