How Google Is Changing Journalism

As user generated content (UGC) becomes more prevalent and relied upon by journalists for reporting the news quickly, the need for authentication has grown. Google has played a large role in this. Tools like Google Search, Google Maps and others have allowed journalists to research UGC information, photos and videos so they only disseminate the facts. Let’s look at a few.

Google News Lab

Launched in mid-2015, Google News Lab aims to “empower innovation at the intersection of technology and media.” The site offers written and video tutorials and case studies for journalists so they can more effectively use Google’s tools for verifying UGC. It also includes data gleaned from Google Trends and case studies o
n how newsrooms have used this data in their reporting. TechCrunch notes, “With citizen reporters regularly turning to social media first – and not typically on Google+, the company’s own social media site – Google is working to assert the variety of other ways it has to participate in the reporting process, ranging from first-hand videos posted to YouTube to its wealth of data and information collected from the world’s searchers.”

Though the tools on the site are not new, the tutorials are; Google recognizes its role in reporting the news and is showcasing its commitment to helping news organizations report valid information.

YouTube

According to Google, 300 videos are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Identifying which are original, real and timely can be difficult for reporters. Amnesty International has created a step-by-step guide for authenticating videos using the information found on the YouTube user’s video and account. Steps include viewing how many videos the YouTube user has posted in the past, hidden data on the video, YouTube account creation date, checking geographical data (is the video you’re trying to authenticate captured in the same area as the other videos posted by the same account?), checking social media accounts associated with the YouTube account, and searching YouTube with keywords found in the video in question.

Additionally, Google partnered with Storyful to create YouTube Newswire, which authenticates videos for journalists’ use.

Google Search & Image Search

After emergencies, many images are uploaded to social media claiming to be taken during or right after the emergency. Some may be real, but others may be shares of the original photos, doctored photos or old images of a past, similar emergency. For shares and old images, journalists can use reverse image search on Google to authenticate a picture. The video below outlines how to do this. For doctored images, journalists will have to use FotoForensics.com or a similar tool.

Google+

Journalists can use Google+ to join groups like Storyful’s Open Newsroom, which is a “real-time community of news professionals working together to establish the maximum clarity and context around the big stories of the day. Our objective is to debunk, fact-check, clarify, credit and source.”

Google Maps

Google Maps is a useful feature for authenticating videos and images. Do the terrain, buildings, and other identifying items in the video/image in question match that of the Google terrain maps, satellite maps and Street View images? If not, a journalist can automatically discount the content.

Google Translate

Translating can be especially important for video that is recorded and uploaded in a language a journalist doesn’t speak. For this, journalists can use Google Translate. Copying and pasting a video’s title, caption and/or subtitles into Google Translate can help with deciphering exactly what the video is claiming to be.

Example

Curious to see what verification looks like in action? Below is an example via Nieman Reports.

(Source: Nieman Reports)

(Source: Nieman Reports)

Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=16&v=UI8S5kO-vEM

youtube-1158693_1920*All videos in this article have been authenticated for originality.

 

 

Snackable Content is King

There’s no question: Facebook is changing the way news is consumed. Some news outlets, such as BuzzFeed, have even begun to tailor their articles to increase the likelihood that their article gets shared on the platform. Facebook, and other social media platforms, allows news organization to reach a wider audience, so it follows that news organizations alter the way they report the news in order to increase readership.

Realizing this trend of news reporting and news reading via Facebook (and hoping to capitalize on this), Facebook has begun rolling out several tools specifically for journalists.

Instant Articles

Published natively to Facebook, Instant Articles (and the advertisements) load within a mere second or two. News publishers upload their articles directly to Facebook, add their advertisers to the article, and share it on Facebook. Readers can load the content more quickly because they don’t need to load an external webpage and/or another app. Plus, it keeps readers on the platform.

Mentions

Created first for celebrities and then rolled out to journalists, Mentions allow for easier engagement with fans and readers.

Signal

A platform specifically for keeping up to date with what is trending on Facebook, Signal allows journalists to source content from the platform.

(Source: Giphy)

What’s next

Just today, Facebook announced they will allow independent writers to publish Instant Articles. Although the articles must first be uploaded to a website, this opens up the doors for nearly anyone to become a reporter. “Citizen journalists” might just take on a new meaning as Facebook rolls out this new feature.

Additionally Michael Reckhow, the product manager for Instant Articles, told Nieman Lab that he envisions that “individual pieces of media inside the article can break out and have a life of their own.” These pieces of media may then become stories apart from the larger article. This type of snackable content will likely become huge in the coming years (more on snackable content later).

I also believe video, especially short ones with captions, will become more widely used on Facebook. One news organization that is already doing this is Business Insider. They post short 1-3 minute videos that highlight the most important pieces of the video; some videos don’t even include speech. This feeds information to their followers quickly and also opens up a dialogue in the comments section.

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Snackable content is king

According to Slate, a full 38% leave an article before even reaching the end of the first paragraph. We are in “the age of skimming,” the article continues. Posting short articles and videos directly to Facebook (like the Instant Articles pieces of media and the Business Insider video mentioned above) help Facebook users to consume more content.

(Image via Smart Blogs)

(Source: Smart Blogs)

Rented Land

Posting content natively to Facebook does, of course, does raise a few eyebrows. And for good reason: should news outlets place all of their content on “rented land?” Mark Zuckerberg makes a compelling argument. News organizations are beginning to shift toward posting content directly to Facebook for a reason – they are seeing results and receiving ad dollars that could be spent with a competitor if they don’t receive said results.

Looking ahead

Will Facebook become the number one source of news in the coming years? Only time will tell, but it seems they are investing a great deal of effort and research to reach this point.

