All posts in “News”

Joe Biden has a news podcast, and you can listen via Amazon Echo and Google Home

Straight-talking former vice president Joe Biden is curating and commenting upon the news in a podcast called Biden’s Briefing.

After some 60 test runs, Biden’s Briefing officially launched Monday, with featured news roundups to be added daily. 

The veteran statesman intends his briefings — which run between three and 15 minutes long — to be easily accessible via the home devices Amazon Echo and Google Home. Biden’s Briefing can also be streamed through iTunes, Spotify, and TuneIn.   

In fact, the Biden’s Briefing site states that one needs only utter “Alexa, enable Biden’s Briefing,” to access the news roundup via an Amazon Echo device. 

Biden will select his news content from an assortment of media partners, such as Bloomberg, Politico, and Wired. The site notes that the news selected will be “what Joe wants you to know” and what he believes is “worth listening to” — yet will also include stories and opinions that he doesn’t necessarily agree with. 

Each of the selected news pieces are introduced by Biden and read aloud by other Biden Briefing‘s voices. Fans of the former vice president may hope that “Amtrak Joe” chimes in to offer his unabashed view of matters, but it’s too early to know how often he’ll opine on the latest news. ab21 19f7%2fthumb%2f00001

Even more US adults now getting news from social media, says Pew

New research by Pew suggests there has been another increase in the proportion of U.S. adults getting news via social media platforms.

In May last year the researcher reported that 62 per cent of American adults were obtaining news from tech platforms, saying 18 per cent were doing so often. Now, in it’s latest survey, it says two-thirds (67%) of U.S. adults are reporting getting at least some of their news on social media. While a fifth (20%) report doing so “often”.

And while it’s not a huge increase, it is nonetheless a rise (Pew terms it a “modest” increase).

And a concerning one, given that the main social media purveyor of news — Facebook — has a demonstrable disinterest in and/or incapacity to distinguish fact from nonsensical fiction on its platform.

Indeed, as many have already pointed out Facebook’s business benefits from increased user engagement, and made-up stories that play to people’s prejudices and/or contain wild, socially divisive claims have been shown to be able to clock up far more Facebook views than factual reports of actual news.

So any rise in news consumption on social media should give pause for thought — especially as Facebook (and Google, principally) continues to suck ad revenue away from traditional media outlets, threatening the sustainability of businesses that have traditionally played a key role in a functioning democracy.

Pew’s survey is based on responses from 4,971 U.S. adults who are members of the Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel. The research was carried out between August 8-21, 2017.

It said it found that growth in news consumption across social media platforms is being driven by increases among Americans who are “older, less educated and non-white” — noting that for the first time in Pew Research Center surveys more than half (55%) of Americans aged 50 or older report getting news on social media sites — up 10 percentage points from 2016.

Pew found that three of the social media platforms it asked about in 2017 — Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat — had an increase in the share of their audience that gets news on each site.

About three-quarters (74%) of Twitter users reported getting news on the site, up 15 percentage points from early 2016.

While about a third of YouTube’s users (32%) now get news from the site, up from 21% in early 2016 — so a rise of 11 percentage points.

And consuming news also rose among Snapchat’s user base — with 29% currently saying they are doing this, up from 17% in early 2016, so an increase of 12 percentage points.

Still, Facebook remains the primary social media platform for sourcing news for the U.S. population as a whole — with just under half (45%) of all U.S. adults reporting they get news on the site (aka a large majority — 68% — of Facebook’s user base).

How times change. Just a year ago Facebook was pooh-poohing the notion that the social mega-platform is playing the role of a media company. ‘We are mere tech platform’ was the refrain in September 2016, despite how its algorithms select and order news-related content for billions of users.

By December, and following the fake news backlash after the US election result, that line was approaching the breaking point of credibility, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg conceded Facebook might indeed be a media company — though he suggested it’s not a ‘traditional’ one.

And that is surely true. No other media entity on Earth has enjoyed such vast reach and power.

Little wonder Russian agents spied potential to sew social division across the U.S. population as the country was headed into the salient point of an election cycle by purchasing, targeting and distributing politically charged ads via the platform — as Facebook this week revealed had been the case.

It reported that an in-house investigation found pro-Kremlin entities appear to have purchased around $100,000 in political marketing on the platform between 2015 and 2016.

The company has so far resisted pressure to publicly reveal the ads purchased by Russian entities.

Returning to Pew’s report, its survey also found news consumption growing among YouTube’s (also growing) user-base — saying the Google/Alphabet-owned user generated video platform is now the second most common social media site for news, with roughly two-in-ten (18%) of all U.S. adults getting news there.

For Twitter, Pew said that while a very large share of its users (74 per cent) obtain news via the site, given that its user base is also significantly smaller than Facebook’s or YouTube’s this results in a smaller overall reach for news: With just 11% of U.S. adults get news via Twitter.

The researcher concluded that Americans are now more likely than ever to report getting news from multiple social media sites — with around a quarter of all U.S. adults (26%) getting news from two or more sites, up from 18% in 2016.

In additional research it also said its data shows the Internet is closing in on television as a source of news. As of August 2017, 43% of Americans report often getting news online, compared with 50% who often get news on television — so just a seven-percentage-point gap. While in early 2016 the gap between the two news platforms was 19 points.

So, in short, the Internet’s social platform giants are busily consuming broadcast/TV news media, not just print.

Facebook is rolling out a Trending News section on mobile, now with its own link

Facebook is rolling out a “Trending News” section on mobile that includes its own link in the app’s main navigation. This follows the company’s earlier announcement this spring of a redesign for Trending Topics, an increasingly important part of Facebook’s social network, where it tracks the news stories that are buzzing across its service. That redesign is now rolling out to users on iPhone and Android devices in the U.S., while the added navigational link to Trending News became available on iPhone over the past few weeks, and is in testing on Android, Facebook tells us.

