Facebook is doing its best to create a symbiotic relationship with the news media, but it’s an uphill battle. This week, Facebook will begin testing new methods for selling subscriptions for publications on the platform. This will be hugely positive, both for the social network and those publishers who have seen subscriptions fall through the floor since the beginnings of the digital revolution. However, the news media, including and especially former and current newspapers, are still attempting to fight an uphill battle that will achieve…what?
Even while Palo Alto does its best to improve the flow of communication from news outlets to consumers, lawyers for those same news outlets are attempting to sue Google and Facebook collectively as a “digital duopoly,” who they say are attempting to create a monopoly in publishing. But if the case was to go to trial, and through some miracle, the news outlets won – what then? Google and Facebook have deep pockets and aside from a substantial payout that they could easily afford, it’s unlikely there would be a significant shift in the way they facilitate news items. In fact, the only possible shift would be a more level playing field across publication platforms, which would mean smaller and second-tier publications would have increased market share, impacting directly on the readership of the majors. Of course, none of this would benefit the average reader who seeks our professional journalism to get the full picture, nor would Facebook, Google or any of the news outlets receive any direct apart from paying and receiving money respectively, and that’s only a benefit to Google and Facebook on the basis that they have too much money.
It seems that the shift from print to digital is more than just a physical one. With so many of the old guard still leading the charge at many of the publications that are fighting the digital onslaught, it may be that the philosophical realities of not having a physical publication are just too much for some. The advent of the iPad did much to return the physical newspaper in digital form, but the fact is that now we read articles, not newspapers. Journalists like creating articles, but publications rely on selling subscriptions – in other words, creating a physical product daily that gets sold as a transaction.
Facebook, rightly or wrongly is attempting to create a digital version of the original subscription model, which is far less complicated than most online publications offer. If the news media chooses to get on board, it could be a potential turning point for newspapers, and news in general.