Where do you go for breaking news and fresh takes on today’s headlines? A generation ago you would rustle through the pages of your local newspaper. But nowadays you’re more likely to get your news from social media newsfeeds like Facebook and Twitter. With this in mind, Facebook has announced plans for media outlets to publish content natively on the site. The New York Times, National Geographic and BuzzFeed are expected to be the first publishers to adopt the feature.
The change is designed with mobile users in mind. Instead of sharing an external article link on Facebook, a publisher’s content would appear natively on the platform. Users would then be able read the article without ever leaving their newsfeed – eliminating the annoying delay of waiting for a third party page to load. This change mirrors the successful native video feature Facebook recently added. Videos hosted on Facebook automatically autoplay in users newsfeeds for a more dynamic user experience, especially on mobile.
However, it’s not clear how traditional media should feel about the social media giant's plan. “For publishers, Facebook is a bit like that big dog galloping toward you in the park.” New York Times reporter David Carr wrote, “More often than not, it’s hard to tell whether he wants to play with you or eat you.”
Native publishing is a risky proposition for traditional news outlets, which make most of their money from advertising on their own sites. Publishers have also been reluctant to give up the valuable demographic user data that is gathered by website clicks. To combat this financial loss, which could be substantial for larger companies, Facebook is proposing sharing revenue from ads running alongside content. This should allay some financial concerns, but isn’t exactly encouraging news for cash-strapped media outlets.
Traditional print journalism already seems to be going the way of the dodo. It’s hard to deny the market share of Facebook, especially among content-hungry, print-phobic millennials. With some 1.4 billion monthly users, Facebook’s user base encompasses roughly 20% of everyone on Earth. If you want your message to reach the masses, it’s increasingly vital to be on Facebook.
Facebook seems to be telling publishers seeking to stay relevant in the 21st century that it’s their way or the highway. And they may just be right.
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