Stop freaking out, this is how you can beat Facebook

News publishers today are essentially freaking out about Facebook’s latest announcement to prioritise family and friends content over news. Adam Tinworth made an attempt of translating ‘Facebook speak into English,’ available here. Stop reading this post, go click the link and come back.

Enjoy that? Ok, lets keep going. In the past year at numerous conference presentations, I’ve been concentrating on one thing: know who you are, what you’re doing and focus on that. If you can, you will either a) beat the algorithms and/or b) algorithms really don’t matter.

That’s because if you develop a relationship with your audience, they know what to expect and your audience will return to you  because of that relationship. I’ve used Saturday Night Live (SNL) and Jimmy Fallon on YouTube to demonstrate this example for years. In the case of SNL I know every Sunday they are going to be uploading clips of the show the night before that I will go and watch. Its an appointment to view where I will watch a series of videos. Same thing with Jimmy Fallon (though its decreased significantly in the past few months – more on that here) where I know every weekday there will be new content on the channel. I know what both channels are offering, know what to expect and can go check it out on a daily or weekly basis because I know that’s when new content will appear, even if I haven’t subscribed to the channel.

So you might be thinking, well we provide news and our audience is ‘everyone.’.   Really?

What if you are a niche publisher trying to  keep up with the big ones, and even trying to  compete on speed to break news. Here’s a tip: it won’t work. They’re bigger, have been around longer, have more resources than you and are going to beat you everytime unless you play the long game. That doesn’t mean give up. Look at AJ+, the off shoot of Al Jazeera or even Buzzfeed News. They aren’t trying to be everything to everyone. They know who their audiences are – what age demographic they come from, what platform they’re viewing content from, what times of day and days or week they’re active, and specifically exactly what type of content they’re looking for and then they serve that content on a specific platform. No, it doesn’t mean you’re watering down content or even creating click bait. But it will mean something similar to the following exemplary scenarios:

  • You know the majority of your Facebook audience is 50% from North America active in 3 time zones and they enjoy 60-90 second videos on explainers about international news events
  • Perhaps your best performing format is Photos – that doesn’t mean straight photos, it could be infographics or a data visualisation, so you start making more of those- not spamming your audience but ensuring you are consistent and publishing one per day
  • On site you may notice that your audience is not really interested in Arab-Israeli conflict news but when you publish stories on female entrepreneurs in Algeria, Morocco or Tunisia that they consistently perform well so instead of publishing one story every three months, you aim to do one per week. It doesn’t mean you stop doing Arab-Israeli news but it does mean that if you were doing 2 stories a week on it, you reduce that to  maybe one per week and pick up other stories that are not represented but that your audience is looking for.

To get to these conclusions takes time spent with data, and being able to interpret that data not to tell your editors what they want to hear, but what they need to hear.  What I usually see are publishers rushing to be everything to everyone. The metrics Facebook (and typically other companies) give them as metrics of success (reach, likes, views, impressions) are lapped up, however we have to remember that any company first and foremost has its own interests at heart, no matter how much of your buddy they seem to be. How is it that news publishers are so good at interrogating sources and facts for news but don’t interrogate the methodology of organisations they work or partner with? (insert hmm emoji here) Instead, lots of digital/social people pride success on ‘views’ for instance. But really, a view in Facebook speak is 3 seconds long and if as publishers we consider cumulative ‘views’ that may reach millions or billions as success, then we have set the bar for success very low. Instead, look at your watchtime minutes. You’ll likely notice a significant drop in numbers but those are the numbers that people are actually watching your content. Yes, it is time to wake up and smell the Ethiopian blend coffee.* Interestingly enough, Google was onto this years ago and in their YouTube analytics prioritised watch time minutes over views long before this recent brouhaha.

My contention is this: focus on engagement, interaction. This is because what you should be focusing on is building a relationship with your audience. You should know why they are coming to you on Facebook, on YouTube, on your site or wherever else. If you are still cutting and pasting TV content or taking the same content and plastering it on every site you will lose.

You will also lose if you try to beat the algorithm. If you’ve ever gambled, besides Brad Pitt setting you up for a win a la Oceans 13 style, know this: the house always wins.


However, if you focus on building a relationship with your audience and developing loyalty, it doesn’t matter what the algorithm does. Your audience will seek you out, and return to you over and over again. That’s how you ‘beat’ Facebook.


