Fake news wouldn’t be possible without cheap news

A sponsor at the 2018 International Journalism Festival markets the ability to create cheap news with their product. (Image: Simon Galperin)

In an attention economy, cheap news is most profitable. The less you need to invest in a piece of content, the higher your profit margin. That’s why what passes for news on the internet is often barely more than a YouTube video with just enough lines of text to meet search engine optimization guidelines.

Aggregation is cheap. But fake news is even cheaper.

You can identify cheap news by its lack of utility. That’s why some people often have a hard time distinguishing between what is true and what isn’t. Most content created by otherwise legitimate news organizations is useless to news consumers because it is not actionable. There’s nothing people can do with that information — just like fake news.

So, the most effective way to combat fake news is by reducing our collective tolerance of cheap news. That means news organizations must begin to ask their communities what they need and measure the utility of their news products against those needs. (Also take Taboola and Outbrain off of your site.)

This sort of listening is not about profit maximization. It’s about utility maximization. And being reliably useful is how you build trust and prove that your services are worth paying for.

Speaking of being useful, here are some resources for producing useful news:

  • Here’s a panel of listening and engagement leaders from 2018's International Journalism Festival:
  • GroundSource is an engagement platform and consultancy that lets community-oriented organizations build two-way relationships with their constituents via SMS, messaging, and voice.
  • Hearken is an engagement platform and consultancy that can help your newsroom realign it’s editorial processes to better meet the information needs of your communities.
  • The Year of Listening has curated resources from the world’s leading listening engagement leaders.
  • More information about building an engagement-based business model can be found at The Membership Puzzle.
  • The only graduate journalism program in the world that specifically prepares its students to practice engaged journalism and build engaged journalism businesses is at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and it is led by Carrie Brown.

Simon Galperin is the customer success lead at GroundSource, director of the Community Information Cooperative, and a fellow at the Reynolds Journalism Institute. He received his M.A. in Social Journalism from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in 2016 and was named one of MediaShift’s top digital innovators in 2017. Follow him on Twitter here, where he can be reached via direct message.