The big struggle facing this era of journalism is how to keep it profitable online. Tech companies have figured it out, though — according to the PEW Research Center, five technology companies in 2011 accounted for 68 percent of all online ad revenue, not including Amazon and Apple , whose profits come mostly from downloads and devices. So how can newspapers break into the online ad revenue market?
Could we be headed to a world where Facebook buys a legacy media company like The Washington Post? It’s a question pondered in a study from PEW’s State of the Media report, which says that Facebook is expected to account for one out of every five digital display ads sold by 2015.
Examples of these kinds of partnerships are already popping up, the study says, citing the following relationships:
- YouTube is funding Reuters to produce original news shows.
- Yahoo signed a content partnership with ABC News for video content.
- AOL purchased The Huffington Post.
- Facebook, with launch of the social reader, has already formed partnerships with The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian.
- Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes purchased the 98-year-old New Republic magazine
That said, the study also found that while Facebook and Twitter dominate the intersection of social sharing and news, social media are not yet a strong driver to news. The study found that 9 percent of digital news consumers “very often” follow news recommendations from social media, while more than a third of all consumers go directly to various news sites and apps. A majority of survey-takers, 56 percent, said that while they often find news on Facebook, it’s usually big enough news that they would have found it elsewhere — a hint that maybe Facebook isn’t vital to the discovery of news.
Readers are also growing increasingly aware of privacy issues online, which could make a hypothetical Facebook-Washington Post acquisition even trickier. According to the PEW study, “roughly two-thirds of the Internet population is uneasy with targeted advertising and search engines tracking their behavior.” This is at the heart of what Facebook does.
What do you think — could you see a future where WaPo is owned by a tech company like Facebook? Read other key findings and major trends from the PEW report →