Accepting Facebook’s F-Bomb to Publishers

Opinion: The era of leveraging the social network to build digital businesses is no longer

It’s time publishers resort back to their core competency and build a sustainable business Shirly Heffetz/Playbuzz

Facebook dropped a virtual bomb on the digital publishing ecosystem with its announcement last month that the platform’s News Feed will focus mostly on users’ personal posts rather than content published by publishers or businesses.

The social network’s justification—that it will be making updates to the “ranking so that people have more opportunities to interact with the people they care about”—can be translated as such:

Although many publishers may be moving through the seven stages of grief, I suggest that we gladly skip ahead to the last one: acceptance.

No longer in a relationship

After continuous algorithm changes that sent teams into a tizzy over how they will possibly survive in the volatile world of media, it’s become clear that Facebook will take actions that best serve its business interests, leaving its publisher constituents high and dry in the process.

Although it’s a given that Facebook’s needs evolve, and that as a commercial entity, the company is committed to its shareholders, as a de-facto monopolizer in digital content discovery worldwide, it should be expected to assume responsibility for society’s greater good. This can come in the form of regulating content to promote truthful, safe news, and it can also come in the form of enabling any business to promote its company and content online.

This recent announcement, coupled with those that have come before, make it clear that Facebook will operate solely based on its own interests, leaving the ailing digital publishing industry to look after itself. And as in any relationship—business or personal—one grows tired of being treated poorly.

It’s time publishers resort back to their core competency and build a sustainable business, sans dependency on Uncle Mark. Here’s how:

No more illusions

Now that we’ve established that Facebook does not have digital publishers’ best interests in mind, and that playing ball for all of these years has resulted in the inability to piggyback off the social network’s massive distribution power for reach and monetization, we can perhaps move on.

Although publishers will never reach the scale of Facebook, they can take the bold move of aiming toward quality, engagement and effective advertising, and thus sustain and grow their businesses, as brands will prioritize, in the long run, high-quality content and engagement over massive numbers of views that don’t translate into meaningful interactions with editorial content or advertising.

So, thanks, Facebook: It’s been fun. But now it’s time to give the power back to the publishers.

Shaul Olmert is co-founder and CEO of Disney-backed storytelling platform Playbuzz.