Facebook, the Media Company

It’s a sign of where the centers of gravity are in the tech world that the Facebook developer’s conference, f8, has taken on the kind of frenzied speculation reserved for Apple events or, in a different era, the network upfronts.

There’s little doubt that Facebook will roll out some substantial new products on Thursday. The company has been tinkering of late, hardly rolling out gamechanging advances. And the new competition from Google has certainly focused the company. (Those new autopopulating Facebook Smart Lists sure do look and act quite a bit like Google+ Circles.) The f8 event is devoted to Facebook’s platform, and Thursday will likely mark its decisive turn toward the content industry.

One clue comes in the theme of the event, “Read. Listen. Watch.” Facebook is making the move to become a media company of sorts. Not a media company in the sense that it will create content, but a distributor and socializer of content in the same way it has upended the gaming industry. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been clear that he wants Facebook to act as the social infrastructure for industries. The obvious place to start, outside gaming, is with content. After all, if Zynga can build an empire on Facebook, what’s to say a publishing company can’t? Why aren’t inherently social experiences like movies integrated with Facebook tools? They should be. That’s the only way Facebook becomes the world’s first company with a $1 trillion valuation.

That is likely to come in the form of a raft of new Facebook buttons. The like button was just the beginning. There are reports Facebook is going to introduce buttons for people to indicate what they read, listened to, and watched. I’ve also heard talk of a buy button, which would be a major step for Facebook to become the middleman for e-commerce companies. Retailers probably aren’t crazy with the idea of Facebook collecting all that data on their customers, but everyone has Facebook accounts. It makes sense for Facebook to power transactions — and take a little cut.

But the main focus will likely be content. Silicon Valley giants from Microsoft to Apple to Google have long been hell-bent in getting into the content-distribution business. Now Facebook takes that step. Zuckerberg used to compare how many “stories” users created on Facebook via status updates to what newspapers produce. That wasn’t exact. But Facebook now has the opportunity to drive more content consumption.  A revamped profile is built around that, according to Mashable.

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