The L@B Report – June 2024

June 12, 2024

Welcome to The L@B Report

Welcome to this month’s issue of The L@B Report from GSG, bringing you news and insights from the intersection of digital media and public affairs. In this issue, we explore changes to Meta’s algorithm aimed at winning back young users, OpenAI’s alleged unauthorized use of Scarlett Johansson’s voice, and the return of the homepage as a primary news source.

Meta Revamps Facebook Algorithm to Win Back Young Users

More young adults are back on Facebook after years of decline

According to an in-depth report from Bloomberg that includes interviews with Meta executives, Meta began making significant changes to its core products in 2021 to stave off competition from TikTok and win back young users.

One of the most notable changes is Meta’s decision to build new “recommendation” algorithms based on interests and preferences while focusing less on content from the “social graph,” which largely relies on users’ online connections – friends and family – to determine what posts people see in their feeds. On Instagram, 50% of the content people see is now considered a “recommendation” from an algorithm. On Facebook, 30% of the posts people see in their feed are now suggestions from outside their network.

Since making these changes, Facebook has experienced a resurgence in user growth as its audience in the US and Canada grew by 10 million people over 2022 and 2023 after not adding any new users in 2021. According to a Meta spokesperson, Facebook has seen five straight quarters of growth from 18-29-year-olds, a demographic that had been declining for years. More than 40 million young adults now use Facebook every day – its highest total in three years. 


Meta’s recent gain with young users is welcome news for public affairs professionals and marketers trying to reach Gen Z – especially with TikTok’s days potentially numbered, as President Biden recently signed into law legislation that could ban the app.

Even if TikTok sells off its US business – which seems unlikely – Meta allows for political and social advertising while TikTok does not allow for those types of ads (although that could change if TikTok sells). All of this reinforces Meta’s position as the leading social media company for advertising.

OpenAI Pulls Its Scarlett Johansson-like Voice for ChatGPT After the Actress Threatens Legal Action

Renewed focus on legislation aimed at regulating the use of “fake people”

When OpenAI demoed “Sky”, its voice model for its AI platform, users immediately noticed a similarity between the voice of Sky and that of Scarlett Johansson. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman even seemed to be aware of the similarities when he shared a one-word post on X with the message “her” – which also happens to be the title of a movie Johansson starred in.

Researchers at Arizona State University found that Johansson’s voice is more similar to Sky than 98% of the other actresses they analyzed.

The problem? According to a statement from Johansson, the actress was approached by Sam Altman to be the voice of ChatGPT 4.0 but declined the offer. In her statement, Johansson also threatened legal action, which caused OpenAI to pause the use of Sky


According to POLITICO, the fight between Johansson and OpenAI has elevated “a particular concern that has been worrying lawmakers since generative AI landed on the public radar: AI’s capacity to replicate actual people without their consent.”

In the Senate, a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) called the NO FAKES Act, would allow people to sue the creators and distributors of unauthorized AI-generated digital replicas. Sen. Coons plans to introduce the bill sometime next month.

While legislative efforts to regulate AI may take time to pass, the Federal Trade Commission in February finalized a rule banning impersonation of government and businesses. President Biden’s October executive order on AI calls on agencies, such as the US Patent and Trademarks Office, to issue guidance that addresses copyright issues that have come up with the advent of AI. 

The Return of the Home Page as a Primary Source of News

Social networks have become less reliable distributors of news

The New Yorker has an interesting article on how consumers of digital journalism are returning to news homepages as the primary source for information as social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and X have de-emphasized news in their algorithms over the last several years. Meta’s algorithm changes, in particular, have been devastating to news organizations, such as BuzzFeed, which rely heavily on social platforms for traffic. 

According to the report, The Verge homepage saw a 47% increase throughout 2023 in repeat visits from “loyal users” (defined as those who have five or more sessions on the site in a calendar month). News outlet Semafor has also seen an increase in repeat homepage visitors, leading the outlet to shift its focus away from its newsletters to investing in Semafor’s website design. The New Yorker too has seen an increase in traffic and recently made a redesign to its homepage. 


What is old is new again.

The return of the homepage significantly impacts how public affairs marketers approach media planning.

If the goal is to reach news junkies and decision makers, one may want to consider supplementing paid social strategies with direct-placement opportunities on the homepages of major news websites or look at “white-listing” targeted news websites for programmatic display and video advertising.

This shift also has implications for non-profits and other organizations, which over the last several years largely moved away from investments in their websites and instead focused on getting content in front of key audiences on social. Savvy marketers should once again push organizations to make investments in their web presence – with a particular focus on making sure news and press releases are front and center on the homepage to give audiences a reason to check back frequently. 

Looking for more political insights and data as we inch closer to November? Be sure to follow our new GSG Political pages on X and LinkedIn to stay up to date.

Our team of expert pollsters and strategists are in the field now and always coming out with new insights on the biggest issues of the day, including the fight for abortion rights, climate action, gun violence prevention, racial justice and equity, immigration policies, LGBTQ+ rights, voting rights and democracy protection, and more.

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This issue of The L@B Report was put together by Ryan Alexander.

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