Messaging and mobile platforms

Heavily packed article from Benedict Evans. Four or five threads interwoven and in collision course at the same time:

Can [messaging] become the third runtime and the third channel on the phone, after the web and native apps?

Do you turn apps into messages and notifications, or messages and notifications into apps?

Should this be done by Facebook or the platform owners (the same question as for deep linking last year)?

That may be the real problem for Facebook - the next messaging thing may not be messaging at all.

I tend to agree. I think Facebook is late here. But not as much as it was with Facebook Home. It's learning, and it's getting closer.

Update: A better summary from Steven Sinofsky, @stevesi:

Messaging and mobile platforms by @BenedictEvans "the smartphone itself is a social platform" +2414 more words. 👏👍 http://t.co/EyUhl5vXah

Facebook's gonna make publishers a deal they can't refuse

Let's lay out the potential elements of a deal between Facebook and the publishers.

User Data

It might work like an app install. The first time you click on a link from a publisher that has opted in to its content being displayed on Facebook, you could be shown a big button to "Show content inside Facebook" and a checkbox to "Remember my choice".

Through the comprehensive Data Policy we all agree to by using Facebook it's very possible that not even that button is required for them to be able to share with publishers data in agregated form, equivalent to what you see on Google Analytics.

But, were it necessary, a list of the data you agree to be given to the publisher could be added below the button. Or alternately, permissions could be requested at the top of the article after it opens.

Afterwards, you should be able to access a list of your installed publishers to opt out if you want to.

SEO (Update)

In the interest of publishers keeping all their SEO juice, the API that Facebook provides publishers could allow for the implementation of the cross-domain rel="canonical" link element for handling legitimate cross-domain content duplication.

Disabling indexing wouldn't work; search engines have been incorporating links on social networks to their algorithms for a while. Publishers won't want to loose on that if what users link to is the article on Facebook and not the canonical version on their websites.

Another update: If later on, a publisher decides to stop hosting articles on Facebook, they should just redirect to the canonical article wiht the instruction that the content has moved permanently.

Native-Advertising Publishers

As Ben Thompson has already explained, Buzfeed-like publishers' strategy is perfectly aligned with the idea of showing content directly on Facebook.

And they wouldn't need to change their business model at all - as I've written before:

Buzzfeed and Buzzfeed-like publishers could keep charging for creating native-advertisements - now to be shown on Facebook; possibly without sharing revenue with Facebook.

Pay-Wall Publishers

Facebook could become a better Newstand for them. Selling subscriptions and keeping the 30% cut most app stores ask for. That would give Facebook the added benefit of accumulating customers' payment data. Which would in turn make them an even more atractive partner for this group of publishers and open a whole lot more revenue options for Mark Zuckerberg and company.

Additionaly, for those with porous paywalls, Facebook would become the ideal enforcer of the 10 article a month limit, given that it knows everyone's real identity.

Display-Advertising Publishers

This guys will get more and better targetted distribution for their articles as well as better targeted ads - though, with constraints.

As the Times article on the subject describes:

Although the revenue-sharing ideas are still in flux, one would allow publishers to show a single ad in a custom format within each Facebook article, according to one person with knowledge of the discussions.

This is Facebook teaching them how to do their business. By limiting inventory and better targetting, they are increasing the value of these ads.

While we don't know exactly what those ads will look like, unless they are an article within another article, they wouldn't qualify as native advertising. Just a better form of display ads.

As such, I don't expect them to be a game changer for this kind of publisher, but a life raft. They will be thankfull for it. And they will be glad to share money with Facebook. Whatever keeps them from drowning, on their way to the falls.

More on Why

On the reasoning why everyone should get on board with this, Dave Winer has been explaining it better than anyone for months already:

What motivates Facebook

Numbers have certainly validated Facebook's strategy of turning your news feed into a news source. Or listickle source.

People have clicked on those links like crazy.

And they have gone a little crazy when publishers do a lousy job building their websites. When they take eons to load. Pop in overlay ads that block the content. When, unresponsive to your mobile device screen size, force you to zoom in and out. Or when they are just plain ugly and cluttered with ads.

They depreciate the Facebook experience. And every once in a while break it - by singlehandedly crashing the mobile app. Or by encouraging people to teach themselves that the "Open in Safari" button can actually make some sites easier to bear.

Facebook shares their users' angst and dislikes their workarounds. 

As the Times article earlier this week aptly put it:

Even marginal increases in the speed of a site... generally mean big increases in user satisfaction and traffic. So it is likely... that Facebook’s plan focuses on those small improvements, rather than on getting money from deals with media companies.

Given Facebook´s huge user base, small improvements in user experience might already translate into millions of dollars of engagement with social ads. And the lack of those improvements must increasingly feel like a hole in their pockets.

I bet they have a live updating chart somewhere showing the correlation of UX and revenue.

For all the success Facebook has had trying to become Twitter, now it wants to be Flipboard too. And maybe the whole web.

Facebook vs Publishers. How can this even work?

Re @monkbent's "The Facebook Reckoning"

The ads Facebook would place on traditional publishers' content wouldn't be native. Just better targeted display ads - but as annoying as their less evolved brethren.

On the other hand, Buzzfeed and Buzzfeed-like publishers could keep charging for creating native-advertisements - now to be shown on Facebook; possibly without sharing revenue with Facebook.

The first group will still go broke.

The second will make Facebook sour.

How can this even work?

Update: It sure would be fun if Facebook ended up charging a 'hosting' fee.

Update 2: Publishers will just be used as tools for Facebook to maximize engagement. Placing ads on their content will be icing on the cake. Adding insult to injury.