Why Would a News Site Move Entirely to Facebook?

By Katie Kindelan Comment

It’s clear that cost-cutting, a bad economy and the pressures of the Internet age have forced new realities in journalism, especially local news. Under that pressure, a community site in Maryland decided to take a page out of a new playbook, a Facebook page that is, and become a Facebook-only news outlet. Why would a news site take such a drastic measure? Can it succeed? Should it?

The local news outlet, RockvilleCentral.com, announced this week its plans to move its publishing to Facebook, all of it, shifting from a website to Facebook only.

“As of March 1, all new Rockville Central content will be found solely on our Rockville Central Facebook page. We hope you will join us there,” wrote the site’s founder and publisher, Brad Rourke, in a blog post. “Everything you have come to know and love about our articles will also exist in Facebook. You can comment, share, and interact – all with more ease and in one place. We’ll no longer have conversations in two different locations.”

Rourke went on to explain, in an interview with RockvillePatch.com, that the move was made in part because Facebook is already the No. 2 traffic source for Rockville Central and a survey found 45 percent of its readers are also Facebook users.

“There’s this big party,” Editor Cotte Griffiths said of Facebook in an interview with Nieman Lab. “It’s likely only to get bigger. And we want to be in there.”

Griffiths further broke down the statistics provided by her boss, Rourke, nothing that of the news site’s 20,000 monthly hits, 2,000 are from Facebook.

One of the key advantages of Facebook for journalists is the unmatched number of potential sources it presents, with more than 500 million users and growing, and the sheer volumen, with 30 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook each month.

Announcement of Rockville Central’s move came the same week that a more high-profile experiment in social media journalism, Virginia-based TBD, announced it would lay off half its staff amid a massive reorganization.

TBD’s troubles stemmed largely from budgets and concerns over long-term profitability, but Griffiths told Nieman Lab they are more interested in engagement than profit.

A major concern for other outlets like TBD may be the issue of advertisers, cost and bringing online advertisers to Facebook. Rockville Central, however, appears to have only advertiser, and so sees that issue as fairly moot.

Griffiths explained she and Rourke are more focused on other revenue streams, like hosting conferences and community events, which would be made easier with a solid Facebook presence. And they are also asking users to sign up for an email newsletter, another revenue driver.

Whether successful or not, the experiments by both TBD and Rockville Central signal a growing acceptance, or recognition, of Facebook as a journalism source. Facebook rival Twitter has, to date, been the go-to platform for real-time reporting and source connection with its real-time communication, quick delivery and public platform. But with Facebook’s growth and efforts to become more public, it may become more and more appealing to journalists looking for more ‘likes’ and less 140-character limits.

What do you think? Is Facebook a valid, viable news destination?