Building trust with news consumers requires conversation too

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Social media were supposed to make society better, but they may have just made us all angrier. For a long time in my job on social media for The Economist this problem has troubled me. I work for a newspaper that seeks to offer a rational and respectful view on what’s happening every week, every day, all around the world. We hope that doing this helps us retain the trust of readers, and earn the trust of new ones.

But what if the internet has become so ill-mannered that just being even-handed in our reporting is not enough?

We have sought to do more by making small attempts to converse with our audience too. And new research shows that this kind of engagement does indeed give us a better shot at building trust. The research is published in the paper, “Civility and trust in social media”, in the Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organisation. Here’s what the paper argues. …

Help to shape The Economist’s digital future

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The Economist was founded as a print newspaper in 1843, but today our analysis reaches over 40m people through social media. More people than ever discover us for the first time on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, perhaps through a video or an eye-opening infographic.

The social media team comprises creative and enthusiastic journalists who join us on one-year fellowships to help shape The Economist’s digital future. We are now recruiting again to that programme.

The role of fellow is the most junior on our team. It suits a recent graduate of a journalism course or someone who has some limited experience in editorial roles and is ready to take on a full-time role for a year. Applicants should be seeking to establish themselves firmly in an editorial department while learning through doing. The bulk of the work will be to produce posts for a variety of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for our print and online articles, videos and podcasts. To do this, the successful candidate will collaborate with section editors and news editors around the world, and colleagues who produce our films, podcasts, Snapchat editions and Instagram Stories. …

A social-media team needs both a fear and a joy of missing out

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Look how much fun you can have in a meeting! (Definitely not a staged stock photo, oh no)

A social-media team needs meetings. But how do you make sure that gatherings are useful and not useless? And how do you cater to those people on your team who might prefer to be left alone?

I know this seems like a boring topic, but I’ve learnt that it’s the kind of thing that readers of Severe Contest like to see. So here is one insight into the running of the social-media team at The Economist. I’m calling a meeting.

We use a few principles that help us to make the best use of everyone’s time for meetings. What is the aim of the meeting? Is this meeting really needed, or will an email suffice? Will every invited person have something to share, or will someone feel they didn’t need to come? What’s the minimum amount of time needed? …

Introducing a series on digital product development at The Economist

I’m sure everyone who works in an editorial social media team has heard a colleague say, “Hi, you’re lovely, but I have no idea what you do.”

It happened to me recently, nearly four years since we set up a social media team at The Economist. The colleague is one of our writers. He is also lovely, of course.

The comment is emblematic of a problem that pervades newsrooms. As the number of roles in the newsroom has increased, the spread of knowledge about what is needed to keep everything running has not. In time, it will.

I’m not worried about the colleague I mentioned. But he and I do need to be drawn closer together — and that takes effort. It’s the same with bringing digital product people and editorial people together. We do this in several ways, for example we recently held a town hall meeting for engineers, UX experts and product managers to allow them to explain how they work to various editorial people. The questions from the audience helped to draw out where understanding could perhaps be better. …

How the desire to help is linked to sex

One of the things that makes A Star Is Born so popular is the portrayal of help. Jackson and Ally, the protagonists, support each other through their trials. And even though Jackson is a shit who I had no time for at all, I can see why some people might be drawn to him. He’s a lost boy.

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Err no, it’s MY mic

Scott, my guest in episode 7 of Karl’s Kaschemme, is into lost boys like Jackson. Scott’s need to help lost boys is very much a part of his desires. Not so for me. That’s what this essay is about.

“I like to feel that I’ve made a positive impact on people’s lives,” Scott says in episode 7. “I want them to feel that having interacted with me has improved their existence somehow.” Scott is lovely, isn’t he? Wouldn’t the world be better if there were more Scotts? Maybe Scott could replace Lady Gaga in the sequel to A Star Is Born. …

Sailing away in a fantasy of desire

I’ve never been in a long-term relationship, but I fall in love at least twice a day.

Living in London means that on a daily basis I pass thousands of strangers — on public transport or in the street or in a coffee shop. The best of them trip me up and into a daydream of desire.

This short essay is about these dreamboats. They drift into our vision, spark our desires, and then sink when we realise they don’t really exist. The person may be real, but the fantasy my mind begins to play about them never is. …

Look at me, love me, shag me

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The Grid of Desire

When you open most gay dating apps you’ll find The Grid of Desire. The grid is a series of boxes, each counting for a different person. In each square of the grid is a human male, or at least a picture that a human male has chosen to represent himself with. We’re like a field of wildflowers advertising ourselves to the bees. We all want to be wanted.

The force of the father figure

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Who’s the daddy? He’s one of the hottest guys in porn, that’s who. If you look into the most popular gay porn categories online, ‘daddy’ is in the top three. Daddy is beaten, as it were, only by ‘black’ and ‘straight guys’. I think those are topics for another time.

So lots of people desire daddies. Your friend’s father. Stroller-meat. The senior executive with the expense account. The teacher. The authoritarian.

I am not sure whether Diego would say he’s into daddies. But when I interviewed him for episode 2 of my podcast Karl’s Kaschemme, he talked a lot about the masculine, older guys he’d desired. It all started with a hairy taekwondo instructor called Mario who, when Diego was around 10 years old, taught the local class. “We all became like a family,” says Diego. “I think everyone looked up to him. …

Why it’s sexy not to “be a man”

You can’t have it all. Jon Bon Jovi has a silly name but the face of a lion.

I had a crush on that lion-face in my mid-teens. I was learning how to be a man, and Jon was full of lessons in lyrics. He “stand[s] out in the rain / So no one sees me cryin’”. He wakes up to find a bottle of vodka “lodged in my head” and “some blond… still in my bed”. …

Why are we attracted to some outsiders but turned off by others?

“A stranger. From the outside. Oooooo.”

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Hi hi

We will never fully know what the aliens in Toy Story meant when they said this. They were trapped in an arcade grabber machine, and Buzz Lightyear had just climbed in.

The aliens respond to Buzz’s arrival with a fever, grasping for him with their little green hands. Outsiders are hot, even without deployable space-wings like Buzz. In episode 1 of Karl’s Kaschemme, my podcast, my interviewee Matteo talked about two men, Dmitris and Rami, who open up a conversation about the figure of the outsider. …


Adam Smith

Writer, talker, thinker and maker. Podcasting @ The Log Books and Karl’s Kaschemme.

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