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"Who owns the news consumer: Social media platforms or publishers?"

in CJR 21 jun 2016

Ou, as ever, a voz do dono.

We have seen platforms move beyond hosting material into shaping more aspects of news production and distribution.
The increasing influence of a handful of West Coast companies is shaping every aspect of news production, distribution, and monetization (...) companies including Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Snapchat, and Google have moved from having an arm’s length relationship with journalism to being dominant forces in the news ecosystem. (...) Some platforms are becoming publishers, either by design or by default (...) Publishers, meanwhile, are experiencing a more rapid than expected shift in distribution towards platforms.

Desenterramos um artigo de outras eras - junho deste ano! - que justifica a sua leitura à luz dos mesmos acontecimentos que tornam qualquer peça sobre imprensa pré-Trump ancient history. Especificamente, para resumir -à data da escrita deste texto, ie - a complicada relação da imprensa e dos media com as redes sociais. Com as tecnológicas a tornar-se cada vez mais relevantes ou mesmo dominantes no panorama mediático, invertendo a relação de poderes para com os media tradicionais que cada vez mais dependem dos serviços que as primeiras prestam para se exporem a uma audiência, ambos se entranham numa difícil relação de intenções da qual a recente troca de acusações é o seu mais óbvio manifestar. Dessa relação complicada cujas implicações estão ainda por discernir -dependendo da própria evolução das plataformas e da adequação que os media consigam ao digital - as oportunidades e penalizações que se apresentam são ainda demasiado maleáveis para lhes passar uma sentença definitiva.

O resumo de executivo poderá ser "de quem é o conteúdo? de quem são os leitores?".

The question of who owns the user highlights the biggest tension at the heart of the relationship between publishers and platforms. Is a reader of The New York Times on Facebook a New York Times reader, or a Facebook user reading the New York Times? (...) Owning the relationship with the reader or viewer is another way of thinking about  “distribution versus destination.” (...) The question of whether a consumer of journalism “belongs” to the platform that hosts content or to the organization that produces it goes to the very heart of how platforms are becoming more than neutral vectors for links and traffic.

Ainda mais sucinto: "$$$"

Publishers’ anxieties include a lack of data, loss of control, the uncertainty of financial return, and the potential obscurity of their brand in a distributed environment.

Num momento complicado à sobrevivência da imprensa e sem um modelo sustentável que se assuma além quaisquer dúvidas, a sujeição das suas receitas à vontade alheia de terceiros gera um desconforto óbvio nas redacções e direcções dos jornais e não será de estranhar que a exigência mais recorrente sobre as redes sociais recaia "naqueles" aspectos que mais importam às competências do departamento comercial e financeiro:

Our interviewees expressed almost universal concern in two areas: data and brand. Despite efforts by platforms to return more data to publishers, there is still a great deal of frustration that the platforms cannot give publishers enough insight into how their journalism is being read.

O eixo central em torno da qual a sua relação gira é bastante precário. Por um lado as redes sociais precisam dos conteúdos que só os media podem fornecer - e a tentação de os dispensar existe: as parcerias apenas o são enquanto não os poderem substituir alimentando os feeds e timelines com qualquer outra informação que o público demande. Por outro lado os media precisam das visitas que as redes sociais geram mas encontrando um outro modelo de financiamento que não dependa de hits será sem surpresa que estes conteúdos se fecharão atrás de modelos de acesso restrito subtraindo-se intencionalmente às redes sociais.

Publishers with an advertising-based model view social platforms as perhaps the only way to become sustainable. This “Hail Mary” strategy of publishing as much as possible onto third party platforms reflects the difficult state of the mobile advertising market for most publishers. Those with subscription strategies are very different. They see social platforms as a way to recruit new readers and turn them into paying subscribers, and are therefore more strategic in their posting patterns.

Apesar de at odds são puxados um para o outro, num equilíbrio que de momento privilegia as redes sociais - que se escudam às responsabilidade dos media tradicionais por detrás da pretensa isenção de serem apenas um canal de distribuição- e ao qual que os media não se podem subtrair, degenerando num conflito que realça os mesmos conceitos chave que tantas vezes já aqui destacámos - e fazemos destaque nesta citação:

Some of the sentiments we heard from newsrooms and the patterns of adoption are very reminiscent of arguments first aired over the shift from print to the Web, but this time with far greater existential urgency. Social media and distributed content strategies are now seen as central to editorial decision making for the most digital newsrooms. A social strategy is now often a proxy for a mobile strategy.

