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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.
Honey Jam Celebrates Past and Future At Media Event – FYI Music News
Honey Jam, Canada’s female vocalist discovery showcase, held its media launch July 22 in Toronto at host venue El Mocambo, for the second straight year.
“We’re back!” exclaimed Honey Jam founder Ebonnie Rowe from the stage. “You didn’t think a little pandemic and a zombie apocalypse would stop us, did ya? Hell no.”
The event not only introduced the 17 artists who will be showcasing at the 26th annual event, live-streamed Aug. 12, with CBC Radio’s The Block host Angeline Tetteh-Wayoe as emcee, but announced a number of forthcoming pieces, as well as a recap of some accomplishments in spite of covid.
Rowe, the recent recipient of CIMA’s Trailblazer Award, told everyone how alum Jordan Alexander has a lead in Gossip Girl and landed the cover of Cosmo; Anjulie racked up a 100 million streams; and Savannah Ré won a 2021 Juno Award and got props from Timbaland who listened to her music on Instagram.
This year’s showcase is funded by Slaight Music, TD Ready Commitment, Ontario Creates, and FACTOR, and will feature artists from Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Alberta and, for the first time, the Yukon. The online auditions, both live and submitted, were open to female-identifying talent, ages 14 to 25, in all genres.
CBC will air a Honey Jam radio special on Aug. 9 and a “Honey Jams” playlist, with songs past and current, will air live on CBC Music, starting Aug. 12, coincidentally Rowe’s birthday.
Honey Jam might’ve started 26 years ago as a showcase — Nelly Furtado was famously discovered at it — but it now presents many opportunities throughout the year to help the young women get their foot in the door.
Rowe rattled off many of them, including an upcoming trip to Nashville; a pre-recorded Flow 93.5 concert series from the Phoenix called Flow After Hours to be streamed at a later date; a workshop at Art House; a tour of Doc McKinney’s studio where The Weeknd’s House of Balloons was recorded; and attendance at SOCAN’s inaugural Creative Entrepreneur Summit.
Some of the alum, she said, also got brand deals with Adidas, Holt Renfrew and Ralph Lauren. And through their participating in Indie Week, export-ready Lu Kala and Nefe were invited to perform virtually for Brazil’s Music Pro Awards. The Artists for Social Change competition was also won by Megan De Lima.
“So we kept everybody pretty busy during the time leading up to it,” says Rowe, adding that one of her personal highlights this year was during a Q&A she did with Lennon Stella and JP Saxe for a VIP pre-Juno Awards experience for Honey Jammers. “He said, ‘I didn’t know you were the lady who does Honey Jam? I love Honey Jam. Honey Jam’s a legend,’” she recounted. “I could barely speak.”
Former Olympic swimmer brands Japanese media branded as sexist – NBC News
TOKYO — The Japan Olympics’ new gender equality monitor said Monday she’s been watching her country’s coverage of the Games and doesn’t like what she’s been hearing.
“When it comes to sports, it is really biased when it comes to gender,” said Naoko Imoto, who is also a former Olympic swimmer.
The Japanese media isn’t discriminating against female athletes, it’s just not taking them as seriously as the men.
“Many of the channels look at female athletes as ‘female’ or ‘girls’ or ‘wives’ or ‘mothers’ and not really as pure athletes,” Imoto said at the daily briefing run by the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo Games organizers.
Five of the eight medals Team Japan has won thus far were won by women, including three of the gold medals, according to the latest Olympics medal count.
Imoto, who competed for Japan at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, did not specify which of Japan’s TV stations was using the sexist language. But in earlier interviews, Imoto noted that Japanese media covers golfers Hinako Shibune, who is a woman, and Hideki Matsuyama, who is a man, differently.
“Nobody talks about Mr. Matsuyama’s personal life and appearance,” Imoto said. “But for Ms. Shibuno, there are reports about her eating sweets and snacks and about her smile.”
Imoto also argued that it’s all too common in Japanese news headlines for female athletes to be described as “too beautiful.”
“You should see female athletes as athletes,” Imoto said. “In recent years, the number of gold medals in the Olympics has been higher for women. I want them to be treated equally. I would like to argue that it is strange to focus on things that are not related to competition, such as appearances and personal life.”
Imoto dove back into the sexism issue Monday as Japanese women have already scored significant successes at the Games.
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A quick survey of social media reactions to Imoto’s remarks suggested that support for more equal treatment of women and male athletes by the media was far from universal in Japan.
“I was surprised to hear that women are making noises saying that there was a gender inequality in the coverage of professional sports games,” one Twitter poster wrote. “Where do you think the money is coming from?”
Imoto was tapped to be the gender equality watchdog by the Tokyo 2020 Olympics organizers after the committee’s president, Yoshiro Mori, was forced out in February after he said female sports officials talk too much during meetings.
A month later, the Games’ original creative director, Hiroshi Sasaki, was ousted for comparing Japanese celebrity Naomi Watanabe to a pig.
In an interview with Asahi Shimbun, one of the Japan’s biggest national newspapers, Imoto said she was shocked by Mori’s comments.
“Little has changed since my competition days,” Imoto said. “Things are too backward.”
Imoto, who works for UNICEF as an education specialist, said she hoped to “become a bridge” to the largely male-dominated sports industry.
Mori’s ouster also prompted some soul-searching by Japanese media and renewed calls for gender equality in the news business.
