Facebook has become a leading traffic driver to news organisations in recent years, but the social networking service is now trying to convince media companies to host their content inside it.
The New York Times’ late media writer David Carr first reported Facebook’s ambitions to host news in October. He opined that media companies would virtually be slaves “in a kingdom that Facebook owns” and cited a digital publishing executive, who declined to be identified, saying “all any of us are talking about is when the other shoe might drop.” At the same time, Ryan Chittum, at the Columbia Journalism Review, believes the news business should not accept Facebook’s proposal because it is risky to establish their business models around Facebook, Google and the like.
Back in October, Carr wrote that Facebook was “on something of a listening tour with publishers, discussing better ways to collaborate.” The social networking service offered to help publishers “do a better job of servicing readers in News Feed,” which included enhancing their approach to mobile.
Facebook intends to start testing the new format in the coming several months, The New York Times recently reported. The initial partners are expected to be BuzzFeed, National Geographic and The New York Times, although discussions are ongoing, so others may join. The Times and Facebook are moving closer to a firm deal, a person said.
Facebook has not shied away from publicly admitting that it wants to make users’ experience of consuming content online more seamless, which means that the extra time spent opening a news article from Facebook in a web browser has to go. The New York Times cited Edward Kim, CEO of analytics and distribution company SimpleReach, saying that an increase in a site’s speed usually means big increases in both traffic and user satisfaction. Although Facebook refused to comment on its discussions with news organisations, it noted that it had offered features to help them get better traction on the social network.
Facebook’s proposal comes with strings attached, namely publishers’ loss of valuable consumer data. When readers click on an article, a set of tracking tools allow the host site to find out valuable information about them. If media companies accept the social network’s proposal, the data they usually gather to identify readers’ preferences would go to Facebook, which generally uses this type of information to single out and track consumers more efficiently for advertisers. While publishers lose the ability to control their audience, their advertising revenue and essentially their brand, such a deal would help Facebook boost user satisfaction, keep users on its site and have “better content which allows it to sell advertising at better rates,” Alan D. Mutter, newspaper consultant, told The New York Times.
“The Facebook dog is loose, and he’s acting more friendly than hungry. But everyone knows that if the dog is big enough, he can lick you to death as well,” Carr concluded.