*because thats the last filter coffee I had here in Berlin at Father Carpenter and it was delightful


Coups, Wikileaks and a State of Emergency: A week in Turkey  

(A modified version of this piece will appear for BBC Trending over the weekend of 24/5 July). 

It’s been a turbulent week in Turkey with a failed coup attempt, Wikileaks dump of 300,000 emails of the ruling government party, and a declaration of a State of Emergency taking place in the span of 6 days. How has Turkey’s digital landscape been responding?

 On the evening of Friday 15 July, various stirrings on social media reported the closure and presence of military on Istanbul’s two key bridges connecting Europe to Asia. Reports of F-16 fighter jets flying low in Turkey’s capital Ankara were also suggesting something was afoot. A video posted early to Facebook was taken while driving by the bridge asked soldiers whether this was a military exercise or whether something was wrong. They responded that it wasn’t an exercise. One of the first tweets that started to trend was #DarbeyeHayir -no to the coup, with over 530,000 tweets suggesting that the public was against this coup.

 Facebook’s lives map lit up with instance of people broadcasting in Turkey. In 2011, the uprising in Egypt’s ‘Arab Spring’ were termed broadly as a ‘social media revolution,’ was Turkey experiencing an attempted coup by livestream? While Turkey is a connected social media country, social platforms are only used primarily by an urban, young, segment of society 

In a country of 74 million, there are approximately 30 million Facebook users, and 6 million Twitter users. Facebook live, the live streaming service launched in May, is used far less.

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The inflection point of the coup could very well have been President Erdogan’s live interview on CNN Turk, via Apple’s FaceTime. Hande Firat, the bureau chief who was able to get him on the line was told by one of Erdogan’s advisors that he had already made a statement via Periscope, though this had failed to garner attention. During the Facetime call, Erdogan called on Turks to fill streets and squares to stand opposition to the attempted coup. The evening continued with former President Abdullah Gul also being interview on FaceTime, calling on soldiers to return to their barracks ‘before its too late.’ Tweets from the President, Prime Minister and other politicians followed with the same message, to take to the streets. Politicians had also been livestreaming while Parliament itself came under attack.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 23.53.59

The following day, a text message sent by the Presidency was sent to mobile users across Turkey, urging them to take to the streets.

As the layers of what happened continued to follow, reports surfaced that coup plotters had used WhatsApp to organize and communicate on the night of July 15th. This gif emerged, fictionalising the timeline of events events

The release of 300,000 internal emails of Turkeys ruling party, AK (the justice and Development Party), by Wikileaks generated over 400,000 #Wikileaks tweets including anticipation, blocking of the site in Turkey by court order but when access was restored failed to deliver anything of scandal but did include recipes and calls by one staffer to help feed starving cats.

The announcement of the a three month State of Emergency (Olaganustu Hal) started trending in the early hours of Thursday 20th, with almost 100,000 tweets in 24 hours #OHALde (during the state of Emergency).

 While the names of alleged coup plotters were also trending at times on Turkey, there were also allegations that coup plotters organised themselves via the messenger service WhatsApp

Here’s a time line follows of some of the biggest trends in Turkey over the past week and what they mean


Friday 15th


stirrings on social media about military presence  and the shutting down of traffic on Istanbul’s Bosphorus bridge. Reports in Ankara of F-16 fighter jets flying at low altitude over the city

around 930pm

Erdogan appears on CNN Turk via a FaceTime around  calls where he says he will return to Ankara and calls on people to take to the streets and squares in defiance of the coup  


SokağaSakınÇıkma (Don’t go out into the streets) 68.4 k


#darbeyehayır 530k (No to the coup)

Saturday 16th


darbedeğiltiyatro 174k  (Its not a coup, its theatre – suggesting that the coup was staged)


#MehmetcikSahipsizdegildir  80k


#idamistiyorum 124k  (I want execution)


#askerimedokunma 607k


#MilletTarihyaziyor  309k  (The people are writing history by standing against the coup)

Thursday 21st

 2am  #ohalde 99k in less than 24 hours  

 Justin Biebers new song relase#coldwater 783k

Not be out done, celebrity tweets in the million broke the trends of domestic events -the spat between Taylor Swift and Kanye West, Selena Gomez’ 24th birthday and the launch of Justin Biebers new single Coldwater.


