Facebook Instant Articles – Part II

Facebook Instant Articles - Launching Partners

Facebook Instant Articles – Launching Partners

In 2012 Facebook run an experiment without telling users. After results were revealed, two years latter, (enough time to be way ahead of both competitors and humans) researches argued how unethical the experiment was. No matter how ethical or not the experience was, Facebook got the gold. So what was that experimentation about, and what it revealed? here is a reference from my master’s thesis 2013:

The company had filtered user’s news feed, and let two groups of study get exposed to either emotionally positive or emotionally negative pieces of information (videos, photos, texts, news, etc) posted by their friends or pages they like. Those who were exposed –without knowing– to more emotionally positive content expressed more positive feelings after such exposure while those who were exposed –also without knowing- to more negative content showed the opposite.

Clay Johnson, the co-founder of Blue State Digital, the firm that built and managed Barack Obama’s online campaign for the presidency in 2008, asked: “Could the CIA incite revolution in Sudan by pressuring Facebook to promote discontent? Should that be legal? Could Mark Zuckerberg swing an election by promoting Upworthy [a website aggregating viral content] posts two weeks beforehand? Should that be legal?” (Booth, 2014)

By now, the picture is more clear, as explained in Facebook Instant Articles – Part I Facebook knows us and hence the company can manipulate our behavior through news feed. The news feed shows almost (1500 to 2000) bits of information per time. That is technically possible but psychologically too much to handle. We are not going to argue here the disadvantages of this “nowness” but this is to say Facebook needs a way to target us better. Otherwise, the company will not generate advertisements and can not appeal to publishers.

Facebook by definition is a social media. Facebook is a platform which hosts content but it is self generated content platform too. People come to Facebook for information.

The instant articles is just a new step in the process of controlling information dissemination and consumption. controlling knowledge sharing models and the human perceptions, attitudes and behaviors.  Facebook approached several big publishers CNN, BBC, Bled, The New York Times etc. and proposed an interesting deal:

1- Publishers host content entirely on facebook platform, the means Facebook users (more than 1.3 billion) do not have to click on a link and go the publisher website. NO, they can now have the full article accessible directly within Facbook, Users do not need to leave the platform.

2- Publishers have full control over the three important things :

a. the design so it goes with their visual corporate identity

b. statistics about visitors, and that means publishers will NOT lose the numbers of visitors to their website due to hosting the content on Facebook . this is supper interesting

c. and full revenue from advertisements they get . and if they happened not to have advertisers for some articles and Facebook have some advertisers to post their ads there and then facebook will take only 30% of the revenue only.

What does a publisher would need more, statistics (even to information they never dreamed they can get such as gender, location, language , etc. ….), new markets with this huge customer base, advertising revenue and design. ! ?

What does Facebook get in return? the company says its all about making the user experience enjoyable and longer and deepening this loyalty ! but what they does not say is more important.

The book publishing industry was totally destroyed by huge bookstores and publishers through many manipulative marketing techniques as well as funding to eat the market and kick the independent publishers and bookstore owners out they as Susan Hawthorne  explains in her “Bibliodiversity – A Manifesto for Independent Publishing” which i am translating now.

What Facebook is doing now is that they are going to create new news and stories consumption habits. Habits that go under the supervision and manipulation of Facebook and only Facebook.

As shared earlier in this article the overwhelming amount of information can not be consumed by users, it is just too much, but Facebook and publishers still want to sell advertisements to cover their operations. regardless of how inefficient the current operations models are and how costly news rooms and news reporting has become due to corrupted management policies within media and news organizations but the fact is still they need advertisers money. New York Times 1300 people in the newsroom costing $200 m per year almost 1/3 of this goes to international coverage. While ProPublica financial model is much efficient, run by 30 persons and spending $10m generated from philanthropic work.

So how Facebook is going to solve this dilemma (being the pool of huge and diversified content but still targeting it to the right people to generate more views and clicks and accordingly more advertising money to itself and to news organizations) ?

The answer is with the language of today and future. The language that goes beyond the lexical and visual. Actually, it is the language which can generate and appropriate the lexical and visual, organize them and target them. Coding/programming/hacking. Facebook has super interesting data mining tools but one of the most interesting ones is how they organize the news feed. How they let us see what they want us to see and still appeal to us! This happens through the unfair code they appropriate. The code (recommender system) which show us based on our own previous selections as the company claims PLUS several other tricks the company does not seem to factor in when talking about the News feed code. It might just worth mentioning how by reducing the time of downloading an article from 8 seconds to 1/4 second Facebook managed to generate huge traffic and keep users attached/addicted.

What we are seeing with this huge step of news homogenizing is something i’d rather call the rise of news and information dealers. And in the most optimistic scenario Facebook today is acting as a feudal. Why can not and apparently we will not resist this on the foreseen run? One need to refer to Stockholm syndrome amongst others. Facebook is our master of social news and we are addicted to that.

Facebook Instant Articles – Part III

But what else will Facebook get out of this deal? how this will be related to drones and satellite, investments facebook is already purring? More importantly how this will effect publishers? why users and story consumers will stuck to facebook and will never visit the original publishers? Will pay walls still be an option for publishers? How google will react? and what journalists can do about it?

If you would like to continue reading about these questions, i will continue to post in the coming days about this critical issue. You can just follow the blog to get a notification when i post amid your busy days.


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  1. Facebook Instant Articles – Part I | Bilal Zaiter - May 29, 2015

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