On January 12, Facebook announced that it would begin to de-prioritize news publishers and their stories in users’ News Feed over highly engaged-with content shared between friends and family. In December, the social network began spinning down its efforts around live video and the news video that publishers had been pushing. The message is clear: in the messy news landscape, Facebook would like to distance itself from the ugly stuff. The stuff it doesn’t understand. The stuff it obviously can’t control.
This is not news to anyone who has been paying attention. This writing has been on the wall for a very long time.
As I wrote in 2016, no amount of partnering with social media players was going to save publishers from the painfully hard work of making something of value for actual human beings. At best those networks would provide a temporary boost, an incentive to invest in their experiment. Publishers did so out of fear, or the inability to see that what is good for Facebook is rarely good for the media or the flow of information in the long run.
No one won but Facebook. The promises to publishers are drying up, or changing so dramatically they no longer apply. The promise of Facebook (what little it had) as a way to “connect the world,” looks emptier with each passing moment.
Frankly, any publisher relying on Facebook for survival f**ked up. But there’s a flip side to this. There’s the opportunity for outlets willing to rely less on social networks to set their fate, publishers who have diversified their traffic sources, who have pushed back on Facebook’s News Feed carrots, who have built (or are building) brands that resonate with audiences beyond what can be bought or given.