What does Turkey’s State of Emergency mean for civilians? aka calm down

Turkey’s President Erdogan just declared a 3 month State of Emergency. So what does it actually mean? Key points/summary below. For a more detailed version, see the source here 

  1. The State of Emergency cannot exceed 6 months
  2. It can be extended by 4 months at a time, each time by approval of parliament
  3. Decrees (ie law) issued under state cannot be contested as unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court (to put another way the Constitutional Court cannot question constitutionality of decrees declared under State of Emergency – it is not a time of civilian rule so rules suspended).
  4. Martial law can be enacted during period of state of emergency (can also exist exclusively depending under which Article emergency invoked- Articles 119 or 120 – check again the link above)
  5. Fundamental rights may be partially/entirely suspended (which is almost identical to Article 15 of European Convention of Human Rights)
  6. Important: no one can be held guilty until so proven by court judgement (meaning there are protective civil liberty elements within the Constitutions Article 15)
  7. However under State of Emergency, fundamental rights are not under the control of the judiciary (ie, again there is a parliamentary check on this)
  8. There cannot be amendments made to law during a State of Emergency, these can only be made after end of the State of Emergency per regular parliamentary procedure (ie Parliament has to approve).

Interpretation: While on surface this may appear alarming there are robust checks under the State of Emergency to protect civil liberties. Also, there was a 15 year state of emergency between 1987-2002 in some parts of Turkey, so this has occurred in recent memory. The ‘shock’ comes from evaluating Turkish democratic standards with those of a developed Western liberal democracy and the freedoms that entails. Turkey is still considered a developing country in some respects, and it is not Western, but it is also not to be equated with various Middle Eastern regimes permeated by military or dynastic rule. Some angst comes from the panic that it will defer to the latter, particularly when considering Turkey has made resounding economic, democratic and human developed leaps in the past decade to distinguish itself from undemocratic, undeveloped regimes/areas. Concerns remain in other areas namely freedom of assembly, press and the economic slowdown not just from the past days but recent years.

What we do not yet know/questions:

  • Will there be curfews? We don’t know, it hasn’t been announced
  • Didn’t they sack all the judges? No, 2745 judges have been removed (as of 2013 there were over 12,000 judges in Turkey and incidentally more than half were women).
  • Are you scared? No, but concerned. These measures can be enacted during a natural disaster or economic crisis (Article 119) or during widespread acts of violence and serious deterioration of public order (Article 120). Concern comes from the status quo being living under a non state of emergency. The status quo would be to be living under regular civilian law. What it means beyond today’s announcement is uncertain. Follow me on Twitter for regular updates.

Quick questions you might have about Turkey right now

1. What’s going on?  There was an attempted coup overnight on Friday 15 July by certain factions in the military. Turkey has had 3 successful military coups in the past, the last in 1980.

2. Who was behind it? A small group of military and airforce leaders. There has been a wide sweep of arrests, dismissal of judges as investigations continue.

3. What will happen to the coup perpetrators? We don’t know yet. As part of EU accession acquis (critera), Turkey dropped capital punishment in 2004. The Minister of Defence speaking to press said it would be up to Parliament to decide whether they would make any changes to reinstitute this.

4. Why didn’t the coup succeed?

i) Lack of popular support. Whereas in Egypt, hundreds of thousands of protesters came out night after night demanding the overthrow of Mubarak, this was not the case in Turkey. The events did seem to catch everyone off guard.

ii) Not enough soldiers. The people involved were a minor part of the military who did not seem able to take control effectively of key infrastructure (airports, ports, tv channels etc) or capture key leaders (although there was an unsuccessful raid in coastal Marmaris targeting where President Erdogan had been on holiday).

iii) Lack of opposition support. In the aftermath, all 4 major political parties came together with a joint statement condemning the coup, and reaffirming their belief in the democratic process.

Check also Ziya Meral’s short video.

5. What will happen to the 8 soldiers who have sought asylum in Greece? Turkey has requested their return, while various Greek sources have reported that their application will be considered. They were arrested on arrival for illegally entering Greece and jeopardising Greek relations with Turkey.

6. Who is this Gulen everyone keeps talking about? Fetullah Gulen is an influential preacher in self imposed exile in Pennsylvania. He was a one time ally of President Erdogan, and their relationship has since soured with Erdogan and others accusing him of attempting to set up a parallel state. He has been accused of being behind the coup but has has categorically denied thisThere have been many overtures for Gulen to be extradited. US Secretary of State Kerry has responded that they would welcome evidence demonstrating Gulen’s involvement.

