What Lies Ahead for Publishers on Facebook

facebook 10yrsNearly half of all adults who use the Internet get their news from Facebook. This is not anecdotal; it’s based on information from a recent Pew Research poll, according to Adrienne LaFrance in The Atlantic.

The social media mega-giant now accounts for 25% of all display ad dollars and 37% of mobile display ads, LaFrance adds.

“Taken together, it’s easy to see that Facebook owns the media and marketing world—and its power only seems to be growing,” writes Contently’s Dillon Baker.

That growth includes what Baker calls “the most explicit signal of its dominance,” the controversial Facebook Instant Articles announced in the spring. The platform will play host to content from publishers, keeping traffic on Facebook and eyes on the paid ads that accompany the stories.

True, publishers will get a cut of the ad share. But as part of the bargain, they are giving away traffic that might normally come to their brand properties. Not only that, they are giving Facebook access to their readers, and losing control over what happens next. They’ve built the brand, and created the content, and Facebook says “thanks for that, we’ll take it from here.”

Can this be a healthy thing for the publishing world?

“A simple Google search of ‘Facebook Faustian Bargain’ will give you a pretty good idea of how most news outlets responded to the announcement,” Baker writes.

Baker notes that “there are many unanswered business and ethical questions surrounding the initiative that may not be answered until the experiment is in full swing.”

Meanwhile, Facebook continues to gain control over what we see and read, and control means power. As Baker asks, “what happens to publishers’ souls when Facebook isn’t just the gatekeeper, but also owns all the land?”

It’s going to take nerves of steels for publishers to figure out how and if this fits into their business model, and what they are truly giving away by playing along. Some will figure it out, while for others it will only reinforce their aggravation with Facebook in general. Either way, it won’t be dull.