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How Breitbart Is Crushing Mainstream Media on Facebook – VICE

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Soon after President Donald Trump was inaugurated in 2017, Breitbart appeared to be on the ropes.

BuzzFeed exposed its star writer’s ties to white nationalists. The site embarrassingly attacked accusers of alleged pedophile and failed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Onetime Trump adviser Steve Bannon stepped down after daring to question the president. Seemingly plummeting traffic numbers fueled a narrative of decline.

But Breitbart still had Facebook. And its influence on the platform, which will be key in Trump’s reelection campaign, has been massive during the impeachment fight.

Breitbart has drawn more likes, comments, and shares than CNN’s main page in each of the past three months, according to the analytics firm CrowdTangle. Users have interacted with Breitbart’s posts 20 percent more often than CNN’s primary account over that period, despite having just one-eighth the following.

“We’ve been dominating in our neck of the woods,” Breitbart Editor Alex Marlow told VICE News.

“We’ve been dominating in our neck of the woods.”

It means more reach for Breitbart’s ideas, more fuel for Breitbart’s business, and more eyeballs for Facebook’s $55 billion targeted advertising machine. The upshot is that an “overwhelmingly pro-Trump” outlet — Marlow’s words — is gobbling up an outsized portion of Americans’ mindshare as local media atrophies and more national outlets move behind paywalls.

Engagements, a rough gauge of user attention, are a key metric for Facebook. The CrowdTangle data suggest Breitbart has aptly gamed that incentive structure, offering a snapshot of how the platform shapes the broader ecosystem for news. A spokesperson for Facebook declined to comment on the dynamic.

With just 4 million followers, Breitbart’s page racked up more likes, comments, and shares since Sept. 1 (57.8 million) than The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today combined (42.6 million). It outpaced each of the broadcast news networks, MSNBC, and CNN. CNN Spokesman Matt Dornic rejected the comparison in a statement to VICE News.

“By comparing the engagement metrics of Breitbart to those of actual news outlets, you’re insinuating they produce journalism. And that’s a mistake,” Dornic said. “Breitbart produces outrage and propaganda, which will obviously evoke more passion and emotion than news and information.”

Fox News has pulled similar levers on Facebook to get an even more engagement, juicing its immensely profitable TV news business. “I know Fox News has this massive state of the art newsroom where they’re pulling in feeds from all over the country from their local affiliates,” Marlow said. “We don’t have any of that…We’re hanging with them.”

Emotion is currency on Facebook, which serves users more posts from pages the more they engage with them. But comments are particularly valuable to News Feed rankings, a spokesperson said, and Fox News and Breitbart have both prioritized them.

Brietbart’s top three Facebook posts in November were all open discussion threads with banal questions. “SHOULD REP. ADAM SCHIFF RESIGN AND BE INVESTIGATED?” one Nov. 15 post screamed. The next day, the page asked, “DO YOU STILL SUPPORT PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP AFTER THIS WEEK’S IMPEACHMENT HEARING?” It posed nearly the exact same inquiry four days later. Cue hundreds of thousands of likes, comments, and shares.

Breitbart gets a disproportionate slice of its engagement on these static images — memes — most of which don’t link back to Breitbart’s site. “It’s a bigger win if they’re going straight to the website,” Marlow said. “But we do look at it as a more holistic approach for developing the brand.”

Most media businesses need that referral traffic to drive advertising or subscription revenue. But it’s unclear whether Breitbart, which has been the target of rolling ad boycotts in response to incendiary content about immigrants and others, has the same profit motives as most media businesses. Marlow claimed he doesn’t know whether his site is in the black.

The GOP megadonor Mercer family reportedly funded Breitbart to the tune of $10 million in previous years, though their relationship with the site now is hazy. Robert Mercer said he would distance himself after Milo Yiannopoulos was exposed rubbing shoulders with neo-Nazis in 2017. A spokeswoman declined to comment on any ownership changes since that year, when it disclosed shared control by the Mercers, CEO Larry Solov, and Susie Breitbart, Andrew Breitbart’s widow.

Through it all, cratering audience numbers seemed to suggest Breitbart’s moment as the house organ of Trumpism was over. The analytics firm comScore reported that traffic to the site shrunk from nearly 23 million unique visitors in November 2016 to 5.2 million in October 2019.

