On January 30th, 2015, Mitt Romney announced he wasn’t going to run for President. He posted it on Medium—not on TV, not in a press conference—under a headline that simply read “2016.”
At the time, Mr. Romney’s Medium account was relatively new, with only a few thousand followers, and mostly filled with family photos. Yet our algorithm automatically placed “2016" as the #1 story on SmartNews, long before traditional news outlets found and republished it. Our engineers, seeing just the headline, thought perhaps there was a mistake.
A couple weeks later, the top trending story on SmartNews was Beyonce’s unretouched photos (Cindy’s too).
That’s the funny thing about the news. You never know what’s hot and culturally relevant…until it is.
- The source of truth is changing all the time. Obama was the first President to publish his State of the Union address early, using Medium. A couple weeks later, Romney also posted on Medium. Today there’s a trend for politicians to publish essays on Medium. Perhaps tomorrow, Beyoncé will declare her candidacy for president on Medium and Mr. Romney will leak unretouched family photos on Snapchat.
- Trending often means “trending in America”. China, Turkey and Iran have blocked social media entirely. Will Smith is now trending as the #1 Western star in China—17 years after Men in Black. Beyoncé is nowhere to be seen on the list, perhaps because until recently, she was banned by the Chinese government for being, if anything, too hot and crazy in love.
- Despite the globalization of the Internet, culture breeds locally. What’s trending in the UK this morning will naturally be a mix of national sources (Guardian, BBC) and global sources (New York Times, Buzzfeed). Yet all too often, interesting local stories from small towns and new authors fail to find audiences on the other side of the world.
- Publishers need to hit moving targets. If the medium is the message, the message needs to be delivered directly to the right audience, not just wait passively to be read where it was written. If it’s not being shared on Facebook, or if Facebook is banned in a country, or if your audience moves to the Next Hot Platform, how will that audience discover and read your message?
Oh, the news these days—it’s too liberal! conservative! un-retouched! too-retouched! But really, it’s a problem of the right story finding the wrong audience.
No, Beyoncé and Mr. Romney aren’t running for President next year. But if they were, where and how would you find out about it? And if you heard about it, would it be at the expense of missing out an important local story by the not-yet-famous? (Like those tiny penguins in sweaters which were also picked by our algorithm last week.)
#beyonceforpresident #tinypenguins #newsischanging
SmartNews + Medium: Helping the right story find its audience
- SmartNews is partnering with traditional and local news publishers, and new media publishers like Medium, to deliver culturally relevant stories directly to people who want to read those stories in each country.
- SmartNews uses machine learning algorithms that listen carefully to what millions of people like to read, in each country and eventually each city. (Our engineers, many of whom are based in Japan, may not understand why Americans are obsessed with Beyonce’s skin or why Germans love Hasselhoff so much, but our algorithm knows it’s important and will get it to you.)