by Sylvia Gethicker, UFSocial Contributor
Mark Zuckerberg’s rare Facebook Q&A session June 30 garnered 241,000+ likes and 7,000+ shares.
From what I saw, the general consensus among news organizations and citizen chatter on social media during the event and several days afterwards was fairly lukewarm addressing his responses directed towards a couple of questions on the future of news.
Among the very few individuals that actually had a more opinionated response to his perspective, most questioned his professional motives and continued involvement in the news industry. Surprisingly, responses from news organizations were extremely benign, mostly tagging the story and quickly sending it out the door.
During the event which resembled Reddit’s Ask Me Anything, Huffington Post mastermind Arianna Huffington wrote with the following response:
The other news-related question Zuckerberg answered was from media pundit, professor and BuzzMachine journalist Jeff Jarvis:
Here is a sample of Facebook and Twitter respondents (mainly news/communications professionals):
Zuckerberg on news: it’s all about speed. http://t.co/AZ5vknzMqV What about Facebook’s role as gatekeeper?
— Kim Choe (@kimchoe) July 1, 2015
— simplethinker (@simplethinker) July 1, 2015
Does anyone really think the problem with news is that it loads too slowly? Really? http://t.co/J9DdczhKnX
— David Boardman (@dlboardman) July 1, 2015
I love Instant Articles, though. It’s the user experience you want: fast, clean, easy to use. Game over. — Matt Kiser (@Matt_Kiser) July 2, 2015
News Organization Reactions
As previously mentioned, few news organizations followed through by responding to Zuckerberg’s thoughts on the future of news. Most posted the NiemanLab short recap of what was said, but didn’t lend any robust dialogue to his news industry vision.
Fortune was a little more responsive:
“Facebook has always had a somewhat fraught relationship with the news: Many users seem to think of the social network as just a place where they can see a friend’s baby or dog photos, but research shows a growing number of people also get their news there. And CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear that he wants news to play a much larger role in Facebook, with features like Instant Articles—the mobile-news partnership where outlets like the New York Times publish entire articles directly to the platform.”
The most detailed response came from SubcriptionInsider:
“Jarvis and Huffington both compliment Zuckerberg for Facebook’s innovation and contribution to publishing platforms for news, and we’ve got to agree that Facebook has changed how we consume and share news. With 1.44 billion active monthly users, Facebook has more eyeballs than virtually every other platform or site. Zuckerberg uses Facebook’s popularity to leverage his company’s impact on news consumption, much like Google has done with its new array of journalism tools.
This cold hard fact will also make it hard for media companies to pass up the opportunity to publish select stories using Instant Articles. So far, media outlets who have been invited by Facebook to participate have been slow to adopt the platform. Once publishers embrace the necessity of strong partnerships with companies like Facebook, we expect more stories to be posted using Instant Articles.
As we noted in a previous post, for publishers to use the Facebook tool successfully, they need to be clear what types of content their Facebook audience wants. Do folks who read Facebook on a mobile app really want in-depth, long-form journalism, or would they prefer shorter stories that are interactive and easy to share?
Hopefully, publishers are taking the time to test the Instant Articles platform and compare it to the other platforms they use (e.g., own website, news app, etc.) to see what content works where before they give the Facebook partnership a hearty thumbs up.”
This lackluster response from news professionals on the surface may seem negative for the Facebook camp, but it’s actually the opposite. What billionaire business mogul do you know that doesn’t get raked over the social media coals for pretty much anything they do or say that even slightly might rub us the wrong way?
Some might consider Zuckerberg crazy to open himself up to the potential-unmerciful scrutiny of us green-eyed town folk wielding our pitchforks and torches. Sure, what he posted wasn’t earth shattering or nothing to write home about. Where the guy who issues himself a $1 a year paycheck “shoots and scores” is by walking away unscathed with good, plausible answers that seemed downright genuine and well-thought out.
About the Author
Sylvia Gethicker serves as the Senior Strategic Communications Manager for the Department of Defense Health Affairs. Other career positions include Communications Director of VSE Corporation; Senior Account Manager at PR and Marketing firm Devillier Communications; and various positions in the U.S. Marines including Spokesperson/Media Relations Chief at Camp Lejeune, NC; Public Affairs Officer, Marine Corps Air Station, New River, NC; Northern Bureau Chief, Okinawa, Japan; and Community Relations Chief for the U.S. Presidential Inaugural Committee.