Right now Facebook accounts for over 40% of all traffic for U.S. news organizations, making many dependent on the social network for ad-revenue-driving traffic, even as Facebook makes moves to bring publishers’ content more wholly onto its platform (where it has control over monetization options).
. . . .
Let’s start by accepting a few fundamental realities about modern publishing:
- No single publisher will ever have a monopoly on readers’ attention again. Digital distribution is free / extraordinarily cheap, multiple niche / focused sources will hit what people care about way more often than single / broad sources, and curation (algorithmic, platform editors, or social) that can draw from multiple sources will always have an advantage over curation that only draws from a single source (their own org’s content).
- People want to consume content where they’re spending their time already, not spend time going to a bunch of different sources to consume content. Publishers can compete to be a worthwhile destination for the readers most closely aligned with them, but publishers whose content reaches users where they are (right now Facebook, email, Google News, YouTube, Snapchat) will always have a massive reach advantage over those who solely insist that readers must come to them.
. . . .
Facebook’s situation is pretty simple. Keeping users on the site longer / more often = more ad views = more revenue. Content (and the discussion / engagement it drives) does that.
For every other platform, it’s not just a matter of keeping already-engaged users even more engaged, it’s a matter of keeping users active at all — providing something new & interesting every day (if not every hour) is the only way for a platform to keep users coming back. User activity isn’t enough, especially for new platforms. They need content.
. . . .
This is key: by Facebook determining the technical specification for publishers’ syndicated content, Facebook determines the formatting possibilities, constraints, and monetization options of that content. And by the way, they’ll let you provide content matching that specification through RSS.
. . . .
10 years from now, publishers can live in one of two worlds: one in which they’ve stepped up to influence the ecosystem being built around their content, creating options for themselves, or one in which they’ve continued to let that ecosystem develop on its own and dictate to them the options they have available. If publishers don’t start working to reinvent and innovate on a standard of their own for content syndication, they will be letting Facebook dictate a lasting standard that serves its interests foremost.
. . . .
Publishers should create a new open standard for content syndication, and it should be built on RSS / Atom.
I can hear some developers groaning about the creation of ever more tech standards as a solution to tech standard problems. But the reality is, this isn’t a situation of many competing standards in an already-mature, already-fragmented ecosystem. This is a situation of a single, limiting standard about to dominate a still-emerging resurgence of distributed content. And the only way to fight that is to build something better.
We need a content syndication standard that accounts for things like:
- modern kinds of content, in their native form (text enhanced with rich layouts, embeds, etc.; video in different formats; audio; photo series; interactive media)
- different monetization options
- analytics integration
- richer meta data (e.g. preview photos, named entities, video / audio length)
- getting the syndication version of a specific piece of content (replace Twitter card / Facebook open-graph markup)
If publishers worked together to create and support this standard, it would not only allow adoption from other major platforms (increasing publishers’ leverage in getting Facebook to adopt it), it would enable entirely new platforms to be built off of the plethora of newly-accessible content. And with publishers building in monetization options from the beginning, they can turn syndication from a begrudging competitive necessity to a value-building revenue channel.
Link to the rest at Medium and thanks to Joshua for the tip.