Facebook & Ideological Segregation

Yup, this is going to be a Trump post – so I can understand if you’d wanna skip reading it.

Trump winning the 2016 American election surprised a lot of people. A LOT.

I wasn’t so surprised though. Not because I supported him. Gosh no. Just that there was an obvious and observable disenfranchisement of Republicans occurring across America, and it was ultimately unsurprising that they voted the way they did.

And Facebook, in a way, made it possible.

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Hear me out.

Facebook enables a structured flow of information that is dependent on those who you network with – and therefore there tends to be a clustering of political ideologies within social groups distinguished by demographic and geographic location. Essentially, who you’re friends with on Facebook.

In a digital climate, people’s exposure to news and civic information is increasingly being filtered through social media – namely Facebook. And the news stories they are being exposed to is reliant on the social network of friends that have selected and cultivated for themselves. Thus we have the creation of a type of ideological segregation, where people choose to be part of one ideological circle and segregate themselves away from the opposition viewpoint. In Republican America, where individuals are already feeling disenfranchised and isolated from the nation’s political rhetoric, it doesn’t matter if the news they are exposed to is “fake news”, at least it’s not liberal news from Team Hillary.

And from a particular perspective it’s an awesome underdog story, of how a disenfranchised people found their voice through the medium of new technology.

It’s a shame it just had to result in Trump.

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The weaknesses of audience fragmentation in digital marketing

This week, our topic moves to Digital Audiences.  I found some interesting points of view about audience fragmentation in digital marketing.

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The social media itself is much more complex than the traditional media. The traditional media establishes a relationship between the media and consumers. However, the social media has formed multiple relationships between the media and consumers, consumers, and consumers. It focuses more on connection, interests, and contents between people, which is more complex.

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For the establishment of the brand, companies need to build a clear, single and consistent image, therefore, with traditional media, to pass a business appeal, a unique proposition, a visual image will be easier. However, in social media, a variety of fragmented information dissemination is passing a noisy voice, which is detrimental for the establishment of a clear brand image. As a result, consumers will publish a variety of comments at any time, which may damage the corporate brand image.

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In addition, the traditional media communication is strong and simple. A subject, a slogan, a demand, all can form a distinctive icon. In my point of view, as the most of the content that businesses spread in social media has nothing to do with the brand. The purpose of corporate communication can be seen as deviated from the brand. As a result, audience fragmentation may not be helpful in the age of digital media.

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Crowdsourced News as new media platform

The development of digital technology changes the habit of public access to information which leads to the decline of traditional press media. News industries are seeking for new platforms which can reach a wider audience, get more timely and accurate news in lower cost. The crowdsourced news is a good attempt.

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According to Maria Krisette Capati at Crowdsourcing Week, public is exposed to a myriad of information and updates worldwide, people are more involved in providing information and upload them to social media instead of simply become an audience. And when citizen engagement, mass collaboration and online communities come into the scene, they are shaping the future of journalism and media.

Actually, the traditional internet companies have involved in the crowdsourced news development as well. Google announced its own crowdsourced news platform dubbed News Lab as part of their efforts “to empower innovation at the intersection of technology and media.” It is more like a tool to provides real-time stories and breaking news as raw material for journalist worldwide to report, create insight and tell a story which may never be heard before without crowdsourced.

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Some may doubt that crowdsourced news may not be true journalism as it lacks authority. Besides, mass public may short of professionalism as a journalist, prejudice about events when reporting the news. It is difficult to achieve fair and objective which traditional news flaunted. However, the crowdsourced news is a concept that has been embraced by the open nature of the web. As ‘open source’ news reporting, most of the contributors are as first witnesses, they can provide a more intuitive feel for news scene. More often, the crowdsourced news played a role as message channel providers which offer news clues for news websites.

The future of newspapers in digital platforms

The rise of digital platforms has undoubtedly helped giving businesses the opportunity to reach a wider audience, engage more with its consumers, and be more cost-effective in terms of physical resources.

However, it is worth mentioning that digital platform can only be a tremendous help to businesses if it is used correctly.

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Traditional newspapers might find ways to adapt to this ever-changing online and mobile media trends, one way is by leveraging into digital platforms. However, many newspapers tend to ‘shovelware‘ — in which they simply copy the news that they published in the newspaper and posted it on its digital platform.

It does not work that way.

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It should be noted that people use different platforms for different purposes. For example, I personally use mobile phones to access quick, short and live updates. On tablets, I tend to read longforms, feature stories, watch videos. And in desktop, I am more inclined to access complex data, infographics, and watch longer videos.

This approach requires newspapers and journalists to create contents tailored specifically for each medium and reader, as not all contents are good enough that it can move from one platform to the next. Some contents will not translate well for different device interfaces.

For example, newspapers might cover general news in their daily paper, post live update of breaking news on Twitter, encourage discussion of heated debate on its forum or even create a website solely for user-generated content comprises of members that discuss the current news. This way, the company will create a better engagement and cultivate a deeper relationship with its community.

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Although digital platform allows businesses to operate more conveniently and all, it is important to highlight the fact that the development of digital platform also enables the power to shift from organization to users.

As consumers are now able to share, like and comment the contents, they are becoming more powerful than ever. With the rise of digital platforms, consumers are now more willing to share and voice their opinions about a certain product, brand, or business, that can either help or hurt the brand.

