August 25, 2016

"Inside Facebook’s (Totally Insane, Unintentionally Gigantic, Hyperpartisan) Political-Media Machine/How a strange new class of media outlet has arisen to take over our news feeds."

That's the headline at the New York Times. Think about why the NYT wants to alarm us about that terrible money-making company, Facebook.

My hypothesis is that the NYT is losing readers and advertising money to the "strange new class of media outlet" and would like its readers to cling to old media, where it's not strange and insane, but safe, gigantic by design, and subtle in its partisanship.

The article — written by John Herrman — is especially concerned about "political news and advocacy pages made specifically for Facebook... like Occupy Democrats; The Angry Patriot; US Chronicle; Addicting Info; RightAlerts; Being Liberal; Opposing Views; Fed-Up Americans; American News; and hundreds more"*:
Individually, these pages have meaningful audiences, but cumulatively, their audience is gigantic: tens of millions of people. On Facebook, they rival the reach of their better-funded counterparts in the political media, whether corporate giants like CNN or The New York Times, or openly ideological web operations like Breitbart or Mic. And unlike traditional media organizations, which have spent years trying to figure out how to lure readers out of the Facebook ecosystem and onto their sites, these new publishers are happy to live inside the world that Facebook has created. Their pages are accommodated but not actively courted by the company and are not a major part of its public messaging about media. But they are, perhaps, the purest expression of Facebook’s design and of the incentives coded into its algorithm — a system that has already reshaped the web and has now inherited, for better or for worse, a great deal of America’s political discourse.
___________________________

*Just when the NYT is looking to reassure me of its comfortable normality, it unleashes a fistful of inexplicable semi-colons.

56 comments:

Birkel said...

"Unintentionally Gigantic" is the peanut butter to "Hyperpartisan" jelly.

Those two things almost always go together for Leftist collectivists.

Henry said...

Love the footnote.

That's an old old headline. I imagine it playing out in Renaissance Europe:

"Inside Tyndale's (Totally Insane, Unintentionally Gigantic, Hyperpartisan) Vernacular Bible/How a strange new class of media outlet has arisen to take over our news feeds.""

Henry said...

Remember when Wikipedia was the totally insane and unintentionally gigantic threat to all things establishment?

David said...

NYT is worried about choir preachers. Of course they are a choir preacher.

rhhardin said...

I'm missing so much not having a facebook account.

I do get daily offers from the NYT in my spam folder, and from WAPO in non-spam folder, a choice of Yahoo mail not me.

Yahoo is the pfc Wintergreen of the internet.

rhhardin said...

Offer expires today.

Mike Sylwester said...

What about MySpace?

MayBee said...

Most of my Facebook news feed is about Kylie Jenner.

Bob Boyd said...

Maybe the NYT just needs a new slogan.

How about "Fair and Balanced"?

MadisonMan said...

My facebook Feed has changed, and so has my relationship to it. I don't click things, and I don't respond. Most of my Facebook friends are performing similarly, near as I can tell.

I conclude that the dying New York Times is writing a pearl-clutching story about a similarly antiquated but not yet dying Facebook. Kind of like the 90-year-old on the street opining about the 80-year-old. Both are irrelevant to the 20-year-old.

John Tuffnell said...

A fistful of colons. That's an uncomfortable usage.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

When I occasionally catch the FNC in the morning and see the commercials for things like walk in tubs and William Devane hawking gold, it often strikes me just how old their demographic must be. How much older is your demographic if you have to explain "The Facebook" to them?

David Begley said...

Ron

Old demo for network news too. Mostly Pharma advertisers.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

A lot of the people who watch the FNC are seriously worried about falling down and not being able to get up, but I bet they can still use "The Facebook."

Darrell said...

The NYT should be the first major newspaper die cut into a hexagonal shape to make it easier to fit birdcages.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

@David Begley

I read, recently, that the networks are getting into streaming their shows because otherwise they will be irrelevant. Young people are cutting the cord, that is they just aren't getting cable. They watch shows via the Internet or they don't watch them at all. I'm far from young and have looked into doing this myself.

jacksonjay said...

Let talk about Facebook, Cher and sexy turtles, instead of the Master Persuader! Didja hear about the flip-flop? He wrote a book and had a TV show, so Hell, flipping on the baying mob ain't no thing!

rehajm said...

Old people are getting into cord cutting, too...

You might be wortied about how you're going to sell a reverse mortgage to them but streaming media is catching on to getting their ads watched.

Dave said...

Not sure if this is what the article is talking about, but I have been thinking about this a lot lately...

I am a young Gen Xer who doesn't watch TV and typically only reads "old" media if it's linked to from blogs (like Althouse!).

I use Facebook daily but only for connecting with friends I have from the real world. I try to ignore the politics there. But it's getting more difficult, especially in an election season!

It now feels like 25-30% or the stuff in my Faceboon feed are links (shared by my friends) to random liberal or conservative news/opinion sites. Even though I try to "hide posts like these" or just skip past them, I still end up seeing a lot of them. It sort of bugs me that most of the "news" items I see are these sorts of things.

