All the Fake News That’s Fit to Print


Here’s how many people now get their news and information:

  • Google
  • Twitter
  • Facebook

In other words, through search and social media.

It works one of two ways:

  • People go to a search engine, enter a search term, and then click on a link within the top 10 search results
  • People scroll through their social media feeds and click on links shared by their friends and followers

In fact, 52 percent of Twitter users and 48% of Facebook users are using the sites as their primary news sources, according to Pew Research. That number is going to continue to climb.

What’s missing here are filters.

Because Google, Twitter and Facebook aren’t news sources. They are delivery systems. The actual source of a piece of news or information is still crucial, but many people are placing less emphasis on who wrote, researched and published the news because many times they don’t even know.

All they know is they read it on “Google” or on “Facebook.”

But news and information are not created equally. Journalists who work for the New York Times, for example, go through a rigorous process of reporting, fact-checking and having their news stories edited by professionals. This doesn’t hold true for bloggers and other online news sources.

We need trusted filters, but unfortunately even these filters are eroding at a rapid rate because of cutbacks and the speed of the Internet.

The latest evidence of journalism demise happened last week when a story about North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un murdering his uncle by feeding him alive to 120 hungry dogs circled the globe. It appeared in major news outlets like USA Today and the New York Daily News.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t true. It was fake.

It was first “reported” on a Weibo, a social media site in China – as a piece of satire. It then got picked up and circulated. Finally, getting into a Chinese newspaper and later being picked up by western media.


With the speed and convenience of the Internet, fewer people – and fewer “journalists” are paying attention to the actual source of the news.

Digital news sources have already surpassed newspapers and radio as the most common source for news (and it is gaining on TV news at an alarming rate). Already about 1 in 3 members of Generation Y use social media as their primary source for news and information.

So expect more “fake” news this year as filters continue to fray.


News Use Across Social Media Sites (via Pew Research)

How Do Americans Get Their News in 2013 (via Social Media Today)

Fake Story in USA Today

NPR story on “fake” Kim Jong-un story

3 Responses to “All the Fake News That’s Fit to Print”

  1. A fascinating topic, George.

    Back in the day, when online hoaxes started circulating via email, I remember thinking that ultimately the free flow of information and growing familiarity with debunking sites like Snopes would lead to more fact-checking, and an overall more critical and discerning readership. Yeah, so maybe not. 😐

    What’s been most surprising to me is how a number of the larger, credible news orgs have gotten sucked up into this as well. On The Media had an interesting piece on this last week, in which they covered a number of cases of this happening with large news orgs:

    As you say, the filters are eroding quickly.

    I’m particularly curious how all that relates to native advertising, which is looking ready for take-off this year. In an odd way, though, it seems misleading messages by corporations kick up more dust than when news orgs do it, and certainly more-so than social media platforms. I’m sure there will be plenty testing of the boundaries.

  2. Hi Doug:
    There’s a whole debate we can have about native advertising – which really isn’t advertising. However, at least corporate content – be it marketing and PR – has filters. That content can also provide value, for example, getting DIY home repair tips from Home Depot or fashion ideas from Anthropology. So while a company is trying to get you buy their products they aren’t using hoaxes and blatantly false information to do so.

  3. Yeah, definitely agree with you on the value of content, George. I’m surprised more brands haven’t taken that up, actually. I’d say there’s still plenty of room for quality content that showcases the brand well. And good examples: I’ve used the Home Depot app, and was surprised at how much content they had.

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