An Important Announcement About Professional Development

An email I sent my faculty after several of them emailed me asking “is google drive going away?”

Greetings, I thought I would use the opportunity to bring to light a really important issue that needs to be intentionally taught when we are teaching our kids about research and evaluating quality sources. This morning I fired off a quick email to address a rapidly spreading misconception that “Google Drive was being discontinued.” However, that is absolutely not the case. A couple of things that EVERYONE needs to know:

  • Journalists most of the time are covering the same source or press release
  • Revenue for these companies is driven by how many people click links to go to their sites.
  • These companies will stop at nothing to get you to click their links.

There are two ways to go about getting people to click on those links:

  1. Use deceptive headlines, and shock and awe to get people to follow AND share those links
  2. Build up a good journalistic reputation so when people see your name they know it is probably a quality article.

Lets analyze the two strategies and learn how to recognize the difference, and more importantly help teach our students how to recognize the difference. First the where did the information come from. In looking at the two examples below they are both reacting to the announcement google made at their official blog

Article 1: CNET (Horrible headlines)

In the article above you can see their headline AND the graphic ARE extremely misleading, “Get ready to update, because Google Drive dies next March.” CNET even went one step further by adding to their Facebook post, “Google will stop supporting Drive on December 11.” They also put a skull on the Google Drive logo. Their wording is not sloppy or poorly written, but expertly written and intentionally deceptive. CNET intentionally deceptively communicated to the reader so that the initial reaction for the reader is “oh crap, what do I do now.” The author wants the reader to click on the link and share the misleading headline without eve reading the article. Before you know it there is a misinformed populace that is in a panic. Now many more people are clicking the link, and CNET’s revenue goes up. Not because of good journalism, but because of an intentional deception.

Article 2: The Verge (Much better headline, but still some clever deception)

This second article written by the Verge has a much better written headline. “The Google Drive app for PC and Mac is being shut down in March” The headline highlights the fact that the app for the PC and Mac is what is being shut down, and NOT the service itself. However, they still have a business to run so the preview, leads you to click on the article by offering to give you support or advice. Not as an egregious offense in my book. The articles themselves You know that CNET was being intentionally deceptive on their social media post because when you click into the article they actually have a much DIFFERENT headline that is similar to The Verge’s. Also, notice now that they have also removed the skull form the drive app.

However, the first paragraph from CNET is poorly written and misleading. Lets compare the two.

As seen above CNET is still not clear that it is the APP that is being discontinued and not the service. The Verge is very clear that it is the “Google Drive app for Desktop” that is being discontinued not the core service itself. These types of things MUST be intentionally taught to our students, because they DO NOT get it. They do not have a clear understanding of click bait, journalism, and how revenue is generated on the web. NOTHING on the internet is free. We either pay for it with our money, or we pay for it with our eyes, ads, time. This underlying premise needs to be understood so that we can filter headlines through that lens. Teach your students that articles, ESPECIALLY HEADLINES, posted on social media are intentionally designed to be intriguing and inflammatory. Also notice how CNET walked the fine line of intentionally NOT really lying. They simply played on the fact that the average reader won’t distinguish between the Core Google Drive service and the Google Drive App.

EDITORIAL It is also important to note, that we as a people have created this problem. We have this perception that everything on the internet should be FREE. Journalists have to make a living creating the content that we love. Somehow journalists need to feed their families, pay the rent, and keep the lights on. Today that is almost solely done with advertisement revenue. We used to pay for subscriptions that were SUBSIDIZED WITH ADS, the Sunday paper, magazine subscriptions, etc. Now, most of these companies, with the prevalence of online availability, are completely running on advertisement revenue, and the subscription model has mostly died away. If you want less aggressive and deceptive ads consider paying for the services that you love. I personally continue to pay for ESPN insider, Backpacker Magazine, and I will occasionally donate to my favorite independent bloggers as an attempt to keep the obnoxious inflammatory advertisement based journalism at bay.

I hope you made the slight connection of what I did with my subject line.

Hopefully you can take this and have an impact on how your students evaluate sources and have a small undersigning to the economics of the internet. Have a great Friday.

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