mfioretti: online publishing*

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  1. Which brings us back to Facebook, which to this day seems at best to dimly understand how the news business works, as is evident in its longstanding insistence that it's not a media company. Wired was even inspired to publish a sarcastic self-help quiz for Facebook execs on "How to tell if you're a media company." It included such questions as "Are you the country's largest source of news?"

    The answer is a resounding yes. An astonishing 45 percent of Americans get their news from this single source. Add Google, and above 70 percent of Americans get their news from a pair of outlets. The two firms also ate up about 89 percent of the digital-advertising growth last year, underscoring their monopolistic power in this industry.

    Facebook's cluelessness on this front makes the ease with which it took over the press that much more bizarre to contemplate. Of course, the entire history of Facebook is pretty weird, even by Silicon Valley standards, beginning with the fact that the firm thinks of itself as a movement and not a giant money-sucking machine.

    That Facebook saw meteoric rises without ever experiencing a big dip in users might have something to do with the fact that the site was consciously designed to be addictive, as early founder Parker recently noted at a conference in Philadelphia.

    Facebook is full of features such as "likes" that dot your surfing experience with neuro-rushes of micro-approval – a "little dopamine hit," as Parker put it. The hits might come with getting a like when you post a picture of yourself thumbs-upping the world's third-largest cheese wheel, or flashing the "Live Long and Prosper" sign on International Star Trek day, or whatever the hell it is you do in your cyber-time. "It's a social-validation feedback loop," Parker explained. "Exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology."
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  2. Deca is unusual in its shared financial structure and its focus on stories from abroad. But it’s isn’t the only bottom-up project trying to crack this problem: producing work that readers find appealing and accessible, while also being viable for writers.

    The largest, Horwitz’s publisher Byliner, appears to be facing hard choices. It has angered many writers for promising a break from traditional publishing models, then mimicking some of the least appealing parts of those old models. They paid lower royalties to their authors than Amazon itself would, and they pushed many writers to sign away some of their ownership of the material, undercutting one of the major advantages of self- publishing. Still, credit to them: they took a shot at it.

    Epic, which publishes digital long form, focuses on arranging Hollywood movie deals for its writers. They have to do that because major magazine publishers, with ad revenue in free fall, have moved to take more and more of those rights from authors.

    The Atavist, which started as a small group of editors maxing out their credit cards, has become a pioneer in multimedia. Efforts like The Big Roundtable and Beacon are experimenting with funding models to let readers directly pay for writers to investigate stories.

    All of these projects resulted from the initiative of writers. Not from publishers. Not by magazines with staff available for research and development, and budgets for which an experiment like Deca would amount to a rounding error. Publishers’ efforts have so far been desultory, unfortunately, and our resources come instead from our own pockets and a Kickstarter effort, which continues. While we can’t speak to other projects’ motivations, Deca in large part exists because writers recognized a need to adapt, innovate, and confront the change that’s clearly upon us, and found it necessary to take it upon ourselves.

    Nor is this without recent precedent. At Deca, we’re collaborating along the same lines musicians did as the recording industry collapsed, and photographers did as photojournalism went digital, shouldering some of the risk for one another. Deca produces one story in digital format each month. One of us writes the story and the rest provide editorial, promotional and administrative support. The next month, it’s someone else’s turn to have his or her project brought to publication. We share some costs and income from the overall group sales. We sell single stories as well as subscriptions available through an app, which we will debut next month.

    Yet a question remains: Why has it been the writers, the photographers and the musicians themselves taking these risks? That’s what we’d love to debate.

    But that won’t happen until large publishers face the current realities.
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  3. CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook today, “I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.” VP of News Feed Adam Mosseri tells TechCrunch “I expect that the amount of distribution for publishers will go down because a lot of publisher content is just passively consumed and not talked about. Overall time on Facebook will decrease, but we think this is the right thing to do.”

    The winners in this change will be users and their sense of community, since they should find Facebook more rewarding and less of a black hole of wasted time viewing mindless video clips and guilty-pleasure articles. And long-term, it should preserve Facebook’s business and ensure it still has a platform to provide referral traffic for news publishers and marketers, albeit less than before.

    The biggest losers will be publishers who’ve shifted resources to invest in eye-catching pre-recorded social videos, because Mosseri says “video is such a passive experience”. He admits that he expects publishers to react with “a certain amount of scrutiny and anxiety”, but didn’t have many concrete answers about how publishers should scramble to react beyond “experimenting . . . and seeing . . what content gets more comments, more likes, more reshares.”
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  4. Last spring, I wrote a piece attempting to apply professor Clayton Christensen’s disruption theory to digital publishing. Using that lens, the theory predicted that a tipping point was near, and the days of publishers chasing advertising scale were over. Instead, journalism was entering a new phase: the SaaS or Stories as a Service era.

