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I have three news related items for you today:
I probably don't have to tell you this, but Fox News settled their case with the Dominion. There are about a thousand articles about this already, so you can just read one of those. What I want to do here is to give you my input on this as a media analyst.
Now, I'm not surprised in any way that Fox News settled rather than risk being found guilty of intentional malice for the sake of ratings. When some of the internal communications came out earlier this month, it was pretty clear that things were not going to go well for them, and by settling they removed the ability for other newspapers to cover this for weeks on end, but worst of all, they can kind of pretend that it's not a big deal.
In fact, they are continuing to lie. They are showing no remorse or responsibility. They are not apologizing, and the people at the center of this are not being reprimanded or losing their jobs. Yeah, they had to pay a ton of money, and there are more cases coming that may lead to something, but I doubt that they will.
Again, I'm not surprised by any of this. They are behaving exactly the way I suspected they would. But the problem that I have with this as a media analyst, is how this reflects on the rest of the industry.
Fox News is very clearly not a journalistic institution, but they are still being presented as such. For instance, over the past month I saw many people talk about Fox News, saying that, while it's bad, it should not be sued because of "freedom of the press" ... and that's just wrong.
The role of journalism is a very specific thing. It comes with great powers, but it also demands a very high level of journalistic integrity, focus, and responsibility. The very idea that someone can call themselves a news site and then not have to be responsible is not a functional model.
No society can function by having an industry that thinks it's untouchable, no matter how bad some of its members act. And we can clearly see the damage this is causing. Fox News has caused more damage to the journalistic profession, and the trust that we should inspire than any other ... and while they had to pay a big settlement, the actual damage is to the rest of us.
Tomorrow, Fox can continue with their programming and their viewers won't care. But the rest of us are the ones suffering from a media environment where the public have lost their confidence in us.
Now, I don't think there is anything we can do to change Fox News. I consider it to be a lost cause. But we can distance ourselves from it. If we want to regain people's trust in journalism, it's important that we look at what happened here, the focus, the tactics, the narrative, the way they are using "negative outrage" to drive attention, the clickbait, and the way they are turning everything into an opinion ... All of those factors are now synonymous with media companies like Fox News (but they are sadly not the only ones).
So, what I wish the industry would do is to clearly demonstrate to the public that we are not like this. That real journalism is completely different from that. What I want is a world of journalism where people can clearly see that difference.
Several news sites have dropped their Twitter profiles, specifically those who are public funded, or partly public funded, after Musk decided to label them as being "government funded".
In the US, NPR decided to drop Twitter, and later CBC in Canada also dropped their Twitter accounts.
And while I certainly agree with both NPR and CBC that the use of that label is misleading and undermining their journalism, I think a bigger issue is just about Twitter itself ... and I think the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation illustrates this well.
They too decided to drop Twitter, but not because of the label they were given ('public funded'), they just decided that Twitter is not important anymore. As they say:
Public broadcaster Swedish Radio, of which Radio Sweden is a part, has decided to leave the social media platform Twitter. Swedish Radio says Twitter has become less significant for the company, according to Christian Gillinger, the broadcaster's head of social media.
Swedish Radio's management says the decision does not have anything to do with Twitter's recent labeling of accounts linked to the broadcaster, including Radio Sweden's account, as "publicly-funded media".
Twitter has always been important for journalists as a place to communicate and discover stories and events, but it has never really worked that well as a distribution channel. Every news site knows this. When we look at referral traffic, Twitter barely makes any difference.
And this was true even before Musk bought Twitter. This has been a problem for years. And now it has just gotten even worse.
I think this is the real problem Twitter faces, and I expect many more publishers to do the same in the years to come. That they reach a point where the effort put into Twitter just isn't worth it. And worse, that just being on Twitter feels more like an obstacle.
I'm reminded of a post (on Mastodon) by Paul Kedrosky, when he wrote:
Even hardcore Twitter types are noticing the decline in timeline activity there. Social networks, like all social activities, can flip rapidly from FOMO (fear of missing out) to FOBS (fear of being seen). Twitter is very close to doing that FOMO→FOBS engagement flip.
Speaking of social media. There was a new report out recently, commissioned by Meta, that showed that Facebook doesn't need publishers anymore, and worse, that Facebook's users don't want news in their feeds ... thereby concluding that it's the publishers who need Facebook more than Facebook needing publishers.
Now, I think the report is well made. I have no reason to believe it was biased even though it was commissioned by Facebook. Nor am I surprised that Facebook commissioned this report at this time when it is facing increased pressure in many countries.
However, as a media analyst, I don't care about this either, because discussions about Facebook vs publishers are irrelevant. What we should really focus on is the "Facebook user" (aka the public) vs publishers. In other words, what does our audience really want?
And this study is just another example of a very long series of studies that all show that the public really don't care about news on social channels. Sure, when we go to news conferences, we are constantly told that the public gets most of their news from Facebook... The reality is very different.
The first is this one, asking people what are their "Preferred sources of news (USA) - PEW study". And as you can see, only 13% of the US public prefer getting their news on social media channels (all of them combined).
This is nothing. This is insignificant, and it certainly doesn't match with the popular idea that most people get their news from Facebook. And I have other studies coming to similar conclusions. When we ask the public what they want, it's not "news on Facebook".
They might see news on Facebook by accident when they are looking at other things, but they don't want to see news on Facebook.
The other graph is this one:
This requires a bit of explanation because, remember, on Facebook today, only about 3% of people's news feed is news related. In other words, 97% of what people see in their feeds is about other things, like posts from friends and family, funny pictures or videos, or non-news related things.
So of this miniscule 3% that people see today, 21% think that is too much, while only 3% think there is not enough news.
Granted 55% says it's "about right", but, again, this is not impressive because there is so little of it to begin with.
So, again, we see this very clear message from the public that news on Facebook is not what they are looking for.
I just want to remind you of this again. This debate is not about Facebook vs publishers. It's about the audience on Facebook vs publishers. And they don't think news on Facebook is that valuable to them in that situation.
What happens to the future of news if everything just becomes an opinion?
The more we use automated tools, the more important it becomes to also create 'originals'
Young people will cancel and come back later... if you let them
Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter
"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
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