Tag Archives: social media

Facebook, obsession, murder

Facebook_2You have to love newspapers’ obsession with social media. Whether it’s the Twittering of Stephen Fry et al or the latest security breach involving Facebook, the news media are all over it – irrespective of whether their readers know the difference between a Tweet and a twat. 

This latest example from the Metro pushes a whole lot of buttons – murder, obsession, jealousy… and social media. Fantastic. But, of course, when you actually read the story, it kind of falls apart.

So – the paper pitches the idea that a Hayley Jones’s lover, Brian Lewis, stabbed and strangled her (or strangled and stabbed, depending on where you are in the story) because she “changed her status from ‘married’ to ‘single'” on Facebook, causing him to fly into a jealous rage. Oh the dangers of social media!

Uh, yeah. 

Actually, what happened was that she told him the relationship was over.

Aha, you cry, but at the same time she changed her status on Facebook to single. That must have hurt.

Yes. But although the couple did apparently argue about how long Jones was spending online, the most revealing statement in the story comes from prosecuting barrister Mark Evans. 

In court he said:

She was quite secretive about [her Facebook use], preventing Lewis from using the site and turning the computer off. It is quite clear that this rankled with him.

So. Let’s get this straight. She stopped him from using the site. That would be the site on which she changed her status. The news of which is supposed to have sent him into a murderous rage.

OK, so he might have seen the status update. But, you know, it’s not convincingly argued that he did, let alone that this is what lay behind the crime.

For God’s sake – there’s enough here to make a front page splash without twisting the story into something it’s not (or at least doesn’t seem to be).

The Metro could have made hay about Jones’s alleged internet obsession. And certainly there’s a story here about the fact that they had money worries after Lewis lost his job, and that he may have had a problem with Jones starting work herself. 

But a murder over mundane and concrete issues such as financial tension and a couple’s probable communication breakdown just isn’t as exciting to today’s journalism as a murder over someone’s Facebook status. 

Which this actually isn’t. A lesson that hardly any journalists seem to have learned: correlation is not causality.


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Where’s the advertising going? Facebook, apparently

Need a job in the media? It seems Facebook is the place to go, as founder Mark Zuckerberg aims to double the company’s headcount to 2,000

Of course, you’ll need to be an engineer or programmer, rather than, say, a journalist, which is the problem when advertising deserts its traditional media home for that new-fangled social networking thingy. 

Revenues are up 70% over last year, and the company seems to be doing well pulling in brand advertising that would otherwise go to media such as TV or magazines. (I know, I know. Facebook still isn’t making a profit. But it is sitting on a pile of cash and isn’t burning through it so fast.) 

The problem for those of us toiling in the media anthill is that Facebook’s content is created by its users, not by professional writers and editors. 

Not great news for those trying to develop a viable paid online model

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Why newspapers (and TV) are struggling in the internet age

The news that Gap has scrapped TV ads for social media should come as no surprise. And it’s bad news for those who think that the media’s focus should be on getting readers to pay for online content.

The internet makes it easy for anyone to become a publisher of traditional-style media content at virtually no cost, which puts more pressure on media owners.

But it also makes it easy for brands to bypass traditional content vehicles altogether, and interact directly with consumers.

In the Gap’s case, this does mean still using existing channels – cinema, print and outdoor ads – to drive consumers to a Facebook page. But that ad spend will be shrinking. And even if brands still need to reach consumers via advertising – whether online or offline – that advertising won’t necessarily be going to newspapers or newspaper web sites.

Instead, brands can place ads into games, social media sites and Twitter streams, and reach their target audience through a whole range of niche interest web sites (some of which they might set up themselves).

And don’t forget the increasing importance of live events in this. The effect of digital reproduction of music on the music industry has been to reduce the importance of the music track and increase the importance of the live relationship between music act and audience.

This effect will also play out in newspapers and magazines. People will stop seeing printed magazines as being as culturally important as they have been. Instead, I predict, they will respond better to brands that interact with them in the real world.

So look for brands doing more live sponsorship and field marketing activity at the expense of plain old visual advertising.

A lot of the debate about whether or not newspapers will survive hinges on getting readers to pay for content – whether online or off.

But actually, single copy purchases and subscriptions have never been the core of newspaper revenues – that honour goes to advertising. And it’s the fact that advertisers are deserting newspapers in droves that has pushed the industry on to its knees.