Storytelling in the Digital Age

Recognizing the changing landscape of how people communicate and receive information, journalists and news organizations have changed the way they investigate, source and tell the news. One such reporter is Paul Lewis, the west coast bureau chief for The Guardian. He is active on Twitter, Vine and Instagram and uses social media to find sources for his stories.

In his 2011 TEDx Talk, Lewis touts the power of citizen journalism and encourages journalists to embrace crowd sourcing information: “accept that you can’t know everything and allow other people through technology be your eyes and ears.” Social media allows the general public to co-produce the news, he continues, and journalists should welcome this collaborative approach to storytelling. He then outlines how he used Twitter to uncover information in two murder cases: the mysterious death of Angolan refugee, Jimmy Mubenga, on British airways Flight 77, and the death of Ian Tomlinson at the g20 protests in London. Witnesses from across the globe spoke up through social media to tell their side of the story and provide photographs, audio and video to help Lewis write his story. See the full TEDx Talk below.

Though his TEDx Talk was recorded in 2011, Lewis continues to use social media in similar ways today. Since he is a bureau chief, he posts on a variety of topics, some stories of his own, some stories from other Guardian reporters, some stories from other publications, and also personal commentary and live tweeting of events. Most of his posts are regarding politics, technology, and world news.

For example, during the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the death of Michael Brown, Lewis used Vine to show short videos of the protests happening there. In the caption, he added a link to the full version of the video that could be found on theguardian.com.

 

More recently, though, he has been covering the 2016 presidential campaign. He live tweets (and admits to typos) and asks questions of his followers:

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He also posts pictures and short videos directly to Twitter to give his followers a feel for the atmosphere he is experiencing:

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He retweets stories that mention him and also some that don’t. In the below story, Lewis went hunting with Donald Trump’s sons:

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Before he ran the story above, he posted a teaser on Instagram. Although he doesn’t have a large following on Instagram, it still elicited a response from one of his followers. Maybe he will soon start utilizing this medium more often.

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Lewis’ tweets regarding the 2016 presidential race aren’t falling on deaf ears. The Pew Research Center discovered that social media is the preferred method of learning political news for Millennials. The research shows that in the 2016 presidential campaign, “about a third (35%) of 18 to 29-year-olds name a social networking site as their most helpful source type for learning about the presidential election in the past week. This is about twice that of the next nearest type – news websites and apps (18%), another digital stream of information.” Below is a break down by age of how individuals are learning of the 2016 presidential race:

Paul Lewis demonstrates the power and influence social media can have on the news and even on justice. He recognizes that the public is a wonderful source of information and uses social media to gather content for his stories. Additionally, he uses social media to interact with his audience in real time, live-tweeting quotes, facts, and commentary along with images and videos to give his followers a more comprehensive understanding of his stories.

 

How to Create the Perfect Facebook Post

(Source: Screen capture via BuzzFeed Facebook Page. Mark up is original.)

 

News Whip recently released the biggest publishers on Facebook in October 2015, ranked by total shares. After reviewing each of the top ten most shared publishers, I came to notice a few similarities. Below I analyze the posts to discover how each of these publishers gained so many shares.

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(Source: News Whip)

Each organization knows their audience and speaks to them in their vernacular (see: BuzzFeed post above). BuzzFeed, LittleThings.com, and Breitbart post dramatic captions using single words, questions, exclamation points, ellipses and capitalization of key words to attract clicks to their websites, while more news-centric organizations like Huffington Post, Fox News, The Guardian, The New York Times, BBC and Yahoo, post short, descriptive captions, occasionally including quotes from the article being posted.  Lastly, NBC deserves to be in its own category because although it posts in the format of the news-centric organizations, its content surrounds their TV shows, not news. All of the organizations, post frequently (between 10 and 20 times a day), use short captions, compelling article titles and provoking photos, and tag companies/celebrities when appropriate.

BuzzFeed is notorious for their clickbait posts, but in my opinion they aren’t even the worst of the offenders. Both LittleThings.com (which posts “the most amazing” stories from around the world) and Breitbart (the conservative political version of LittleThings.com) post overly dramatic captions to attract viewers to click on their posts. Captions like: “The reason why will give you chills…,” “Can you BELIEVE this makeover?! I’m stunned!,” and “And there’s ONE thing driving it all…” are commonplace on BuzzFeed, LittleThings.com and Breitbart. In addition to their clickbait article titles and captions, each of these three organizations:

  1. Use short captions, usually lacking in description
  2. Rely on the article’s image to tell some of the story (a few images even seem to be intentionally cropped so that it further entices the viewer to click to view the rest of the photo)
  3. Don’t include a link in the caption
  4. Don’t use subtitles (most of the time)

Honestly, the above posts seem cheap to me and only a few organizations can get away with this sort of clickbait. Whenever I read them I can’t help but think of the famous voiceover actor Dan LaFontaine, famous for his “In a world…” trailers:

And, I’m not the only one who thinks sensational captions are cheesy. On using approach, Hootsuite declares, “All of this intense expression, all of the time, is unsustainable for any person or brand and comes off as inauthentic. If you want your brand’s authority and clout to remain intact, using hyperboles or overly exaggerated words in your social media content is something you want to avoid.”

The news-centric organizations mentioned above are more my style. It seems they follow the same formula as the aforementioned organizations with three exceptions – their captions are aren’t clickbait (instead they are more descriptive), they post much more video directly to Facebook, and they include quotes from those interviewed in the articles/videos. Even with these exceptions, the posts are still shared many times over.

After reviewing posts from these more news-centric organizations, I did discover that more sensational news stories and lifestyle posts received relatively more like and shares. See the National Cheese Lovers Day post from The New York Times below.

 

So, what makes a perfect Facebook article post? A short caption that resonates with your audience and relevant imagery.