Social media news filters dominate content as attention span shrinks [Interview]

As scientists reveal shortened attention spans and increased information consumption via social media platforms, new forms of content are developing to better suit our wandering minds.

Microsoft told us last March that our attention span dropped to just 8 seconds. That’s less than a goldfish (flagged to hold attention for 9 seconds). While the ability to multi-task has increased, our attention span is plummeting.

It’s an incredible feat that you’ve managed to read so far.

This impatience has led to changes in the way content, especially news, is presented to online audiences, with major platforms seeking to increase their readership.

According to polls from the Pew Research Center, social media sites are becoming increasingly popular sources of information. In 2014 63% of Facebook and Twitter users surveyed said they use the sites as a source of mainstream information. In 2013, it was 52% on Facebook and 47% on Twitter.

The study claims that Twitter, with 316 million active users, is the top source of breaking news. Facebook, on the other hand, with 1.49 billion, is more frequently used to read opinion pieces, political content and analytical articles.

Facebook reported that in 2014 its users shared 50 billion content from other apps; that’s an average of three coins per user, every month. Because of this tremendous opportunity to retain and engage with users, popular social networking sites are adapting their offerings to meet new consumer demands.

In May this year, Facebook launched “Instant Articles”, which publishes articles from major online publications. Users can now access content from sites, including The New York Times and Buzzfeed, without being redirected to the original site. Facebook’s “Instant Articles” would be more likely to be shared – because they load faster, in less than a second, which is 10 times faster than previous redirects. It’s currently only available on iOS, while the feature will reach Android users later this year.

Just last month Twitter launched “Moments in direct competition with Facebook’s enhanced information offering. “Moments” is designed to make it easy to quickly navigate through the biggest stories, without having to actively search for them from different accounts or hashtags. The main stories of the day are listed with the option for users to search in other areas of interest.

Social media giants continue to battle for power over the online community, most recently with Facebook’s announcement of new app “Notify. Available to iPhone users in the US, the app sends notifications to the user, alerting them to new content available – very similar to Twitter push notifications.

The biggest players in the tech industry each have their own solution for quickly delivering information to a global audience.

Apple’s News app allows “stories to be specially formatted to look like articles pulled from publishers’ websites while living in Apple’s app.”

Google has also taken up the challenge with its Accelerated Mobile Pages project. Google says our impatient minds frequently give up on slow-loading pages. Like Twitter and Facebook, Google wants to embrace new rich media formats “like video, animations and graphics” to work alongside ads, delivering that content faster to mobile devices.

Critics fear that as more users continue to consume online content through these platforms, they will have more control over what people access, potentially censoring some content.

The New York Times has proposed that these developmentsin fact, offer the news organizations themselves the opportunity to step in and address the future evolution of the form and structure of news, as major players generate increased interest in the content of information disseminated in various forms.

Content suitable for various contexts and accumulating in “particle” form, allowing for a “streamlined workflow and lighter editorial load,” is the next stage of evolution according to the New York Times.

Sociable spoke to industry expert Shailo Rao, founder of the news messaging app Breaker, on the latest developments in this area, and fears about the filtering of information.

“Content is king, but the ubiquity of mobile computing and the social layer of the web has made news fast and distraction-free, let your friends talk about the emperor,” Rao reported. In today’s dynamic world, Rao reminds us, access and relevance are key.

As for speculation about any form of censorship, Rao encouraged us to remember that these filters have always existed in various forms.

“Today’s new filters are digital channels like Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo! News and SEO for Google. They largely control all the information that might scroll. The existence of a corporate filter is not new. Before mobile and the web, brick-and-mortar retailers and legacy media dictated news consumption and discussions with their placement in newspapers and magazines. »

His comments consistent with NYT predictions highlight these shifting powers, as well as a diversification in the variety of ways we consume news content.

The growing variety of forms includes the emergence of these ‘instantaneous’ formats, of variable duration and content. Article length can vary from one-sentence news from the Apple Watch to accumulated stories offered by the NY Times.

Apparently, 17% of readers will be lost when a page loads, in less than four seconds. For an article of about this length, less than 28% will be read. Emerging forms of instant information illustrate adaptive solutions as behaviors evolve. At some point, we might also wish to address this issue of the wandering mind, as the Pisces continue to overtake us.