How social media moderation threatens news challengers

Future News 69

The pseudo-passive moderation of content on the large social media platforms inadvertently risks the fortunes of challenger news media brands. That is because the precedent of deferring to the large, established outlets (which is actually a very active, non-algorithmic move) at the US election looks like it could be here to stay. 

There is, by way of recent example, Facebook’s secretive N.E.Q ranking, which is apparently designed to make ‘authoritative’ news, such as the New York Times, CNN and NPR, appear more prominently to its users. Tellingly, we were also told of Google’s, YouTube’s and Twitter’s preferred outlets when it came to the election. 

Print publications, beyond the Associated Press, didn’t make the cut and Axios, the outlet which actually pre-warned the world of President Trump’s false victory declaration, wasn’t on their lists either. 

A new, ‘non-authoritative’ class of news media outlets is effectively being created as a side-effect of the perennial issue of scalable moderation for the social media platforms, with the likes of YouTube and Facebook still using tens of thousands of human moderators (sometimes via third-party contractors) alongside machine-learning algorithms. 

Partisan publications, in particular, look like they will be punished in the name of fighting misinformation. This is all well and good in a straightforward falsehood versus the truth narrative, but it is not entirely clear how the social media platforms will rank an opinion piece differently to a major straight news article in the popular press. 

Also, does the whole outlet get punished for a ‘wrong’ view and how are agenda-setting stories rewarded? Perhaps LinkedIn, with a curated list of news stories and opinion pieces each weekday morning, offers the most sensible way forward for the whole social media industry.

📈 Results and transactions 

  • Publisher Future is hoping to acquire insurance services business GoCo Group, parent of GoCompare, for £594m. The company expects the transaction to result in several “strategic advantages”, including an enhanced proposition for advertisers and lead generation partners, and integrated technology platforms built for innovation, driving intent.

  • Penguin Random House, owned by German media conglomerate Bertelsman, plans to purchase Simon & Schuster for more than $2 billion in a deal that sees Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp lose out and the creation of the first megapublisher.

  • Reach has seen a surge in digital revenues (16.2%) for the five months to 22 November. But print sales have declined by 19.6%, contributing to an overall revenue dip of 13.9%. CEO Jim Mullen said: “2020 has been a pivotal year for Reach and the response of our colleagues to the challenges of 2020 has been first-class. Whilst macroeconomic uncertainty remains, we approach 2021 with confidence in the long-term value of our loyal audience and trusted brands and with strong digital momentum."

  • Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) saw adjusted profits before tax dip by 36% to £72m in the year ended 30 September. The company noted that its Events and Exhibitions, Consumer Media and UK Property Information divisions were adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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For high-praise, tips or gripes, please contact the editor at or via @ianjsilvera. Follow on LinkedIn here. 

Illustration: Macrovector