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Author Archive | Zach Everson

Why Facebook stinks at covering developing news

Facebook logoFacebook destroys Twitter in most metrics. But when it comes to breaking news, Twitter is the go-to social media outlet (demonstrated last week during the Paris attacks). Here’s a look why. Executive summary; it’s largely Facebook’s fault.

I help manage the social media sites for the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Yesterday around 5:30 p.m. (all times EST), a Texas trial court withdrew the execution order for Raphael Holiday, scheduled to die that evening for killing three children. Shortly thereafter I shared that good news with our Facebook followers (for a look at why KCADP opposes the death penalty, visit its website):


I wrote the post to attract maximum engagement on Facebook:

  • I started off with “BREAKING” in all caps, which has proven to be an attention getter (we use it sparingly though).
  • I linked to the story from another source (that is, not—Facebook seems to give posts a bigger reach when you’re not linking to your own website).
  • I framed the story in a positive manner to garner more likes and, hence, more views.

That post did really well by KCADP’s standards, reaching 867 people and picking up 17 likes, one comment, and one share as of 10:30 a.m. today.

But around 8:15 p.m., less than three hours later, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overruled the lower court and Holiday’s execution was back on. KCADP needed to share this development with its followers as well: both to inform them that the earlier post was dated, as well as ask them to contact Texas governor Greg Abbott seeking clemency for Holiday.

Our options for sharing this new development though were limited. And crappy.

  1. We could update the first post to change what had been a positive story (execution on hold) into a negative one (execution going forward). But by that time about 15 of our followers had already liked that post. It wouldn’t look right to have so many likes for what was now a negative story.
  2. We could publish a new post. But between coming so quickly after our earlier post and being a negative development and unlikely to garner likes, there was no way Facebook’s algorithm was going to give this negative update the same reach as the earlier, positive, but now dated post.
  3. Option 2, but also delete the original post. That first update, however, was getting so much engagement—and Facebook rewards engagement by giving you more reach on subsequent posts—that deleting it could hurt our ability to share our message with as many people as possible.
  4. We could pay to boost the second post’s reach. KCADP has a budget for social media promotion, but spending it to push a negative story that wasn’t going to get us much engagement isn’t a good use of our limited resources.

So I went with number two and posted again:


I also added a comment under the original post, directing people to the update. But it’s doubtful many Facebook users saw it.

As of 10:30 a.m. today, that second update has reached just 284 people—compared to 867 for the earlier post—and picked up one like and three shares. Texas killed Holiday at 9:30 p.m. last night, but as I drafted this blog post the following morning, KCADP’s original Facebook update about him being spared is still garnering likes and views.

Sure on Twitter, retweets may cause a dated tweet to pick up engagement after it’s no longer accurate. But because Twitter doesn’t rely on a proprietary algorithm to determine what a user sees, it’s much more likely that new developments will work their way into a user’s feed.

Until Facebook figures out a way to improve how outlets can share developing stories, Twitter’s going to trump it for news.

Skift, campaigner against the hate-sell, loves to hate-sell

Skift is the self-proclaimed “largest industry intelligence and marketing platform in travel, providing news, information, data and services to all sectors of the world’s largest industry.”

On Aug. 10, 2015, Skift’s founder and CEO, Rafat Ali, published an article on the site titled, “Travel Brands, Stop Hate-Selling to Your Customers.” In the piece, Ali describes how he coined the term “hate-selling,” which he defines as … well, he doesn’t really. But based on the examples he provides, it’s seems that hate-selling refers to when a business makes a passive-aggressive attempt at shaming customers into a sale, often an upsell:

Since that first article, a search of “hate-sell” on shows the outlet has published 11 additional articles containing the phrase—a clip of more than one article a week.

Ali’s anti-hate-selling campaign even landed him a spot on a “Today” show segment about airlines upselling travelers (he’s at the 1:20 mark):

And at 11:05 a.m. today at the Skift Global Forum (produced by Skift, it’s the self-proclaimed “first conference focused on top strategists, technologists, and marketers in travel, the people creating the future of travel in 2015 and beyond”), there’ll be this session: 

Skift, however, has been hate-selling well before its founder coined the term. And, even after the outlet began publicly campaigning against these passive-aggressive upsells, it has continued to try to shame readers into buying its products.

In July 2014—13 months before Ali and Skift publicly used “hate-sell” and launched their campaign—a pop-up ad on Skift to buy its report on travel trends wouldn’t disappear unless I either purchased the document or selected a button that said I’m not interested in trends. I didn’t know it until Ali later coined the term, but I was being subject to a hate-sell! That ad led to this Twitter exchange with Skift’s co-founder and head of content Jason Clampet: 

Skift’s campaign, however, doesn’t afford travel businesses the same justification.

Here are some recent examples of Skift’s effective marketing/hate-selling (I didn’t start taking screenshots until Skift began crusading against its own practice):

Skift hate-sell

Skift hate-sell

Skift hate-sell

In the following tweet, Ali appears to be defending Skift’s hate-sells as a spoof on the travel industry:

But that exchange occurred 15 months after Clampet told me Skift hate-sells because it works. So Ali’s apparent claim that the line is a joke holds water about as well as the Costa Concordia.

Zach take: If you’re at the Skift Global Forum this morning, attend the “Hate-Selling: A Love Story” skit. It should be hilarious to watch Ali and his colleagues simultaneously talk out of both sides of their mouths. Of course, it’s likely they do in fact love hate-selling— apparently it both sells reports and gets Ali on the “Today” show.

Latest assignment was close to home, but still a bit trippy

Wells Fargo Advisors LifescapesBehold my latest article:

Washington, D.C.: Beyond the Monuments

While the article didn’t take me far from home, it did take me back in time:

  • The editor was my college roommate.
  • The outlet was Wells Fargo Advisors’s Lifescapes publication. Wells Fargo bought First Union, my first post-college employer (“Thank you for calling First Union’s Retail Investment Group. This is Zach Everson speaking. How may I help you?” x 65 times a day).
  • The subject is DC, which is what I covered for my first travel writing gig (with Gridskipper).

Also, as of this post, my article is the most popular on the Lifescapes website.

Photo: Courtesy Wells Fargo Advisors

The solution to ad blockers

It’s podcasts and apps—with links posted on websites and social media that open directly to the podcast or app, or to the option to download said post or app.

Media saved, tech companies thwarted.

(For background on what I’m talking about Arnold, read Casey Johnston’s “Welcome to the Block Party” for The Awl.)

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story didn’t include the Diff’rent Strokes allusion.

New gig alert: I’m now contributing to Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet logoHappy to share that today I started contributing to Lonely Planet. Here’s my first article: “New app allows users to send messages without internet connection.”

Ten years ago, Lonely Planet’s “Europe on a Shoestring” guided me on a three-month trip from Dublin to the Mediterranean coast of Turkey (and back!). Lonely Planet’s been my go-to for guidebooks ever since.

I’ll be contributing articles that focus on travel news, usually where it intersects with other areas. To wit, today I’m writing about Taylor Swift.

Can a new smart-trip planner create my dream vacation? By me for ‘Condé Nast Traveler.’

Condé Nast Traveler

Last week I tested a new digital smart-trip planner for Condé Nast Traveler:

This week, Inspirock launched what it claims is “the first free smart trip planner that instantly learns your personal interests and creates an itinerary just for you.” On average, the Inspirock team says, travelers visit 38 websites over 21 days when planning a trip. The startup aims to cut that number down significantly by using machine learning and—you guessed it—big data.

Found out how Inspirock did when I put it to the test in hopes of getting a trip full of restaurants, bourbon, and pony races.