I wonder if this is somehow subsconscisuly altering my perception of what's going on in the world in a strange way.

Fortunately I have Althouse to (hopefully?) set me straight!

Bob Boyd said...

NYT: We won't live up to this principle, but we certainly lament its loss.

Otto said...

"...and subtle in its partisanship. .." C'mon Anne, it's well known that NYT has the most sophisticated readership in the US. You can't fool them :-).

Alexander said...

Heh. They distinguish CNN and NYT from 'openly ideological' platforms.

Totes adorbs.

Fernandinande said...

"take over our news feeds."

First they came for our news feeds, and I did not speak out.
Because I was not a news feed.

Then they came for our advertising revenue, and I did not speak out.
Because I was not advertising revenue.

Then they came for our propaganda, and I did not speak out.
Because I was not propaganda.

Then they came for the NYT - and fortunately there was no one left to speak for the NYT except Carlos Slim and his talking tortoise.

tim in vermont said...

The biggest problem is lack of gatekeepers.

AReasonableMan said...

Bob Boyd said...
How about "Fair and Balanced"?


I hear that is available now that FOX has shifted to the Playboy channel.

GRW3 said...

"and subtle in its partisanship"

I nearly spit out my coffee.

rehajm said...

it unleashes a fistful of inexplicable semi-colons.

They had a surplus from the half- off sale.

Bob Boyd said...

"I hear that is available now that FOX has shifted to the Playboy channel."

FOX is changing theirs to "Fair and Buxom"

Ron Winkleheimer said...

You might be wortied about how you're going to sell a reverse mortgage to them

On FNC they use Fonzie so you know its totes legit.

Matthew Sablan said...

"Remember when Wikipedia was the totally insane and unintentionally gigantic threat to all things establishment?"

-- Then it was co-opted by the left, losing a lot of its neutrality and value on any hot, modern topic.

wildswan said...

"They watch shows via the Internet or they don't watch them at all. I'm far from young and have looked into doing this myself."

Cutting the cable is easy to do when you don't have to gather at the water cooler with an opinion on last night's show. Most shows are on after a few days delay. However (so far) you can't really watch Packer games in a timely way without cable or paying someway. So cable and newspapers survive.

But treading on their heels comes the new media. For instance, it seems that in a random way Facebook groups, families and others, are also watching other shows from previous eras together or listening to audio books or taking courses - and exchanging opinions. Somebody just gets an idea - it's like a book club only the book lasts weeks. Blogs have themes, too, that come and go. It's the inability of NYT to catch these floating webs or more correctly, to catch the underlying trends, that makes NYT seem like an old, spider-infested, web-hung haunted house. Rather than representing people picking up interesting thoughts from each other, the NYT seems to represent a whack-a-mole approach to any thing new or any disagreement. Suppression of Clinton's obvious corruption is part of that.

But more to the point 70% of the country thinks we are headed in the wrong direction and yet the NYT has no stories addressing that theme. No stories that in some elusive way point at the changed reality. No mind at work on it.

Matthew Sablan said...

Hey! That sounds just like Facebook! Wikipedia was really awesome until the left overly politicized it!

Ron Winkleheimer said...

A far more interesting article could have been written on how the demise of cable is going to eliminate scads of channels that are essentially being subsidized by popular shows and channels and how that is going to effect the ideological landscape.

Does Pivt, which is pro-gay and primarily offers reruns off 90s shows such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which you can stream on Netflix, actually have a positive cash flow? If you could purchase channels ala carte would it even exist? We will know soon because it won't be long before the concept of a "network" or even channel will be obsolete.

Matthew Sablan said...

Which isn't to say any non-current, political event ISN'T a good thing on Wikipedia. Once you step away from overtly political or current events, you can find some good articles [and some bad ones] on Wikipedia. But, unfortunately, any recent event -- Wikipedia is a relatively terrible first place to go.

As for Facebook, I use it, but I find my relationship with it has steadily gotten worse. If nearly everyone I knew used some other form of messenger app, I'd probably barely use Facebook.

TwilightofLiberty.com said...

I don't think I've written a fan letter since the beautiful Nancy McKeon was on "The Facts of Life," but this is a great blog. From the host's posts to the commenters it is a fun read and daily stop #2 for me, right after Drudge.

TosaGuy said...

I am friends with some folks who run for WI assembly as Democrats and regularly get trounced. They are otherwise fun people when not talking politics but all they do anymore is link to this stuff. It is no wonder why they cannot connect with the voters because they surround themselves with this stuff that holds those voters in contempt.

People, you are not politically intellectual when you link to this stuff, you are simply somebody else's sheep.

And finally, you can click to block all links to those particular sites that your friends put up there, but can still see their vacation pics and cat videos. You have to do it for each site as it comes across your feed, but it is worth it.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

you can't really watch Packer games in a timely way without cable or paying someway. So cable and newspapers survive.

Yep, sports programming has the highest ad revenue because people actually watch it live and therefore can't fast forward through the ads. That is the theory anyway. I often watch shows "live" and fast forward through the commercials by starting to watch it 15 - 20 minutes after the show starts.

tim in vermont said...

