Fake news has become a term to call out your friends when you think their tale is just too good to be true. But with more and more publishers closing due to financial constraints, fake news is on the up.
Let's forget for a minute how fake news can be promoted by the same companies publishers pay to advertise on (Facebook and Google, we're looking at you). It's safe to say original and factual storytelling is on the decline, as media outlets look for more engaging and shareable content. Users are more inclined to click on a link that tells them that only they will understand the 12 things listed inside, or that only true fans will be able to get at least 74/100 on this quiz.
But the more publishers turn to this tactic to stay afloat, let alone turn a profit, the more that real news goes by the wayside. With Facebook and Google controlling how publishers make their money, media companies will need to use them to attract subscribers.
And if we want to stop the embarrassing situation where you tell someone a story, only to realise that it's 100% fake, maybe we'll have to put our hands in our pockets.
Steps are being taken to help publishers, like Google's decision to turn off its first click free policy, or Facebook hiring a former journalist to build a team that liaises with the media to understand what they want.
But conventionally, news is not a free commodity. Newspapers cost money, and online consumption of news needs to come with its own price tag. Information is highly valuable and if we want access to the news that really matters to us, then shouldn't we pay for it just like anything else?
“While research has shown that people are becoming more accustomed to paying for news, the sometimes painful process of signing up for a subscription can be a turn off,” Richard Gingras, vice president of news at Google, wrote in a blog post. “That’s not great for users or for news publishers who see subscriptions as an increasingly important source of revenue.”