Media Insider: Google Scrubs COVID-19 Misinformation, Reader’s Digest Prospers, Facebook Tests VR App

Welcome to Media Insider, PR Newswire’s round-up of media stories from the week.

Media Insider - March 13 2020 - Image of a world map overlaid with computer code

Google Scrubs Coronavirus Misinformation on Search, YouTube

Google, a company that heavily relies on its software and automation to index and rank information, has stepped in to closely monitor its most popular online services to limit the spread of coronavirus misinformation. Google’s aggressive actions include: removing YouTube videos claiming to prevent the virus; pulling YouTube ads from videos discussing COVID-19; banning virus-related apps from the Google Play app store; and blocking tens of thousands of ads “capitalizing” on the virus. Alternatively, Google is giving governments and non-governmental organizations free ad space on YouTube and prioritizing search results from trustworthy sources, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Senators ask the U.S. Justice Department to expand its antitrust investigation of Google to include online search, in addition to digital advertising.

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How Reader’s Digest went from life support to modern, digital-first multimedia brand

In 2013, Reader’s Digest Association went through its second bankruptcy in five years – in debt $100 million and hemorrhaging profits since 2005. A year later, Bonnie Kintzer took over the company and was tasked with transforming it into a prosperous digital-first, multiplatform media company. As a veteran at Reader’s Digest Association, Kintzer quickly pinpointed the company’s failure to adapt to advances in technology and monetize on digital traffic so she focused on rebranding and digital initiatives, starting with renaming the company and publishing one article a day online. Kintzer also appointed a chief digital officer, Vince Errico, to head a team of experts to streamline the company’s technology and build a digital editorial team that truly understands the metrics of SEO and social media. Within four years, the company was able to retire its debt and grow total digital revenue by 98%. For 2020, Kintzer expects a 6% increase in overall revenue and 48% growth in digital ad revenue.

Listen: BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti: ‘We’ve transformed how BuzzFeed makes money’.

Facebook is testing new social VR app Horizon

Facebook’s VR sector, Oculus, has invited users to participate in a test version of Facebook Horizon — a social VR space where users can design personalized avatars and interact with other users. Though the number of VR users in the U.S. is growing, Facebook’s Oculus still faces barriers, such as cost, that prevent widespread consumer adoption of VR. Facebook’s strategy is to focus on creating a more compelling VR experience by integrating more social and community-driven features in hopes it will prompt Facebook users to invest in its VR hardware. Until Facebook figures out how to drive wider interest among users, it isn’t likely to pursue ad monetization on its social VR spaces like Horizon.

The COVID-19 outbreak is affecting businesses around the world. Here’s a look at how it could impact Facebook and Alphabet’s ad revenues.

TikTok steps up transparency efforts after privacy concerns in United States

TikTok announced it will launch the Transparency Center. The announcement comes in response to recent scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers who accused TikTok of sharing user data with the Chinese government and deemed the app a cybersecurity threat. The center would allow outside experts to evaluate its content moderation systems, processes, and policies. To rebuild trust with its community, TikTok also published its first transparency report and hired a global General Counsel and a Chief Information Security Officer.

Continue reading about the Senate bill seeking to ban TikTok from government work phones.

People pay for news that reinforces their social identities

A recent study by doctoral student Weiyue Chen and professor Esther Thorson of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism focuses on understanding content characteristics and social and societal motivations that drive subscriptions. Chen and Thorson surveyed 400+ people across the U.S. and found that people are willing to pay for high-quality news that covers diverse and important topics, even with so many free alternatives available. The study also reveals that participants are willing to pay for news that helps maintain their social status among peers and this social connection is a stronger motivator for subscribing than the news quality. The researchers warn that if people pay for news that only supports their identity, partisan outlets will flourish while more impartial outlets suffer. The researchers stated: “A free and unbiased press should not support particular social identities as much as it challenges attention and concern for all kinds of identities.”

More on Americans’ social connection with the media: The social media influencer industry thrives on idealized identities.

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Erin Wade is a Senior Customer Content Specialist with PR Newswire. She is also an animal lover and aspiring world traveler. Tune into her insights as a social curator at @TotalCSR.

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