Media companies don’t understand Facebook yet

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There was a lot of hoopla in the blogosphere today about the New York Times launching a Facebook application. What they didn’t tell you is that few people on Facebook care: despite all the cool ways that the app lets you interact with New York Times content, only 16 people used the app today.

Even if that number if off by an order of magnitude, it’s clear that while the New York Times is making efforts to connect to Facebook users, they’re not resonating with very many so far.

But the Times is not alone. Similar applications from NBC Sports and CBS News have been around for much longer but are only engaging 32 and 29 Facebook users per day, respectively.

Heck, even Internet tech media company CNET is having trouble: its CNET TV app is only garnering 20 users a day.

What’s the point? Essentially that most media companies have not figured out how to package or distribute content in compelling ways inside Facebook.

Some would argue (with good cause) that this is simply because the Facebook audience is not interested in consuming content like “CBS Breaking News Headlines.” However, before stopping there, here is one last example that may shed more light on this question:

Yahoo!, clearly a company that understands how to distribute many forms of media on the web, built an app that distributes its music video collection called Yahoo! Music Videos. As you can see, it achieved minimal success. Then, Yahoo! called up powerhouse app developer RockYou to help them redesign their application, and voila:

The reincarnated Music Videos application has achieved 1 million installs and sports 30,000 active daily users – 50 times more than before.

All this to say, Facebook is different. It’s a new medium and different than the rest of the web. There is some expertise involved in building Facebook applications that users will actually use to shuffle your content around their social network. While building an interface or RSS feed for your content is an easy project (and easy money for contract Facebook application developers), web sites and media companies who try this will fail to achieve any significant business objectives.

[tags]facebook,new york times,cbs,nbc,rockyou,application design[/tags]