Unless we can find a way to key advertisers paying for newspapers (and magazines, and television), there’s really no escape from the decline of printed news media. And it means that the traditional, resource-hungry newspaper web site is also in trouble.


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Facebook, teenagers, suicide

Apparently, social networking sites prevent teenagers from developing rounded relationships, makes them treat friendship as a commodity and helps drive them to suicide.

It seems that Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols is not a big fan of SMS and email, either.

Friendship is not a commodity, friendship is something that is hard work and enduring when it’s right.

Well, yes. But I suspect this little outburst confuses symptom with cause. Any examination of the teenage high school experience (albeit perhaps mediated by Hollywood) reveals that teenagers often treat friendship as a commodity. Facebook and SMS just help them refine this a little.

Should we be worried? Well, as I’ve found, teenagers can be a bit obsessive about keeping up with their Facebook wall, but on the whole I’m not going to panic about it. After all, what are they going to be doing if they’re not sitting at home damaging themselves with excessive virtual community membership? Sitting in big gangs in the park drinking cider and getting into fights? Well – at least that’s real physical interaction.

It all reminds me a bit of the Seduction of the Innocent panic in the US in the 1950s – the adult world got into a lather about kids reading violent comics and scapegoated them, with mass comic book burnings and Senate sub-committee hearings.

Nowadays the sight of kids reading comic books is more likely to evoke feelings of nostalgia than a fear of social collapse. And in a few decades no doubt the same will be true for video games – another contemporary adult bête noir.

Meanwhile, let’s have a look at that dysfunctional teenage experience, with not a laptop in sight…


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8 reasons why journalists love Twitter…

 …much more than real people do

For some reason journalists have grabbed hold of Twitter as a starving man does a ham sandwich. But why? What is it about this slightly clunky, limited, and frankly difficult to negotiate web tool that we love so much?

Here are a few thoughts… 

  1. You can build up a seemingly huge following – as if you’ve got a big audience and are tweeting to thousands (Paul Bradshaw has 6733!). But the reality is relatively few are likely to be reading any one post. Just like newspapers! 

  2. It makes us feel all cutting edge –sending 140-character messages is just like SMS! Which the kids use! And using Twitpic turns it in to picture messaging! 

  3. It’s really quick and easy – spot a link while you’re web-surfing during a five-minute break and you can post it to Twitter in about 30 seconds. Do this two or three times an hour and you can look like a productive communications machine, while putting in less effort than going to make a cup of tea. Ooh – I just did one! 

  4. It requires almost no effort or thought – look at all those Tweets with a more or less pithy comment and a link to someone else’s hard work and research. Now that’s the journalistic ideal –leaving much more time to go to the bar. 

  5. The media loves it – which means if you Twitter on about the media, you be followed by loads of people in the media, who will Twitter about you Twittering about them. It’s the ultimate in networking! 

  6.  It’s the ultimate low-effort research tool – journalists these days seem to think research begins and ends with a Google search, which is why Twitter is a godsend for us. Use a search tool like TweetFeed and you can create your own Twitter stream of themed posts. Just pick your topic: Iranian election; Afghanistan; banking bailout, or – best of all – Twitter itself. It’s like instant research, but you don’t have to do any work! 

  7. It’s totally open – unlike, say, Facebook, where you have to actually ask to get in touch each time you want to stalk research people. Unless it’s the wife of “C”. Which was a bit weird. 
  8. It’s HUGE – excitingly leaked documents published by Techcrunch reveal that Twitter will have 1 billion users by 2013! That’s nearly everyone in the world [subs: pls chk]. In fact, no one will be doing anything else by then, so journalists have to get in on the ground floor!

In short, Twitter is like real journalism – but without the work. Now let me get out of this long-form blogging hell and Tweet something…


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Teenagers reject Twitter shock

Much media kerfuffle about the news that teenagers aren’t interested in Twitter. Well – crucially, that they’re not interested in using it from their mobile phone, which costs money.

The piece in question, from the Financial Times, reports on a research note from Morgan Stanley written by 15-year-old intern Matthew Robson. (The note is available via the FT’s Long Room site, which requires registration and vetting before you can get to it, sadly.)

