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April 2018
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Fiercely Individual: The Art & Power of Effective Marketing in an Increasingly Mechanized World

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  As many as 800 million jobs could be lost to automation by the year 2030, according to a recent report by McKinsey and Co. In this massive workforce shift, only companies that learn how to blend the mechanized world with the human touch will survive. That's especially true for marketers: As long as we're […]The post Fiercely Individual: The Art & Power of Effective Marketing in an Increasingly Mechanized World appeared first on Adotas.

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posted at: 12:00am on 10-Apr-2018
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The New York Times Tries Something Novel: Listening To And Interacting With Readers

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For years the whine-du-jour in online media circles has been about the poor old news comment section. Time and time again we've been told that in the modern era, the news comment section is an untamable and unredeemable beast: a troll-factory hellscape that is simply too hostile and dangerous to be manageable. So instead of trying to fix the problem, outlets have prevented users from commenting at all. Usually these announcements arrive with some disingenuous prattle about how the outlet in question really "values conversation" and was just trying to "build a stronger community" by muzzling on-site discourse.The real reason killing the news comment section is so popular is less glamorous. Most websites simply are too lazy or cheap to try and explore solutions, since "quality discourse" isn't something site bean counters can clearly monetize. Many other editors simply don't like having an area where plebeians can so clearly and obviously outline errors made during reporting. Many of these editors believe we can and should return the bi-directional internet back to the "letter to the editor era," when publishers got to choose which member of the public was heard.So while "who cares about on site community" becomes the trend, the New York Times is trying something particularly blasphemous in 2018: actually interacting with their readership. Several columnists have taken to the website's still-operating comment section as part of what columnist Frank Bruni says is part of a newfound effort at the paper to actually talk with readers from "time to time":

"I'm the column's author, hereby beginning a Times-encouraged experiment of joining the Comments thread from time to time. Thank you, PaulB67, and thank you, all, for reading us and for engaging in this conversation."
And:
"Hi. I'm the column's author; with The Times's encouragement, we writers on staff are beginning on occasion to join the Comments threads on the stories we publish."
Of course actually interacting with your readership is well out of line with fashion trends at the moment, and it's unclear how dramatic the Times' effort will be or if it will stick around. Most websites would rather outsource all public discourse to Facebook where it becomes SOP. But it runs in line with comments that former Times editor Liz Spayd began making a few years ago, namely that treating your audience like human beings instead of an irredeemable pile of jackasses might actually help foster better public discourse:
"Clearly, there is more to understanding readers than to literally have editors interact with them each day. Nonetheless, the small number of consumer-facing staffers is indicative of the bigger problem: a newsroom too distant from the people it serves...What would prove more fruitful is for newsrooms to treat their audience like people with crucial information to convey preferences, habits and shifting ways of consuming information. What do they like about what we do and how we do it? What do they want done differently? What do they turn to other sites for?"
That this is a novel idea tells you just far off trail we've wandered.Spayd has since departed the Times to go work as a Facebook public image consultant, but apparently her lofty goal of actually giving a damn (TM) appears to have stuck around at the Times, for now. Again, actually interacting and caring about your audience is important, but recent evidence also suggests it doesn't really take much effort to craft tools that can have an immediate, positive impact on the quality of public discourse in comment sections. Yes, the news section is filled with a lot of bile and buffoonery, but the idea that this means all on-site news readers should be muzzled continues to be a popular, but flimsy, narrative.

