Don’t believe everything you read!

I gave up on reading a daily newspaper about 5-6 years ago. Before that I would normally buy/read at least two newspapers each day (in the misguided interest of ‘balance’). I stopped due to the fact I was being annoyed on a daily basis at what these papers referred to as ‘news’.

I would generally read various news sites, blogs etc as well as reading the newspapers each day. This would normally mean I had already seen various sources of a story before it made it in to the papers a day or two after happening. & what annoyed me was when I would read these stories they would omit specific facts & incidents, edit & twist quotes, & generally turn the story in to something else that suited the reporter & paper – all of which is designed to increase readership, turnover & profitability. This, combined with the endless drivel about ‘reality tv’ & ‘celebrities’ barely anyone has heard of doing things no one cares about, ended my affinity with traditional press.

As online content has become more prevalent & a larger part of our lives, we’ve seen newspaper circulation decline (combined with recent scandals which haven’t helped the industry). The papers themselves are moving online, adding all their content to their sites & charging a weekly or monthly subscription fee to access it all (although not all follow this model). Over the years, this has been great – more content to read, breaking news as it happens, the ability to read it where I want when I want – sheer convenience. But now the annoyances are back.

Websites, whether part of an existing newspaper or corporation, or completely independent, reply in clicks – people clicking their site, stories &, ultimately, the adverts placed on the pages, to generate money. & as online traffic & sites have increased, it’s become a more dog-eat-dog world, similar to that of the newspaper industry just a few years ago. This has lead to the sensationalism & stripped down content we see online now. Sites report news stories, but they’ve linked it from another site, who has linked it from another site. There’s also content – sites which were once tech-specific (or anything genre), now have to post other stories – normally benign, pointless stories – just to get extra throughput & clicks from the general public who are searching for these things.

Two stories caught my eye today which prompted this blog (although it’s been a subject I’ve been thinking about for a while);
1. A story on Gizmodo UK about an issue with iOS 7
2. A story on Sky News about Facebook losing 80% of it’s users in the coming years
My issue with these particular stories is as follows….

1. The headline “screen of death” refers to a ‘blue screen of death’ which would be displayed when an operation system would fail. It became ‘popular’ during various incarnations of Windows. For a normal home PC user, it would generally mean your system was dead & you’d have to get it repaired which would mean reformatting the hard-drive & losing all of your personal data & contents of your PC.
Now, the issue with iOS 7 is completely different to this & is actually a fairly simple & harmless (if not quite annoying) problem. All that’s happening is SpringBoard is having an issue & reboots. In very simplistic terms, SpringBoard is the homescreen & how the OS manages data on it & transitioning to/from it (when opening & closing apps, for example). A memory or data issue means that it needs to refresh itself, so it restarts. For a user this will mean the phone will look as if it’s restarting (you’ll see the Apple logo), but it’s actually not. After the 3-5 seconds of SpringBoard rebooting, you’ll end back on your home or lockscreen. As it stands, this is an iOS 7 (Apple’s latest operation system for it’s devices) issue & can occur on pretty much any device running this OS. Apple is aware of the issue & a fix is imminent. iOS 7.1 is now at beta 4 stage, so either 7.0.5 (we’re currently on version 7.0.4) or 7.1 should be with consumers soon.
See, no death, no data loss, no not being able to access your device. A simple problem, with a fix on the way. The story just uses a term that other sites have started using to sensationalise the problem so that people will panic or worry & read it so they can make sure they don’t fall foul of this non-existent ‘screen of death’.
In the defence of Gizmodo, & for clarity, Kat (the sites editor) did tweet me earlier today, & ave an honest response to my point;

And while writing this, I have noticed that the US Gizmodo site is now referring to this as a ‘reboot bug’ instead:

2. The gist of the story is that some clever bods at Princeton Uni have done some analysis on Facebook & have decided that by approximately 2017, FB could lose up to 80% of it’s users. Again, another big, sensational headline – especially as FB is so massive & a part of most people’s lives.
But look at the information given & how the study was conducted, & it’s not quite so sensational or dramatic.
The study was mainly based from Google Analytics – so how many time people typed “facebook” in to Google. The study shows that this peaked in 2012 & is now in decline, which, according to them, shows less people searching for or going to Facebook.
There are numerous problems with this;
A. Whereby some people would be lazy & just type ‘facebook’ in to a new Google Search page, most regular users, or people that have increased their usage in the last couple of years, would probably have the page bookmarked in their browser.
B. Similar to the previous point, most web browsers are now fairly smart, & the more people use them, the more they learn about & use their features. One key feature that all major browsers now have is a smart/dynamic address bar. No longer do you have to type w.w.w.f.a.c.e.b.o.o.k.c.o.m, you just type “face…” & the address bar will pre-fill the rest (unless you’ve been frequenting other websites that have ‘face’ in the name) & then take you straight there when you press Enter/Return. Within my Chrome browser I only have to type “fa” & it pre-fills the full Facebook address for me.
C. A HUGE number of users don’t even use the web to access Facebook anyway. At the end of 2013 78% of US users were accessing the site via a mobile app, while 48% of ALL Facebook’s +1 billion users were accessing the site via mobile apps & browsers. Again, this eliminates the need to go to Google.com & type on the word ‘facebook’.

While I’m no media analyst, it goes to show how easily a headline & story can be sensationalised & taken out of context to produce a certain type of story without actually giving all the facts & variants. & I’m by no means bashing the above-mentioned sites & implying this is all they do (I say that about Sky News while biting my tongue), but these were just two stories I picked up on this morning while going through my usual routine of reading the news from different sites & sources. This type of online reporting is now the norm, as it was in the newspapers – clicks = money.

Don’t believe everything you read, people.

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About Stephen Penny

New to blogging. Dad. Music fan. Bemused Brit in Finland View all posts by Stephen Penny

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