Facebook’s New Political Algorithms Increase Tension With Publishers


“I don’t want trust to be a popularity contest decided by users of Facebook,” Lydia Polgreen, the editor in chief of HuffPost, said at the panel discussion, which was held at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

The panel, moderated by Emily Bell, the director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia, also included Erica Anderson of Google News Lab and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, the director of research at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, who presented the institute’s annual Digital News Report.

Publishers have been vocal in their protests of being included in the same archive as political ads. This month, organizations representing more than 20,000 publishers in the United States wrote to Facebook to object to the policy, and some outlets, like New York Media and The Financial Times, have vowed to suspend their paid promotions on Facebook if the policy is not changed.

Facebook has agreed to create a distinction between publishers’ content and political ads, but it has not yet built a separate archive.

Moves like those have only inflamed tensions with publishers, said Jason Kint, the chief executive of Digital Content Next, a trade group that represents entertainment and news organizations, including The Times, and who signed the publishers’ letter last month.

“Facebook communicated poorly,” Mr. Kint said. “They have not built trust with publishers.”

Although Facebook remains a vital outlet for publishers, its power has diminished. According to data from Chartbeat, an online analytics company, publishers’ traffic from Facebook has declined about 15 percent in the last year. At the same time, traffic from Google is up 20 percent since last August.

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During the discussion on Thursday, Mr. Thompson sparred with Ms. Brown, who was an NBC News correspondent and a CNN anchor before joining Facebook.



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