‘Weigh the return’: Publishers chime in on controversial Facebook ploy

The controversial news that publishers including The New York Times and BuzzFeed may publish straight into Facebook’s ecosystem was one of several hot topics at Digiday’s Publishing Summit in Vail, Colorado, where hundreds of digital publishing executives are gathering this week to hash out the issues facing their industry’s future.

The Facebook scheme raises some uncomfortable questions about what publishers are ready to give up in revenue and reader data to get Facebook’s referral traffic. Everyone has an opinion about the subject, so Digiday rounded up some publishing execs at the summit and asked them a simple question: Should publishers post their content directly to Facebook? Here’s what they told us:

Paul Marcum, global head of digital video, Bloomberg
Until there’s monetization, it’s a marketing tool, and like any marketing tool, you have to weigh the return. Future returns at this point are questionable. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment in the meantime. You should, but do it in balance with more profitable ventures and other marketing opportunities.

Shay Brog, senior director, head of partner strategy, AOL
The risk is similar to Demand Media, which lost traffic when Google changed its algorithm, and it’s the same problem all MCNs have on YouTube. Facebook is just another walled garden, and it’s happy to extract your content and make money on it. Maybe that’s just how it is. Are publishers willing to give up the battle being a destination site? If publishers’ audience matters, they should fight against it.

Mike Dodge, COO, Evolve Media
We will skeptically explore it. What are the revenue splits? Or, once we’re hooked on it, will it change, without a viable competitor there? I worry it will become just like a YouTube — it’s not where we publish to monetize our content.

Sarah Frank, executive producer, NowThis
That Facebook engagement is really exciting. What would it take to get 65 million fans across platforms without Facebook? It’s also very natural to our audience.

Chris Pirrone, GM of sports digital media, USA Today
It could be a new revenue source if Facebook sells advertising around the content; you might not have gotten those page views if you sold against your site only. But it depends on your goal as a publisher – revenue or new audience exposure? Will Facebook favor publishers that publish directly to them?


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