Social vs. Mainstream

By Kurt Matthews, Account Manager

The end-of-year lists are starting to appear, and it made me notice something—the difference between social media and mainstream media.

I noticed this when two heavyweights in each category went toe to toe by publishing their end-of-year lists.

Ding! Ding!

In the blue corner, from Menlo Park, California, weighing in at 1.1 billion users, the King of Social Media, Faaaaaaceboooooooook!

Fighting out of the red corner, from New York City, weighing in with 3.2 million subscribers, the Periodical Giant, Tiiiiiime magaziiiiiine!

Ding! Ding! Ding!

Facebook vs. Time. Right away, the glaring difference is 1.1 billion users vs. 3.2 million readers, respectively. One might call this bout a “David vs. Goliath” match. But seriously, that’s what free vs. paid looks like, so let’s move on.

I mentioned end-of-year lists. Time published its list of finalists for 2014 Person of the Year and Facebook announced its Biggest Moments of 2014 list.

Time’s shortlist for Person of the Year:

  • Vladimir Putin
  • Taylor Swift
  • Jack Ma, English teacher turned founder and CEO of Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant which debuted a $25 billion IPO.
  • Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
  • Masoud Barzani, acting president of the Iraqi Kurdish Region since 2005
  • Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the NFL
  • The Ferguson Protesters
  • The Ebola Fighters

Facebook’s Global Top 10 Moments:

  1. World Cup
  2. Ebola Virus Outbreak
  3. Brazilian Elections
  4. Robin Williams
  5. Ice Bucket Challenge
  6. Israel-Gaza Conflict
  7. Malaysia Airlines
  8. Super Bowl
  9. Sochi Winter Olympics
  10. Ferguson

Another glaring difference is “moments” vs. “person.” However, look closely and you can compare these lists for the value they bring to all of us.

Time has chosen Whistleblower, Good Samaritan, You, and Protester as their “person” of the year in the past. Clearly they are looking at the value of a news story, and not just an individual.

Facebook calls them “moments,” but its list is made up of mostly people or groups of people. Call both lists what you will—to me they are all human-interest stories.

The largest difference is how each list is made. Time’s is chosen by a small group of editors. Facebook uses the data it collects on the biggest trending topics among its 1.1 billion users.

When I noticed that the Time editors actually picked a couple of the same people that showed up organically on Facebook’s list, I thought, “Of course, those are huge stories.” In fact, Time’s final pick for Person of the Year is “The Ebola Fighters,” which ranks #2 on Facebook’s list.

Conversely, most of Time’s picks are not in Facebook’s top 10. When I saw Time’s shortlist before I saw Facebook’s list, I thought the ALS Ice Bucket Challenger (phrased as a person) should’ve been on it. Sure enough, the next day it showed up on Facebook’s Top 10 Moments list.

I’m left wondering who has more influence on us … should mainstream media pay more attention to social media? We all know marketers are paying more attention. Social media is certainly being used as a PR tool, and savvy publicists and marketers are taking advantage of it. But I can’t help but think mainstream media like Time are not paying enough attention to what people are actually saying.

I know the two lists are different, and I stretched to make them appear closer than they are, but it really stood out to me how Time isn’t very tuned in to what people are saying.

Hey, maybe they shouldn’t be. Facebook reveals our everyday lives—something you probably wouldn’t want to pay for if you had to. In fact, Time took the first swing in this media bout back in January when it published “How Much Time Have You Wasted on Facebook?” And the fight wages on.


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