A few times, articles from my satirical newspaper, The Atlanta Banana, went viral. As a writer, I accept that there is almost no pay for my work. But the notion that people relate to my work gives me a great source of satisfaction. It’s better than money. Really!
I watched our “shares” on Facebook skyrocket. Retweets abounded. The Reddit karma flowed like wine. I felt like I might possibly have gotten something right. And then I compared our web site stats and ad revenue with our social media performance.
It was abundantly clear that only a small fraction of our “readers” on social media were reading our articles. They were sharing them unread based on the headline.
This is how we’ve gotten where we are, and you’ll never believe what happens next!
Facebook knows what you like. Their business model is built on it. They sell you, and others who have similar interests, to advertisers. But Facebook also knows they need to show you stuff that holds your interest, or you won’t be around to see their money-making posts.
Memes, photos of babies, and clickbait articles all do very well for Facebook in this regard, and so do fake news articles and sensationalism.
Okay, but who cares what Facebook says? The 18-29s do, according to Journalism.org. Cable barely beats social media for those up to 49 years old. What will it be like 4 years from now? 10?
What if there was something that you needed to know, but Facebook knew you wouldn’t like it?
Do you think that Facebook would risk you missing their paid content to show you something you needed to see? I submit that they would not.
If you don’t agree, you’re not alone. Lots of people are in denial about it, including Mark Zuckerberg. Why wouldn’t he be in denial? Do you think his assistants speak up in meetings and say, “Hey, Zuck, this thing needs a re-work big-time”?
Now imagine there’s a candidate who is ready to tell a whole lot of people exactly what they want to hear.
Correct. All politicians do that. But what if this one never cared about being wrong, and only cared about being popular? How do you think that person would do on Facebook, on the partisan media, in the election?
Extra! Extra! Things you like are awesome! Everything else is crap!
Imagine it’s your job to sell papers, in person. You’re holding a paper that has good news about Obama. Do you stand in front of the bar where the Dems hang out? You’d be a fool not to. It’s just good business. But good business does not make a good society.
Caring makes a good society, but it is not easy to care about people who are either absent from your news feed, or demonized there. If you’re a moderate, it serves Facebook to make you into an extremist.
For Facebook to show its users content they know they won’t like, it’d have to be staffed by idealistic buffoons who are apparently unable to grasp the importance of monetary reward. That’s impossible. Most of those people are writers, and they can’t code worth a damn.