News shared on Twitter can drive the conversation, study finds
November 9 2017
A recent study published in Science finds that “even a handful of stories by mostly small publications can boost Twitter traffic on topics such as race or climate by 63 percent over the course of a week, relative to a typical day’s traffic on that subject.” The study, which had small publications serve as active participants in the research, provided participating outlets with the opportunity to assess their impact and influence in a new way. Critics find the study “methodologically ingenious” although whether the findings are “substantively important” remains to be seen.
Program evaluations can be helpful for funders and for organizations considering similar projects, but reading them can be time-consuming. Rebekah Levin, director of evaluation and learning for the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, offers suggestions for discerning whether a program evaluation is worth reading. In addition to including detailed methodology, relevant context, and information about populations served, it “has to be an evaluation and not a PR piece.”
Viewers favor visuals in news stories, especially millennials
October 27 2017
A survey of 1,000 random participants from content producer Arkadium and research organization Toluna finds that users find news stories with visuals to be more trustworthy, and are more likely to visit news sites that consistently incorporate visuals into news coverage. The study “suggests that pairing a news headline with an image or video is much more likely to drive reader engagement and click-throughs.”
Contrary to public perception, “millennials are subscribing to legacy news publications in record numbers—and at a growth rate, data suggests, far outpacing any other age group.” Researchers attribute this rapid rise to two major factors: the popularity of paid streaming services such as Netflix, and a backlash against President Trump’s war on the press.
How many people watch Netflix? Nielsen tries to solve a mystery
October 18 2017
It has been difficult to understand how people are interacting with content on streaming services, as these services have maintained private analytics. A new partnership between Netflix and Nielsen is shedding some light onto the “great unknown of Netflix viewership.” While the data is still not public, the partnership indicates “a step toward finding a reliable third-party ratings system for streaming services.”
News organizations are increasingly turning toward personalization techniques to grow and retain audiences, but there are potential downsides to this strategy: “While news personalization can help people manage information overload by making individuals’ news diets unique, it also threatens to incite filter bubbles and, in turn, bias.”
The Journal News and lohud.com in New York’s Westchester County built an impact tracker “to record not the clicks but the real-world change our journalism inspires.” Rather than focus on social media numbers, the organization is seeking to understand whether their reporting increased understanding, changed people’s minds, or uncovered the secrets of the powerful: “You get what you measure, and we’re simply more interested in inspiring real-world change.”
Zuckerberg showcases the problems with virtual “empathy”
October 16 2017
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg faced intense criticism when an advertisement for Facebook Spaces, Facebook’s virtual reality initiative, featured him virtually experiencing hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. Other philanthropic initiatives have endeavored to use virtual reality to increase empathy, but this strategy runs the risk of having the opposite effect: “Virtual reality technology may present a new and remarkable way of acquiring information about remote places, but it is clear that this technology also runs the risk of commodifying human suffering.”
Facebook says its fake news label helps reduce the spread of a fake story by 80%
October 11 2017
According to a Facebook executive email obtained by BuzzFeed news, “a news story that’s been labeled false by Facebook’s third-party fact-checking partners sees its future impressions on the platform drop by 80 percent.” The strategy of labeling Facebook content as false has been questioned by experts, as research has demonstrated that impact of such labeling is limited, and in some cases, may actually increase sharing of false information.
Tweeting about politics doesn’t just feel good—it can actually make you smarter
October 7 2017
Two recent studies reveal that tweeting about issues is “directly related to greater knowledge acquisition, and social watching actually helps viewers solidify their beliefs around their chosen candidates.”
Why this Onion article goes viral after every mass shooting
October 3 2017
After the recent deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas, satirical publication The Onion received its highest traffic ever thanks to the viral sharing of a piece called, “‘No Way to Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.” This article explains how satire is a “potent way to give voice to intellect, insight, wit and humor” with regard to pressing issues such as gun violence, although it is “typically less effective at changing minds or policy.”
Can Hollywood movies about climate change make a difference?
October 2 2017
Climate change is a difficult concept to present on film—research indicates that apocalyptic accounts of climate change in movies are unlikely to spur viewers to act, and there is a delicate balance between conveying an appropriate sense of urgency with providing opportunities for action.