June 14, 2017 By FTI Consulting
While the internet and social media have become nearly globally ubiquitous, user habits, media landscapes and political discourse are still often regionally distinct. With this in mind, we are launching our Download: Americas Edition, a sister publication to our U.K. and Asia Pacific Downloads that trains a lens on issues in North and South America, covering significant stories in social media, digital advertising, online publishing and changing habits in media consumption. We hope you enjoy it and pass it along to any friends, clients or colleagues you think might benefit from giving it a read. If inbox-clogging is a concern, you can always direct readers to our Content Hub, which will house our missives in perpetuity. And with all that now said, onto the news!
With the advent of digital and algorithmic stock trading came a new wave of bad actors. Tech-savvy scoundrels manipulated algorithms to produce spikes and crashes, creating major benefits for some and significant losses for others.
Now, evidence appears to show the “marketplace of ideas” is under similar, bot-induced manipulation.
For years everybody has been aware of clickbait and conspiracy theories online, but the 2016 US election turned the dial of intentional disinformation campaigns up to 11. These campaigns leveraged the groupthink of online users and algorithmic feeds of the major social media networks to give prominence to “fake news” items that had real results, mobilizing (or demobilizing) voters – and inspiring the occasional gun-toting vigilante. This creates a problem for the social media companies themselves, as they come under the scrutiny of their users, advertising customers and governments keen to regulate the industry.
While it bequeaths these companies to do something about the spread of fake information and manipulation of their platforms and users of those platforms, this also creates a place of uncertainty for companies about how messaging will land. Trust is low across platforms and manipulation is high, making it harder to distribute resonant content. At the same time, trust in media and traditional sources of authority is low, making these direct-communications vehicles a worthwhile avenue for exploration or exploitation. 2017 is an exhilarating and confusing time to be on the internet.
On the first of this month, arguably the most powerful man on Wall Street started tweeting. Regardless of his second tweet being about one smiley short of looking like emoji vomit, the purpose of the handle is clear: make the leader’s views on current events heard. For better or worse, the Overton Window – or spectrum for acceptable political discourse – has opened for corporations, but without a human face or serious substance behind heavily PR-ed statements, positions on issues like immigration or gender identity can ring hollow. While starting a handle specifically for a leader isn’t always ideal, we suggest any company taking a serious stance on the issues of the day should think about how they’re leveraging their company’s human capital to get that point across.
Of course, this handle also begs the question: #Blankfein2020?
It’s no secret that the media has been grappling with a perplexing challenge when it comes to dealing with social media platforms. On the one hand, they see the same benefits as companies in getting messages across and building visibility amongst new audiences. On the other, placing content on platforms outside of owned websites ruins valuable streams of ad revenue. And while Facebook has taken steps to help publishers – such as revenue-sharing from ads in Instant Articles and building a feature to let users subscribe to certain publications – editors still worry about losing the autonomy of their newsrooms to the platform. So what’s a paper to do?
Some bold companies are pioneering an existence sans website, or at least where the website plays a substantially down-sized role – see Quartz’s chat-style news app, the Washington Post’s offshoot The Lily or even look back to the beginnings of BuzzFeed as a chat bot. How the media grapples with this challenge will be instructive to companies looking to bolster owned online communications channels. For example, The Lily has a team of six, two of whom are art directors managing design that will be done bespoke for each channel; clearly a lesson that how your content looks is deeply important to engagement. Keep an eye on how these projects fare. It could make a big difference in informing your online communications strategy.
Who says all dogs hate delivery drivers?