danah boyd: What Does the Facebook Experiment Teach Us

There are few people who have as much practical experience thinking and writing about the impact of social media danah boyd:

Most sites, from major news media to social media, have some algorithm that shows you the content that people click on the most. This is what drives media entities to produce listicals, flashy headlines, and car crash news stories. What do you think garners more traffic — a detailed analysis of what's happening in Syria or 29 pictures of the cutest members of the animal kingdom? And we generally accept that algorithmic curators are perfectly well within their right to prioritize that heavily clicked content over others, regardless of the psychological toll on individuals or the society. What makes their practice different? (Other than the fact that the media wouldn’t hold itself accountable for its own manipulative practices…)

Day after day I work with editors to help them write headlines that are going to bring traffic to our website. Through testing and iteration, we have been able to increase unique visitors and pages/visit. It may seem crass, but it is my job to get people to click on my headlines not the other guys. Newspapers have been doing it for 100 years.

Beyond headlines, news directors and editors make decisions about what stories get assigned to reporters and where those stories run. They make decisions about what is going to sell papers or keep viewers.