2016 Rewind: A Look Back at the Year in Media

2016 rewind: the top stories in the media world

2016 was one heck of a year in the world of media.

The past year was laden with challenges, including covering a contentious presidential election, making heads or tails of fake news, launching Facebook Live, and processing numerous media consolidations and more layoffs.

The election very clearly affected the media game.

Several news organizations, most notably the Washington Post and others accustomed to limitless access to the presidential nominees, were banned from President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign, citing unfair and inaccurate coverage. Trump announced this on Facebook.

In a statement from WaPo Executive Editor Marty Baron, he said Trump’s decision to revoke their credentials was “nothing less than a repudiation of the role of free and independent press.”

It turns out Trump barred about a dozen news organizations — The Huffington Post, Politico, and Buzzfeed, to name a few — over the course of his campaign. All were reinstated in September.

And that’s not the only way the presidential race changed the media’s role. Several news outlets that typically don’t endorse a candidate jumped into the fray.

Both The Arizona Republic and Dallas Morning News broke from long-standing tradition and endorsed Hillary Clinton. The Republic hadn’t endorsed a candidate since 1890; it’s been 75 years since the Morning News picked a candidate.

Clinton also earned a nod from USA Today — the first time in 34 years the news outlet felt compelled to speak up.

The Fake News Problem

False. Phony. Misleading. Made-up stories.

Fake news was big news this year. The distribution and dissemination of untrue stories created a real problem for news agencies and consumers.

At the center of it? Facebook, where phony stories popped up and were being shared in record speed.

Some believe fake stories contributed to Trump’s victory over Clinton. Now, Facebook and others are working to address how to police hucksters spreading false news.

This is a daunting task.

Facebook has instituted policies that will prevent fake news sites from using its advertising tools. It’s also put in place a third-party, fact-checking process with help from FactCheck.org, Snopes, Associated Press and others to help identify legitimate news sources vs. the fake stuff.

“We’ve focused our efforts on the worst of the worst, on the clear hoaxes spread by spammers for their own gain, and on engaging both our community and third party organizations,” Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s vice president of product management for News Feed, told Wired.

Like Facebook, Google also is cracking down on fake news sites by not allowing them access to its advertising options.

Reuters also has designed an algorithm that identifies whether a report is from a verified account, number of followers, links and images, which then assigns a verification score. If the score meets Reuters requirements, it may then tweet out a breaking news alert of its own.

Live Video on the Rise

Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram led the way in live video functionality. Used by both consumers and brands, live video provides a real-time, interactive connection with audiences that’s easily shareable.

According to Econsultancy, video views on Facebook number at approximately eight billion per day.

Yet, the smaller Snapchat boasts 10 billion daily video views. Instagram Live, which launched over the summer, now allows live streaming by users.

Clearly thanks to social media, users are utilizing live video to tell stories in a compelling way.

I suspect Facebook and others will find ways to enhance video functionalities in the coming year.

Media Consolidation

There were some major moves in media this year. Some were good; others not so much.

Hearst took steps to consolidate five of its women’s titles — Cosmo, Redbook, Seventeen, Good Housekeeping, and Women’s Day — to create a more collaborative environment where “brands refine their individual points-of-view, and dynamic editors expand their skills and talent to the benefit of all,” according to Hearst spokesperson.

The consolidation is expected to go into effect next month. No word yet on whether layoffs will result.

On the daily newspaper front, Pulitzer-Prize winning The Bergen Record and Herald News (NJ) took a big blow by new owner Gannett, cutting 200 jobs. The layoffs were in news and sales. Gannett purchased the North Jersey Media Group last summer.

Yahoo! is cutting back as well. It announced it was laying off about 1,600 employees (15 percent of its workforce) as part of a restructuring plan to regain footing after a $4 billion loss in the final quarter of last year. The plan also calls for closing shop on games, smart TV and scripted TV shows that aren’t profitable so the company can focus on news, sports, finance and lifestyle brands as well as products like Search, Mail and Tumblr.

But, it wasn’t all bad news. The “profitable” Washington Post announced it will be adding more than five dozen journalists in 2017 — an astounding number in this day and age.

Meanwhile, in digital, Discovery Communications dropped a $100 million investment into Group Nine Media. Group Nine pulls together millennial-focused Thrillist, NowThis, The Dodo, and Seeker (Discovery’s digital network) all under one umbrella resulting in “one of the largest digital-first media companies”.

So what’s next in media? You can track the latest industry news, moves, trends and updates on PR Newswire for Journalists.

Brett Simon is PR Newswire’s former director of audience relations and was a television reporter in her former life. Follow her @savsimon

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