2011: The Year Social Media Gave Traditional Publishers a Pedestal

Several major social-media sites have rolled out redesigns intended to give brand-name media outlets a special place in their ecosystems

Photosani-SOCIAL-BANNER.jpg

The Internet has long been regarded as a place where everyone has an opportunity to publish their thoughts and reach a vast audience. But this year, the site redesigns of YouTube, Twitter, and StumbleUpon -- major drivers of the web's traffic -- gave pride of place to big-name publishers. Let's take a closer look at some of them.

This publisher-centric redesign isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is not always popular with users. Digg rolled out the much-maligned "Digg v4" in August 2010 and was met with a vocal and forceful backlash from the community, partially because of technical glitches and site instability, but primarily because of how it gave special treatment to media organizations. Within the first few days, the front page of Digg -- then the premiere social news site -- was comprised primarily of links to Mashable, Engadget, the BBC, Wired, and CollegeHumor.com.

What lesson can other social-media sites learn from Digg's redesign troubles? The main takeaway is that users desire a fair system. For most of these sites, you have to earn your say, with the status of "power users" generally determined by their number of followers or other measures of influence and activity. Everyone is measured the same way, regardless of who they are in the real world. So, any structural changes that benefit one type of user over another are generally seen as unfair. This was not the case for the Digg redesign, because Digg users didn't enjoy seeing the frontpage flooded with stories from Mashable and Read Write Web.

In their redesigns, YouTube, StumbleUpon, and Twitter all promise that they'll make it easier for consumers to discover interesting content that's related to their interests. In terms of personalization, this is great, especially for those who may use StumbleUpon or Twitter as their primary way of consuming information. But for those who prefer following news aggregated by the serendipity and collective idiosyncrasies of their fellow travelers, social news sites need to protect their ability to do so. If these sites can't deliver on that, they'll stand in violation of the principles that make social communities worth visiting -- and face the judgement of their audience.


Presented by

Jared Keller is a former associate editor for The Atlantic and The Atlantic Wire and has also written for Lapham's Quarterly's Deja Vu blog, National Journal's The Hotline, Boston's Weekly Dig, and Preservation magazine. 

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Technology

Just In