July 28, 2017 | blog | by Alexian Chiavegato

Facebook’s About-Face?

Early this week, Facebook announced the acquisition of Source3, a company dedicated to protecting intellectual property, in order for artists of all kinds to monetize and protect their work from piracy over the Facebook platform. This news comes at the heels of Facebook announcing last week that they will be testing the option for publishers to lock Instant Articles behind a paywall – for the first time acknowledging the importance of publishers getting paid for content circulating their social media platform. Is Facebook starting to realize the importance and value of the content promoted over their platform? Or does Facebook realize that in order to get high quality content – they need to pay for it and perhaps invest in it?

For years the social media giant has had publishers content circulating their platforms for free. And as the trend for speedier news came to light, Facebook created Instant Articles, Google developed AMP, and Apple followed suit with Apple News. Marfeel has seen, through the hundreds of publishers we work with, that in fact Facebook Instant Articles has been performing the least for publishers. That is, engagement is low and publishers are making less money over Instant Articles comparative to AMP and Apple News.

In fact, both Google and Facebook have been benefitting so much from the free news circulating their platforms that the News Media Alliance has asked Congress to step in for an antitrust exemption. They are requesting government intervention since local news organizations in the US would not be able to survive if Google and Facebook continue to make profits off their content without them receiving benefit for their work. The EU has already taken a tough stance against anti-competitive actions and fined Google $2.7B.

These discussions with law makers “stemmed from publisher frustrations over the [digital advertising] duopoly and having to play by the rules of Facebook and Google,” said Paul Boyle, senior vice president of public policy at News Media Alliance.

The two choices that would best resolve this issue is for publishers to receive a larger share of the digital advertising pie or to create a subscription model for their publications. Though some are skeptical that an anti-media government would step in to help the News Media Alliance and even if they did the power of negotiation over ad revenue would be in the hands of Google and Facebook. Though, even with that said, it seems from the recent news that Facebook opted for the subscription model route, which provides some hope that the tech giants may be willing to take a more fair approach – leaving the rest of us to wonder which road Google and Apple News will take. Or, if they will take any, at all.

And through this the questions remains – is Facebook taking great care to protect the content on their platform or even greater care to avoid hefty fines at a time publishers are fighting back?