I don’t think the decision by the New York Times and other news organizations to allow/beg Facebook to host their news items as “instant articles” represents some major tragedy for the news business. But I do think it sucks. Here are four reasons why.
- Cede is the Lede: As far as I can tell, the NYT only just started really thinking in terms of digital first. I know they’ve had apps and sites for years, but it’s only recently that they really went for it when it comes to digital and mobile. I think the Facebook deal is an example of them giving up too soon. This isn’t to suggest that giving Facebook such control is a move that a smart digital player wouldn’t make. After all, Buzzfeed is participating in the same program, and they know a thing or two about digital. But the NYT is not Buzzfeed. Yet. Facebook has built a large and powerful network. But they do not know how to run the news business better than editors, journalists and publishers. And they don’t have the same goals. Like I always say, I’ve always wanted to write a column for the New York Times. I’ve never wanted to write a column for Facebook
- No Friend of Mine: The ability for me to share an article with my friend on Facebook is a beautiful thing. But that sharing deck is stacked when certain articles load more quickly or certain sources are featured more prominently.
- We Need Greasy Fast Speed: If news organizations that have a deal with FB get “instant articles” treatment, guess who doesn’t? Everybody else. Yesterday, your blog post had the same theoretical shot to go viral as an article by a major publication. Today, at least on Facebook, that is no longer true. Your article loads a little slower. And let’s face it, if you’re an indie publisher or any of the organizations not big enough to be tapped by Facebook, the last thing you needed was another disadvantage.
- But You Don’t Check Out: Facebook is essentially trying to become the Hotel California of the Internet. You can check stuff out anytime you want, but you can never leave. If the strategy works, other big Internet companies will follow suit. But the Internet is about leaving. Links are the whole goddamn point of this thing.
Don’t Trust Facebook to Edit the Internet. Trust Dave Pell’s NextDraft.