Normally The Scrapbook is pleased to learn of advances in technology allowing greater numbers of people access to the news. Ceteris paribus, these innovations help cultivate an informed public and, we like to hope, keep our journalistic colleagues from the economic chopping block just a little while longer.
So it was with initial excitement that we heard the rumblings of Facebook’s entrance into the marketplace of ideas. Last week, the New York Times reported that the 1.4 billion-member-strong Internet giant had been holding discreet talks with a number of media companies (the Times, BuzzFeed, National Geographic) to explore the possibility of hosting news content on the popular social site. What is seemingly at stake here are the few precious seconds (seconds that could be used cultivating deep, lasting Internet friendships!) readers expend clicking on links redirecting them to the original news site.
Per the New York Times: “News articles on Facebook are currently linked to the publisher’s own website, and open in a web browser, typically taking about eight seconds to load. . . . [W]hen it comes to catching the roving eyeballs of readers, milliseconds matter.”
Just last year, Facebook allowed psychologists to manipulate the newsfeeds of nearly 700,000 unsuspecting users. What the researchers found—after a delightful time had by all—is that filtering newsfeeds for positive or negative content produced a corresponding feeling in the user. The study, rather useless in its findings (what a surprise that negative information affects people’s emotions negatively), left many feeling unsettled about the aims of the supposedly hip, honest company. Mike Schroepfer, chief technology officer at Facebook, took pains to reassure users: “We believe in research, because it helps us build a better Facebook. Like most companies today, our products are built based on extensive research, experimentation, and testing.”
With Facebook’s foray into the news world, we can brace for more “experimentation and testing.” The Scrapbook cannot wait for the results.