Facebook still wants to be a media company


Facebook  may have disbanded its “Trending” news section, but the social network is not abandoning its media company ambitions, despite whatever CEO Mark Zuckerberg said to Congress. In fact, the opposite of “not being a media business” is now occurring: Facebook is directly paying news publishers to create video, even as it claims its focus is on you and your “time well spent” on its site.

Sorry, Facebook, but you can no longer claim you’re just a platform, just a technology enabler, when you are directly funding journalism.

And you can’t claim you care about our time when you’re funding all these new videos meant to draw us in daily and keep us watching.

Facebook funds the news

It was recently announced that Facebook will roll out a series of news video shows from select partners, including TV news organizations CNN, ABC News, Fox News Channel and Univision, along with local news publisher Advance Local, and digital companies ATTN: and Mic. The shows will include a mix of live and breaking news as well as longer-form series and features.

The shows are being funded by Facebook for at least one year’s time, though the (undisclosed) terms will vary by network.

Even though publishers have had the rug pulled out from underneath them before — when, suddenly, Facebook decided it was time to focus on “quality time” on its network, and decreased publisher content in the News Feed as a result — they seem happy to create content for Facebook yet again.

I know, it’s baffling.

In addition, it’s building out a game-streaming competitor to battle Amazon’s Twitch and Google’s YouTube.

But what’s even worse is that Facebook continues to claim some sort of “we’re just a platform” sentiment — and one that cares about users’ time, no less! — even as it pursues these initiatives.

The move to fund news videos not only invalidates Facebook’s claims on the “just a tech platform” front, it calls into question how serious the company is about its “time well spent” focus.

This newer set of product development guidelines aims to increase the visibility of personal content at the expense of publishers and other junk.

The company is not alone in thinking about time well spent, even if it doesn’t understand what it’s doing about it.

Amid a growing backlash about the evils of technology addiction on our brain, emotional and social development and quality of life, other tech companies, including both Apple and Google, have now announced notable new efforts to regain control over our phones’ ability to interrupt, stress and addict. Both are rolling out new digital wellness tools in their next mobile operating system updates that will allow users to monitor and control their phone and app usage like never before.

Facebook, to some extent, has been attempting to participate in this movementas well, even as Apple in particular targets it as one of the apps we should all cut down on.

To its credit, Facebook reduced publisher content on the News Feed and the presence of viral videos, and saw its daily active users decline as a result.

Today, its latest “time well spent”-associated feature is arriving: “Memories,” a section where you can fondly look back on all the personal sharing and connections Facebook has enabled, and celebrate those moments with family and friends. (To be clear, Facebook is not calling Memories a part of “time well spent,” we are.)

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