7. Is Turkey safe? Everything is back to normal post coup in the sense that flights have returned to normal, traffic across the major bridges and ferries have resumed, people are getting on with their lives. However, Turkey has suffered a series of terrorist attacks both in major cities (Ankara, Istanbul) and in the south east over the past year. That being said, major western cities have faced similar assaults (Brussels, Nice, Paris) and the same caution and vigilance is encouraged. Turkey is suffering more than the others with a 45% drop in tourism this year and a 5% decline in the value of the lira. Resorts popular with tourists are safe and unaffected.

Leave any other questions in the comments below and I’ll answer them.


The Turkish Elections Media Coverage Cheat Sheet

All male pontificating panels, copy paste templates and graphics, no sign of swing votes or interviews with candidates, citizen or other stories. It can only mean one thing: Turkish election coverage.

All male election panels at CNN Turk and NTV

All male election panels at CNN Turk and NTV

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I’m part of the demographic which gets my news primarily from social media (with the FT Weekend, and Monocle magazine notable exceptions). However, with the failure of the Turkey’s ruling AK (justice and development) party to form a coalition government after the June parliamentary elections, a second round was held on November 1st. However when you watch Turkish mainstream media election coverage, ie. TV, there are a few things missing – this by the way has nothing to do with any kind of Turkish media clampdown. It simply appears to be in the lowest common denominator type of coverage that networks seem to go for.

TRT World is the new kid on the block – they’re the new English language channel from the state broadcast although checking in for a few hours, their livestream appears to be down. 

I was expecting some livestream coverage on Al Jazeera Turk – now an entirely online operation. The timing is perfect for them to be doing some live coverage (eg. on YouTube or on site) particularly as none of the other main broadcasters seem to be carrying a live feed on the social platforms where you’ll find Turkey’s largely under 30 population. (Nothing live on Facebook for any of these broadcasters either)

So, while dipping in and out of various Turkish media outlets, here’s a quick cheat sheet for the things missing that should be included in any future election to do list.

Women: are there really no female Turkish political commentators available? (Hint, I’m available and have a list of other Turkish female politicos who would be happy to contribute too). Isn’t media supposed to represent the populace (as are elected officials?) particularly when the population is half female and half male? 

Include the swing: While we see the aggregate results (the percentage of the vote and number of seats won in parliament), we don’t see the swings. All we hear is speculation on why there are swings. Lets see where the votes and see have been gained and lost then get into the analysis, preferably with an expert from the region. Although not including the swing, Al Jazeera Turk did show the June results alongside.

Al Jazeera Turk showing the June 7 results below the November 1st election returns. Not a swing, but its a start.

Interviews. No interviews with candidates, whether victorious or not, no pieces pieces on voting day.

All we see are victory speeches. Why is there any coverage of the consolation speeches? No exit interviews or coverage of the many grass root efforts such as Oy ve Otesi – an organisation mobilising election monitoring and encouraging people to vote

Other election stories of interest. If you skim social media however there are many many stories of people voting in difficult circumstances – for instance elderly, people in ill health taking an ambulance to go vote. There are no pre prepared pieces of election expectations, voter turn out, voting issues etc. Again, social media is faster on this demonstrating that their is no shortage of election related content.

Broadcast live on social platforms With all the fuss made about the blocking of social platforms, why wouldn’t broadcasters use this to their advantage. There were no livestreams on Facebook or YouTube for any of the major broadcasters. This isn’t that surprising as if you have a look at campaigning and media in Turkey, it still is out of touch in the respect that it is still seen as a cute add on rather than as a faster growing media outlet. Not convinced? Check out this essay Damian Radcliffe and I put together for the Reuters Insitute on how Turkey uses social media

There is an emotion beyond sadness, beyond anger, beyond hope.

This past weekend, a quick trip to Istanbul meant light travelling – hand luggage would do. But with 2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, and an approaching winter, I wanted to use my baggage allowance instead to take some donations and that if I had an overwhelming response, I’d ask Turkish airlines to transport it in kind (Turkish airlines has previously volunteered to fly cargo collected for refugees). 

Working some years ago for UNICEF, I have a fairly good idea of how humanitarian missions work, and also where donations go. Usually an organization will make an administrative cut – between 10-25%. Then, they will purchase new supplies or pay staff to provide some degree of service. This is why a lot of organisations ask for money, while others are prepared to accept clothes, medicine, food and other supplies which they will distribute and use any financial donations to meet operational costs. That’s what I was looking for – a local group working directly with refugees, where supplies would get to whoever needed it, as quickly as possible.

