Facebook Playing Chess while Publishers are Playing Checkers

facebook mag zuckOne analyst predicts the move to “platform publishing” will not end well for magazine media. That’s putting it mildly.

The chorus is chiming in from all corners. A few days ago, Bloomberg Media’s Justin Smith said publishers were feeding on the scraps from Facebook’s Instant Articles platform. Now Tony Silber in Folio: says Facebook is getting the far better end of the bargain.

“There’s been debate for a while about Facebook Instant Articles, a set of tools created by Facebook intended to make it easier to publish content on Facebook,” Silber writes. “Publishers get the advantage of faster responses, plus native multimedia, and less abandonment. And they get to sell advertising directly against the content they post. (So does Facebook).”

The problem, Silber points out, is that not only does Facebook aim to keep all that traffic on their own platform, but the value of what FB gets out of the deal is far greater than what a publisher might get. And it’s all about the data.

“Instant Articles might make engagement easier for publishers and their audiences on Facebook, this side of the argument goes, but what it’s really doing is training content consumers to use social media for news, not the websites of the actual producers of that content,” says Silber. “It’s converting Facebook into a media company, only one with no content-creation costs. There’s no need to hire editors, writers, photographers and the like. Publishers do it for Facebook, thank you. All the while, Facebook is learning, adding to its data, getting smarter about its users (your readers), which allows it to sell advertising to those people in new and more intuitive ways.

“Facebook is playing chess, while publishers are playing checkers. There’s a reason why Facebook grew from less than $300 million in revenue in 2008 to nearly $18 billion in 2015.”

Silber nails it, clearly and succinctly, and if the idea of a company making massive amounts of money off content that they didn’t have to pay a cent for scares you, you’re not alone.

The industry needs to take a deep, collective breath and wraps its head around preserving the value of the one thing it is extremely good at – creating content. Give that away, and there’s not much left to work with.