Mindshare attend The Guardian Changing Media Summit

From Editorial to algorithms: How the growth in social media is changing the way content is curated

The overall retreat from conversations on public platforms and into messaging apps means we don’t have an easily accessible judgment about public opinion any longer. Paul Mason, the journalist, and filmmaker started off the Guardian media summit with a keynote speech addressing the idea that algorithmic control of social platforms also creates an asymmetry within them, meaning it’s harder to get an unbiased steer on the nation’s thoughts on almost any subject matter in recent years. This was particularly apparent concerning the outcome of the EU referendum, many were surprised by because our own ‘echo chambers’ had reverberated with the joyous cries of a one-sided argument, rather than being representative of the nation’s real opinions. ‘Fake news’ plays a big part in these one-sided, asymmetrical bubbles, and it fizzes under the surface, locked away in a world of like-minded opinions and conspiracy theories because of social media algorithms until it is catapulted from its own ‘trollosphere’ bubble of conversation into a main news portal.

What strikes me as increasingly evident in the current media landscape is the blurred line between an editorial publisher and a social platform. Look no further than the ‘next up’ video autoplay function on Youtube, or the algorithmic control of Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, and Twitter to see that these platforms are, in fact, guiding you to content that they think you want to see. Does this curated approach to content propel the likes of Facebook into the publisher and editorial category? Are mechanised algorithms becoming the new editors of the content we see?

We now must question if Google owes it to our brands to have an editorial code. Madhav Chinnappa, director of strategic relations, news and publishers at Google pointed out the apparent contradiction of Google’s? stringent guidelines put in place to ensure their space is curated, coupled with still representing free speech.

This balance of content is clearly something that puts them at the vanguard of the Brand Safety conversation. One of Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer Mark Rowley, said earlier this week that ‘social media firms are like irresponsible landlords’. Their model allows extremists to act with impunity and lack commitment in tackling the online terrorist threat.

This poses the question, are social platforms liable for the content posted? We hold Youtube and even ourselves accountable for our brands appearing next to ‘unsafe’ content, but does the same apply to Facebook for all the fake news published across its platform? People in the editorial world are starting to think so, but maybe partly because of their desperation to claw back a proportion of advertiser’s money to stay afloat. This media summit took place on the same day that NME announced it was shutting the doors on its print magazine after a whopping 66 years in circulation, following manu other ill-fated titles in becoming a digital only offering. The power of digital has taken another mortal blow to print market and prevailed as victorious.

Of all WPPs media budget, the largest proportion goes to companies that own these social platforms with Google taking five billion globally and two billion to Facebook. Publishers have every right to be afraid of the superpower of social platforms in the ever-changing world of media, as the balance is firmly shifting towards them. We are going from editors to algorithms for a curated fix of information by shifting towards social for our daily dose of info, and away from traditional publishers. Because of this seismic shift towards the unedited worlds of social media, that increasingly allows fake news and shocking content to flourish and ricochet around in its own bubble or echo chambers, a brand must tread even more carefully to adapt and be seen in the best possible environment.

Rachel Coffey, Account Director