In case you missed Facebook’s announcement in May, the Trending Topics section was redesigned with a focus on making it easier to see how other publications are covering a topic, in addition to what friends and public figures are saying about the matter.

When you click into a Trending Topic following the update, Facebook explained you will see a carousel of stories from other publications that you swipe through horizontally.

The publications linked to in this section are determined by engagement around both the article and publisher in general on Facebook, as well as what other articles are linking to it.

This card-style carousel look-and-feel was inspired in part by Facebook Paper, the company’s long since shuttered standalone news reading app.

This carousel is still in the process of rolling out across the U.S.

However, one aspect to Trending’s makeover that wasn’t really touched on during Facebook’s earlier announcement was how Facebook was toying with a redesigned list of news stories that focused on headlines, not just “trending topics.”

The original look for Facebook’s Trending Topics – which you pull up with a tap into the app’s search box – is a simple list of topics and the beginning of a lede that’s usually cut off. These appear below your own recent Facebook searches in the app.

However, if you access the new Trending News link that’s just popped up in Facebook’s navigation menu, you’ll see an entirely different sort of Trending section.

Above: Old Trending on left vs New Trending on right

Instead of a “topic” (often just a word, person or place, like “China” or “Donald Trump”) and squiggly arrow icon, the news stories here include a headline, a photo, the name of a major media outlet that’s reporting it, and how many other sources are available on the topic.

For example, next to the headline, it might say: “Reuters and 100+ other sources.”

Plus, by adding the photo next to each item, there’s more room for expanded information – that is, a full headline and sourcing.

The new section also gives stories a rank (#1, #2, #3,…etc.)

Facebook’s prior announcement in May didn’t specifically detail how this Trending News section looked different from Trending Topics.

Frankly, it’s all a bit confusing, because Trending Topics and Trending News don’t seem to be tied directly together at this point. For example, you could have the link to Trending News in your app’s main navigation, but still not have the new look for Trending Topics, which includes the carousel redesign.

However, in that same post, we did get a little peek at Trending News – but it was referenced as being a part of a “small test.”

Trending integration in News Feed still a “small test”

Facebook said then it was testing adding the top three Trending News stories to users’ News Feeds. In a screenshot of this, you were able see this list of stories with photos that were ranked by numbers, as well as stories identified by headlines instead of just “topics.”

This integration of a “mini” Trending News section into News Feed is not broadly available. That remains a “small test,” we understand.

But the addition of the Trending News link to Facebook’s navigation is already live on iPhone, and being trialed on Android.

Of course, any changes Facebook makes to Trending are sure to met with a lot of scrutiny. The company last year faced criticism when it removed its human editors who curated this section, to run Trending by way of algorithms instead. (And those algorithms soon screwed up.) The social network has more recently made several changes to address the spread of fake news and filter bubbles, as well.

In this case, though, Facebook is not monkeying with how news is selected as “Trending,” only how it’s being displayed.

The new Trending News section joins a number of other new additions to Facebook’s main navigation as of late, including the food ordering option, Town Hall, weather, the Explore feed, and more. Not all these additions have stuck around – the new travel-focused City Guides section, for instance, has since disappeared.

Google just launched a GIF maker to make your data look better

Google wants to help make your research look better.

To help journalists share their research and tell stories in a more visual and appealing way, Google just launched Data GIF Maker, a data visualization creator.

“Data visualizations are an essential storytelling tool in journalism, and though they are often intricate, they don’t have to be complex,” Google wrote in their announcement. ” In fact, with the growth of mobile devices as a primary method of consuming news, data visualizations can be simple images formatted for the device they appear on.”

The project came out of Google’s News Lab, an initiative to support journalists and storytelling. The lab also created the popular Google Trends project.

To make a data gif with Google’s new tool, simply add two terms, their titles, and an additional description (for our test, we used data from a 2014 study about how people pronounce internet terms): 

Image: google

The tool will then generate a handy gif like this:

Image: google

Right now the tool is very basic and currently supports comparisons between only two data points, meaning it’s not the best fit for complex data and comparisons. But for simple visualizations, Data Gif Maker is extremely easy to use. By adding some color and animation, journalists can make the research they’re trying to share a lot easier and more pleasant to consume, rather than listing the same information in text.

The tool is free to use and you can try it here. 09a3 89a1%2fthumb%2f00001

Twitter news video will appear 24/7, thanks to Bloomberg

All day, everyday.
All day, everyday.

Image: bloomberg via getty images

Twitter is now a 24/7 streaming video service, beginning with financial news. 

Bloomberg, the finance news site with a wealth of funds from terminals, has agreed to produce exclusive video content for Twitter that will play 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. 

The announcement comes just ahead of Twitter’s first-ever NewFronts, where the tech company will pitch advertisers on a slate of original programming they can advertise within for the upcoming year. 

The deal also landed just after a quarterly earnings report delighted investors and analysts because of its surprise surpassing of expectations. Twitter had added 9 million monthly active users, while analysts had expected only 2 million, for example. 

So what’s going to appear? Details are scarce. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. But there will be ads. 

“It is going to be focused on the most important news for an intelligent audience around the globe and it’s going to be broader in focus than our existing network,” Bloomberg Media CEO Justin Smith told the Journal

It’s Twitter’s dream come true; that a global news site would agree to produce exclusive content, every second of every day for Twitter. Investors were worried after Twitter lost out to Amazon on the digital rights to NFL’s Thursday night football. 

Anthony Noto, Twitter’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer, has previously teased to some outlets that he was interested in making the company a 24/7 streaming video site. 

Well, goal accomplished, Noto. What’s next? 

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