I don’t know why I subscribed to The Intercept’s feed originally, but this article caught my eye for some reason.
This quote from the government agency releasing missile strike footage via Twitter and YouTube is the most interesting part of the piece:
The quick release of stats and imagery may reflect the need to drum up public support for the campaign against the Islamic State. CENTCOM’s public affairs office declined an interview on their newfound media enthusiasm, saying only that there was a lot of media interest in Iraq and they know we – the press, that is – want images.
Of course that’s true. Media (videos and pictures) is what drives clicks online. Pretty much period. There’s usually some commentary by a cousin or an old high school friend, but the thing that gets your attention is the picture, sometimes an oh so tantalizing play button for the most precious of things: A video showing some marketing (they aren’t selling you Coke(TM), they’re selling you a life style) team’s preferred story but is marketed as The Real World.
And what drives services online (ad-pressure) is clicks. Pure and simple. Only some very small percentage of page views culminate with an Ad click and that number is two dimensional. It’s simply the ratio of clicks to page views (“impressions” in ad sales lingo). And all of the news sites, of every perspective and size, have figured out that if you show sexually tantalizing or violent imagery you’ll drastically increase the number of pageviews, I mean impressions.
Sure, there are PhD in Information Science with a specialty in modeling the speed and reach of information across an online social network (where there is so much high quality data since the beginning of consumerist driven web). But the work they do is hard because they can influence that ration, after all the obvious stuff is done like sex or violence, only at the micro- or milli-percentage point level. But at top5 website scale, 0.001% is still a pretty large number (on the order of 1 million).
Why do people choose to create algorithms that mathematically model your real life preferences, don’t they think that’s the beginning of a dystopian novel? It’s because that’s were you can get paid the big bucks but still get to be just a techie. You’re just playing with data and finding the intrinsic qualities that were already there so how can it be wrong? You’re a scientist, you’re not making things up it’s what the data says!
Yes, Facebook ruined the surprise when it predicted a woman’s pregnancy even before she knew she was, but their guesses are also wrong a lot of the time (and in real life important quantities of people, remember the scale these companies operate). One of my own personal data points is that I drive very little for my age and gender.
I drive (actually, the car our family shares) the same number of miles per year, for an American living where I live, as a 70 year old woman. Means I get lower premiums than my reality modeled age and gender colleagues so I’m happy. I’m happy because I got that discount on that artificially (to maximize profit) inflated price. Sounds less exciting when you say it like that though.
End sidenote and back to the quote
they know we – the press, that is – want images.
How many will First Look Media get? Is it immune?
“The spectacle … is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.” http://enwp.org/The_Society_of_the_Spectacle