The white picket fence

Content discovery

When Facebook orders the content it creates an environment inhospitable to journalism. One of the core elements of the original W3 is that it existed as a single, unified entity were any user could navigate freely, the resurgence of gardens diminishes freedom encourages order within closed worlds.

I wrote in Unsocial Media that when users click on a link in their news feed or any other social stream they are not engaging with the content but forming a connection to the means of discovery (the social network). When algorithms such as EdgeRank determine what content a user will see it is giving users what a computer determines they want based on past habits, not what the user needs.

Facebook does not publicly disclose how pages, including news organizations, share on the service however it is publicly known that unless users specifically seek out a page, EdgeRank will prevail in News Feed displays.

On the newsstands everything is equal, the tabloids appear next to the big national papers which are alongside the metropolitan dailies  and the local editions. Facebook is adding neighbors to its garden and working with news organizations to develop Facebook Editi0ns. Forbes reported that Facebook is working with CNN, The Washington Post, and The Daily to publish versions of their content for a Facebook audience.

Facebook Editions is still awaiting launch, however it is clear that these publications will impact EdgeRank as partnered content and might not operate equally with articles from other publications not affiliated with Facebook. Smaller papers, the metropolitan and regional dailies not affiliated with the service will suffer since they do not get the exposure where they would benefit from more clicks which could lead to a higher EdgeRank.

The Journal News is a regional newspaper in lower New York with a W3 and Facebook presence. Users who visit the website (or read the physical paper) see a mix of content; sports, national news, regional news, and local information. Users who “like” the publication on Facebook see only the content similar to content in which they previously expressed an interest. If a user only clicks news stories with more than 100 comments that is all they will see in the future regardless of the importance or relevance of any particular story to the reader.

As with all white picket fence gardens the barriers for an interested consumer to leave the garden and explore the web are nearly nonexistent. All a user must do to read the full content of The Journal News is enter twelve keystrokes to input the URL and visit the website. But as with all white picket fence gardens the user has little incentive to leave since to leave the garden would be abandoning friends.

Content inside the garden is further isolated from the greater W3. Berners-Lee identifies “decentralization” as an important feature of the web. On the open web all a user needs to do create any online presence is create a page, get a name, and put it online; all of which is done with three standard, open protocols. Inside Facebook any user can lose their authorization to post if his/her account is deactivated or Facebook decides they no longer approve of the content.

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