Facebook Executive Rages Against Click-Bait Journalism, Journalists Say It’s Facebook’s Fault

mike hudack

Mike Hudack, Facebook’s director of product, posted a self-described rant today about the quality of journalism, bemoaning the age of the “28 young couples you know” listicle. Then quality journalists fought back, many placing the blame on Facebook for the diminishing marketplace for serious news.

The debate has been playing out all day on Hudack’s Facebook post, Twitter, blog posts here, here, here and no doubt elsewhere.

The crux of the matter? Hudack argues that journalists need to work harder to inform the public about important issues. And journalists respond their organizations depend on drawing an audience, that Facebook is one of the worlds’ top generators of referral traffic and that the Facebook algorithm rewards frivolous content.

Alexis Madrigal, senior editor at the Atlantic, summed up journalists’ point of view well in comments on Hudack’s post:

Hey, Mike, I just sent you a tweetstorm, but let me reproduce it here: My perception is that Facebook is *the* major factor in almost every trend you identified. I’m not saying this as a hater, but if you asked most people in media why we do these stories, they’d say, “They work on Facebook.” And your own CEO has even provided an explanation for the phenomenon with his famed quote, “A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.” This is not to say we (the (digital) media) don’t have our own pathologies, but Google and Facebook’s social and algorithmic influence dominate the ecology of our world.

And we (speaking for ALL THE MEDIA) would love to talk with Facebook about how we can do more substantive stuff and be rewarded. We really would. It’s all we ever talk about when we get together for beers and to complain about our industry and careers.

Hudack, who to his credit has been engaging in comments, responded to Madrigal and others:

I don’t work on Newsfeed or trending topics, so it’s hard for me to speak authoritatively about their role in the decline of media. But I’d argue that 20/20 turned into “OK” before Facebook was really a thing, and CNN stopped being the network reporting live from Baghdad before Facebook became a leading source of referral traffic for the Internet.

Is Facebook helping or hurting? I don’t honestly know. You guys are right to point out that Facebook sends a lot of traffic to shitty listicles. But the relationship is tautological, isn’t it? People produce shitty listicles because they’re able to get people to click on them. People click on them so people produce shitty listicles.

It’s not the listicles I mind so much as the lack of real, ground-breaking and courageous reporting that feels native to the medium. Produce that in a way that people want to read and I’m confident that Facebook and Google and Twitter will send traffic to it.

And, to be clear, there are many people at Facebook who would like to be part of the solution and not just part of the problem. I’m sure that we’re all open to ideas for how we could improve the product to encourage the distribution of better quality journalism. I, for one, am all ears.

If you are interested in this issue, I highly recommend reading Hudack’s original post and the full discussion below it:

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Facebook | Social Media Marketing | Top News

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About The Author: is Third Door Media's Social Media Correspondent, reporting on the latest news for Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. He spent 24 years with the Los Angeles Times, serving as social media and reader engagement editor from 2010-2014. A graduate of UC Irvine and the University of Missouri journalism school, Beck started started his career at the Times as a sportswriter and copy editor. Follow Martin on Twitter (@MartinBeck), Facebook and/or Google+.

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  • http://www.nolanchart.com/ Walt Thiessen

    I think it’s ironic that the Facebook conversation doesn’t allow any more input. I just tried to leave a comment of my own, only to find that there was no way to do it. Apparently, discussion had been stopped. That’s further proof to me that Facebook really DOESN’T want to discuss important topics.

    Here’s what I would have posted as my comment on that discussion, if allowed to.

    I would have pointed out that one person’s important news story is another person’s fish wrap.Hard-hitting journalism requires people to follow it … otherwise, what’s the point? And discussion facilitators have to decide whether they want to focus on what the dog did in the backyard or on what Boko Haram did in Nigeria.

    If, for a particular reader, the discussion facilitators (Facebook) decide that what the dog did in the backyard is more relevant for that reader, then it’s inappropriate for a Facebook exec to come along and complain about the lack of journalistic guts while simultaneously claiming, “I don’t work on Newsfeed or trending topics, so it’s hard for me to speak authoritatively about their role in the decline of media.”

    That’s the “it’s not my yob, mon” attitude, and it’s particularly counterproductive when the one complaining that it’s not his job is the one who raised the concern in the first place.

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