Social & Digital coffee break: escaping the Facebook shadow

It’s not really a surprise that Facebook can’t be trusted — but are we really taking the steps we need to end our additions to it? This, and many other useful topics in today’s digest.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

One Big Read: Facebook's tactical bias

As the globe watches the USA anxiously — one of the few electoral events that genuinely impacts the rest of the world — this is a good read on how, in its attempt to stay "in" with the ruling party, Facebook intentionally manipulated the media landscape.

The reflex reaction I've seen from many people is that Something Must Be Done about Facebook. But I can't help feeling that this should be a rallying cry for us to do more to connect directly with audiences, without relying on such an untrustworthy intermediate:

Facebook manipulated the news you see to appease Republicans, insiders say
Sources tell us the platform tweaked its code to help right-wing publishers and throttle sites like Mother Jones

Return of the Sub

The journalism business will eventually regret the wholesale cull of subs it had indulged in over the last 15 years. When they bring both the normal sub-editing rigour AND some core digital skills, they can be an invaluable part of the newsroom — and create a quality differentiation for your site.

And some organisations are beginning to wake up to this fundamental truth:

Telegraph Media Group to pull production out of PA and return in-house
The move sees Telegraph Media Group bringing its print subbing back in-house less than four years after outsourcing the work to PA.

Talking of those digital skills, here's an interesting insight into how the sub role could evolve to harness new technology:

Sub-editing the machine: the new role for journalists in the age of AI
Every journalist knows that at the heart of any efficient newsroom are sub-editors. It’s not a glamorous role and sadly, they are often the first in line when cuts come. But subs do much more…

New approaches to journalism

I probably need to write a deeper piece on this, but one of the disappointments of the digital transition is that, to a very large extent, we're still putting old wine in new bottles. The story formats we use today don't look fundamentally different from those of 25 years ago.

One of the deep problems with our formats becoming so formulaic is that those formulas are easy to copy, and misinformation and propaganda sites can appropriate the veneer of respectability that's imbued in the format.

We really need to shake up how we tell our stories, and I've come across a couple of interesting examples recently. The recent Hacks/Hackers London session on Quartz's climate change journalism is absolutely worth your time:

And here's the project that they're talking about:

Welcome to Green Haven
As the world begins to feel the acute effects of climate change, some hometowns will become uninhabitable. These are stories of how governments and thinkers are anticipating mass migration’s effects on society, and planning to make our new climate havens more sustainable.

And while we're on the idea of using fiction in journalism, this is fun but useful:

New children’s book helps introduce ideas of constructive journalism at home
Negative news can affect kids as well as adults and lead to sadness or anxiety. ‘Little Ruffle and the world beyond’ aims to help families have discussions about what they see on the news


Ah, newsletters. The overnight success story that took two decades… 😉

They remain a critical tool in building direct relationships with readers, without mediation via Facebook and Google. But they're also increasingly becoming a business in their own right.

This piece from Mark at newsletter platform Revue is a useful dive into the economics of newsletters:

How much is your newsletter worth?
Hello newsletter friends,Mark from Revue here, filling you in on an exciting week in newsletters.We seem to have entered the next level, where successful newsletters get acquired for large amounts, and marketplaces spring up for creators to buy and sell them.Hope you enjoy this issue about who and f…

Meanwhile current newsletter platform darling Substack continues to build out its technology. One big barrier to adoption has been the fact that you couldn't use your own domain name with the service. That's risky, because it makes it harder for you to migrate off it if needed in future.

Well, they've changed that — but they want $50 to do it. My guess as to the reason for that relatively high price is that setting up DNS to redirect domain names is tricky and technical. They want to discourage casual users from doing it, because of the potential support overheads, while making it cost-effective for them to support more serious users.

Still, a positive move.

New! Add a custom domain to your Substack
Custom domains are now available on Substack. Many writers have told us they’d like to use custom domains to build a home for their newsletters, so we’re excited to finally bring this feature to everyone.

Learn to create better newsletters

And, just a quick reminder: my brand new newsletters course, built out of nearly a decade of working with news organisations on newsletter strategy, kicks off next week:

Creating compelling newsletters
This four-week online course will give you the tools to create your own engaging online newsletter

Tool Time

Adobe had its big annual event last week, and made some significant announcements. This is really interesting, both for photographers looking to protect their art, but also for journalists doing verification work:

New Photoshop ‘Content Attribution’ Tool Tracks Edit History and Prevents Photo Theft
Somewhere in the mountain of announcements that Adobe dropped this morning—including major updates for both Photoshop and Lightroom—the company found time

And this is a big leap forwards in computational photography:

All the new AI-powered features Adobe announced for its creative suite
Adobe is holding its virtual conference, Max, today, and it has announced a ton of updates to its products, from Photoshop to Illustrator and Premier Pro to Fresco. A lot of these features such as Sky Replacement in Photoshopped are powered by Adobe’s Sensei AI technology. So, here’s the round-up of…

Edit video like text

One of the sad consequences of the pandemic is that this year, I'm not teaching students to edit video — all my lecturing is being done remotely, and one of the in-house team has taken on the editing training. Video editing is a very different thought process and skill set from text editing — but Descript is bringing the two together.

It started as a tool that allowed you to edit podcasts by editing a transcript of the audio — but now they've extended that approach to video. I'm looking forward to having a play with it when I get a little bit more time.

Introducing Descript Video & Screen Recorder
Like it or not, video has become an essential part of how we communicate. And while it’s gotten easier to capture and share video, editing remains difficult, slow, and non collaborative. As of today…


Last week, I mentioned that the Membership Puzzle Project was open to a new round of applicants. They've expanded their geographic criteria, so it might be worth taking another look:

We’ve expanded eligibility for the Membership in News Fund

Job Corner

This is a fantastic job opportunity for someone with audience engagement skills:

Digital Account Manager (Maternity Cover)
Condé Nast is a global media company, home to iconic brands including Vogue, The New Yorker, GQ, Glamour, AD, Vanity Fair and Wired, among many others. The company’s award-winning content reaches...


I'm off on more adventures with my children. I hope you're having a good day, wherever you are.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.