Their lips still chapped from smooching Apple, the news media have discovered they must now suck up to Facebook, too. Just as Apple has the wildly popular iPad, Facebook has 800 million users, many of whom check it first thing in the morning in place of a newspaper. Which is why everyone today leapt to go to work in Mark Zuckerberg's money mill, and thanked him for the privilege.
The scene at today's Facebook F8 developer conference was a lot like the bad old days of AOL, when news was funneled through a central online gatekeeper (GigaOm said as much). From the Washington Post to the Wall Street Journal, from the old line movie studios behind Hulu to the new media pioneers at Netflix and Spotify, it seemed everyone was eager to publish "Facebook Editions" inside the social network's walls, and to insinuate themselves into Facebook's new "Timeline" interface and "Ticker" sidebar. Heck, we at Gawker Media are reportedly involved, too.
For handing over content to run on Facebook, the media get eyeballs. Facebook gets more. As the New York Times put it,
Facebook is... positioning itself to become the conduit through which news and entertainment is found and consumed... For Facebook, the potential payoff is huge[:] ...even more data about consumers' habits and desires, which in turn can be used to sell more precisely customized advertising...
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive... called what Facebook was doing an effort to "rethink some industries."
So Facebook is rethinking the news media on the news media's behalf. The industry's well compensated and notoriously prickly moguls no doubt appreciate that, just as they appreciated the new paradigm presented by Apple's iPad, which offered the chance to give Apple a 30 percent cut of revenue, relinquish editorial veto power over content and, oh ya, to get on 200 million+ iPads and iPhones and iPods Touch, each pre-loaded with a credit card. F
There have been some news media success stories on the iOS platform, both journalistically and financially, but nothing that remotely lived up to the industry's outsized expectations of salvation. Now a new land grab is on at Facebook, which offers an even bigger audience, along with the same sorts of restrictions. There will be some innovation there, too, but what's needed is intense focus — a long haul attention to what news consumers really need, and patience for the iterative and sometimes maddening technological journey required to get them there. That sort of approach can pay off big, but it's not particularly compatible with frantic, wishful hopping from trendy locked trunk to trendy locked trunk.
[Pic: Zuckerberg at today's F8 cofnerence, via Getty]