Facebook, a dull and endlessly scrolling record of personal propaganda and content headlined in two or more sentences, isn't satisfied with the way its 1.4 billion users (most non-sentient) consume the news. According to the New York Times, it takes an epic eight seconds for the average Joe Facebook User to load an outside news link, clicked on in Facebook, in a new browser tab or window. Unacceptable.
So what is the world's most powerful publisher that doesn't publish anything to do? Subsume the places that actually publish things. The Times reports that's what Facebook is aiming for, and the company has been having "quiet talks" with "at least half a dozen" publishers (including the Times) "about hosting their content inside Facebook rather than making users tap a link to go to an external site."
It's one thing to live in a country that has an obesity crisis but it's another to assume the users of your product are so lazy that they can't be made to "tap a link to go to an external site." Welcome to... AOL!
But a richer, smarter, more powerful and more terrifying AOL. Setting aside the fundamental issue of allowing a separate, extremely powerful, and extremely rich company to publish, host, present, and package your theoretically independent journalism—and we'll set it aside because all these poor desperate publishing companies will too, Gawker included, I'm sure—the problem with Facebook seemingly swallowing up news organizations like Ursula in the Little Mermaid is, duh, money.
Revenue share is a very... delicate thing, mainly because Facebook has a shit ton of money and news organizations don't (excepting BuzzFeed, but BuzzFeed is basically Facebook with a large and growing YouTube tentacle attached to it), and they both want money. The Times has more on this, and it's very sad, not the least of which because the amount of money that would make a difference to even a successful publisher is very, very different from the amount of money that would make a difference to Facebook:
The company recognizes that the new plan, championed by Chris Cox, the top lieutenant to Facebook's chief, Mark Zuckerberg, on product matters, would remove the usual ads that publishers place around their content. Although the revenue-sharing ideas are still in flux, one would allow publishers to show a single ad in a custom format within each Facebook article, according to one person with knowledge of the discussions.
Facebook has not historically done any kind of revenue-sharing with content publishers. Essentially, its position has been "Put your content on Facebook and we'll send you traffic." But lately Facebook has been experimenting with revenue-sharing options. In December, it began showing N.F.L. clips sponsored by Verizon. Verizon paid for the clips to be sent to people's news feeds and ran an ad at the end of them. The N.F.L. and Facebook split the revenue.
I would say it is not necessarily a good idea to compare news organizations to Verizon and the N.F.L. But the comparison is a good reminder that Facebook does not regard more traditional publishers as rivals—as those publishers, dripping with the swagger of an industry that seemed on the brink of a renaissance, might have assumed just a few years ago—but as optimization problems to be solved. Whatever suddenly-enormous teen-gossip app is threatening its command of cell-phone users' attention—that's Facebook's rival. Traditional (even semi-traditional) journalistic media outfits, swearing fealty to its traffic hose? Those are bugs to be programmed out. Facebook purchases its rivals. It consumes its subjects.
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