But measuring media influence is notoriously difficult, and the SEC charged comScore with fraud for inflating its own numbers this year. The Amazon-owned Alexa service still ranks Breitbart as the 68th most highly trafficked website in America, larger than NBC News and The Wall Street Journal. Marlow said that it still draws about 20 million readers to its site a month, in addition to its audience on social media and SiriusXM radio.

Facebook, which has said it wants to support quality reporting and content that brings communities together, has been a big part of that reach. The company also drew widespread condemnation in October when it said it would include Breitbart as an unpaid partner in a forthcoming tab for quality news.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg essentially defended the move as a diversity hire. “I think you want to have content that represents different perspectives, but is doing so in a way that complies with the standards that we have for this,” he said.

It was an odd look given that, even aside from the scandals, much of Breitbart’s work comprises rapid-fire blogs with tabloidized headlines that gravitate toward owning the libs or stanning for the president. “The dream politician in the Breitbart world is Trump on the campaign trail in 2016,” Marlow said.

Despite the evidence showing Facebook’s deference to that worldview, Marlow argued that Big Tech is still biased against the right in its content moderation. He pointed to a Harvard study that highlighted Breitbart’s key role in making 2016 all about immigration, claiming without much in the way of evidence that Facebook tweaked its algorithm to down-rank conservative media as a result.

“There’s obviously some manipulation,” he said of the tech platforms where his site has massive clout. “I think it’s crystal clear.”

Cover image: A man holds an iPad showing the Breitbart website on November 10, 2017. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

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Public urged to call police first, not use social media, to report suspicious incidents in Mount Pleasant – Vancouver Sun

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Vancouver police are urging the public to call investigators first — instead of posting on social media — with reports of suspicious activity in Mount Pleasant.

The reminder comes as police investigate suspicious events in Mount Pleasant that were reported in social media posts. The posts allege a man in a silver sedan has been approaching or following women in the Mount Pleasant area, asking to borrow phones or inviting them to approach the vehicle. Other posts allege similar incidents are also taking place in Kitsilano and Burnaby.

The flurry of informal reports has prompted the creation of a neighbourhood safe walk and plenty of action on group chats and social channels, although police say they have no evidence to link any of the reported incidents.

“We want them to call police right away,” Const. Tania Visintin said to anyone who has had a similar experience in recent weeks. “Don’t go to the internet and write it on Twitter, don’t tell your barista or server. Call us so we can investigate.”

“We just want the first thing not to be people going to social media, we want you to call us so we can track these incidents and we can see if they’re all linked.”

Visintin said Monday that a handful of suspicious circumstances had been reported directly to police in the Mount Pleasant area in recent weeks and that investigators are taking them seriously. And while there is an understandable desire for residents to warn others in the community, Visintin notes that unconfirmed social media posts can create a lot of fear.

“If we truly believe that we need to warn the public, we 100 per cent will and that will come from our mouth right away,” she said, noting there is nothing wrong with warning others, but that it’s important to contact police first with information that can help an investigation.

“If anything, we should all get out of this is awareness. We need to remind everyone — men, women and children — to be alert, be aware of your surroundings, know where you are, have your phone on you charged in any kind of situation so this is a good reminder of that.”

Visintin also noted that many of the posts about the recent circumstances are written by individuals on behalf of a friend or are secondary sources, which poses a challenge for investigators who need to speak directly with victims.

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Turkey prepares second indictment of six Khashoggi murder suspects: media – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish prosecutors have prepared a second indictment in connection with the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, naming six new Saudi nationals as suspects, broadcaster CNN Turk and other media said on Monday.

Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was last seen at the Saudi consulate on Oct. 2, 2018, where he had gone to obtain documents for his impending wedding. Turkish officials believe his body was dismembered and removed from the building, while his remains have not been found.

Twenty Saudi nationals are already on trial in an Istanbul court for Khashoggi’s killing. CNN Turk said the indictment against the six suspects, including two consulate workers and four other Saudi nationals, was sent to the court to be combined with the main case.

Two of the suspects, a vice consul and an attache, were facing life jail sentences for premeditated murder with monstrous intent, the broadcaster said.

