What is a feed?
Whether you find yourself looking at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or one of your favorite sites, odds are you spend most of your time scrolling through a feed. While the term is more ubiquitous when browsing via a mobile device, even the desktop versions of most news and social media based sites make it easily to scroll through as you search for the newest, latest item of interest.
In order to monetize the feed, companies like Facebook and Twitter have started rolling in paid advertisements into this space. But instead of railing against Facebook Ads or Twitter’s Sponsored Tweets, we’d like to use this opportunity to ask a fundamental question: What makes a post valuable?
As we will explain, there is no necessary difference whether a post is sponsored or not. What matters most is whether it imparts authentic value.
Why do feeds need to be filtered?
There is only a limited time in the day to read. As TechCrunch’s article “Why Is Facebook Page Reach Decreasing? More Competition And Limited Attention” explains in detail, on Facebook alone the number of eligible posts could easily balloon to 15,000! Yet since there are a finite number of hours in the day, most people only read a few dozen to a few hundred posts.
But instead of relying on users to tidy their own “house” of incoming content, through the use of a complex algorithm and emerging Artificial Intelligence, Facebook has decided that in order to keep you interested in their service, it was up to them to feed you the information that they think you are most interested in.
But as human nature is unpredictable, even though you may not have realized that a blueberry pie recipe from a high school classmate would interest you, given the chance to read their post, you may decide to make it for your next affair. But alas, since you typically only click on apple cake recipes, Facebook has decided not to show you the yummy delicious blueberry pie one.
This of course is a simplification. But as explained in our article about Predictive Journalism, computer-based predictive analysis takes W, X, Y into account in order to predict Z. But since most people that clicked on W, X, Y weren’t interested in blueberry pies, the program has decided not to show you the recipe.
Doesn’t seem fair does it?
What follows is a suggestion that all media and advertising companies would do well to implement. Namely:
Help educate the public on how to filter their own content, instead of training the computers to do it for us.
What’s New about the News?
It used to be that news headlines were seen as new. But we are embarking on the era of revelatory op-eds, or as Ezra Klein calls in, “explanatory journalism.” To quote again from his Vox Media announcement (more here):
“New information is not always — and perhaps not even usually — the most important information for understanding a topic.
So what is new about the news? As we discussed in our article on Disruptive Journalism, thoughts appear disruptive, attention getting, when they descend from a higher world to a lower one.
Every headline, every new story is an opportunity to shine new light, new ideas. Klein has intuited this is well, but what does his Twitter byline “understand the news” mean?
Understanding is the English translation for the sefirah of binah. Each and every headline is an opportunity to meditate (from the same root in Hebrew), and to understand more about the depth of the idea behind the current headline.
About the Author: Yonatan Gordon is a student of Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh, and writes on his personal blog at CommunityofReaders.org.
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