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posted at: 12:00am on 10-Apr-2018
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Court Says Kentucky Governor Free To Block Critics Using Official Social Media Accounts

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A federal judge in Kentucky has just handed down a disappointing decision granting the state's governor the right to continue blocking as many constituents as he wants on Twitter and Facebook. The suit was brought by two blocked constituents who argued the governor's blocking of their accounts amounted to a violation of their First Amendment rights. It goes without saying the blocked accounts were critical of Governor Matt Bevin. Rather than recognize the harm done by an official government account that only removes criticism, the court likens the blocks to throwing away hate mail or hanging up on aggrieved constituents. From the decision [PDF]:

Here, internet speakers want to use private internet platforms (Twitter and Facebook), used by the Governor to express his views and opinions as Governor, to force him to listen to their views. He might be wise to do so, but since a “person’s right to speak is not infringed when government simply ignores that person while listening to others,” Minnesota State Bd. for Cmty. Colleges v. Knight, 465 U.S. 271, 286 (1984), the Governor is not required to do so. That is why Plaintiffs are unlikely to succeed on the merits of this case and consequently their Motion [R. 3] is DENIED.
The First Amendment gives you a right to speak, but not a right to be heard. That's the court's opinion. This doesn't bode well for plaintiffs currently challenging Donald Trump in court over his Twitter block list. As the court points out later, being blocked by the governor doesn't prevent constituents from telling others about their problems with the state's governor. They just won't be able to confront him more directly.
Ultimately, Governor Bevin is not suppressing speech, but is merely culling his Facebook and Twitter accounts to present a public image that he desires. As a general matter, constituents don’t have a right to be heard and Governor Bevin has no obligation to listen to everyone who wishes to speak to him. . . . Further the term ‘block’ conjures an image much harsher than reality. No one is being blocked from speaking on Twitter on Facebook. They are still free to post on their own walls and on friends’ walls whatever they want about Governor Bevin.
But this take -- however logical it may appear -- misapprehends the balance of power. The judge has given Governor Bevin exactly what he wants: a public account for pro-governor propaganda, basically. The court agrees Governor Bevin should be allowed to restrict anything that doesn't portray him as he'd like to be seen. As Venkat Balasubramani points out, social media accounts are there to encourage public interaction, not serve as a virtual government sound trucks.
Assuming for the sake of argument that a politician may set up a page solely to make heard her views, you wonder whether Bevin really adhered to whatever restrictions this may require. You wonder whether his account posted the stray praise or personal matter. And it also allowed comments. I mean, that’s pretty much the whole point of social media (“join the conversation!”), but it seems that once he’s out there posting on a particular topic, the bar, if it should exist at all, should be high for him to restrict others from chiming in.The court agrees with Bevin’s argument, which is similar to one raised by President Trump that inability to restrict unwanted messages on his pages undermines “the public images that he desires”. This sounds a lot like the exclusion of certain viewpoints, which of course is not allowed.
Eric Goldman breaks it down further, noting that the governor's social media accounts are unambiguously official accounts. These are government accounts and the government is deleting comments and posts by critics of the government. The end result is a gift to politicians who are both thin-skinned and power-hungry.
The court embraces a distressingly authoritarian view of government. The court says “Governor Bevin is not suppressing speech, but is merely culling his Facebook and Twitter accounts to present a public image that he desires.” WTF? We aren’t talking about some shut-in person who little connection to others and no interest in engaging with the world, we’re talking about one of the 50 elected governors in our country. The court is trying to justify the governor’s censorious efforts by euphemistically saying the governor isn’t “suppressing” speech (though that’s exactly what the governor is doing); and dictators routinely justify censorship on the grounds that he/she is just trying “to present a public image that he desires.” FFS.
What's the court's solution? Post stuff wherever you want -- just not on official government pages. And if you don't like the status quo, change it.
Ultimately, Governor Bevin is accountable to the public. The public may view his Page and account if they wish and they may choose to re-elect him or choose to elect someone else if they are unhappy with how he administers his social media accounts...Though Plaintiffs might disagree with his social media practices, the place to register that disagreement is at the polls.
Got that, citizens? If you're unhappy with your representation, don't bother alleging violations of your rights. Nope, just bide your time and vote in the next election. In the meantime, elected officials will be able to run official social media accounts filled with nothing but praise, presenting a skewed view of their popularity. And this is all thanks to a federal judge -- someone who never has to answer to angry citizens for bad decisions because his position isn't subject to voters' whims.

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posted at: 12:00am on 10-Apr-2018
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