There is an emotion beyond anything I’ve experienced when I walked into the room in Istanbul’s Fatih district of a small local organization. On the faces of the Syrians there – no sadness, no anger, no hope. Just faces of emptiness. There is nothing that prepares you for meeting the faces of those who are suffering. I don’t know how those working or volunteering there can find the reserve to work in a place with so many stories that may never have a happy ending, and to continue to do so day after day.

There was an elderly lady in a wheelchair, you could see her lifetime was limited. She could have been in Syria, enjoying her end of days, but instead she was alone in a grey, cold, rainy Istanbul, in a centre with makeshift medical facilities, surrounded by other strangers with that same expression of nothing. They are supposed to be the luckier ones.

When you sit in London, and you’re in the news, you know what’s going on. You know the facts. You know the numbers, you see the pictures and sometimes you hear personal stories, like this. Days earlier I erred on the side of caution to keep a jacket that I ‘might’ wear. That doesn’t matter anymore when huge injustices create so many without. To paraphrase a recent quote, whatever material things you may have, use it, share it, and by doing that you share yourself, you share your humanity that in our intermittent world of short attention spans, status updates and Instagram posts, is just as fleeting.  

Getting colder for running, so here’s a test drive for a women’s long sleeve shirt

Test driving Lululemon’s Run: Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve

If you’ve not yet heard about Lululemon, they’re a Canadian clothing company focused primarily on yoga, running and branching out in other areas – primarily for women, but also make items for men (worth falling in love with). They also have FREE yoga classes across all their showrooms and stores every weekend, around the world, in addition to lifestyle workshops and what not. They have a very positive, happy vibe, spending as much time on making each person better – happy, healthy, whole as much as selling gear.

The gear they sell is.. pricey, but indeed, it really is top quality product. So it was with a gulp that I handed over £62 (about US$100) for a long sleeve running shirt last week. I’d done my research and knew what I was looking for and bearing the colder weather in mind, especially not being a) a night time runner or b) running in the cold previously –  preferring gyms until last year. I didn’t want to pull out my snowboarding under shirts to go for a run in. I needed a proper running shirt so Lululemon it was. [Men – fear not, here is the equivalent for you.


Test drive 1: As a walk around shirt.

Air vents in all the right places last weeks OM yoga show. I was planning to try out some classes so came prepared. This is comfy. Longsleeve with thumb holes, which you don’t need but do add that extra comfy feeling. The shirt pulls down long enough to cover your behind if you so choose, warm enough to wear without any extra layers indoors.


Test drive 2: Night time 40 min run in 18deg.

Apparently autumn weather hasn’t yet committed in London. I came (over) prepared to run with this shirt feeling slightly warm indoors. However as the night breeze picked up and we got moving, I didn’t feel too warm and despite a challenging run (thanks Amanda from Nike Covent Garden) did not feel sweaty either. Emma, the Richmond Lululemon showroom manager had said that she owns one, and that it never has that post run sweaty scent. She was right. The shirt has what Lululemon calls: “Silverescent® technology, powered by X-STATIC®, inhibits the growth of odour-causing bacteria on the top.” And yes it doesn’t smell at all.


Test drive 3: Night time 40 min run in 15 deg.

A slightly colder night, and once again, I felt neither cold nor sweaty. The other bonus was when throwing on a coat and heading home, there was none of that ‘cold sweat’ after working out feeling. The shirt is figure hugging, so even though I bought a size up than I regularly wear, it still felt snug, no chafing and the vent panels were in all the right place – under arms, mid torso and on the back.


Test drive 4: Morning 30 min run in 14 deg with slight drizzle followed by yoga.

Coldest run so far but now with the added bonus of drizzle. Just like other runs, I felt warm, didn’t feel sweaty at all, didn’t feel cold after the run, then showed up yoga shortly after with no sweaty swell. Yes really.

Verdict:  Recommended. I’ve already worn this shirt 4 times in a week and the weather isn’t even *that* cold. So it looks like the value for money is going to prove itself quickly. Beyond that any improvements? Perhaps a hidden pocket near collarbone for a key/oyster card etc? Brighter colours would be good for the darker weather running and/ a reflector somewhere although could be tricky as the shirt is so slick, it feels seam free.