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robertogreco : facebookinstant   1

Notes on the Surrender at Menlo Park - The Awl
"8. These stories, for now, only exist in the Facebook iOS app. If you share them on Twitter from within the app—which is an option—you will be sharing a link to web versions of these stories. As I understand it, publishers have basically been given an API for Instant, which they can use to more-or-less automatically export their stories to Facebook. Follow this through:

– Publishers want to publish directly to Facebook because it gives them greater access to Facebook’s users
– This belief in greater access is predicated on the idea that native Facebook stories will share better than linked ones
– If this is the case, and if all stories are co-published on Facebook, the result is that the near-entirety of a publisher’s Facebook mobile is hosted and monetized through Facebook (for some partners this is clearly the intention; for others, maybe not)

Facebook owns an enormous share of mobile traffic overall, meaning that any publication’s mobile web referrals were already composed largely of people coming from Facebook. With wider adoption, Instant would effectively remove Facebook from the mobile referrer pool, and mobile web traffic would plummet—for adopters, totally; for everyone else, more than they might expect. If enough partners use Instant, and if there is enough good Instant content to read, users will begin to regard linked-out stories as weird slow garbage that should Not Be Clicked.

9. Basically: Instant allows publishers to hand over nearly all of their mobile business to Facebook.

10. The Facebook app converts any link to a story with an Instant version to an Instant embed. I posted a link to the Times launch story—the web version—on Facebook. Viewed on mobile, this link was replaced with the Instant story. Makes sense! Remove the inferior version when possible. Death to links!"



"13. Some future controversies we can look forward to: differences spotted in web versions and Facebook versions of articles; publications exceeding vaguely defined standards for, say, violent content; image rights issues (the DMCA never imagined this scenario in its wildest nightmares). Haha, sex stuff. Have you SEEN Facebook’s “community standards?” Facebook is very prudish, historically! Many, many discussions about the ideological opacity of T H E A L G O R I T H M. Idk, some other stuff. It will be crazy-making for all kinds of people. Lots of tweets. Can’t wait!

14. Now that we can see Instant in action,**** we can more clearly see what constitutes a publication on a Facebook-centric internet. A Facebook publication is… a brand? A “vertical?” It doesn’t own its distribution, it doesn’t meaningfully control its sources of revenue. It has no “design” outside of its individual articles. It is composed entirely of its content, as represented to Facebook users by Facebook. A lot of institutional advantages sort of evaporate. What is the difference, from the outside, between a large publication and a small one? One with a hundred reporters and one with ten? One with bureaus all around the world and one with a single office? One with strong institutional politics and one without? These distinctions are to be expressed through Facebook, which means through the News Feed, which means… not very coherently at all. An internet intermediated by Facebook is one in which publications are constantly struggling to stay on the right side of a thin line: are they justifying their own existence on Facebook’s new terms, or are they just weird middlemen introducing inefficiency into a system in which they are very obviously guests? This is slightly worse than a channel relationship. Partners are not guaranteed any more space, or traffic, than they can earn within Facebook’s own structure. They are essentially Facebook users with special publishing tools, legacies, momentum, and an immediate need to make money. Or are publications…. celebrities? No. I mean yes, sorry! Definitely! Congratulations!"



"234875627839452. Or maybe this is all just a short detour for Facebook. The history of software and web platforms is instructive here: Platforms grow by incorporating the labor of users and partners; they tend, over time, to regard the presence of the partners as an inefficiency. Twitter asks developers to make a bunch of apps using its data, so people make a bunch of mobile apps, then Twitter notices that these apps are actually very important to Twitter, and so Twitter buys one of the apps and takes steps to expel all the other apps, rendering the job of “Twitter app developer” more or less obsolete. In this formulation, publishers are app developers: They are working not only for their own benefit but, in addition, to find ways to increase Facebook’s share of user attention and satisfaction. If they find ways to succeed, through the practice of journalism or some other sort of content production, Facebook will take note. Perhaps Facebook will then devise a way to compensate reporters, or content creators, directly, rather than through the publications they work for. Maybe they’ll just buy a publication! Or many publications. If Instant is a success then, like everything at a functioning technology company that wants to make money, it will be iterated.

45862170348957103946872039568270. This is unspooling into a more general complaint, but whatever. There is toxic mindset that permeates discussions not just about Facebook but about most accelerating, inevitable-seeming tech companies. It conflates criticism with denial and nostalgia. Why do people complain about Uber so much? Is it loyalty to yellow cabs and their corrupt nonsense industry? Or is it a recognition that, as soon as a company reaches its level of importance and future inevitability, it should be treated as important. A word of caution about Facebook is not a wish to return to some non-existent ideal time. Print media was broken, TV was broken, commercial and public radio were broken, local media was broken, web media was very broken. Understanding this—or even just assuming it to be true!—is understanding that it is imperative to seek out the manner in which your media is broken, and the pressures that keep it that way. Worrying about the details of the coming future is merely taking that future seriously. People who insist otherwise? They have their reasons.

19. Oh, right: So what happens when Facebook goes away? Are today’s publishers, by then, just portable content generators ready to be passed to the next platform? Or have they been replaced by something else entirely? There is apparently only one way to find out!"
johnherrman  publishing  facebook  facebookinstant  journalism  2015  unspooling  twitter  walledgardens  archives  data  advertising  analytics  theatlantic  nytimes  buzzfeed  nationalgeographic  nbcnews  snapchat  snapchatdiscover  web  internet  online 
may 2015 by robertogreco

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