It was Topic A during a symposium in March organized largely by the Japan Mass Media Culture Information Workers’ Union Conference, Kyodo News reported.
“It’s embarrassing to find (mass media) organizations in a situation like this, even though they have been rapping Mr. Yoshiro Mori’s misogynist remarks,” said Mami Yoshinaga, who heads the Japan Federation of Newspaper Workers’ Union.
NBC News has reached out to the union for additional comment.
Kaori Hayashi, a journalism professor at the University of Tokyo’s graduate school, said at the conference the reason why Japanese media persists in promoting sexist stereotypes is because it’s “a man’s world.”
There were no women in the top news production positions at the six Tokyo-based commercial TV broadcasters as of last December, Kyodo News reported, citing a labor union survey.
And just three of the 159 people who sit on the boards of the four industry associations representing newspapers, commercial broadcasters or publishers were women.
“If decision-making positions are occupied by men, news articles, broadcast content and even the way news items are lined up will reflect a male perspective,” Hayashi said.
Japan is one of the world’s most advanced countries, but it consistently ranks low in the World Economic Forum’s gender gap rankings. It ranks 120 out of 156 countries in the 2021 survey, well behind the United States which came in 30th. Iceland was ranked number one.
Corky Siemaszko and Arata Yamamoto reported from Tokyo, and Christina Ching Yin Chan reported from Hong Kong.
These adventure cats bring joy to their owners — and social media followers – CBC.ca
Canadians have embraced the outdoors in droves over the past year-and-a-half due to pandemic-related lockdowns — and their fluffy, tree-climbing, bird-watching feline companions have been tagging along.
These intrepid animals are known as “adventure cats,” as they are put on leashes to explore the outside world with their owners, whether they are hiking, kayaking or even skiing. Many have gained large social media followings in the process; the hashtag #adventurecats on apps like Instagram and TikTok brings up hundreds of thousands of results.
While a cat on a leash is still an uncommon sight, Julie Posluns, who runs an online cat-training school, says she’s seen increased interest in her courses since the start of the pandemic.
“I think the more people realized they were at home, the more they were like, ‘OK, I guess it’s time to just pick up some new home hobbies,'” said the Toronto resident.
Posluns trained her own cat, Jones, to walk on a leash about six years ago and now provides advice to clients on cat backpacks, harnesses and other so-called “adventure cat” essentials.
The Vancouver Island adventure cat
Chelsea Robinson, a longtime hiker, got her Maine Coon kitten last winter. Within days of bringing her home, she put the cat — named Fig — in a harness and headed to the beach.
“She was enthralled,” she said. “Still to this day, no matter where we go, the beach is her favourite place.”
Fig especially loves to watch the waves crash onto the beach, Robinson says.
Fig and Robinson take walks every day, whether it’s a short walk to pick up Robinson’s children from school, or a several-hour hike through the forest on the weekend.
Fig has been a “bright light” for Robinson throughout the pandemic, she says.
It’s also something she hears from people who follow Fig’s adventures online; Robinson shares photos and videos of their activities on Instagram and TikTok, where Fig has collectively amassed nearly 150,000 followers.
“She brings people a lot of joy,” Robinson said.
The Ottawa-based Siberian Forest cat who kayaks
Another cat owner, Aleena Fiorotto, says she was “determined to have an adventure cat” when she got her Siberian Forest kitten, Finnegan, last year.
Luckily, Finn’s easygoing temperament made leash-training relatively painless, she said.
“I can take him anywhere, in any situation, with any type of new animal or anything. And he’s just like, ‘This is fine,'” said Fiorotto.
The duo has even gone kayaking — and while Fiorotto says Finn was a little “leery” of the moving dock at first, he was happy once they pushed off.
“He settled right in and just laid down and took in the sights,” she said.
Fiorotto also shares her cat’s exploits on Instagram, where Finn has more than 21,000 followers.
Having an adventure cat has pushed Fiorotto to get out more than she would solo, she said. She loves to see how Finn engages with the world around him and how he interacts with delighted strangers on the trails.
So you want your own adventure cat?
Some experts say that while cats can benefit from leashed walks, there are several factors that should be taken into consideration before you attempt to do so.
Posluns said a sturdy harness and leash need to be tested on your cat inside the home before you think about going outside, as many cats do not initially like the feeling of a harness. A gradual introduction to it is best.
“I think it’s really important to remember that we’re doing this for our cats’ enrichment first,” she said. “Not to take them on some fun adventure for social media to take pictures — but, like, what is going to enrich your cat’s life?”
Dr. Maggie Brown-Bury, a veterinarian and a representative of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association for Newfoundland and Labrador, says that leash-walking our feline friends can be an “an excellent way to give them more activity and adventure in their life.”
But she said you need to be in tune with your cat’s body language as you acclimate them to the leash and to the outdoors. Signs that your cat is unhappy being outside include flattened ears, unwillingness to move, hunched bodies and open-mouth breathing — a sign of stress.
“But if they are walking around and sniffing and exploring, then they’re feeling really great,” said Brown-Bury.
And to those who say cats should never be let outside, due to the dangers to local wildlife and the cats themselves? If the cat is controlled by a leash, Brown-Bury says the risks are minimal.
“Having a cat outside in a controlled manner is no riskier for the cat than it would be for your dog,” she said.
If you do plan to take your cat outside, Brown-Bury says, microchip identification is a must, as are shots for parasites and regular deworming appointments.
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