Making Sense of Facebook’s Media Moves

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hadn’t even left the stage before people were passing judgment on the raft of changes Facebook announced, most notably the Timeline revamp of the profile page. What’s clear is Facebook is moving in the direction of a media-distribution company. Rishad Tobaccowala, speaking at Digiday Social, made this point by calling Facebook a “discovery engine.” Digiday asked some top minds in the media and marketing world for their reaction to the idea of Facebook as major media company.

Bryan Wiener, CEO, 360i
Facebook’s ambitions are so much more than a media company. I think of it more as the operating system for the social web with the power potentially greater than Microsoft during the height of the PC era in the 90s. It remains to be seen how much consumers want to use Facebook as a media company to consumer content or primarily as the underlying utility to facilitate social communication and sharing. Either way, they’re positioned well to be the intersection point between a lot of digital industries. While I think advertising will be a huge business for Facebook, I won’t be surprised if commerce and payment-related revenue constitutes a larger piece of the pie in five years.

John Battelle, chairman, Federated Media
Facebook already is a media company. Look at its revenues. At some point, it will have to service its clients with more media offerings, but I’d wager they won’t look like “traditional” media packages.

Jonah Peretti, CEO, Buzzfeed
Zuckerberg’s Law is a self-fullfilling prophecy. Facebook is adding more and more ways to automatically and passively share with friends in ways that won’t annoy your friends. I bet in the future you will be able to share your heart rate, exact current location, what you are seeing with your eyes, your workout routine, and who is near you, etc. — all automatically without doing anything. And all the info will be visualized and summarized for your friends to consume easily, an automatic timeline of your entire life as you live it. The exact specifics I am imagining were not presented at f8 but is the logical extension of what it is doing. Pretty interesting and ambitious, which is what we expect from Facebook.

Rob Norman, CEO of North America, GroupM
How succesessful you are as a distributor directly correlates with the rewards that accrue to the creator of what you distribute (see the cable industry). How successful you are as a creator correlates with your value to the distributor and/or the end consumer (see HBO and ESPN). In the end, someone pays someone on an item basis, on a channel basis, or a bundle basis. It’s interesting (in the quantum at least) that ESPN just paid the NFL a $19 billion nut for one live event per week for the next 10 or so years). They did it because of direct (ads), indirect (carriage fees) and halo (schedule tentpole) revenues. So the question arises: Who pays Facebook the money that pays the creator in some other mechanism than low-single-digit CPM. It’s a tough one; there’s only so much money in virtual goods, Netflix has set the price for unlimited streaming, and the broadcast and cable business seems to have “live” locked up. Sharing is dandy, but paying is better.

Tarah Feinberg, Head of Live Media Studio, iCrossing
Facebook announced the latest in a series of updates geared at creating a more content-rich and relevant user experience, which offers marketers several valuable opportunities. Specifically, apps becoming a larger part of the Facebook experience will be a significant way for content marketers to increased their visibility and engagement on the platform. App-discoverability has always been a problem on Facebook, which motivated the creation of the “Graph Rank.” Based on the amount a user and his/her friends interact with an app, it will now become more or less visible to the user’s friends. For marketers, this means that if users are compelled to regularly engage with an app — most likely through high value, content-driven experiences — they will become automatic advocates, encouraging their networks to join in. There is still a great deal that is unknown for marketers, including how Pages will be updated, but marketers that are already focused on engaging their audiences with rich experiences will likely rise to the top within the new Facebook environment.

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