Early this year, as Facebook was touting its incredible growth as a video hosting provider, speculation began to mount that Facebook would look to host content beyond video. Would Facebook get publishers to let it host their articles?
Would you let Facebook host your articles? Let us know in the comments.
It appears that such a plan is now in motion. The New York Times is reporting that itself, as well as BuzzFeed, National Geographic, and others are joining Facebook in testing a new format that will see content hosted inside of Facebook so users won't have to go to an external site. The tests will occur in the next several months, it says.
The idea behind this is that it takes too long to go to an outside website and wait for the page to load. This content could load faster, particularly on mobile, if Facebook just hosted it itself.
According to The Times, Facebook has been discussing monetization of the content with the publishers, which would include ads from Facebook itself in place of any ads the publishers typically serve with the content on their own sites. The details of the partnerships are unknown, and are likely still be hashed out, but The Times implies the likelihood of revenue sharing, and notes that one scenario would show just one ad in a custom format within each Facebook article.
This all raises quite a few questions, and dilemmas that other publishers may one day have to face, if this spreads beyond a few partners. John Battelle asks a few important questions in a blog post:
- Do you have full and unfettered access to reader data? Will Facebook have access to your customer data?
- Do you have full and unfettered control over your advertising relationships and data? Will Facebook have access to that data?
- Do you have certainty over the levers of circulation marketing, including the price of reader acquisition and engagement?
- Do you have control over your core product, so you can craft your reader’s experience as an expression of your brand?
- Do you have any proof that publishers using another company’s proprietary platform have ever created a lasting and sustainable business?
Of course he discusses each of these further in the original post.
Another question would be: Does allowing Facebook to host your content give you an edge in the News Feed, and therefore more traffic to articles from that? We don't know the answer for sure, but it seems like it probably would. Consider this from an AdAge article about Facebook-hosted video:
Facebook's content-recommendation algorithm gives preference to its own video player when determining what content to show in people's news feeds, according to several online video executives.
"Uploading a YouTube link to Facebook is just about death when it comes to attracting Facebook views or Facebook shares or likes. They've obviously tuned the algorithm to not be so into YouTube links," said one online video network executive. In the last few months that network's videos uploaded using Facebook's player have seen "hundreds of percentage points increases in views" compared to videos posted using YouTube's player, the person said.
Why wouldn't this apply to other types of content as well? Facebook says it wants to give users a faster experience, so it would only make sense that it would favor content that does that - the content that it's hosting itself.
John Herman at The Awl wrote back in early January, "'What the Shift to Video Means,' additionally, is that Facebook has been successful in its first major attempt to requisition the media that it has up until this point partnered with. It could, and probably plans to, become a new YouTube not just for video but for text and audio and whatever else (it already did this with games!). All the things we link to on Facebook now, Facebook could conceivably host."
He later added, “'What the Shift to Video Means,' finally, is that the grand Facebook anomaly that incidentally inflated thousands of websites, some so profoundly as to distort their entire businesses and missions, may be coming to an end."
This was all a play on an official post from Facebook itself titled, "What the Shift to Video Means for Creators".
In that, the company said, "The most important thing to remember when creating video for Facebook is that it will be a part of News Feed. As a creator, you should be conscious that people will discover your video in News Feed next to a photo from a friend or a status update from a relative. Your video needs to fit in, and it needs to be something that your audience will want to watch and share."
Now replace the word video with "articles" or "content" and think about what that would mean for your own material.
What would it take for you to let Facebook host your content? Discuss.
Image via Facebook