FAKE NEWS IS NOT THE PROBLEM. IT’S VOLUME AND THE WAY OF DISTRIBUTION.
Trump build his first campaign on it — so called Fake News!
He understood that there are serious problems with the current media environment and used Twitter to directly communicate with the masses, just like Musk, Benioff and others. And in Trumps case calling it Fake News was just much easier to fulfill his purpose than explaining the real problem with 160 characters to his followers. And it wasn’t necessary. But the real, underlining reason for the dysfunctional current media-ecosystem is something people seem not to talk about: volume and distribution. But it’s important to understand, not only for media companies providing the content or readers consuming it, but also for politicians, managers as well as CEO’s and advertisers. Because the problems are just starting…
WHY VOLUME: Digitalization allows everyone to have an opinion on anything and with more and more digital content arriving faster and faster on the screens of the readers, the volume that people are supposed to consume is just not manageable. The current output of data is roughly 2.5 quintillion bytes a day, with a strong growth-rate looking forward. And news now change instantly, covering almost all events all over the world — live. Headlines appear and disappear within minutes and millions of articles and blog posts are created every day. This creation of volume is the first problem the current media environment is suffering from and the readers are adjusting quickly to this development. While reading newspapers was very common still only a few years ago, now it’s 160 characters on Twitter or watching short videos — that’s what Generation X prefers to do. But this again leads to a more serious problem: people always know what’s going on, but never why. People read the headlines or tweets, but not the articles — or just imagine a book — explaining the reasons behind a certain event.
BUT WHY DISTRIBUTION? Volume is just the beginning. It forces the reader to choose which platforms he uses, which content he wants to see and which story he wants to deep-dive in — if at all. And if he doesn’t choose, the algorithms of the platforms and media sites will choose for him — no matter if he is aware of it or not. And most people in the real world outside of the digital environment are just not. And because platforms want users to stay, come back and use them again, they will sort the content in a way that the likelihood of him or her clicking the content will go up. And how do you do that? Well, you provide the user with content he likes and he is likely to like based on his ego and/or the previous actions of the user or users that act like him. What you know from Amazon is happening everywhere. “Customers who bought this item also bought…” also works with “Republicans who read this content also read…” and so on. You get the point. And now for one second just imagine it’s 100 times better and you have a small idea on where we are at today.
So, while volume creates the first problem, the human-centric distribution-system based on market forces creates the second problem. We know more, but understand less and see things that only confirm what we already seem to believe. And the chance to find news that are showing a different version of the story is slim. These other versions exist, but we don’t see them, because the algorithms thinks we don’t like them and it is designed to make sure we do, so we come back.
And now media and people all over the world blame the platforms for showing undecided voters certain, one-sided information. But who’s fault is it, really? Or is it a system failure? But is it really the fault of cooperation’s providing a social network? I don’t think so. I think we need to make sure that our kids learn to understand how the digital world functions. We need to make sure that we think critical again. We need to make sure that we understand our personal responsibility in a highly complex super-fast world. It’s on us, not on anyone else. And when you see something ask yourself if this is all there is — or as Ray Dalio would phrase it:
“Think for yourself to decide 1) what you want, 2) what is true, and 3) what you should do to achieve #1 in light of #2, and do that with humility and open-mindedness so that you consider the best thinking available to you.”