The Future of News Part II

I had a short but very instructive debate with James Allworth on Twitter yesterday morning.

In particular, he raised two points that I'm not sure I was able to address appropriately; so I'm going to try it here.

It is absolutely true that the relationship between Facebook and publishers is starting from dramatic imbalance. That doesn't mean though that publishers have no leverage or anything to offer to Facebook. They can help Facebook reduce friction in their platform - and raise their revenue accordingly. Publishers are also the providers of the content that makes the Facebook timeline so sticky.

While it is still possible for Facebook to wield the Sword of Damocles over some publishers' throats, it's in their best interest to maintain an ecosystem at least as healthy as YouTube is for video producers or the AppStore for iOS developers.

The ones need distribution, the other needs content. As long as incentives are aligned, most publishers won't have to worry. There might be some that get in Facebook's crosshairs, but they will be the exception to the rule - as are AppStore rejections and banned YouTube Channels. Facebook will want to keep antitrust watchdogs at arms lenght, too.

For all intents and purposes, in relation with big publishers this imbalance has already happened. And it is as much due to Facebook's merits as it's the big publishers fault. They botched their execution on the internet once and again. They could have lead the way to opening the flood gates of publishing but chose to keep their unsustainable monopolies instead.

Small publishers, on the other hand, have the most to win. Frictionless distribution compounded with low cost means of production, enable more Daring Fireballs and Stratecherys to succeed. Each on their own niche.

And, as was explained in the previous section, publishers big and small have leverage they can use to obtain concessions. Why would Facebook yield: because it will be in their best interest to foster an environment where millions of publishers can thrive; they want lots of native content they can filter and target with their algorythms.

Actually, my guess is that they will provide the tools voluntarily. YouTube instroduced revenue share to incentivize production, without anyone forcing its hand. The analytics tools on videos and channels are improving all the time, too.