The four others, who CNN Turk said had arrived in Istanbul on Oct. 10-11, 2018, more than a week after the killing, were charged with destroying, concealing or tampering with evidence, which carries a sentence of up to five years in jail.

The Istanbul prosecutor’s office did not immediately provide comment on the media reports.

A Saudi court this month jailed eight people for between seven and 20 years for the murder, four months after Khashoggi’s family forgave his killers and enabled earlier death sentences to be set aside.

(Reporting by Daren Butler and Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Dominic Evans and Andrew Cawthorne)

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Media Beat: September 28, 2020 | FYIMusicNews – FYI Music News

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The mystery of modern media

There was a time, not that long ago, when advertisers could reach just about everyone pretty easily. All it took was a lot of money, and a simple media buy on a handful of TV, radio, and print outlets. Back then, harnessing the power of mass media was not a guarantee of success, but it was almost always a key component.

It helped create enormous brands like McDonald’s, Coke, Pepsi, Nike, Apple, Ford, Chevy, AT&T, Tide, Crest, Bank of America, Visa, MasterCard, Toyota, Tylenol, Kleenex, Budweiser… OK, I’ll stop.

Things are a lot more complicated these days. Media has fractionalized into much smaller entities while media consumption has increased significantly. It is not nearly as easy as it once was to reach mass audiences. While you once only had to choose among 3 or 4 video (TV) options, today you have hundreds. While you once had a few dozen print options to analyze, today there are literally millions of websites serving a similar function. A media strategist’s job is far more daunting.

One of the results of this change in media reality has been a change in media strategy. Whereas brand builders once believed that wide reach was essential to building a dominant brand, this belief has gone out of fashion. It has been replaced by the belief that the most effective use of media is one-to-one, personalized messages.

I would like to offer, for your consideration, an alternative point of view.

It is beyond question that it is much harder for brand builders to reach mass audiences these days. But I would like to question the presumption that because reaching mass audiences has become more difficult, pivoting to a personalized, one-to-one media strategy is the correct response.

In other words, have we recognized the disease but prescribed the wrong medication? The fact that online media technology now allows us to tailor messages to individuals, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better idea. The fact that it’s more convenient doesn’t necessarily make it more suited to the job of building brands.

And the fact that mass reach is much harder to achieve does not mean that it is a bad strategy. It just means that it takes more work and perhaps it takes a more sophisticated strategy – and more sophisticated strategists – to execute properly.

Sadly, we have taken media strategy in the opposite direction. Despite the extraordinary complexity of the digital media ecosystem we have substantially tethered our media strategists to the most crude and unsophisticated aspirations — high click rates and low CPMs. You can sit in media meetings for months listening to highfalutin’ jargon, you can suffer endless data analyses, you can scrutinize this-ographics and that-ographics, but in the end when the reports come in and the chips are on the table, most likely it’s going to come down to the crudest, least sophisticated and least challenging of outcomes — clicks and CPMs.

This is evidence that the principles of brand building have been subsumed by the practices of the direct marketing industry. – Continue reading The Ad Contrarian Bob Hoffman’s blog feature here

Radio Lessons #113 – 5G

Conspiracy theorists would have you believe that 5G spreads Covid-19, causes cancer, kills birds, and ruins your soufflé. It doesn’t, but let’s clear up some of the nerdy sciency stuff on how it works.

A quick history lesson first. The first iPhone was 2G (as in the second generation), it was slick but it primarily did voice calls. Then came texts, sexts, and other greater smartphone functionality. So, developers focused more on the data side of phone usage and 3G was born. Data hungry customers wanted more and more of it and they wanted it faster and faster than ever – leading us to where we are today, 4G / LTE.

Now with 5G is more than just data speed. A 5G cell tower can handle up to 100 times the users of a 4G tower and if the provider is operating in the upper end of the frequencies, there will be lightning speeds available for users. So yes – it’s faster. No – it doesn’t give you Coronavirus. And being connected is everything today.

The same could be said for radio. And now more than ever.

Listeners are not seeking out your brand anymore for their most beloved Pearl Jam song, or the new Sia hit. They can access their favourites in seconds in seconds on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube or a myriad of other digital music providers. Radio’s primary function has shifted. This pivot was unavoidable with the tide of change driven by the technology shifts of the last few years as well as the ubiquity of abundant music platforms. But it’s been Covid-19 that was the catalyst for a greater, wholesale change to both listening habits and audience needs.

