return Home

What now with Facebook and the digital media business model?

The relationship between publishers and platforms, and in particular Facebook, was never far from conversation at several sessions at FIPP and VDZ’s Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin today.

 

Jesper and Guido ()

 

This included a frank on-stage conversation between representatives from both sides with Jesper Doub, Managing Director at Spiegel Online and Publishing Director at Spiegel Verlag representing the media view and Guido Bülow, Strategic Partner Manager at Facebook, Germany the Facebook view.

Guido Bülow began by outlining the ways in which Facebook is promoting good quality journalism through its Facebook Journalism Project, aiming to support the collaborative development of news products. The Project provides free training and tools for journalists, hopefully leading to a more informed community.

“Facebook plays a role in the subscription conversion funnel,” he said. “Subscription business is very important to us. We feel it’s important to support publishers building relationships with readers.” He emphasised that Facebook believes in high quality journalism, and has the goal of wanting to grow publisher subscriptions.

 

Facebook as a (problematic) partner?

Jesper Doub agreed that Facebook could form part of the package for publishers. “The subscription model, while not simple, can indeed be part of the future model for us with Facebook,” he said. Having worked with the Facebook Journalism Project for over a year, he highlighted that one of the biggest demands from publishers from the start was for help. “We wanted Facebook to help us promote paid content, help us get subscribers,” he said. “But I don’t believe paid content is the only way to survive as a publisher.” Jesper also believes that advertising, for publishers with a strong brand, will always be around. 

Despite enjoying direct contact with Facebook representatives through the Journalism Project, however, Jesper was quick to point out that working with Facebook has been something of a challenge more generally. He cited lack of communication and speed of decision-making - for example, the most recent algorithm changes - as stumbling blocks from a publisher perspective. “Facebook doesn’t give us enough of a heads-up sometimes,” he said. “Our resources are more limited, so we can’t respond quickly enough.” In short: Facebook has improved, but it needs to get better.

 

Regional differences in publishing

Jesper was keen to emphasise that there are big differences between publishers in the US, Nordic countries, the UK, Germany, and other regions of the world, and that this needs to be acknowledged more widely. “There are huge differences even within Europe,” he added. “So while it’s great to see The New York Times and The Washington Post doing well, it’s a different market in the US - so not necessarily helpful for us here.” He cited metering as an example of something that is lauded as a success for American titles, but is hasn’t been a top priority for German publishers.

 

Publishers must do their part to make Facebook work for them

The talk continued on a collaborative note, with both Jesper and Guido agreeing that they want good journalism to thrive on Facebook, acknowledging the ways that Facebook can improve, but highlighting that both partners need to do their bit in order to be successful on the platform.

“Publishers need to keep talking, first of all,” said Jesper. “Keep arguing, keep discussing. We need to be quicker and more flexible, and to speak to Facebook about what we need.” He said that reader data, for instance, is one area where publishers can really learn from Facebook. Facebook can then help publishers to use and interpret that data in useful ways. “We’re not a tech company, we’re journalists. It’s a challenge. But if you shout enough, Facebook and other platforms will listen,” Jesper added.

 

Collaboration with smaller publishers

Finally, Jesper highlighted that we are a long way from getting away from sensationalism and fast journalism on Facebook. He advocated for even small publishers to have greater direct contact with Facebook, and for smaller publishers to get together and talk about solutions, just as the big publishers do.

More like this

Innovation launch: Here’s where and how magazines and other media innovate

Transforming Hong Kong’s newspaper of record, Gary Liu, CEO, South China Morning Post

How Harvard Business Review uses emerging media formats to super-charge audience engagement

Get ready for the Amazonification of media

  • Meredith, HBR, Mondadori and more on how post-pandemic magazine offices will change

    With countries around the world beginning to ease restrictions, the thoughts of many in the magazine media industry are turning to when and how, and if they will return to the office.

    2nd Jun 2020 Features
  • How to make copy creative and profitable

    With a surfeit of tools these days, creativity is easier to accomplish than ever. There is a caveat, however. During these tough times creative content has to have a measurable purpose within your business. How, for instance, does it tie into the subscription strategy?

    2nd Jun 2020 Features
  • Travel + Leisure magazine: armchair trips provide escapism from lockdown

    On 20 May, Travel + Leisure magazine hosted a webinar looking at the luxury travel sector, both now and after Covid-19. A panel of editors from international editions around the world also examined how the magazine is tailoring its traditional content offering to meet the needs of audiences during the global lockdown. 

    1st Jun 2020 Features
  • Covid-19: How to manage mental health and wellbeing

    One of the most damaging aspects of the Covid-19 outbreak is the psychological impact on people forced to work from home. With the pandemic threatening to stretch out for many more months, managing the mental health of your workforce has become a priority for the publishing industry. 

    19th May 2020 Features
Go to Full Site