Social media giant Facebook is embarking on an experiment to directly host news articles from a variety of media sources, which has Facebook users excited at the new speed with which they can access articles, and publishers nervous over whether they will lose traffic to their own websites, readership data and advertising revenue.
The new system, in which Facebook users can remain on Facebook while accessing news articles rather than following links to other media sites, starts today with the posting of a few articles from news sources including BuzzFeed, National Geographic, The Atlantic, NBC News, The New York Times and European outlets The Guardian, BBC News, Bild and Spiegel Online, the Times
The advantage to users is that loading time will be 10 times faster, will include flashy photo videos and photos with map coordinates, and easily can be accessed on smartphones.
To ease publishers' fears, Facebook is providing them full access to user data and will return all revenue from ads to the publishers for ads they embed in the postings, or return 70 percent of proceeds from ads that Facebook embeds, the Times says.
Facebook, with 1.4 billion worldwide users, dwarfs the readership of most publications, whose owners hope that easier access will draw more users to their sites.
Last year, Pew Research Center
found that 48 percent of people they surveyed use Facebook for government and political news, while 49 percent rely on television. Other social media sites are much less used for news, with Yahoo News drawing 24 percent, Google News 22 percent, YouTube 14 percent, Twitter at 9 percent, Google Plus at 6 percent and LinkedIn at 3 percent.
Newspaper consultant Alan D. Mutter
told the Times, "In the short term, it’s a scary proposition because publishers want to control their brand and their audience and their advertising dollars."
It's a good deal for Facebook, Mutter said, because "It enhances user satisfaction, keeps users on its site and has better content, which allows it to sell advertising at better rates."
"While the proposal has attracted interest from some publishers, many others are wary of tethering themselves more tightly to Facebook. Big Web publishers on average get about 60 percent of their traffic through referrals from Facebook," The Wall Street Journal
However, Chris Cox, Facebook's chief product officer, told the Times, "We’re starting with something that we think is going to work for some publishers for some articles and for some business models. We’re not trying to go, like, suck in and devour everything."
Either way, with the staggering growth of Facebook and social media, publishers have little choice.
For example, National Geographic, with 35 million Facebook fans, gets 25 percent of its traffic from Facebook, the Times said.
Former NBC executive Vivian Schiller told the Times, "That's where the audience is. It's too massive to ignore."
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