Facebook Aims to Control the News

by Matt Klassen on March 26, 2015

Building on its desire to become everyone’s one-stop Internet hub, Facebook is reportedly now in talks with multiple news organizations in an attempt to convince the media industry to host their content on the social network, rather than link to external webpages as media currently does.

The move to host the news is equally as ambitious as Facebook’s recent marketing blitz across the two-thirds world, where the social network is attempting to become the Internet for many people who are just now getter access to the online world. While such control of our online world is likely out of reach here at home, the next best thing for the social network is to control the content we want, giving us simply one more reason to linger on our Facebook page just a little longer.

There’s no question that traditional print media is struggling to evolve in the digital age, unsure of how to redefine its identity in light of the dramatic changes to the ways we consume and interact with information. The draw of Facebook’s proposal to host news content is clear, media providers see that change is coming and it’s always better to be pioneer than it is to be a follower. The downside is obvious: Like its ambitious Internet.org campaign, Facebook will then control that much more of our online experience.

While larger media outlets could likely survive without striking such publication deals with Facebook, the real boon here is for small and medium sized media firms, as Facebook clearly offers the potential to radically increase readership, and with that, significantly increase the concomitant advertising revenues. In fact, I would guess that Facebook is hoping that enough larger media outlets get on board to pressure the holdouts into following suit, as more companies embrace the social networks audacious plan, the more difficult it will be for others to make it on their own.

“You can hold out — you can tout localism and editorial standards,” Tom Webster, vice president of strategy and marketing at Edison Research, told the E-Commerce Times, but sooner or later as companies merge under the banner of Facebook it will “suddenly becomes financially very difficult to stay in business,” he said.

Now there is an upside to this, and that’s the forum it will give to smaller local and niche journalism, Webster noted, adding that the obvious downside “is that it survives only under the largesse of Facebook…and if your content — no matter how important it may be — doesn’t generate clicks, then it’s gone, along with the revenues that might have supported it.”

Not only that, but allowing Facebook to host news ultimately means that Facebook controls the news, or at least the way Facebook allows media firms to generate income, and this will irrevocably alter the way journalism is written and the way news is presented. Simply put, Facebook and its advertising model is run on clicks, the more people that click on the ads the more money it makes.

“This [model] does have troublesome implications, though,” said Webster. “I don’t look forward to the kinds of clickbait headlines and stories that these newly slimmed media companies may have to generate to survive.”

In the end if media outlets do agree to allow Facebook to host their content the ramifications will be both far reaching and disastrous, as the social network would be able to further tighten its grip on our online experience–dictating what we see, how we see it, and when we see it—getting us closer to a time when we become hopelessly trapped in Facebook’s carefully constructed ecosystem, unable to move beyond it not because we can’t, but because we’ll have forgotten that we can…virtual enslavement indeed.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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