In case you missed it, The New York Times dropped a bomb on the journalism community last night by reporting that the NYT itself (along with BuzzFeed, National Geographic and, inevitably, far more pubs) was very close to reaching a distribution deal with Facebook.
These outlets would trade influence for traffic…at least on their own websites. The development couldn’t be more timely given BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti’s SXSW claim that news orgs of the future won’t even need home pages.
It’s a boon to anyone who doubted Facebook’s influence and a big point of debate for the journalistic community, who wondered: will we all work for Facebook in ten years?! Is every single publication subject to Mark Zuckberg’s whims when it comes to engaging readers?
Some hot takes:
1 Publish NYTimes directly on Facebook 2 Let users get used to reading disjointed bits of NYT news on FB 3 Become a wire service to FB
— Kontra (@counternotions) March 24, 2015
Oversimplified? Sure. But this is what journalists fear: the commoditization of the (often very difficult) work they do. Surely PR can understand.
Here’s the key point:
Facebook only needs enough publishers to keep users from straying outside network in order to impact ALL publishers
— Michael (@donohoe) March 24, 2015
Mathew Ingram of the sadly defunct GigaOM has another take:
Facebook to media: “That’s some real nice content you got there — be a shame if something were to happen to it” http://t.co/6EQMAM4fMP
— Mathew Ingram (@mathewi) March 24, 2015
Oof. When The New York Times signs, you know that the “fight” is over — but media people are stubborn. Predicting just such a move back in October, the Columbia Journalism Review wrote:
A reader who gets his news via Facebook is a passive reader who at best is influencing the algorithm that selects the news he sees by choosing what to “like,” what to comment on, and who he’s friends with. News organizations need to, as best they can, cultivate active readers—ones who seek them out on a regular basis.
If they don’t, then they’re just another organization with a Facebook page. Top media critic Jeff Jarvis writes, “It’s the relationship, stupid.” His point is that media orgs need to insist that the Social Network not horde the value created by its data so that readers feel like they have “relationships” with The New York Times rather than Facebook.
And then there’s this…
Presumably those news organisations who have a deal to create journalism within Facebook will also be favoured in terms of the algorithm?
— emily bell (@emilybell) March 24, 2015
The takeaway for PR is that media’s center of influence is shifting yet again. If the model stays the way it looks in the NYT report, some outlets will win big…and most will lose.