Among other things, Matthew Ronson indicates that teenage media users hate advertising, finding it  “extremely annoying and pointless”.

They also can’t be bothered to read pages and pages of text, which is bad news for newspapers but, really, which we kind of knew already.

I was particularly interested by this:

Their time and money is spent instead on cinema, concerts and video game consoles which, he said, now double as a more attractive vehicle for chatting with friends than the phone.

This is another piece of, admittedly unscientific, evidence confirming my own suspicion that journalists are far behind the curve when it comes to understanding the rapidly evolving media world. 

These are teenagers. And they don’t use the phone

Well, actually teenagers still use the phone a lot. I know this. But I suspect that they are not wedded to the phone. Give them something else to use to chat to their mates – games consoles, Facebook, hyper-intelligent sunglasses – and they’ll use that. If it’s free. And convenient.

Not only does that make it difficult for us as journalist to reach teenagers with digital media when they are consumers, but it also makes it difficult for us to reach them as the subject of journalism.

I have taken issue before with the view that the only way to do your job as a journalist is to pick up the phone and call people. I’ll probably do it again.

But, really – it sounds so archaic to make prescriptions for journalism students like this when a whole generation is growing up for whom the old-style pick-up-a-receiver-and-chat phone conversation is just one in a range of communication options they choose. And not necessarily the most obvious, especially in future.

As for Twitter – it’s also important to realise that Twitter is beloved by journalists above all else – but doesn’t have so much traction with real people. 

It’s a great research tool, and is kind of useful for professional networking – and it’s kind of fun and easier to do than long-form blogging.

But Facebook, say, has much richer content and is much better for social networking. Which is why it’s more popular.

The blow for journalists is that, unlike Twitter, it’s a closed network. You only become someone’s Facebook friend by invitation (unless the network belongs to someone who works for MI5). 

This means Twitter is much more like old-style broadcast journalism. Which is why you read and hear so much about it from journalists, when its traction in the real world is probably much less.

[HT: Judith Townend]


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Spies, Facebook, Daily Mail, Nazis

The Mail on Sunday‘s Facebook/MI6 revelations are something of a digital media wet dream, combining espionage, social networking and Nazi historians in a way that is almost the highbrow version of Friday’s midget/wrestling/hooker fest.

There’s a lot going on here of interest – and it’s worth coming back to. But for now, though, it’s enough to point out the Mail on Sunday is almost certainly fudging the facts.

The headline says:

MI6 chief blows his cover as wife’s Facebook account reveals family holidays, showbiz friends and links to David Irving

But at no point does the article really back up the claim that the link to David Irving was revealed through Facebook.

Yes, it says: “Lady Shelley Sawers’ extraordinary lapse […] revealed that the intelligence chief’s brother-in-law – who holidayed with him last month – is an associate of the controversial Right-wing historian David Irving.”

But actually it doesn’t substantiate this. When it comes to the TV and radio actors they know, Facebook photos are reproduced. But the Irving link seems second-hand. 

The Mail’s chain of association is this:

Among those featured in family photographs on the website is Lady Sawers’ half-brother Hugo Haig-Thomas, a former diplomat. 

So far, so good. Well, he’s a family member, so you’d kind of expect that.

Here’s the next link in the chain:

Mr Haig-Thomas is an associate and researcher for revisionist historian David Irving, who was jailed for three years in Austria in 2006 for ‘glorifying the Nazi Party’ because he questioned whether the Holocaust took place.

But the photo of Haig-Thomas at a garden party held by Irving actually comes from David Irving’s site (the Mail credits this in the story); while a quote about Haig-Thomas’s research work for Irving comes from Irving himself – which I doubt is featured on Lady Sawers’ Facebook Wall. 

So what’s going on here? 

I think it’s a bit of careless subbing coupled with wishful thinking. Sure, some material linking Lady Sawers’ half-brother with David Irving might have been on her Facebook page. But is it was, why wasn’t it reproduced? 

I suspect this is the usual Mail-style mix-up that conflates one story (careless management of sensitive digital personal information) with another (Nazi link to top UK spy boss) in a kind of journalistic mash-up.

Which is probably about as close as the Mail on Sunday will get to really grasping the world of social networking and web 2.0. 

More to come, probably – if anyone has any more details about the whole Facebook/Irving link, do share…

[HT: Jessica]

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