Published On:Saturday, 16 May 2015
Posted by Chaudhry

Facebook Is In The Middle Of The Biggest Media Shift Since The Internet

This week, Facebook launched Instant Articles, a feature that allows publishers to host their news stories and content directly on Facebook. For consumers, this is a much faster, richer, and easier experience for reading articles directly on their News Feeds and primarily on mobile. For Facebook, this is a big improvement to the user experience and to its app “stickiness.”
And for publishers, this is a life jacket — with some strings attached.
The publishing business has had a hell of a time staying afloat. Subscriptions have been on the decline since the advent of digital, and it’s been difficult for publishers to adapt monetizing their amazing content. To be sure, some have thrived: two thirds of the FT’s circulation is digital, and more digitally-native media organizations like BuzzFeed and Business Insider have found working readership and evolved their business models. Still, many are criticizing Instant Articles as a sign that publishers now have to take another hit: supposedly giving up some of their control to Facebook, and some to Facebook users (which they are already doing).
But Facebook isn’t killing off publishers; publishers were already dying. What Facebook and its 1.3 billion active users is doing may save them.
The Facebook News Feed and Twitter Timeline are the two biggest discovery channels for consumers to find news and publish content in the world. Plain and simple, social media is the way people access news nowadays, and this is going to only become more extreme moving forward. This is a great opportunity for publishers.
The rise of the Internet caused the media landscape to completely shift from the physical to the digital. Now, the rise of social media is causing another shift, and it’s based on how indispensable social referral traffic is to publishers.

By hosting content on social media networks directly, publishers are once again realigning and putting rich content where consumers are. So far, with Instant Articles, we’re just seeing the beginning of this with a handful of publishers including The New York Times and BuzzFeed. But that number is almost sure to expand. Publishers that don’t get involved will get left behind.
Facebook Instant Articles
It’s a big move, but it was inevitable. The main criticism publishers have voiced is that this would make them severely dependent on the preferences of a third party (i.e. Facebook). The claim is that getting on board with this means that the News Feed would become their lifeline and they’d be giving up control over their fate.
But this comes from a faulty view on how Facebook works. Facebook might own the News Feed, but news on Facebook is controlled by the user. Regarding publishers, they own their content. Regarding users, the news that shows up on their feed is a result of the type of content users interact with. Trending news appears based on what news users are sharing most. News on Facebook is delivered to users based on their interests and what content they engage with.
Facebook’s platform is equipped to give publishers access to rich, standardized features — not only visual elements like videos and photos, but integration with analytics tools like Google Analytics and ComScore. The sheer amount of metrics publishers can track on Facebook and other social platforms is reason alone that their integration with social is valuable. Facebook’s integration allows entirely new ways to measure social media news content even deeper, measuring anything from reach to engagement to visits. Publishers will have even more insight into the performance of their content.
The best thing about this move is that, for now, Facebook allows the publishers to essentially keep 100% of the revenue from ads they place. Down the line, we’ll see if that’s a future proof model for Facebook. But right now, there are major upsides for publishers in jumping on board. In fact, I can see a huge downside in being the publisher left behind, so I would recommend all publishers get in line and get ready for this change.
With features like Instant Articles, Facebook is irrefutably both a connection network and a content network: one where people consume, and one where people share with each other. Twitter would be smart to follow suit and quickly release a similar integration for publishers. This convergence of social and publishing will be the biggest shift the media industry will have seen since the rise of the Internet. But this time, I’m hoping publishers stay ahead of the curve and adapt fast.

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