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A Look at Facebook's Play for Publishers
By: Mike Bush
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Sometimes, what’s old becomes new again. In case you missed it, the New York Times quoted anonymous sources saying that the New York Times would be moving its content into Facebook’s new publisher platform (presumably, the anonymous sources were legit and not something someone overheard an intern discussing on the elevator).

Oddities of the sources aside, PR veterans ought to be looking at this with a sense of familiarity, or at least a sense of déjà vu.

Those of us who were around when “web 2.0” was something new recognize this: Facebook’s trying to build a portal. And if there is a lesson we’ve learned on the web, it’s that portals don’t work. Just ask AOL. Or Yahoo.

There are a few reasons portals don’t work, but let me hit some of the highlights:
  • While it’s great to have major media all in one place, doing so tends to weed out the independent publishers who are creating content for a hyper-focused audience. The hyper focus — the ability for literally anyone in the world to go online and find content (and community) that they relate to — is what makes the web great.
  • I think Facebook Fatigue is becoming more prevalent. Anecdotally, it seems like people aren’t on the service as much anymore.
  • Everything to everyone is nothing to no one. It’s a cliché, but like many clichés, it’s one that’s proven itself true time and time again.
Here’s the other reason why Facebook’s play for publishers will likely fail: discovery.

Facebook’s pages are blocked from Google’s eyes, and, like it or not, Google Search remains a key tool for discovery. It’s here that battle lines are being drawn. I don’t believe it is a coincidence that Google and Twitter announced an upcoming agreement to put tweets into search results shortly before the story about Facebook becoming a publishing platform went public.

As it stands, lines are being drawn in the sand, and partnerships forged. It’s currently Google and Twitter (for an open web) vs Facebook (for a portal).*** While some in the industry are expecting Facebook to win the battle, I’m going to side with history, and expect this experiment to end up in TechCrunch’s deadpool.
***Pure speculation on my part: How long until Facebook Posts start appearing in Bing search as an opt-in option for publishers? Microsoft can’t sit on the sidelines as heavyweights battle it out, and given the company’s investment in Facebook, this is the only logical next step for the company. They’ve been killing it lately…and this simply makes too much sense not to happen. 

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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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