Now that traditional media has begun to finally acquiesce to its smarter, less wasteful cousin, there are a few bright spots shining through the otherwise dismal journalism landscape. They’ve started to involve different levels of integration and new ideas with regard to how to reach that increasingly elusive, ghostly animal: the audience.
You might be most familiar with the first example because, you know, you’re on Facebook. The “Social Reader” coagulates the stories you and your friends read to stick them to the top of your news feed. The Washington Post is one of the earlier adopters of the technology, and arguably the most successful. As their site says:
Once you’re using the app, the stories you read will be instantly shared with your friends, and your friends’ reads will be shared with you, creating a socially powered newswire of intriguing articles.
Try it. It’s fun.
It is fun! Really!
Really, it is kind of fun.
On its debut, even the snooty futurists over at Wired Magazine agreed, calling the innovation “a bold move in revitalizing companies that have ailed in the age of new media.” They even proclaimed the reader had a, gasp, “a fighting chance at relevancy.”
Now, two months on, the backlash has begun, especially from fuddy-duddies like The Atlantic. Rebecca J. Rosen, herself an alumnus of some dusty old tome called The Wilson Quarterly, doesn’t like the reader. She doesn’t like it one bit. No sir. “Oh look,” she writes unsnarkily, “your friend read an interesting article, want to read it too? Yes? Well, you’ll have to register, and once you do so, all the articles you read will be broadcast across Facebook.”
Oh no! Articles I read will be broadcast all over Facebook? Oh my goodness.
It’s a problem for “SassyCityGirl” Michele Costanza over at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
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Oh my god! Costanza describes herself as an “average gal with two kids, a giant dog, an interesting life, and an ungodly obsession with certain quirky things.” Other sites that have successfully started a social reader program include Huffington Post and The Guardian (who reported 4 million Facebook app installations in months).
Michele, might we suggest more interesting friends?
On the flipside, the New York Times is beginning to allow for pre-screened commenters to post whenever, whatever, so long as they do it officially through their Facebook accounts. The process is called “Trusted Commenters” and it’s an idea which is turning a lot of heads, even that of good friend of Media Farm and our most beloved scholar Dan Kennedy. “Why does Facebook matter?” he asks rhetorically. “Yes, it’s the social network that we all love to hate.” BUT:
We share our pictures, we wish each other a happy birthday, we send cheery messages to friends from high school whom we haven’t seen in years. All of this is the antithesis of the nutty, often racist comments that pollute many newspaper sites.
The point that installing Facebook comments makes people more honest is a funny one [and one DigBoston.com took up from its relaunch—Ed.]. People have always hid behind fake usernames to promote racism and right-wing propaganda, but do you see left-wing nutjobs on websites as Socialist666 or MarxWasRight?
The internet is rapidly skinning away the privacy of our lives. We can no longer enjoy “guilty pleasures” like Justin Beiber or Taco Bell.
How is this a bad thing?
Media Farm’s advice is to act like an adult and take responsibilities for your actions, your person, and own up to the things you enjoy.
Isn’t that what being human is all about?