Social Media is Growing as a News Source

newspaper folded up

Despite the Plethora of #FakeNews, social media is growing as a news source. Even more shocking, its rapidly growing in the over 50 set, while younger Americans seems to have peaked, albeit at 78%.

Thanks to Pew Research for the breakdown, Key trends in social and digital news media. I hope that they’ll update this, because it’s a few months old already, but the trends are clear.

Social Media is Catching Up with Television

News Sources Over Time

In 2016, Television beat Online News by 19 Points. In 2017, Television beat Online News by 7 Points. We’ll expect that 2018 numbers will show that Online is overtaking Television. The shift is rapidly, with explosion is those getting their news on mobile devices.

It’s NOT the Young Driving these Trends

Kristen Bialik and Katerina Matsa Report:

More than eight-in-ten U.S. adults (85%) now get news on a mobile device, up from 72% in 2016. The recent surge has mainly come from growth among older Americans. Roughly two-thirds (67%) of those ages 65 and older now get news on a mobile device, a 24-percentage-point jump from 2016 and about three times the share in 2013. Mobile news use also grew among those ages 50 to 64, with about eight-in-ten (79%) now getting news on mobile, about double the share from 2013. Large increases in mobile news use also occurred among those in lower-income households.

If you think that this is a trend among the younger demographic, it’s not. Younger people embraced mobile years ago, the growth is in the senior demographic.

Two out of Three “Senior Citizens” (65+) get their news on a mobile device. Contrary to the image of elderly voters staring at Fox News for hours on end, the growth is among older Americans and lower-income Americans.

Online News Matters. Mobile News Matters.

Do They Believe The Online News

They say that they don’t, they see lots of fake and misleading news, but they keep consuming it. How does a plethora of fake news being consumed impact your perceptions of reality? Is your brain capable of filtering out the misinformation?

Only 5% of people have a lot of trust in the news that they are consuming. People only recognize the source of the news 50% of the time, which creates tremendous opportunities for purveyors of questionable news to impact people that may or may not realize that it is coming from a questionable news source.

The efforts at “Fact Checking” are largely limited to national sources and campaigns. At local levels, there is little to no attempts to filter out fake news. We saw a plethora of nonsense news explode nationally in 2016, but how many local sources are we seeing explode now, pushing nonsensical stories to a willing audience.

How Does This Opinion Leaders

You need to be online, you need to engage with online news, and you need to be promoting in Social Media. Even the people you think aren’t paying attention online, are. The vast majority of Americans now get some or all of their news online, predominately on a mobile device. This shift has happened rapidly, with rapid increases in the last two years.

If you reach out to people the same way in 2018 that you did in 2016 or 2014, you will be shocked at how much the electorate has changed.

2016: Convergence of Social and SEO

The last few years have seen major changes in trends for Internet traffic.  Social has exploded in importance, driving more traffic than search.  How marketers adapt has been interesting.

Until this year, companies could run their social media and content marketing operations separately.  Social media focused on brand engagement, content and SEO teams focused on driving eyeballs to the site.  In 2015, Google and Twitter’s deal came to fruition.  Additionally in 2015, Google’s Google+ Service got integrated as Google Local.  In 2015, these were add-ons, throughout 2016, the integration moved to the core of the system.

So what changed in 2016?

  • Semantic Web Became Real
  • Mobile-Optimized HTML (AMP, Facebook Instant Pages)
  • Video Came of Age

The Semantic Web was of academic interest until it exploded with social in the past year.  Open Graph and Twitter Cards became “must have” features as the social media networks gave prominence to links with content instead of merely including pictures.  As sites were updating to support these additions to HTML, supporting the Semantic Web just made sense.

Mobile-Optimized HTML dealt with the reality that Mobile Responsive wasn’t enough, with increasing mobile bandwidth, slow speeds and high latency were an issue.  Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages and Facebook Instant Pages have a shared core to deploy a cache-able stream-lined version of the website, feeding both social efforts and search efforts.

Every year has been the “year of video,” but 2016 really took off.  YouTube’s social integration with Google+ and enhancement of their social features really pushed Video to the forefront.  Pre-loading video on Facebook made including video critical to engagement, and the Video Advertising space heated up.

If you are still looking at SEO as something you should do (instead of building into your site structure) and Social Media as something else, you need to rethink that for 2017.  In 2017, all methods of interaction are becoming unified, and you should plan to engage in SEO, Remarketing, and Social Media as a unified structure.

Semantic Web in SEO: Theory and Practice

Almost since the beginning of the web’s commercial birth, the limitations of HTML have been glaring.  The “good enough” technology, the epitome of Worse is Better has been apparent with the web. HTML was never a great language for describing documents, XHTML was a disaster, and HTML5 is slow to come alive and clearly designed for committee… but it was good enough, worked well enough, and let business prosper. CSS took over a decade to come into wide-spread use, but the combination and simple-to-use Javascript has made it work.

