October 16, 2015 Last Updated 7:38 am

Polls, focus groups and social media cause media to reassess Democratic debate

Morning Brief: Flipboard updates iOS app, updating design, while a few readers begin complaining of comment spam; Politico Media predicts newsroom layoffs at the Guardian

The media went to bed on Tuesday assured that they knew who “won” the Democratic debate that night, and woke up having to wonder just how wrong they might be. For the rest of the week, much of the media had to admit that while the press was in the bad for Clinton, social media, polls and focus groups were saying something completely different.

Sanders-Clinton-screen(See TNM’s Morning Brief for Wednesday, which predicted this might happen.)

The problem isn’t calling the wrong winner, the problem is calling a winner at all. This is for the opinion columns, the analysts. Instead, front pages (print and digital) for the NYT, Washington Post, Guardian and other outlets let their reporters play analyst and cover the spin rather than the substance of the debates, putting their media properties potentially in conflict with their readers. My point was that this was bad business (I’ll let others argue the merits of the strategy from a journalism point of view).

With one debate down, it will be interesting to see where we go from here. The media has been wrong all along on the GOP side of the aisle, now after the first debate it sees itself wrong again, this time on the Democratic side. We might see the media being a little more cautious going forward, waiting at least until the Iowa Caucuses to begin keeping score again. But February feels like a long way off, so one doubts they can hold their fire so long.

The issue of commenting may be coming an issue at some of the new media properties such as Flipboard. The issue involves moderating out comment spam.

Flipboard-intro-smTrolls can be hard to moderate – after all, one person’s troll is another passionate partisan. But comment spam is far easier. Usually the comments are nonsensical, filled with links to product pages. TNM gets hundreds of these a year, major media sites get thousands, even millions of such spam comments.

Readers of the Flipboard app have complained about comment spam on the app, though the app still gets overwhelmingly positive reviews overall.

Yesterday, Flipboard’s app was update, updating its design. “New more beautiful presentation of shared stories and comments in your notification tab,” the app description states.

Looking through the app one sees that the app is one which the developers are constantly tweaking its appearance and functionality. This is something that will differentiate it from Apple news Apple News app. With Apple, their attention to their apps and other software is temporary, sporadic. iBooks Author, for instance, is often lucky to get even one update a year. How often will Apple update Apple News?

Well, that is going to be a problem because Apple News is built into iOS 9, which means that it can only get update (I believe) whenever the platform is updated. Important design updates will just have to wait until the iOS team decides to issue their next security update, I suppose.

Going back to the issue of comments, I didn’t see too many stories with comment spam. Flipboard just doesn’t feel like the kind of media environment where readers can conduct good conversations. Maybe I’m wrong about that, as I am not a regular Flipboard user, maybe you see it differently.

Other media app updates include one for RIT Media Sciences, the new Adobe DPS app from the School of Media Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology (see TNM’s First Look at the app from earlier this week). The update changes the logo and swaps out the screenshots.

Apple issued a whole series of updates including updates for its iWork apps – both for the Mac and iOS devices.

Developers will be most interested in the update for the iOS app for iTunes Connect. The update fixes a couple of bugs, including one that prevented some users from logging in using Touch ID.

But one reader review of the update for Keynote got my attention as it seems to reflect a growing point of view: that these updates are not as stable as they should be, not thoroughly tested, and not worth immediately downloading and installing:

Afraid. Afraid to update iOS. Afraid to update apps. Afraid of Data Loss. Afraid because iCloud does not seem to be working. Afraid. Just afraid.

Politico Media went out on a limb yesterday, predicting that layoffs were imminent at The Guardian.

“The Guardian is preparing for steep editorial cuts after a slowdown in advertising sales. Job losses are highly likely, insiders at the media company said,” the Politico report started.

The source of the report, as mentioned above, is internal, but the evidence for the prospect of layoffs is rather thin (though, it should be said, that one could predict layoffs at almost any news organization these days and be right… eventually). A memo for David Pemsel, Guardian Media Group’s chief executive, seems to imply that layoffs might occur, but does not come right out and say so.

The Guardian does maintain an unusually large newsroom in comparison to its rivals, and one larger than newspaper twice its size in readership. According to the Politico report, the Guardian has a newsroom staff of 872, and 1,512 employees overall.

In case you missed this, here is a bit of schadenfreude for some media observers:

Simmons-screen-800Fox News ‘terrorism analyst’ Wayne Simmons was arrested Thursday, accused of falsely claiming to have been a CIA agent. Simmons appeared regularly on Murdoch’s cable news channel, and was described by Media Matters as “right wing media’s Benghazi expert.”

The press release from the Department of Justice paints a picture of someone who was a bit of a swindler:

According to the indictment, Simmons falsely claimed he worked as an “Outside Paramilitary Special Operations Officer” for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 1973 to 2000, and used that false claim in an attempt to obtain government security clearances and work as a defense contractor, including at one point successfully getting deployed overseas as an intelligence advisor to senior military personnel. According to the indictment, Simmons also falsely claimed on national security forms that his prior arrests and criminal convictions were directly related to his supposed intelligence work for the CIA, and that he had previously held a top secret security clearance. The indictment also alleges that Simmons defrauded an individual victim out of approximately $125,000 in connection with a bogus real estate investment.

Simmons faces up to 20 years if convicted.

A search of the Fox News website shows that the last time Simmons appeared on Fox News was in mid-September where he appeared as an expert on Iran, with appearances that go back at least a decade. In that last appearance he was introduced as the co-author of a new book… of fiction, of course.

A Fox News spokeswoman told the Daily News that Simmons “was a guest only and had never been paid” for his appearances. The Fox News website, though, makes no mention of their contributor’s arrest yesterday.

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