As the news industry continues to shift, more research shows that “social networks” such as Facebook, digg.com and the like will dominate how consumers get and share their news.
To that end, Facebook developed a list of its 40 most “shared” articles for 2011. The list tells a lot about how Americans have morphed the definition of “news” and it speaks to why news outlets have known for some time that offering consumers meaningful news simply does not sell.
Clearly, news organizations do a great deal of pandering when making decisions about what to offer consumers.
While the Web serves as an enabler for people sharing the insignificant, it also offers plenty of places where people can go to read, and to watch and listen to news about important issues that do have a daily impact on life. Compare the Facebook list with some other “news” site lists under the “Resources” below.
A glimpse of the Top 10 stories on the Facebook list hints at what I am writing about:
- Satellite Photos of Japan, Before and After the Quake and Tsunami (New York Times);
- What teachers really want to tell parents (CNN);
- No, your zodiac sign hasn't changed (CNN);
- Parents, don't dress your girls like tramps (CNN);
- Father Daughter Dance Medley video (Yahoo);
- At funeral, dog mourns the death of Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan (Yahoo);
- You'll freak when you see the new Facebook (CNN);
- Dog in Japan stays by the side of ailing friend in the rubble (Yahoo);
- Giant crocodile captured alive in Philippines (Yahoo);
- New Zodiac Sign Dates: Ophiuchus The 13th Sign? (The Huffington Post).
Important or even newsworthy? I think that’s a stretch.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve chased links sent by friends and colleagues to oddball, funny and entertaining news stories. I talk to my students about the inherent “readability” of these kinds of stories, called “brights” or “good reads,” and how they fit in the news cycle.
To a degree, the reason the “traditional” news media lost their standing with the public — and a lot of money — is because for many years the media gave the public too much of what it wanted and not enough of what it needed. Now, consumers can get on the Web what they “want” just about anywhere — at the expense of the traditional news media.
To a larger degree, people have not only given up their duty to participate in matters of civic responsibility and governance, they have chosen not to follow it in the news as well.