Google’s “snippets,” and “break-out boxes” and “menu links” have all been efforts to figure out website and make it more useful for searchers. The growth of and structured data and it’s role in web search has been both fun and fascinating.

For small businesses looking to promote themselves, the important area to pursue is Local Search. While Local Search does involve “Map Search” and “dropping pins,” providing regional content with appropriate markup can also yield big dividends. Creating a page targeting a city you work in, combined with a Review, a job/event you’ve done, and other aspects, all marked up with Metadata, can create a relevant piece of content to promote your business in that city.

Breadcrumbs have been a mainstay of navigating websites since Yahoo pioneered the practice, but their usage has fallen by the wayside. Single page sites, focus on shallow content (keeping all content at root level), and designers general aversion to breadcrumbs has been challenging them for years. Alternatively, sites that organize their content in an intelligent hierarchy, supply breadcrumbs, and tag those breadcrumbs with metadata might find their search results having an extra row with the breadcrumbs.

The return of deep content for long tail searches and breadcrumbs to manage them will help promote proper site design, information architecture, and deep content. If Google can promote this change by including an extra line in the search results, that’s a great use of using their power for good.

Automated Speech must be Free Speech

As aggregation and news feeds become the primary way we digest information, the definitions of electronic speech will be a critical test of whether we maintain the free flow of information that we have grown accustomed to or if free press will simply wither on the vine.

The New York TImes is attempting to muddy the issues by making fun of Free Speech for Computers, but it’s not the computer that has free speech rights, but the company or owner of the machine whose freedom of expression needs protecting.  The 2003 case that Mr. Wu mocks was Search King‘s lawsuit, where a search engine spamming company was manipulating Google’s algorithm and had their rankings dropped.  They argued that Google was responsible for their business loss, Google was vindicated that their “search ranking results” constitutes the company’s free speech and you couldn’t sue over it.  Had the case gone the other way, organic search as we know it might be dead, for anytime a site dropped in the rankings, they could sue.

Nobody would argue that my blog post isn’t free speech, or that a large company doesn’t have some basic free speech rights for a corporate blog (commercial speech, not political speech, but still speech).  So what is “Computer Speech?”

Any site that automatically aggregates information, crawls the Internet looking for information and organizes it, or even a search engine, is being treated as “computer speech,” despite the fact that the computer is executing clearly designed behavior to express what it is intended to express.  Take away that free speech, and Altavista, Google, and any other automated search engine never comes into existence, the early news aggregators never appear, sites like <a href=””>Reddit</a&gt; may never exist either.

“Computer speech” may be commercial speech, or it may be someone’s rambling opinion, and whether I express my views algorithmically as a programmer or verbally as a writer, I should be entitled to the same protections.

Few Monopolies Bridge two Eras, Google’s Cockiness Unwarranted

The only constant of the computer industry is the utter failure of one company to seemingly dominate two generations of computer technology.  IBM’s dominance in the Mainframe era was replaced by Digital’s Minicomputer Dominance.  The PC/Workstation era was categorized by a variety of Unix vendors on the workstation side while Microsoft dominated the PC side.  That era of multiple poles, including Apple as a significant player seemed to end as Windows 95 brought Microsoft to a monopoly status, and Office 95’s integration with Windows 95 simply displaced Wordperfect and Lotus 1-2-3 as the dominant desktop applications, with a combination of bundling, technical malfeasance, and marketing muscle.

Despite the drama of the Netscape vs. Microsoft “Browser Wars,” Microsoft was never able to extend their dominance of the desktop environment onto the Web.  The Free Linux operating system with the Free Apache web server simply out-muscled Microsoft for the server space (in part because FreeBSD had a high performance server platform that Apache grew up on while Microsoft tried to maneuver a server designed for fighting NetWare as a file & print server into a web server), Adobe dominated the development tools, and free standards, despite attempts at manipulation by Microsoft, largely owns the Internet space.  The period of time in which people were willing to develop an IE-only web was relatively short lived, and the Netscape Plugin vs. IE ActiveX controls seems like a blip in the eye compared to the modern era of dynamic, standards compliant (or relatively open Flash) environment.

The post-Web Internet, where the application replaced the web site as the area of interest has been dominated by Google in a way not seen since Microsoft’s early monopoly.  Just as the DOJ complaint against IBM left an opening for Microsoft to monopolize the desktop, the investigation and suit against Microsoft created enough breathing room for the industry to open up the market to new players.  In the last years of the past decade, Google’s industry dominance has resulted in every website honoring their search guidelines, applications supporting their APIs, and their embrace of the AJAX tool set legitimized it despite the technology being effectively created by a Microsoft extension years earlier.

