[I’m Reading] ‘Online, each story is at best its own magazine, sent out to find its own temporary audience’

Excellent piece written by Ben Smith and published on Medium:

Online, each story is at best its own magazine, sent out to find its own temporary audience. One article may absorb people who subscribe, or would once have subscribed, to Foreign Affairs; another might absorb devotees of Wired or Men’s Health or Glamour. The author and the story choose their audience, and the editor’s role is to begin the conversation over who will read and share the piece — not to rework it for the group of people who happen to subscribe to your magazine.


Bennet and others have celebrated technical aspects of digital journalism — images and gifs and audio — as a reason to be excited about the web. These tools are can be beautiful and useful, though they can also sometimes evoke worst of Flash-dominated, distracting early ’00s web design. (Rolling Stone recently published an article on animal rights that actually moos.) We are careful to get out of the stories’ way: Images and gifs and videos must look great on the iPhone screen, which may already be the most common way readers experience long narratives.


The scroll is a wonderful way to read that forces writers and editors alike to make more purposeful choices. The editor loses the excuse of a word limit or the geometry of columns to make choices easier: He or she must instead be able to convincingly explain what belongs in the story and what doesn’t. Writers lose the same crutch. The story should be as long as it should be.


[I’m Reading] Asking people to share articles…leads to more shares

As much as I wince when I see “Please RT”, clear calls to action do work on social media.
Here’s a deep-dive from Facebook’s data scientists, who went full-wonk in this post on memes (emphasis mine):

In fact, there are certain phrases that give a variant of the meme an advantage or boost, e.g. clear replication instructions such as “please post this”, or “copy and paste” give a variant a 2x advantage. Other favorable phrasings include encouragement and allusions to competition (“see how many people”), persistence cues (“status for at least”), or conditions that are easy to match or identify with (“if you love your”, “if you know someone”, “paste if you agree”, “proud to be a”). A specific pattern, “of you won’t”, occurred in prompts such as ‘95% of you won’t copy this, but the 5% who [have a positive attribute] will’. 144 memes contained at least one variant matching “won’t […] will”. These variants had significantly higher likelihood of being copied, 10.98 copies on average, relative to an average of 7.05 overall.

But wait, there’s more. In a perceptive piece over at Buzzfeed, John Herman notes that Facebook knows when you’re being manipulative, and will punish you for it:

From the researchers’ outwardly content-neutral perspective, these are a list of phrases that help your posts get shared. From a Facebook user’s perspective, they read more like a list of irritating things that you can’t seem to get out of your News Feed. The study’s release coincides with a push within Facebook to demote what it calls “low quality” posts and memes. The company has been reluctant to define “low quality” with any specificity, and has suggested that much of this judgement will fall to its algorithms (how many people are hiding a post, for example). But it has become clear that Facebook will be making some kind of editorial judgement.

[SQAS] Mobile + email = are we really ready for this?

Posts labelled [SQAS] (as in Stats, Quotes, Anecdotes, Snippets) will feature nuggets of information and insight. These are the kinds of things I save in Evernote because I’m a digital hoarder because they make for great bullet points in presentations and quality soundbites.

The numbers are in, and they are clear: a majority of emails are being opened on mobile devices vs desktop. Here’s the latest snapshot from ReturnPath on email traffic over the December holiday season, based on an analysis of more than 1bn emails: