Editorial efforts at scale

Anywhere you can find content—even user-generated content—you’ll find a content strategy and editors ensuring that content aligns to strategy (and to community standards).

Even in environments famous for algorithms and AI, you’ll find human editors training those algorithms.

Fortune, 25 June 2015:

So Apple is hiring editors for its News app, which it announced at its recent developer conference, as well as editor/DJs for the streaming music service the company is rolling out soon.

Meanwhile, Snapchat is also hiring journalists to report and edit content related to the upcoming U.S. election, and Twitter is looking to add editors who can filter and aggregate tweets and links related to trending topics on the network, as part of what the company calls Project Lightning. LinkedIn also recently announced it is adding human editors to its Pulse news-recommendation feature, and Instagram has started doing some curation for its new Explore page.

All media organizations use human editors

Fortune, 25 June 2015:

Much like Facebook, Google’s services are also powered completely by algorithms.


Consider how Google uses human editors to ensure the quality of its lauded search algorithms. Google, 5 September 2019:

A Page Quality (PQ) rating task consists of a URL and a grid to record your observations, in order to guide your exploration of the landing page and the website associated with the URL. Ultimately, the goal of Page Quality rating is to evaluate how well the page achieves its purpose. […]

Here’s what you’ll need to be a successful Page Quality rater:

  • Your experience using the web as an ordinary user in your rating locale.
  • In-depth knowledge of these guidelines.
  • And most importantly—practice doing PQ rating tasks!

Facebook’s on/off human moderation

ArsTechnica, 29 August 2016:

Earlier this year, Facebook denied criticisms that its Trending feature was surfacing news stories that were biased against conservatives. But in an abrupt reversal, the company fired all the human editors for Trending on Friday afternoon, replacing them with an algorithm that promotes stories based entirely on what Facebook users are talking about. Within 72 hours, according to the Washington Post, the top story on Trending was about how Fox News icon Megyn Kelly was a pro-Clinton “traitor” who had been fired (she wasn’t).

NY Magazine, 20 August 2019:

Facebook is calling a do-over. The social network is apparently hiring editors who will curate a new section of the app, a News tab that keeps users up-to-date and that is separate from the News Feed

Twitter’s editorial hand

Twitter describes their trends as being algorithmically driven, but the FAQs reveal Twitter’s editorial hand:

We want trends to promote healthy discussions on Twitter. This means that at times, we may prevent certain content from trending[…].

In some cases, we may also consider the newsworthiness of the content, or if it is in the public interest when evaluating potential violations. In these cases, the content might continue to trend on our platform.

Twitter’s Moments feature is even more overtly editorially driven. Poynter, 20 October 2015:

Twitter launched Moments, its human-curated briefing of what’s news, earlier this month. The feed, which is heavy on video and images, is curated by a team of about a dozen curators split between Twitter’s New York and San Francisco offices.

Snapchat editorial efforts in 2016 campaign

NY Times, 3 May 2015:

Here’s how Live works: The company drops a digital boundary, or “geofence,” around an event. Snapchat users within the boundary can upload their “snaps” — still images or video — to a Snapchat “story” built around the event. These snaps are stitched into a narrative by a team of Snapchat curators. They are basically home movies, shot by the app’s own users. Over the weekend, Snapchatters could watch reactions from England to the birth of the new royal baby or videos from the Kentucky Derby.

Gizmodo, 23 May 2015:

Snapchat is now hiring journalists to cover the 2016 presidential race. To Snap the race, more accurately. […] The job offering, while marketed at journalists, is more of a bid for social media curators: You’ll “Snap the excitement of the campaign trail”, tell Snap stories about the 2016 presidential race, and evaluate user submitted Snaps according to moderation guidelines.

ABC news, 3 July 2015:

Snapchat had a representative on the ground at Bush’s announcement, and employees curated photos and videos from people on the ground, turning them into a live story, “campaign 2016” that was available to the platforms millions of users, many of whom are millennials.

Mashable, 9 November 2016:

[…] how Snapchat differs is that you’re not choosing whose words you read or voices you hear. There’s a commitment to journalistic integrity and breaking news that it’s only continued to double down on[…] The curation, done by a team of journalists, shows diversity in perspectives. If you ever doubted the presence of young Trump supporters nationwide, you can turn to Snapchat.