Facebook, Facebook on the wall. Who’s the real publisher in the feed?

Facebook has been having a hard time with publishers lately. Well, maybe not so lately, considering the debacle that tied Facebook inexorably to the alleged/real/apparent work by Russia to influence the US Election.

Trust could be said to be at an all time low, if you wanted to hype it up. And Facebook has made some pretty awkward missteps in its already tenuous relationship with publishers, recently closing their experiment to separate publisher articles into a separate feed away from the “family and friends” type posts in a user’s feed. The olive branch has been to offer publishers the ability to grab subscribers through Facebook and retain the revenue to the point of unveiling an accelerator to help publishers work with the changes as well as journalism scholarships. Too late for some (who, it must be added, face the harsh reality when you hinge an entire business model on the whims of another corporation’s operational practices).

Everytime I see a new development in Facebook’s relationship with publishers, I think back on this particular post that I put up in November 2016, in which I said that in the 18 months from that date, Facebook would become a media company owner. Well, there’s a couple of months left for that to come true, and so far it hasn’t happened.

But something surely is.

Facebook is experimenting with media ownership and influence the only way a technology company knows how – through algorithms, accelerators and A/B tests. It all seems a very Silicon Valley way to try and validate whether their gut desire to be a media company. They seem to be inexorably headed that way, but also seem desperate to continually validate that shift into new territory.

I guess I’ll be wrong about my prediction unless Zuckerberg announces that they are buying a media organisation in the next 3 months. But I’ll take a bit a schadenfreude style delight in watching Facebook as they are venturing in very unfamiliar territory.

Get used to it, Facebook. It’s called “transformation”. Everyone publisher in the world is trying to pivot into a tech company. Nice to see one pivoting the other way…

You might notice that I’ve not said anything about Facebook’s actual Journalism Project and work to allow publishers more monetisation revenue through subscriptions. Largely there’s not much to say – I do believe that they are very genuine attempts by Facebook to both appease and understand the value proposition relationship between publishers and their consumers – and how this is expressed and evolved into brand and subscription loyalty. It’s also fortunate that Facebook makes enough revenue that they can afford to be so easily generous with subscription revenue. It would be interesting to know what their overall predictions for subscriptions as a whole are. Perhaps this is as much a shot in the dark as any of their other experiments.


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