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Facebook may host news websites’ content; Publishers stand to win or lose?


It’s a brave new world for news and media organizations. Facebook is in talks with a dozen media organizations which include BuzzFeed, The New York Times and National Geographic to host content on the social network, reports The New York Times. The report also said that Facebook intends to begin testing the new format in the coming months and is discussing ways with publishers to make money through advertising which will run along side news content.

Facebook’s intentions of keeping users on their website is well known. Currently, links for news stories that are posted on users’ feeds need to be clicked, redirecting them to a separate page on a browser. Facebook says that this could take about eight seconds and adds that this is crucial for grabbing eyeballs especially on smaller screen formats such as mobile phones. Note that links tapped on Twitter’s mobile application open in the application itself, saving the valuable seconds of opening the link in a new browser window. It’s also worth noting that Twitter’s reading experience is also a lot more cleaner with fewer advertisements.

By hosting content on Facebook, the social network promises a smoother reading experience and a faster means of delivery of content to the reader. It’s worth noting that the company has reduced the reach of news updates significantly with the intent of trying to get publishers to pay to improve reach and from what’ve seen, the platform has lost the virality it once had.

This also marks a departure of strategy for Facebook as it moves away from video and younger social networks such as Snapchat, which are biting a bigger slice of the video pie. Snapchat, in January, introduced a new service called Discover which brings daily video content from news organizations such as Vice News, CNN and ESPN and once viewed, the content self-destructs. Users need to wait for 24 hours for the content to be refreshed.

Advertising and revenue-sharing

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The New York Times report further highlighted the thorny problem of advertising and revenue-sharing. Facebook will apparently remove the usual ads of a publication when the content is hosted on the social network and will allow to show a single ad in a custom format within each Facebook article. Historically, Facebook has not gone in for revenue-sharing but seems to be warming up to the idea with its recent advertising deal with Verizon.

Publications will lose out on important data about their readers, when they visit their websites, and maim their ability to to carry out specific and targeted advertising, and all that data on user behaviour may end up benefiting Facebook which isn’t exactly a paragon of virtue when it comes to data privacy.

In India

It’s worth remembering that Raghav Bahl’s news venture The Quint has already experimented with publishing on Facebook as a preview to their new service. The Quint was using Facebook’s notes feature to publish stories. Besides text, it has also posted slideshows through Facebook’s albums feature and uploaded a mix of original and newswire videos, although the focus seems more on the former. There are also quirky and parody videos on current affairs topics.

It remains to be seen if there are going to be new publishing tools from Facebook for reporters to push stories on the social network or will other publishing platforms such as Bahl’s The Quintype look to fill up this space. The Quintype is already looking to beat WordPress at its own game. The service  claims to offer a cloud-based solution for publishers to manage editorial assignments & collaborating editing, publish to various formats including mobile phones, tablets, desktop and develop apps for iOS & Android. Other features include predictive analytics for scheduling articles, reader management, social media integration, content recommendation engine and an integrated ad engine among others.

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