Digital Down Low: March 17
Facebook is rolling out yet another Stories feature — this time on your News Feed
- After debuting Facebook Stories — its near identical clone of Snapchat Stories — in Ireland earlier this year, the company is rolling out its feature to users more widely. Stories live in a horizontal layout above the News Feed, similar to Instagram Stories. In addition to Stories, Facebook has a separate section for what it calls “Direct,” similar to Snapchat’s feed for one-to-one or group messaging.
- While stories can work well with Instagram, for many people Facebook has now become like a modern phone book—a complete directory of everyone you have ever spoken to. Depending on your demographic, Facebook is a school bulletin board, a graduation update feed, a wedding announcement column, a baby photo hub, or maybe all four.
- Compared to Snapchat’s intimate, selective group and Instagram’s more curated group, Facebook and Messenger lack the intimacy required for a feature that captures the mundane activities of one’s daily life. It’s hard to imagine stories taking off the same way as they have on other platforms.
An unconfirmed change in how Google ranks web pages is freaking some people out
- Companies employ people who specialize in “search engine optimization” (SEO) services. These experts are tasked with helping their clients get the highest ranking possible on a Google search so that they can generate more website traffic, attract leads, increase brand awareness and ultimately grow revenues. When Google makes even the slightest change to its website ranking algorithms, the effects can be monumentally good, or bad, to many companies around the world. So…it seems that Google just made that kind of change. And the SEO community is freaking out. The change is being called “Fred” and don’t ask why because it’s an inside-nerdy-SEO-community joke.
- What is important is that some believe the Fred update focuses on link quality. A basic tenet of search engine optimization is that the more companies that link to your website, the higher web ranking you will receive. With the “Fred” change, Google is now not just looking at the number of links, but it’s tweaking its algorithm to judge on the quality of those links. For example, if my friend’s website links to mine, then that’s nice. But if The Washington Post links to my website that’s way, way better because the Post, because of its traffic and content, is a more “quality” link. And yes, this is a blatant hint to my editors to please link to my website more, OK?
- Although the change has not been formally announced by Google, many in the SEO community suspect it already happened. “Many of the automated tracking tools currently show significant volatility and fluctuations, which is an indicator of an update,” he writes. “Plus, with all the industry chatter, and with webmasters both complaining about ranking declines and rejoicing about ranking increases, it’s likely that there was a Google update.”
The Internet’s Creative Side Takes Off
- The internet has been a great destroyer of cultural businesses. Its toll includes getting people accustomed to listening to music and consuming news without paying, and it has freed people to cut the cable cord. But some of that arc may be changing — and all at once, Farhad Manjoo writes in The New York Times.
- In his State of the Art column, he writes that consumers are, with accelerating momentum, more willing to pay for content online. Sure, people have been subscribing to Netflix for some time, which has enabled that streaming service to order up strong original programming. But now people are more game to pay for all sorts of content — podcasts, videos by YouTube stars and even art through sites like Patreon, which lets consumers finance artists over time.
- The trend is evident in the news business, including at The Times and The Washington Post, where subscriptions have jumped in the last few months. Subscriptions have soared elsewhere, too, including for Apple Music and Spotify. “I do think something has changed culturally,” Jack Conte, the founder of Patreon, told The Times. “This new generation is more concerned with social impact. There’s a desire to vote with your dollars and your time and attention.”