    If news organizations want to regroup, mobilize, and capitalize, its leaders, myself included, need to re-educate investors about how we will achieve meaningful returns by “pivoting to readers,” as so eloquently phrased by Thompson, instead of chasing the ghosts of scale.

    By having readers pay for their journalism, and by using the corresponding readership data, publishers will have to listen to what their readers really want. Instead of catering to advertisers and the scale they demand, news organizations can focus on accountability metrics like loyalty, retention, and churn that closely resemble SaaS businesses instead of having a singular focus on CPM-driven ad businesses.

    Investors are quite willing to fund SaaS-based companies.
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  5. Digital advertising has many, many problems. You can blame ad tech. You can blame agencies. Or the Russians. Or maybe AI. But it's really all Chris Anderson's fault.

    Anderson of course is the author of the seminal 2004 Wired article-turned-book "The Long Tail," which among many themes celebrated a web driven utopian time when every single niche interest would be well served, on a gazillion different websites.

    Almost immediately, the ad industry co-opted the long tail concept, and saw it as a way to target people with super relevant ads all over the web, super cheaply. Right around that time, the concept of audience-based buying took hold. Using digital data (mostly cookies back then), you could target people with ads, wherever they went on the web, regardless of content environment or content.

    You no longer had to pay high prices to reach car-shoppers on car magazine websites. You could buy 'auto intenders' (people looking to buy cars soon) wherever they were online. For way less cash.

    Soon, ad agencies opened up 'trading desks' to buy ads this way. And programmatic advertising ushered in all sorts of ways to buy ads on thousands of sites at once using software. Advertising would become like Wall Street.

    Except it never made sense.

    People (marketers and agencies) who buy into the long tail concept just aren't honest with themselves about how they use the internet. There are numerous pieces of research on how even as people accumulate hundreds of TV channels, they only watch seven. It's rather commonly accepted that in a sea of millions of mobile apps, most people stick to half a dozen.

    unnamed 2People tend to linger on the same websites and apps.comScore

    Yet somehow the vision of the 'world wide web' is that we're all nurturing our souls on cupcake blogs and hobby sites and kitesurfing communities. Rather than just checking out Aunt Sally's Facebook posts and then reading something on Daily Mail.
    Let's be real

    To be sure, there's no doubt that there are niche publishers with passionate followings, like sites for hardcore sneaker lovers. And of course, it's remarkably easy to end up down weird internet ratholes in search of the name of the guy who played Skippy on "Family Ties," or trying to determine what happened to that person you dated 10 years ago.

    And certainly, we all spend some time on some weird dark corners of the web. You like whatever you like, I like what I like, and we'd don't need to spend a lot of time talking about it.

    The common thread with all of these internet use cases is, they're probably not the right moment for you to hear about some fun new recipes from Kraft, or how great you'd look in a 2018 Suburu. Yet marketers are sold on right audience, right time, environment be damned.

    Regardless, this isn't the kind of site you find selling ads through various programmatic channels. Have you checked out what sites are on ad exchanges lately? Mostly, they're just random at best, or obfuscated at worst.
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  6. For years publishers have held onto the hope that all their investments in Facebook will, at some point, pay dividends when it comes to revenue. But a new report from WAN-IFRA suggests that, for most publishers, that’s still far from the case — and they’re not happy about it.

    Surveying nearly 50 WAN-IFRA members, University of Oxford researcher (and 2016 Nieman Fellow) Grzegorz Piechota found that Facebook was responsible for an average of seven percent of digital revenue, with a median of just three percent, across all of its revenue programs. A quarter of publishers said they received no direct revenue from Facebook at all.

    In Piechota’s estimate, this puts Facebook lower than Google, YouTube, and Spotify in terms of how much revenue is shared back with publishers, though the lack of complete data makes it difficult to draw direct comparisons. Piechota concludes that, overall, “revenue shared by the leading platforms is too low to fully fund editorial operations,” even for the largest organizations.
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  7. Google doesn’t generally make money from Google News itself, because it doesn’t place advertisements in the service (though it does of course place ads in its main search service, where results are sometimes augmented with Google News results). In contrast, ancillary copyright destroys the entire business model of small aggregation startups. CEDRO, Spain’s equivalent to VG Media in this arena, recently decided that aggregators should pay €0.05 per user per day in ancillary copyright fees – for the popular local aggregation startup Menéame, this works out as 20 times the company’s turnover. Obviously, this is completely untenable for a small business.

    So, given the German and Spanish experiences, what is the push for ancillary copyright actually trying to achieve? On the face of it, the aim is to get Google to pay publishers for sending readers to their articles. This is in itself a very strange idea, as publishers get to make money from showing ads to those readers, but let’s take it at face value for a moment. Even if Google were to continue to use those snippets, and if it started to pay those fees, the law would kill its small, European competitors in the news aggregation space – no-one would invest in them, because their businesses would haemorrhage money. Wealthy Google, if it stayed in the space, would end up dominating the EU news aggregation market even more than it does now.