Music is no longer the principal audience magnet.

It’s still important to get it right, but the playlist’s role now is to set the tone of the party. It’s no longer the whole party. Now, the content between the songs is the glue – some of it is the brand value of the imaging and promotions but most importantly it’s the human connections, that compelling in-the-moment content, and the memorability of your on-air teams that will define your success and pave our future. Today is the day for radio, as an industry, to double down on talent. It’s time to revisit strict song counts and relax inflexible time constraints on handcuffed talent. We should be ready to experiment with adding voices – more callers in music shifts and more multi-person shows beyond just breakfast.

Talent has always been the difference-maker but now they are our only point of difference.  2G or 5G, text, or voice. People need people. So, let’s deliver! – Ronnie Stanton Media

The ongoing history of ‘Strombo’

As one of a handful of hosts at Apple Music Hits, Stroumboulopoulos says the “Hockey Night” gig led him to reevaluate his professional choices. “Once you do ‘The NewMusic,’ your own talk show and hockey, you’ve sort of finished the game as a host in Canada.” – Jonathan Dekel, The Star

Cogeco shrugs off $3B investment proposal from Rogers tied to acquisition bid

Rogers Communications Inc. says it will spend $3 billion in Quebec over the next five years if it emerges victorious in its bid for the Canadian assets of Cogeco Inc., but the Montreal-based cable company and takeover target remains unswayed. – Geoff Zochodne, Financial Post

Emmys up ‘Schitt$ Creek’ as viewership plummets

One-third of Sunday night’s three-hour Emmy telecast on ABC was devoted to a TV show, “Schitt$ Creek,” that averaged just 375,000 total viewers per first-run episode in its sixth and final season earlier this year.

According to trade press reports on Monday, “The 72nd Emmy Awards” on ABC Sunday night drew only 5.11 million total viewers from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern — down from the 6.9 million the show attracted a year earlier.

The highlight of the show was watching “Schitt$ Creek” win all of the first seven categories announced during the Emmys’ first hour.

It was possibly the first and only time this had ever happened… – Adam Buckman, TVBlog

Edison Research maps radio’s vulnerability in streaming era

Online music listening is trending away from radio to other platforms, in-home radio ownership amongst topline music format listeners is weak, and YouTube continues to be the dominant discovery home for most all music fans.

Penske Media paid US225M for majority ownership of PMRC

Just days after Penske Media Corp. and MRC announced they were entering a joint venture to bring their Hollywood magazines under one roof, news is out that Penske paid about $225 million to control 80% of the new company, called PMRC.

MRC will own the other 20% or so, according to the New York Post, which first reported the news.

PMC will bring Variety, Rolling Stone and Music Business Worldwide together with MRC’s The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and Vibe under PMRC. Its day-to-day operations will be led by PMC. – Sara Guaglione, Media Post Weekend

Judge blocks Trump’s WeChat ban

Citing the First Amendment, US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler blocked an order that would have forced app stores to stop offering the Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat.

Beeler said in a 22-page ruling issued Saturday that WeChat “is irreplaceable for its users in the U.S., particularly in the Chinese-speaking and Chinese-American community” and added that the government had not shown that banning the app was necessary to address the potential security concerns. – Wendy Davis, MediaPost

State-run Russian radio is looking to expand in the U.S.

Two years after Russian state media began radio broadcasts in Washington D.C, Radio Sputnik has made its way to Kansas City. Sputnik officials are negotiating to start broadcasting in other cities. – Chris Haxel, NPR

Wenner to advise Rolling Stone makeover

Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner may stay affiliated with the magazine after his initial three-year deal with Penske Media that kept him on board finishes at the end of the year. The deal kept him on board as “editorial director” of the magazine, although it was a largely honorary title.

Wenner, who co-founded the mag in 1967, is in negotiations with CEO Jay Penske for a contract extension, sources close to the company tell Media Ink. – Keith J. Kelly, New York Post

RIP

Harold Evans, the Brit journalist who uncovered Bloody Sunday, the Thalidomide scandal and a KGB spy at the heart of Britain’s Secret Service, died Sept. 23. He was 92. – Niall O’Dowd, Irish Central

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