Facebook's Menacing Media Monopoly

Photo: Thom/Unsplash.

Photo: Thom/Unsplash.

What would happen if media companies distributed all of their news through Facebook?

People are spending more time consuming news through Facebook, and that makes media companies uneasy. With the arrival of Facebook's Instant Articles, a number of publishers are shifting parts of their content distribution from their platforms to Facebook. Though Instant Articles does deliver articles instantly, it's a problematic feature for publishers.

A pressing problem for publishers
Instant Articles is not only rerouting where readers consume news – it's also changing where publishers publish. The idea of a website as the main publishing channel and Facebook as simply a way to promote it is now being challenged.

If Facebook was to become the platform of choice for distributing content (such as journalism), it would diminish the media companies' platforms and strengthen Facebook's already powerful position. That would be problematic.

A Swedish example
In May, publicists (27, more precisely) from some of Sweden's most prominent media companies signed an opinon piece. The piece was aimed at a new campaign by the state-owned Internet provider Telia – a deal that enables their customers to surf on selected social media platforms (Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp and Kik) free of charge.

The writers claimed that this furthers both the services' and Telia's position, making it harder for newcomers in the market to compete. Not every Internet provider has the money to make a deal with Facebook. Telia and Facebook are already big, and with a deal like this, they're only getting bigger.

Photo: Matt Popovich/Unsplash.

Photo: Matt Popovich/Unsplash.

What to do?
If a user can read an article directly through Facebook, they're gonna do it. If we want to read it, we want to read it now. Instant Articles has its perks, but media companies need to be wary of distributing through Facebook.

Facebook can claim 167 million American users and about 20 minutes of usage a day; the most successful news giants don’t quite reach that number in an average month.
— NiemanLab.org

By distributing more of their content through Facebook, media companies risk losing authority and strengthening Facebook's already dominant position. Let's not make Facebook dictate distribution.

What's your take on this? Is Facebook distribution the future for or a threat to media companies? Is the idea of a platform of one's own a thing of the past?

Oscar Hjelmstedt