    But this isn’t going to happen. Google is not going to start paying anyone to link to their online content, because that would be the beginning of the end for Google’s core business model – a win-win situation where the company benefits from being the gatekeeper for the public’s attention, and linked-to sites benefit from the traffic Google freely sends them.

    Günther Oettinger has claimed that the might of a pan-EU law would force Google to open its coffers, but he’s wrong. Nobody can force a company to engage in a line of business that will lose it money. If pushed, Google would undoubtedly do across the EU what it did in Spain: shut down Google News. This may benefit the traditional press publishers that hate online competition – and perhaps this is why they, with their vast offline marketing budgets, have lobbied so hard for an EU ancillary copyright law. But it would cause infinite harm to smaller European publishers and the innovative European startups that are trying to develop cleverer ways of connecting publishers with their readers.

    There are many flaws in Article 11 as proposed – its vague wording could penalise social media users; there’s no guarantee that journalists themselves would benefit from the fees; and it could lead to the last two decades of journalism becoming less accessible to the public. But even if the wording were tweaked, the basic concept remains fundamentally flawed. Nobody would benefit, apart from the handful of large press publishers that are trying to turn back the clock to protect their bottom lines.

    There’s no doubt that the news industry is in crisis, nor that digitalisation is largely to blame. It’s a deeply complex problem, and solutions are urgently needed. But ancillary copyright is not one of those solutions. If anything, it would hold back the innovation that’s so desperately needed to rescue the industry – innovation that might come not from Google, but from the bright minds in the EU.
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  8. La gestione della Pagina Facebook aziendale non è un compito semplice che chiunque può fare. C’è chi è portato e c’è chi invece ha bisogno di una dritta e di alcuni consigli. Improvvisarsi social media manager senza avere la benché minima idea del ruolo e delle attività ad esso associate può compromettere la reputazione online della tua attività. Abbiamo sintetizzato in questo articolo le azioni assolutamente da NON fare sulla Pagina Facebook.
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  9. If you need to customise the default theme, there is the easy way and the harder way:

    The easy way: just delete the index.html and replace it by the file phileas-template.html from the src folder (which you'll need to rename as index.html). Copy also the 2 other files (phileas.min.js and phileas.css) from this folder into the root of your website. Now edit the html and css files to suit your needs.

    The harder way: Install nodejs, npm, and grunt, clone the source repository and play with it (it's not that difficult, but it's more for developpers).


    Download nodejs from or

    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2017-01-10)
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  10. On Facebook, what you click on, what you share with your “friends” shapes your profile, preferences, affinities, political opinions and your vision of the world. The last thing Facebook wants is to contradict you in any way. The sanction would be immediate: you’d click/share much less; even worse, you might cut your session short. Therefore, Facebook has no choice but keeping you in the warm, comfort of the cosy environment you created click after click. In the United States, Facebook does this for 40 minutes per user and per day.

    In a recent piece from the New York Times Magazine, writer Jenna Wortham explained it perfectly:

    I’ve spent nearly 10 years coaching Facebook — and Instagram and Twitter — on what kinds of news and photos I don’t want to see, and they all behaved accordingly. Each time I liked an article, or clicked on a link, or hid another, the algorithms that curate my streams took notice and showed me only what they thought I wanted to see. That meant I didn’t realize that most of my family members, who live in rural Virginia, were voicing their support for Trump online, and I didn’t see any of the pro-Trump memes that were in heavy circulation before the election. I never saw a Trump hat or a sign or a shirt in my feeds, and the only Election Day selfies I saw were of people declaring their support for Hillary Clinton.

    Here is an important question: How does news fit in Facebook’s walled Wonderland? Short answer: it doesn’t.

    Unfiltered news doesn’t share well, not at all:
    • It can be emotional, but in the worse sense; no one is willing to spread a gruesome account from Mosul among his/er peers.
    • Most likely, unfiltered news will convey a negative aspect of society. Again, another revelation from The Intercept or ProPublica won’t get many clicks.
    • Unfiltered news can upset users’ views, beliefs, or opinions.

    Hence the importance of strongly filtering what comes from the news media. This, the social network candidly acknowledged last June when justifying a change in its algorithm. Here is what Adam Mosseri, VP Product Management for News Feed had to say on June 29 (edits and emphasis mine):

    People expect the stories in their feed to be meaningful to them — and we have learned over time that people value stories that they consider informative. Something that one person finds informative or interesting may be different from what another person finds informative or interesting. (…) We’ve also found that people enjoy their feeds as a source of entertainment.

    We are not in the business of picking which issues the world should read about. We are in the business of connecting people and ideas — and matching people with the stories they find most meaningful. Our integrity depends on being inclusive of all perspectives and view points, and using ranking to connect people with the stories and sources they find the most meaningful and engaging.
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