With their new dominance, we’re seeing a newly humbled Microsoft battling an increasingly arrogant Google, creating a new dominant “evil empire” for companies to compete with.  Email marketers trying to work within the guidelines at Microsoft can get a detailed report of their email system, while Google’s Gmail has a handful of vague help pages.  Microsoft’s street address of “One Microsoft Way” was often mocked not as an address, but a mindset, but increasingly Microsoft is willing to work and cooperate with other companies, while Google makes changes in secret that affect the livelihood of millions.

Dominant players of one era happily live on as profitable organizations in the next one, if their management makes the right changes and is able to take their customer base to a new environment.  IBM migrated to a servers company and Microsoft offers solutions in a multi-vendor world.  On the other hand, AOL is a shell of the company it was when it dominated both the dial-up and instant message environment, (see my article about how AIM should be where Twitter is, but somehow didn’t extend to dominate the communication landscape), but may still find a way to bring their existing users and customers to a new market position, Wordperfect and Digital got swallowed up by other companies, and other formerly major players are no more.

Facebook currently controls a rich application environment with tremendous reach, and Apple’s iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad ecosystem is an interesting niche, but whether either can challenge Google’s dominant position over the Internet remains to be seen.

Directories — Still Helpful for SEO

Whenever the topic of SEO comes up, I always still get questions about how to “hide text” and get good performance.  I’m always amazed that people neglect the basics and focus heavily on tricks.  The overwhelming bulk of SEO is about:

  1. Site Structure
  2. Links
  3. Content

In the early days, the Yahoo Directory was the most useful source of traffic on the Web.  The small, editor managed directory (originally a static site by the Founders) was the “Who’s Who” of the Internet.  As Google surpassed Altavista, bringing relevant search results, the interest in directories died off.  While Hubs and Authorities never quite had the direct impact that was expected, being listed near other relevant results has a huge impact.  You wouldn’t build a car before figuring out an engine, and you shouldn’t build a website without building your core.  Your site structure helps spiders and users understand your site, content makes your site relevant if found, but links are the core of the site.

Submitting to primary and secondary directories will not create traffic over night, but it can create some of the core links that can help engines make sense of your site.  Getting listing in the major directories will give you solid links to help define your site, and additional listings in industry specific directories helps further define yourself.  All the SEO tricks in the world won’t give you quality traffic unless you build a solid Foundation first.

With Dunhill Vacations, we have a collection of directories that will catalog our articles as well, and when we do an industry write-up, we submit it to those directories.  Over time, we are steadily building up quality in bound links, much more effectively than link swaps or other dubious link building strategies.  Quality content with quality links pointing to it, it may not be sexy, but it’s still effective.

AIM vs. Twitter: Why didn’t AIM Become the Center of the Social Web?

When my wife and I were discussing social media, and I mentioned that at Third Solutions we use Skype for IM, and at ASG Group we were using Twitter, she asked me if we had gotten old? When I arrived at MIT in 1997, I ran ICQ for friends from home + Zephyr for talking to classmates, the next year the freshmen showed up with big lists of AIM friends, and by the time I left school, ICQ and Zephyr were basically dead and AIM dominated communication.

Here is it, over 10 years later, and I still use AIM as a constant business communication tool, but it certainly lacks any hype or excitement. Gmail accounts form the basis of OpenID, yet AOL with 20 years of AOL accounts and 10-15 years of AIM accounts couldn’t make themselves the login option of choice for the community web or the Web 2.0 world.

An old AOL hand asks, “Could AIM Have Been Twitter?”  AOL fought third party integration, mostly because Microsoft was at the time masters of embrace and extend, and the only on-ramp was the weird open access AOL published for the Tik client that we ran on Unix, with limited access.  While AOL had the users, they didn’t have the culture of centrality.  Openness may have helped, but the open-IM groups pushed by Yahoo and MSN fizzled, Jabber went nowhere, and even though Google via Google Chat supports Jabber, Facebook chat seems more vigorous.

I think that AOL could have done a lot with their platform.  But the corporate culture, more than the business around technology, prevented them from being cool.  Everything AOL bought saw talent flee to start-ups and generally fall apart.  Other than picking up Time Warner for a steal, they weren’t able to use their early lead in the Internet, perhaps because of their Internet for the Masses reputation, they couldn’t be “cool” to the technologists, so even if the masses used AIM, nobody was building upon AIM.  That, more than AOL’s internal walled garden mentality, is why AIM didn’t become Twitter.