Few thoughts on the challenges that publishers will have to face with in the age of Facebook
The winning formula of online journalism (and digital in general) is yet to be discovered. Among the experts there are those who glimpse in the web the decline of a profession that is defined genuine only through the traditional paper magazine. Instead there are those who envision in it a source of renewal and revitalization for a profession that is going through deep transformation. Online newspapers are now well established among Italian publishers, but monetization does not seem to live up to expectations. At least for now.
To implement a step change focus should be placed elsewhere: on the reader for instance, and on the consumption habits of a journalistic content. Curiosity and research, but above all simplicity and sharing: these are the watchwords of the audience so-called 2.0. Those living on social networks. The movement is vertical. It is necessary to slide the Facebook wall looking for some exciting news, a photo to be shared, a video (short) to like. Rethinking journalism means to deal with an assumption: the majority of users, attains on an article through its Facebook page and, very rarely, by visiting the website of the newspaper. The home pages of the main newspapers are becoming less and less relevant.
According to this reasoning it is likely to fall into the logic of quantity to the detriment of the quality of the content. The temptation might be to give priority to “worthless” articles to the detriment of the most authoritative. More and more are the sites trying to survive in the chaos of the network, implement the strategy of the so-called “clickbaiting”, a practice that consists of publishing a headline that attracts user attention and induces to click on the link. The social network of Menlo Park is fighting this phenomenon for over a year through the implementation of more sophisticated algorithms. Combining quality content with the logic of the use of social networks, is one of the main challenges of the future of publishing.
Conversely publishers increasingly need to develop new ways to make profitable their audience. The gradual reduction in the value of the inventory related to display advertising, combined with an increasingly strong use by the media centers and media agencies of Programmatic buying technologies (namely technology platforms that allow automatic profiling of the audience and purchase of advertising space in real time) progressively reduce profits for publishers.
Instant Articles, the service made available to publishers by Facebook, is an overwhelming part of this context. This is a system that allows an article to be read directly from the news feed of the social network, without clicking on a link that leads to the website. Actually an instantaneous service. Publishers can thus leverage the pervasiveness and profiling capabilities of Facebook, becoming content providers and focusing on quality content at lower costs while introducing new forms of proceeds. By contrast the real risk is to lose control of the audience, that will remain permanently inside the social networks.
I am strongly interested in the evolution of the industry dynamics and in the innovation opportunities which may arise.