You know how I watch Patriots games? As my millennial daughter puts it, I "jack" it. You see, it seems that there are these radio waves carrying the broadcast that I can intercept with my TV antenna and watch the games, and I don't have to pay anybody!

tim in vermont said...

Unfortunately, every other sport has fled to cable for the short term money fix. Baseball would still be huge if it was free over the air. It gave up a lot of mind space with that decision.

Henry said...

@tim -- Hahaha. I do the same thing. For Red Sox games I listen to the radio, which is another device that captures radio waves.

Earnest Prole said...

We should not dismiss the profound issues this article raises simply because the Times is Facebook’s competitor. Our public square and culture of free speech are increasingly in private hands. If Facebook, Twitter, and Google choose to censor you then you effectively cease to exist.

Ron said...

Do all those semi colons make this an assault sentence? The left must ban it!

Ron Winkleheimer said...

As my millennial daughter puts it, I "jack" it.

Yeah, I bought a cheap (as in less than $10) digital TV antenna to see what I could pick up over the air to see if I could get local channels for the news, etc. I was able to pick up a large amount of channels even though my house is located in a crappy spot to pick up broadcast signals. If I got a more expensive antenna I think I would be fine. And cable is very expensive and only exists because there didn't used to be any alternatives. Now that people are spending more and more of their "screen time" online and playing video games, cable is getting increasingly obsolescent.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Our public square and culture of free speech are increasingly in private hands. If Facebook, Twitter, and Google choose to censor you then you effectively cease to exist.

I don't dismiss your concern, I share it. But when hasn't the medium of free speech been in private hands? Before Facebook, Twitter, and Google if you couldn't get the newspaper or TV to cover your views you effectively didn't exist. At least now there are alternatives besides standing on street corners and hectoring by-passers. And if Google and the rest go to far, alternatives to them can be created. Facebook's primary advantage is market share, but that can be quickly be lost. An alternative messaging app (which is all Facebook really is) would not be that difficult to setup.

Matthew Sablan said...

"An alternative messaging app (which is all Facebook really is) would not be that difficult to setup."

-- People say that, but Google+ died in its infancy, and now exists solely as an integrated vestigial organ to Google's email and Google Drive services.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

@Matthew Sablan

Technically easy. Getting people to switch to it would be another matter.

mockturtle said...

If ever the pot called the kettle black...

StephenFearby said...

"On Facebook, they rival the reach of their better-funded counterparts in the political media, whether corporate giants like CNN or The New York Times, or openly ideological web operations like Breitbart or Mic."

In contrast, the NYT operates as covertly ideological news operation.

Who do they think they're kidding?

Mark Jones said...

Google+ shot itself in the foot from day one with an ill-advised demand that people cough up their real names (often requiring documentation) instead of allowing them to create handles. People who DID give their real names were summarily attacked because they didn't *sound* like real names. People complained, loudly. And Google doubled down on the demand.

Lots of potential users (including me) therefore refused to join. It's their own fault.

Sam L. said...

Ooooooh, hatin' on lefties on their side, but cracking the NYT's rice bowl!

HoodlumDoodlum said...



Semicolons are acceptable in a list if any of the list items have commas. None of the items in this list have commas, but the thinking MIGHT have been that if commas were used for the list the (relatively-little known) items themselves might have been ambiguous--readers don't know "Opposing Views" might have been confused and thought it was "Opposing Views, Fed-Up Americans." Possibly the original list DID have an item with a comma, but that item was edited off of the list and the punctuation wasn't changed.

That's my theory, anyway. The usage doesn't really bother me; it's unambiguous and not overly mannered nor distracting. I'm not a copy editor, though.

mike said...

I typically vote Republican. My Facebook feed sends me something about Libertarian Johnson about every 4 hours. I wonder if my liberal friends about to vote for Hillary get Stein feeds. Actually, no I don't.

Mike bruno said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JaimeRoberto said...

What's more disturbing, a fistful of colons, or a colon full of fists?

Earnest Prole said...

Let me push an idea a bit further as a thought experiment. Fifty years ago our society agreed that when private companies deny blacks food or lodging, they deprive them of a fundamental civil right -- regardless of whether some other private establishment down the road will serve them. With an increasing percentage of our political communication (the highest purpose of free speech, according to the Supreme Court) passing through private gatekeepers, might the preservation of our fundamental civil rights require a similar legal guarantee of neutrality from Google, Facebook, Twitter et al? (And yes, I understand that existing First Amendment law binds only government entities; the point is to explore whether that will be sufficient to ensure freedom of speech as a civil right and primary cultural value.)

Tyrone Slothrop said...

I've been doing my best to get rid of "suggested posts" on Facebook. An app called FBpurity was doing a good job, but after the last Windows 10 update, it doesn't stop them any more. Thanks to Althouse's tip yesterday, I noted that FB preferences has me down for Political (Conservative) Amen.

So it is a wonderment that today I got a "suggested" post gleefully detailing how HRC allegedly tore apart Trump's tax plan.

Here's the kicker, and the reason my comment is relevant to the topic at hand. The source of FB's "suggested" post? The New York Times.