Facebook’s Path to Suckerdom

Facebook-Alphabet-soupOne critic pulls no punches railing against publishers “fighting yesterday’s battles” with FB’s Instant Articles.

Greg Krehbiel is nothing if not outspoken. His latest prediction? That publishers will, in just a few years, come to regret their decision to put their content on FB’s Instant Articles in much the same way they regret deciding to make their content available online for free and undercutting their business model.

“Both decisions will be seen as sucker moves from desperate and short-sighted execs who were fighting yesterday’s battles,” he writes in The Krehbiel Report on Publishing.

As Facebook opens up Instant Articles to all publishers, many will flock to it, and many more will follow. And Krehbiel calls them all suckers.

After explaining the twisted path publishers trod to get to this point, he notes that “Facebook is kindly offering publishers a flashy version of yesterday’s business model (selling cheap ads against expensive content) so the publishers can give Facebook the raw material it needs to pursue tomorrow’s business model, which is user data.”

“Once again, publishers will be the suckers and kids with keyboards will take their lunch,” he writes.

Well, that hurts. And he’s got a point. This Instant Articles model gives Facebook the one thing it needs – content – to feed the data beast. So the question is, will publishers play along? Probably, although there are some justified balkers who feel the loss of control is not worth the payoff.

So what are the alternatives? Krehbiel puts it all into perspective by defining the real challenges publishers are facing: “declining ad revenue; difficulty attracting and keeping audience; difficulty selling their content; competition from the screaming crazies; difficulties with scale; and difficulty maintaining the publisher – subscriber relations.” All real challenges, to be certain.

The brutal truth is, Facebook Instant Articles won’t fix this. It’s not what’s it’s designed to do. It’s designed to help FB make money off publishers’ content while the social network gains more control through massive data insights.

“Facebook is a phony solution, because while it helps with some of those problems, it exacerbates others,” he asserts.

Facebook Instant Articles is not the answer, just as it’s becoming apparent that Apple News isn’t all that either. But publishers will flock to it instead of working to innovate new solutions and business models that do work because it’s easy.