In the case of digital publishing more of the same means we’re likely to continue seeing more of the rapid development in the marketplace, with new opportunities and new challenges for publishers emerging weekly, if not daily, it seems. The latest headline announcement comes from Facebook as they have decided it’s time to muscle their way into the online news delivery business, offering traditional publishers (if that concept still means much) the opportunity to distribute news content to the billions of eyeballs gathered on the FB platform. The New York Times has already announced it’s jumping on board.
What does this mean? In the opinion of a few well-informed observers, it’s another nail in the coffin for many traditional news outlets that still live or die by selling subscriptions and/or advertising in conjunction with their online content. (Click here to read analysis from a publishing industry insider.) Maybe for a few publishers with a strong brand identity (like the NY Times) FB presents an opportunity to expand reach without too much risk. But for publishers with weaker brand recognition, there’s a damned if you do/damned if you don’t risk in distributing your content through Facebook. How can you pass up the opportunity to reach those billions of eyeballs but if you do then it seems you’re just playing into Facebook’s hands as they move to dominate yet one more aspect of the online experience. And if Facebook succeeds then it’s only going to be that much harder for smaller publishers to eke out sufficient revenue online to support their editorial operations.
For non-traditional publishers (and by that I mean just about everyone else who maintains a website or blog for business or personal purposes) the news is much less dire. In fact, a good argument can be made that as power and reach consolidates in the hands of Facebook and a few other key players, and as the market influence of traditional publishers continues to erode, there is an increasing need for non-traditional publishers to fill the gap by stepping up efforts to publish high quality information. As long as your primary purpose in maintaining a web site or blog is not to generate revenue directly from subscriptions or ad sales, what’s bad for traditional publishers is arguably good for you.
The news also underscore the importance for all of us – traditional and non-traditional publishers alike – to focus efforts on developing our own online presence and platform rather than relying primarily on major platforms such as Facebook or LinkedIn. As we’ve observed several times before, when it comes to your digital strategy you want to make sure you’re an owner not a renter of your primary residence.