Platforms = Relationships or Power?

As we skim through the many advances that revolutionised the creation, dissemination and consumption of news, we reach yet another notable change: news platforms.

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The use of the term ‘news platform’ is elaborated through four different perspectives (computational, political, figurative & architectural) by renowned communications professor, Tarleton Gillespe (in his published article “The politics of platforms”). However, all four analyses share the same political essence of being a democratic and egalitarian vessel for all news processes. The importance of this finding leads to the heart of this post where the idea of equality and accessibility reflects a new relationship between the media providers and audiences.

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In this new relationship where reporting inducts user-participatory journalism into the mix, the empowered audience is enthused as a richer contribution to an information society. Yet, it is worthwhile to look into the disadvantages from this ’freedom of speech’. Here we will swiftly analyse this issue from a Public Relations perspective as the discipline itself deals with studying relationships through communication. For instance, with news platforms enacting open discursive communication and consumption, there is always a rhetoric risk of propaganda, manipulation and abuse. In effect, the aspiration for an information society could be tainted with hegemony and distrust.

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This brings us to the question whether healthy relationships can be cultivated with too much power in the idea of news platforms empowering users. Controversy always looms with power; this one being the relationship of involvement of anyone with media platforms as a tool to create, report or provide ‘news’. As discussed, in an earlier post (Truth of news/news of truth), quality and legitimacy of news poses an extended issue.

How Competition Is Shaped in The Age of Platforms?

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In the 21st century, we have witnessed the rapid rise of digital readership. This leads to the struggling of media in the competition with news platforms. However, even news platform also has to fight for their position in the media industry.

Professor Geoffrey Parker, co-author of the book “Platform Revolution” says Platforms don’t shake up markets and incumbent businesses only. They change the very nature of competition.

What are the new types of competition in the age of platforms?

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“It’s like three-dimensional chess.”, says professor Parker.

First, one digital platform fights against another. For example, Facebook competes with Snapchat in terms of news distribution.

Second, a platform competes directly with its own partners. For example, when Tiki, a Vietnam-based online shopping platform, sells its self-made office items, which are also sold by its partner merchants.

Third, two distinct news publishers compete against each other within a platform ecosystem. For example, BBC and CNN fight for a spot in the Snapchat Discover section.

In this fierce race, competitors arm with their own strategies.

Platforms recognize “multi-homing” (one same content posted on various platforms) as a risk. They impede this practice by encouraging loyalty as well as creating barriers and penalties. In his article, Grzegorz Piechota lists out some clear examples. Facebook signed 140 contracts with video producers, including CNN, BuzzFeed, and Vox Media, to guarantee their commitment. Snapchat once banned Yahoo from its Discover section because Yahoo’s news broadcast was old-fashioned and not appealing to Snapchat’s audience. News publishers must follow platforms’ rules if they want to be a part of the joint venture. Platforms, then, can enhance their competitive advantages over competitors.

News Publishers consider collaborating with various social media platforms is both an investment and an insurance policy. This strategy helps them to engage with a wider range of audiences, which, in turn, becomes their competitive advantages.

A Symbiosis Relationship

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Although the competition is fiercer than ever, I believe the normative relationship between news platforms and media outlets should be a ‘Symbiosis‘ or Collaboration.

What media outlets need to consider when joining this symbiosis relationship is not to lose control over their own business. Sangeet Paul Choudary, CEO of Platform Strategy Labs suggests ways for media outlet to protect themselves when working with platforms.

  • Publishers should ensure the right to access to data about user interaction with their content on the platforms.
  • Publishers need to ensure that they can engage and build a strong relationship with their readers through that platform.
  • Think of the scenario whether the platform can exploit the data collected from user interaction with publishers’ content for their own purposes and be careful.

Learn the rules of the game, then play better than anyone else! That’s the way we fight off all competitions!

What is news industry that has not been influenced by digital media?

This week, our topic moves to Media and News Platforms. The ways where we access, consume, discuss, share and produce news stories are profoundly changed by digital platforms and digitalization.

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Digitalization is one of the main driving forces of the news industry in recent years. It affects the news value, professional ethics, workflow, working conditions, newsroom management and other aspects. Digital media has not only changed the practice of news in developed countries but also profoundly changes the way journalists work in emerging markets.

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Digital media brings opportunities to the news as well as risks and challenges. Digitization facilitates the collection and dissemination of news but does not necessarily lead to better news coverage. Plagiarism, lack of confirmation, and other non-professional journalism practice in many countries began to grow rapidly.

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Specifically,  digitalization has created new publishing platforms and channels of communication for professionals and citizen journalists. But most of the news published on that platforms do not seem to have more social impact. Digitalization even has brought great damage to the news in some countries.

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Secondly, despite the fact that digital platforms and independent medias provide professional and citizen journalists the opportunity to conduct research, investigation and then publish and disseminate news, in many countries, it is doubtful whether the original content created by such journalists is reliable.

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Last but not the least, although digital media gives the vulnerable groups and access to public comment, it does not change the traditional media in the face of sensitive issues when restricted, biased, a sensational way of reporting. Today, almost all of the candidates will use the social media platform to communicate with voters, but only a few countries can digitize and generate new political participants. However, digital media has greatly increased the volume of political discussions, bringing about the political interests of the general public.

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