O artigo que nos ocupa tem ainda o valor de registar preocupações de distorção na evolução tecnologia além das mais evidentes na ordem do dia, abordando um segundo nível de inferências que nos importa acompanhar - especificamente estas duas:

Scale matters. Some smaller and local newsrooms feel left out, whilst the larger or “more digital” publishers that have the closest relationships with platforms dominate attention. (...) Bias within platforms was “effectively picking winners” among the publishers : the sense that the future of news is now in the hands of the technology industry was much more prevalent among those who were least able to access the resources of platform companies.
Civic and democratic issues not prioritised by either publishers or platforms include archiving distributed journalism, transparency in algorithmic distribution, concentration of power, and availability of data.

Apesar das constantes incertezas:

So far there are no clear returns in terms of increased advertising revenue as a result of placing more articles on social platforms.

- e de alguns benefícios secundários de concorrência alheia:

Technology companies are in fierce competition with each other, and the publishers that provide material for them are either (...) collateral damage, or beneficiaries of this competition. The clash between Google, Facebook, and Apple, for instance, centers on control of mobile advertising and commerce. Both Apple and Facebook created news products to encourage journalism posted natively to their platforms, while Google has championed the idea of open links and searchable content.

(e, acrescente-se, os media não podem clamar inocência em todo o processo dispondo-se a dormir com o inimigo onde a conveniência se impõe)

Publishers do not always disclose that Facebook Live broadcasts, for instance, are being paid for in part by Facebook, which raises interesting ethical issues about transparency and more broadly about whether our news ecosystem is being shaped by more than user behaviour.
New creative opportunities: “Platforms have given us way more creative freedom than we have had in the past to tell a story”

... as  incursões e metamorfoses das redes sociais no domínio dos conteúdos e publicação trazem-nos à actual polémica - que já se desenhava em slowmotion antes de rebentar nas eleições:

News organizations were skeptical that social media platforms are “just technology companies.” (...) Mark Zuckerberg is adamant that Facebook is just a technology company and not a publisher, yet this is at odds with the idea that the company seeks to attract, retain and own a readership. (...) They are publishers, they control the audience in many ways. They’re the gateway to the audience and they determine what they will allow and what they won’t

E aqui nos encontramos, ainda que essa polémica seja apenas o sintoma da relação de dependência e poder que destacamos no início:

The questions who is the publisher? and who owns the audience? are central. At the moment, this debate is viewed mostly in terms of how it affects business models and financial outcomes for commercial news organizations. However, there is a set of concerns and questions relating to the broader public sphere that have gained little visibility and had few resources directed to them by either news organizations or technology and platform companies. (...) Platforms now must consider significant issues ranging from broad questions of free speech to how to preserve and maintain the integrity of archived material. 

... e nos importam a desenvolvimentos futuros nos mesmos moldes:

We have heard growing concern over the opacity of algorithmic and editorial systems that distribute a much more personalized version of news and information [mas agora é necessário] to dig deeper to explore the implications for democracy and the public sphere.

leituras adicionais

  • facebook
  • media
  • frenemies

"When Facebook says “jump,” you jump. Even if the company can’t promise the ground will be there when you fall."

The new ways to create and consume news are raining down from Facebook. All of which sounds pretty great for you, the news consumer. But for news organizations, these innovations come with an insidious imperative.

Facebook now tells the industry what matters most, which dictates how resources are spent and what stories are told. (...) Facebook is setting the rules, and news organizations are following. That’s concerning because the news industry is in a precarious way. Publishers have finite resources and limited time.

Facebook will continue to iterate and experiment with the kinds of experiences it thinks people using Facebook want. It’s trying to be new, innovative, immersive. It wants to stay cool to keep you coming back. Publishers, meanwhile, will continue to clamor to keep up with the next best thing. They’ll reallocate resources, shift strategies, and change titles.

in "Facebook Has Seized the Media, and That’s Bad News for Everyone But Facebook" 13 abril 2016

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