Facebook has been successfully pushing the Like button and other features to media companies in recent years. But now it is busy working on a special project with around a dozen major news outlets to create “Facebook editions” of their publications within its home site, Forbes reports.
The report describes these new Facebook editions as “basically, app versions of [the publications] that can be read and consumed right there on Facebook.” The publications said to be working on the project include CNN, the Washington Post and The Daily.
Many publications already use Facebook Pages to distribute links to stories to the news feed, and offer their own integrations with Facebook on their sites. They can build apps for Pages to provide a more customized interface for their content on their own. And they have in various ways over the years. The Washington Post currently displays an app allowing users to browse political headlines from their Facebook Page, and The New Yorker has used a Like-gated, fans-only app to force users to subscribe to their Page’s update if they want to read certain articles.
In this case, though, Facebook may be contributing design and backend expertise to facilitate the development process. This help may lower the cost of building the apps enough that publications see a clearer road to return on investment.
Facebook itself has recently been on a campaign to increase its presence in the media ecosystem, which we assume this latest effort is a part of. In the past year it has hired social media marketers to help it develop and promote best practices for journalists, provided training events for media, and published guides and studies showing how to use Facebook features (especially Pages) for maximum value. Media companies, including the BBC and Warner Brothers and various musicians, have also been testing selling media content using its virtual currency, Credits — efforts that have been primarily independent, although presumably encouraged by Facebook.
The Forbes report suggests that there could be a revenue-sharing agreement as part of the special Facebook editions. If that’s the case, we expect it’d be through Credits as well — some sort of setup where a media company provides paywall-only content in an app, that users pay Credits to access. The revenue-share in this scenario wouldn’t be anything unique, but rather the 30% cut that Facebook takes from all Credits purchases.
Another possibility, that many of us have speculated about for years, is that Facebook might one day roll out some version of its advertising system that is a targeted ad network for other web sites, similar to Google’s Adsense. Facebook has regularly downplayed the rather obvious of an Open Graph ad unit idea, but the promise is clearly there with media companies. They provide content, Facebook provides development assistance, user traffic, the user data, and the targeted off-site ads, and gets a cut of the revenue.
The speculation around possible Credits and ads revenue here are reflections of Facebook’s oft-stated goal of being the main way that people find and share information that matters with people they care about. Without any additional revenue streams, simply getting a stronger two-way flow of content-driven traffic can help it create more value for users, and make more money from its existing ad inventory.
In response to the report, Facebook is saving the full response for later: “We have nothing new to announce. The top media sites around the world are integrated with Facebook and we’re constantly talking to our partners about ways to improve these integrations.” Forbes says the new editions could be coming later this year, possibly in September.