The Looming Final Reckoning for Social Media Giants

Industry leaders are calling 2019 a “crucial year” for social media platform, according to the recently released Reuters Institute yearly study of journalism.

“Facebook, which last year changed its News Feed algorithm to promote less news content to users, has slipped down the news industry’s list of priorities, with fewer than half of survey respondents saying the platform is likely to be important or extremely important this year,” writes Freddy Mayhew in the UK’s Press Gazette.

Mayhew quoted television news editor Ben De Pear as saying this will be the year in which social platforms “have to prove they care about the truth and about paying for serious journalism, or be properly forced to do both by regulation.”

To put this into perspective, the industry leaders polled for the report put Facebook on a par with Apple News and YouTube as far as its importance to journalism, showing that public sentiment around what constitutes “news” is shifting.

Report author Nic Newman believes this indicates two things about the way journalists view social media.

“The differences in ratings are partly a reflection of the lower number of referrals that publishers now get from Facebook following algorithm changes, but there also appears to be a change in sentiment toward third-party platforms in general,” Newman writes. He notes that many publishers have been burned by relying on third-party platforms while engagement and referrals dropped

Instead, Newman believes publishers are looking to social media as an “increasingly looking at social media as a marketing and acquisition channel, not primarily as a place to engage users with content” while exploring paid content strategies.

For consumers, the report predicts a renewed focus on “trust indicators,” while users back off their social usage as a “waste of time” and engage with more meaningful content on trusted channels.

All of this bodes well for the magazine publishing industry, which has earned its reputation as a trusted platform, as readers seek a longer, slower read from sources they can trust.