Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Update: The day after abandoning my Facebook page


My first full day without my Facebook page is going well and the experience feels differently than I'd imagined, which I'll explain in a moment.

I heard from many fellow journalists yesterday after posting my detailed reasoning for shrugging off the "Pages" system Facebook wants us to use-- in favor of simply creating a second account, wanting to know how this goes.

READ: WHY I KISSED MY FACEBOOK PAGE GOODBYE

It's a proposition that puts me at risk of being found in violation of Facebook's terms of service, though I sincerely hope not.

FIRST, THE NUMBERS!

As I write this, my new account is up to 275 friends and a handful of subscribers.

Which means on just the first day, I'm at 71 percent of the total connections (386) I had on my fledgling page before I abandoned it.

I've had a steady flow of friend requests since then, and Facebook made it pretty easy to grow my audience by suggesting all kinds of friends for me.

I was giddy to discover the suggested friends were highly relevant to me! The list was rich in people on my beat as a reporter: Colorado politics.

This was an unexpected treat and one that I greatly appreciate!

Turns out, Facebook doesn't like this feature to be too helpful, too fast. My furious friend requesting convinced them I might be a robot:


While this significantly helped boost my top line number of connections, I've also noticed a significant amount people simply reaching out by seeing me here.

I don't think it's going to take long for my number of connections to exceed what I had on my Page when I finally threw my hands up over the way Facebook restricted its reach.

MORE UNEXPECTED BENEFITS

There are valuable aspects of this switch that go beyond metrics.

Another difference I noticed immediately by jumping off of Pages and on to a new profile: it's clear that these people are getting better interactions with me.

I expected increased exposure for my posts, but unlike Twitter, it trickles in over time.

Still, I've noticed richer engagement with the few items I have posted so far.

And I've had people reach out to me in messenger to ask follow-up questions about the stories they see me covering on TV.

Mostly, though, it just feels different for me, the user.

I feel like a member of the community that Facebook is building, rather than a barnacle only allowed to exist on the off chance I might pay to play.

It's a feeling I'd missed in work life on Facebook and one I'm glad to have back.

More to come.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Why I kissed my Facebook page goodbye

I tried.

I REALLY tried... to do Facebook the way Facebook wanted me to do it.

But after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I've decided that as a journalist, Facebook's current system just isn't for me in my professional life.

I'm not leaving Facebook outright, (unless the social network giant decides to TOS me... more on this below) but I am kissing my reporter page goodbye... in favor of a second personal profile for work.

Why? It's simple: Facebook has consistently rewarded all of my friends in the news business who broke the rules-- while punishing those of us who foolishly chose to abide by them.

If you're short on time, I can show you my motivation in one chart, prefaced with the fact that my Twitter account and my professional Facebook page have both been active since 2011:


I earned more followers on my Twitter account in the past month than I have in several years of posting highly-relevant news content to my Facebook page. And, finally, I'm here to say: enough.



From here on out, I'm using Facebook the way the company DOESN'T want me to use it: I'm following the lead of many of my colleagues in journalism who have decided to simply be two people on the social network, rather than a person and a company.

MANY OPTIONS, NONE OF THEM GOOD

As a mainstream media journalist, Facebook provides me three legitimate means of building a following on its platform:

  1. Create a "page" for myself as a reporter to connect with "fans"
  2. Allow "subscribers" on my personal profile who can only see my public posts there
  3. Ignore any separation between my personal and professional life and just friend everybody who asks
Now, as much as option 3 may gel with the dystopian future that my Silicon Valley birthplace is building, (you know, the one that has us checking work email whilst on the toilet) I actually prefer a wall of separation between work and personal life on Facebook.

I cover politics for the highest-rated TV news organization in Colorado, which is a job I love. But I'm a D-list celebrity at best... and that's plenty enough for me. I'm not Miley Cyrus, and I don't need all of my social media to be public-facing.

I want to share photos of my wife and dog with my relatives without sharing them with political junkies in Colorado, and I'm sure those political junkies appreciate not being bombarded daily with photos of my pup (though she is, objectively, adorable.)

Instead, I opted to go with BOTH options 1 & 2. The "subscriber" approach is only as effective as the public posts you wish to make on a personal profile, and I honestly don't do much of that. It's difficult to manage, and posting work content their frequently is likely to bore all my relatives around the. country who couldn't care less what the Governor of Colorado is up to on any given day.

Which means that option 1 is really the one that should best suit me. I can write posts about Colorado news and politics as much as I want and reach the intended audience.

With one thing lacking: the audience.

THE ALGORITHMIC PYTHON

About a year after I stated posting to my page, Facebook went public with what was generally regarded as a disastrous IPO.

Ultimately, the company decided it needed to show investors it could make money.

I get this. It's become a familiar cycle in web-based services:

CREATE COOL, FREE NEW PLATFORM --> AMASS HUGE BASE OF USERS --> CHANGE THE TERMS OF THE RELATIONSHIP TO MAKE PROFIT

While that last step never feels good, I'm not philosophically opposed to this. Innovation deserves to be rewarded and this benefits society by providing incentives for new ideas.

But journalists are collateral damage in Facebook's effort to squeeze ad dollars from every possible source.

As a journalist, I can use Facebook as a person (profile) or as a business (page.)

One chooses to be a page at their own peril, choosing to do battle with Facebook's "algorithmic python."

I call it this for a simple reason: IT WILL STRANGLE YOU.

To Facebook, it doesn't matter anymore that I am posting timely, highly relevant information that would benefit its audience. Because I am a PAGE, Facebook treats every post I write the way it would treat Bob's Tire Shop trying to promote a sale on tires.

