Publishers warned putting content directly on Facebook may be ‘giving them your future’

Ross Dawson during the keynote of the INMA World Congress in New York

Futurist Ross Dawson during the keynote of the INMA World Congress in New York

Australian futurist Ross Dawson has warned publishers around the globe to be wary of handing over their content to social giant Facebook to use in its newsfeed, warning they may well be “giving them your future”.

Delivering the opening keynote at International News Media Association (INMA) World Congress in New York, Dawson was asked about reports that Facebook had asked the likes of The New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic to host their content inside Facebook rather than making users tap a link to go to an external site.

“It is an individual decision but it is a critical decision,” said Dawson. “So in this case the platform strategy is central to the organisation strategy. If they do this the upside is you have an extraordinary boost – in some cases they are offering 100 per cent of revenue – but for how long we don’t know. But in this case you are essentially giving them your future.”

Dawson also spoke his controversial newspaper extinction timeline, which predicts print newspapers may cease publishing in the US by 2017 and the UK by 2019.

Extinction timeline“Yes probably 2017 was a little aggressive for the US and 2019 for the UK but I wouldn’t put it much further than that,” Dawson told the room filled with some of the world’s leading newspaper executives.

“In places like Russia, Indonesia and Columbia what we are seeing is the fast acceleration of where news on paper is disappearing faster than expected.”

However, he said he is not pessimistic about the future of the wider news media arguing: “Humans have an insatiable appetite for news and media and that will continue to grow.”

Speaking to Mumbrella after the keynote Dawson elaborated on his comments arguing that for many publishers they should be looking to build their own platforms, ecosystems and communities.

“There is potential for organisations to come together to build platforms,” he said citing Piano Media in Slovakia which has brought together nine different competing media organisations.

“It’s difficult to create your own platform as an organisation – that has to be part of the strategic agenda to create a platform which can involve participants, advertisers and the whole point of the platform is that you are enabling people to engage and create content.

“It is a big ask there are far more that have the ambition to create a platform than will succeed – but there are some publishers who have the resources and capability to build their own platform.”

During his keynote address Dawson told the audience that creating their own platforms were important in bringing together audiences.

“Platforms can be described as facilitating multi-party interactions,” he said. “They need to have a platform strategy – you are already using existing platforms and part of this is to have structures to deal with them.”

Dawson also commented on concern among a number of publishers at the INMA World congress about the long term viability of paywalls.

“This (paywall) experiment is absolutely different according to country, according to audience, demographic, in terms of the type of content etc.

“If you are The Wall Street Journal or the New York Times you clearly have the ability to interact, but if you are other organisations it is a lot more challenging and you always need to weigh up the benefits of being more open with content.

“I believe that memberships should absolutely be on the agenda for many publishing organisations and I think that community is strongly tied to this idea of membership.”

Dawson’s presentation slides can be seen here.

A timeline of questions: 

  • 0.30 Why publishers should be wary of Facebook
  • 2.20 Building your own platforms as a publisher
  • 3.40 Publishers should pay for crowd sourced material 
  • 6.00 The advantages for those who pay for crowd sourced material
  • 7.05 Concern by publishers about the viability of paywalls 
  • 8.00 Should paywalls evolve into memberships

Nic Christensen in New York


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