Editor’s note: Facebook revelations remind us to look for local news elsewhere
I’d say Facebook isn’t good, but that’s misleading. Facebook is good. According to recent revelations by a whistleblower aired on “60 Minutes” and published in the Wall Street Journal, it’s good at dividing us. It’s good at manipulating us. And it’s good at misinforming us.
What Facebook isn’t particularly good at these days is telling you what’s going on in your community. The disclosures by Facebook’s whistleblower make clear what publishers have known for a long time. Facebook is a pay-to-play ecosystem, where content designed to elicit the most outrage is the first thing you see when you open up your app and where the run-of-the-mill news — like what happened at the recent Planning Commission meeting — gets buried, unless publishers pay up.
To state the obvious, yes, we are still on Facebook. It’s a platform we’ve cultivated over the years, amassing nearly 16,000 followers. Occasionally, the content we post there directs significant views back to our site. More often than not, it’s a time sink that very few of our thousands of followers get to see because the content isn’t sufficiently provocative. Most of what we write is designed to educate and inform, not “angry up the blood” as Grandpa Simpson once put it.
So why are we still there? Mainly because it’s where thousands of people still look for information and have relevant community discussions. But we’re also there to protect our intellectual property. Without owning and maintaining our own social media page, we run the risk of an impostor establishing a fake page purporting to be our company. It has happened before and while Facebook eventually did remove the violator, the process was painfully slow. Having a legit page we’ve built up over the years helped our case.
We don’t plan to leave Facebook. We’ll use it where it makes sense. But it would make us incredibly happy if readers wised up to Facebook’s ongoing manipulation of our public discourse and sought the news from us directly. Decaturish provides two easy ways for you to do that.
We now offer push notifications. If you sign up for them by clicking the little bell on the right side of your screen while on your desktop or following the prompt when you open the site, it’ll send a notification to your device whenever we publish a new article. More than 2,000 of our readers now subscribe to push notifications. (We still have about 1,500 paying supporters who help us gather the news every month, but we’ll save that discussion for another day.)
And we have Twitter account, too, which you can follow by clicking here.
Yesterday, the world was treated to several hours without Facebook due to a curiously timed outage. We noticed a corresponding bump in our direct traffic and an increase in our sign-ups for push notifications. Meanwhile, companies that tethered themselves to Facebook lost business during the platform’s downtime.
We continue to wean our readers from seeking us out on Facebook. Believe me, I understand why people still go to the site. These habits die hard. But we are blessed with a savvy and well-educated audience. It’s our hope that more of them will abandon Facebook’s toxic platform and join us – and other local news outlets – for a polite, informative chat about our community.
Our goal remains what it has always been: to keep you informed. Once upon a time, that goal was aligned with Facebook’s business model. Today, that is no longer the case.
We can’t change Facebook, so we hope you will make a conscious change in how you consume news. It’ll really help us out and, more importantly, it’ll help you stay in the loop about what’s really going on in hometown.
Dan Whisenhunt, Editor and Publisher
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