Fake news, it’s just gossip

Fake news, it’s just gossip…

Really is anyone surprised to find that if you enable people to publish and share what they like online, via Facebook, Google, Twitter, Word.Press – the list is long…some of it is complete tosh. Publishing it and sharing it does not make it credible.

If my car broke down I wouldn’t leave it in the street with a note on it saying “Please mend for free.”

News is the same. You get what you pay for.

But the investment in news, media and quality journalism is a big one. And always there is commercial conflict between integrity of news and selling advertising space. Without advert sales and paid for subscriptions whether via a ‘pay-wall’ or not; print costs and news quite simply can not be funded.


It is the content not the technology that makes the expert

So just exactly how do the figures stack up for UK news groups?

The Economist Group is a limited company made up of famous brands such as: The Economist and EuroFinance. The Group has three types of share ownership, including trust shares and special shares. This means that the integrity of how the Group operates and the quality of its news reporting is protected by the structure and ownership of the company. In fact over 43% of the Group is made up of special shares and trust shares, meaning that integrity is a core value.
The Guardian Media Group (GMG) parent company for the Guardian and the Observer newspapers; is also trust owned at around 50.1%. GMG reported losses of £62.6m last financial year (2015-16) the majority of which funded the trust ownership of newspaper.  As quoted in the GMG financial statement: ‘The sole purpose [of this type of funding] is to secure the editorial independence and financial security of the Guardian in perpetuity.’

Whereas if we look at Facebook it had total assets of $64.96m at 2016 year-end, and total liabilities including stockholder equity, at $5.77m. Google on the other hand made $111,649.51m in total revenue at 2016 year-end with a gross profit of $68,275m.

Hmmm… this points to the money being in advertising, and if all you have to do as a publishing platform owner is – well erhh – publish then the outcome is lucrative. Thankfully both advertising platform owners are now taking steps to block fake news, and Facebook is piloting news feeds that contain interest and industry related news only, the feeds will not contain news updates from friends.

As to Twitter let’s hope it gets acquired by a trust or by a foundation, so that it can continue its heritage as a news micro-blog publisher and retain Wikipedia (or Wikimedia Foundation) credibility. For businesses and thinking people everywhere the lesson is to check the source of the news first, unless it comes from a trusted brand.

Google News pledges £107m to publishers over next three years

So Google News is in the news again, this time Google has pledged £107m to European publishers and news start-ups. As well as offering funding Google staff will be sharing knowledge with journalists on how to publish content so that it gets indexed correctly by Google.

What’s the point?


…if the ethos is that the best news is that which comes up in your search results, how do publishers fund that news, and make sure it’s indexed properly?

‘Ethical’ and well researched news doesn’t come for free, it’s written by experts who have niche knowledge. And if Google News want to stand out from Social Media as credible, and business orientated then they can’t go down the ‘most talked about’ route. ‘Most talked about’ might mean gossip or rumour, anyway it is unsubstantiated – sure it may be breaking news but it hasn’t been qualified yet. And until that journo is on the ground speaking to the authorities as well as eye witnesses who’s to say it’s true.

As regards Google compliance and the indexing of content, this takes different skills to that of journalism. There is a fine balance to be struck between a snappy headline and one that will make sense to the user that is seeking news or information. The blend of the dark art of SEO, not to mention responsive content, and intelligently written prose is the Editor’s daily challenge.

The move again highlights Google’s differentiation from other news sources, the recent partnership with Twitter emphasises a preference for trade, industry or business news as opposed to consumer-led interest.

Is there money in it?

Yes, businesses want to share their news, and speak directly to their clients or share holders – and not just from a pitching perspective. Business owners have sector knowledge and industry insight – who better to share news. And as traditional marketing continues to flag from cold calling to trade events, establishing credibility and therefore referral and recommendation has to be a more effective way to sell. And if the business sells ancillary products or services, advertising against relevant news in the right ‘section’ or ‘channel’ so that potential customers will understand the business proposition is  acost effective way to promote and position the product or service.

Reassuring too that the Financial Times, the Guardian and Die Zeit have joined the Google News foundation. It shows that regardless of history and credibility future proofing the freedom of the press is hard to do without funding or the support of Google.

Why Twitter and Google kissed and made up; it’s all about news

Okay so you may think that this is old hat – the Twitter Google reunion happened last month, before Valentine’s Day when my headline may have worked better but…

…Do you remember the first split?

Three years ago 21 Feb 2012 Twitter partnered with Yandex – the leading Russian search engine, so that Tweets could be published in realtime as news. This followed a split from LinkedIn and also Google; meaning that LinkedIn was no longer able to publish ‘trade news’ from it’s business member audience for which it had ranked so well. This was also true of Google, which was cut off overnight from real-time ‘trade news’ posted by Twitter members. Don’t forget that Facebook didn’t IPO until 18 May 2012, LinkedIn having IPO’d in late 2011 – the jury was out on Facebook as to what it what it would grow into. There had been some notable news partnerships ie with the Guardian, but many ‘news feeds’ on Facebook were app-led.  Twitter was to become associated with live trade news, causes and sport – winning the Olympics coverage later on in 2012.

Now flip forward to November 2014 and some European news publishers were mightily miffed with Google News for aggregating their paid content and deciding where it ranked. Why’s that a problem you may ask, Google indexes content well, it’s the biggest global advertising platform. If you ever worked in a news desk you will know that advertising is a dirty word – wash your mouth out. Journalists (rightly) pride themselves on being experts at sniffing out a story and validating information around it also providing context. Unlike gossip column writers they don’t dumb it down for us, but are able to relate it to their economics, politics or mechanical engineering degree. They also rub shoulders with the celebrities of their sector, our captain’s of industry, which means that they really are in the know. All this knowledge doesn’t come cheap, and publishers prize it – and we should too. There is a big difference between breaking a story – because you see it happen, and reporting on a story as it unfolds. Enough of my homage to journalists; the beef being that publishers invest in ‘expert comment’ whereas corporate communications (produced by copy writers and marketeers) serve a different purpose (to sell stuff) and don’t carry the same investment of time and learning. Therefore corporate comms should not out rank ‘independent’ and ‘credible’ news the publisher would say. They do have a point, however great editorial content – does sell ad space, and Google are the indexing experts also great at selling ad space – could the fight really be about ad revenue?

Some bloggers are industry experts, I would relate their challenging style to investigative journalism – the difference being how they get paid.

In addition this whole real-time news piece is relevant to us business people because we will check into our trade news channels Twitter, Mashable, Business Intelligence and professional networks like LinkedIn. Any self-respecting radio broadcaster or journalist will also have a Twitter channel. And let’s not get started on firewalls – they are just anti freedom of speech and curtail knowledge sharing, once more us business folk are rather into that.

Can you just climb aboard the news and media roller coaster with me one more time and flip forward to erhm yesterday – cool.

A little ity-bity change that Google News have made (11 March 2015) will have a big impact on the ranking of trade and corporate news. The change allows company statements (share holder investment news, press releases or published trading accounts) to rank above ‘news’. Previously only recognised ‘news’ providers TV stations, radio broadcasters and publishers were allowed to rank but now (Dah dah daah) corporate news, from small publishers, and or businesses themselves can also rank.

Here’s what Google had to say about it:

“The goal of search is to get users the right answer, at any one time, as quickly as possible. That may mean returning an article from an established publisher, a smaller niche publisher or indeed it might be a press article.”
[Exert taken from Business Insider UK/Tech]

Now who’s old hat!

Thanks for reading.