Today, Facebook announced that it is partnering with six major media publishers to test publishing their content directly on Facebook. The idea: by keeping readers within the Facebook ecosystem, readers will experience faster loads for content and will no longer have to "suffer" a time lag for content loading, and readers will also be able to experience more of the material they want to see within Facebook.
The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Guardian, and National Geographic are among the notable media outlets in the test. Each new partner has a large following of subscribers in various media in their own right, and they also have their own presence on Facebook in the form of a company page where they post links to content regularly.
So why would they agree to publish some content directly to Facebook and nowhere else?
Answer: more revenue, new readers and more subscribers.
Despite a large presence in print and digital formats on their own, every media outlet is interested in gaining new readership (and profit!) by any means possible. In a sense, they are meeting new readers where they already spend a significant amount of time. In the article about the deal which published in The New York Times today, each media outlet noted that they currently gain around 10-15% new subscribers from Facebook. By publishing directly in the platform, these media outlets expect to be able to turn over new subscribers by embedding ads within the Facebook-published materials.
It comes with a few risks, however, and I'm certain each media outlet is not entirely blind to the potential issues, but it provides some food for thought nonetheless:
1.) Facebook will be asking for more "free" content from its partners down the road, especially if the campaign proves fruitful for Facebook in gaining more users as well as generating more revenue from ads.
2.) Perhaps more risky is the issue of copyright on the articles provided. Although details of the deal have not been disclosed, I'm certain that the media outlets had to relinquish some control over the rights to material published on Facebook*. But demands for more content will increase pressure on outlets to relinquish more control over their material. So each media outlet needs to ensure that they absolutely control all of the rights to the materials posted.
3.) New publishers who are courted by Facebook may not receive the same terms as those in the test group. In the case of the test group, the media outlets themselves are large enough (currently) and have enough power and presence to be able to dictate better terms with Facebook. That said, but I'm concerned that other (smaller) publishers will be so hungry for their presence to be on Facebook to "gain more eyeballs" that they may be willing to give on terms. Publishing content exclusively on Facebook could then make the ability to publish elsewhere and gain readership away from that platform at risk.
I'm not saying that publishing to social media outlets is a bad thing (it's an incredible tool for interacting with customers), but content producers need to maintain awareness of what rights they need to have in order to publish to these areas, and not compromise on good due diligence on terms before proceeding. It is extremely important for content producers to be certain of what rights they have at all times so as to reduce the risk of copyright infringement.
In the game of gaining readers, it's important to be cognizant of the balance between gain and what could potentially be lost.
If you have questions about what rights you should have before publishing content on social media outlets, contact Gryphon Publishing Consulting today for some assistance in developing your company's rights policy.
*Of course, any media outlet worth its salt will ensure that they already control all rights to material they publish online, keeping in mind the lengthy privacy policies contain some notice to users how their content may be reused.