The thing is: there is no ad budget for me as a reporter (though KUSA does promote its own posts on occasion,) and unlike Bob's Tire Shop, I do not stand to make any additional money by investing in paying to promote my posts.

It takes an EXCEPTIONALLY amazing post for Facebook to allow me to reach more than a dozen or so people on my page without giving them money to promote it.

For instance, when I broke the news that KUSA called the race for Governor of Colorado the morning after this year's election, Facebook tells me the post I wrote to break the news reached 24 people (as of 11/18/14.)

I could do better screaming on a street corner.

By contrast, the exact same post reached 14,457 people on Twitter. 66 people retweeted it. 54 of them clicked on my profile to learn more about me and possibly become followers.

I cannot ignore those metrics. Who in their right mind would see any value whatsoever to playing in the crappy sandbox Facebook put me in?

THE DOWNSIDE

As mentioned above, Facebook could decide to find me in violation of its Terms of Service (TOS) for the choice I've made today.

The company hints at this threat in squishy language on the page where you can appeal to have your page converted into a profile.


If you tell Facebook that you want to "interact with fans," it informs you that it is a violation of the TOS to "use a personal account to represent an organization, business, brand, opinion, or fan club."

I don't view any of those as my primary purpose on Facebook as a professional journalist. My primary purpose is the same as it is on TV and twitter: to provide timely, relevant, informative news content to as many people as I can.

I submit that my activity posting news content to Facebook is a net benefit to the company, increasing its relevance to the sliver of its user base that has an interest in news and politics in my market.

There are other downsides as well, like the inconvenience of having to juggle logins between the two profiles and the cap of 5,000 friends Facebook will allow per profile.

Since Facebook has given no hope of ever coming close to that without paying them, it's an easy pill to swallow.

No. It isn't close at all...
Facebook is free to disagree with my view and shut my new profile down.

I hope not. Unlike some others who killed pages with far more fans than mine, I don't want to exit the space entirely.

It's their platform and they provide it free-of-charge, and while I find my personal profile's relevancy to be on the decline, the company is free to shape and mold its creation as it sees fit.

I do think Facebook would be wise to examine its treasure trove of information it has from classifying different types of pages and take a more mindful approach to the way it applies its algorithms to the different types of pages. Nonprofits, for instance, could benefit from this.

For me, right now, it's a simple risk/benefit analysis: I have next-to-nothing to gain by following Facebook's rules. I plenty to gain by by breaking them.

VISIT MY NEW FACEBOOK PROFILE: Brandon Rittiman (News)

If Facebook decides to TOS my new profile, I'll be done making regular posts as a journalist there.

Thankfully, if that happens, It'll give me something to write about.

At least I can be confident it'll reach more than two-dozen people.

Monday, October 20, 2014

PLANET POLITICS: Haunted Houses for Senate

From the inbox of a political reporter, glimpses of press releases that usually go ignored: stunts, over-the-top quotes, and bizarre story pitches. This occasional blog series is meant to show the level of dialogue on Planet Politics:

NextGen Climate Colorado has made a point of staging elaborate displays in its effort to help Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado) win re-election this year.

With Halloween around the corner, the group thought it could get attention by building a "haunted house" on the Auraria campus in Denver:
The House of Deception gives young voters a look at Gardner’s harmful and deceptive stances and voting history before they cast their ballots this fall. In the lead-up to Election Day, Coloradans will have the chance to check out Cory Gardner’s House of Deception as it makes stops around the Front Range, including University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Denver, and Colorado State University.
“Though it’s almost Halloween, nothing should scare young voters more than Congressman Cory Gardner’s determination to impose his extreme positions on Coloradans, like his denial of climate change science his unwillingness to admit the truth about his personhood bill, ” said Cameron Brennan, NextGen Climate campus organizer for Metropolitan State University of Denver. “When it comes to the issues voters care about most, Gardner’s views defy logic and reason—which is not what we need in a leader.”
The press release concludes with this quote, bound to be picked up and inserted into stories by serious journalists everywhere:
“Congressman Gardner doesn’t belong in the U.S. Senate—he belongs in a House of Deception, where things are never what they seem, and the truth is blurred beyond recognition.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fun with Truth Testing

Tonight we're going to take on the latest ad from AFP targeting Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado) on the topic of Obamacare.

But we couldn't let go of this political ad actress saying she doesn't like political ads...



Watch the full Truth Test on 9NEWS at 6 & 9pm Tuesday and on 9NEWS.com.

Friday, February 28, 2014

WATCH: #COpolitics in 5 minutes

Something new for you today from the 9NEWS political team.

In this five-minute discussion, we take a look at the widely-discussed possibility that former Congressman Bob Beauprez (R-Colorado) will jump into the Governor's race amid a crowded field.



Should he run? Can he win?

Also, a look at how the US Senate race is shaping up now that Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) has decided to take a run at Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado.)

#BeOn9: We want YOUR TOPICS & QUESTIONS for future episodes.

Email 9NEWS political reporter Brandon Rittiman or reach out on Twitter.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Will Denver snag the 2016 RNC?

The list was finalized today and Denver is in the running to bring one of the biggest events of the next presidential election to Colorado.

The 2016 Republican National Convention is looking for a host city and the list of 8 contenders came out on Thursday: Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Denver, Dallas, Kansas City, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.

Now that the list of contenders is out, the question is: “Do we have a shot?"


The graphic above shows the picks from the 9NEWS political team, representing where we think the RNC is most likely to go.

I'll explain my full ranking of the cities below, but bear in mind that the decision is a soupy mix of picking a place where things will go smoothly and where the best political story can be told.