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Facebook’s ultimatum to publishers: take it or leave it

Facebook’s ultimatum to publishers: take it or leave it

When Facebook hired Campbell Brown as its new head of news partnerships on January 6th, Brown at the time wrote that she would “help news organizations and journalists work more closely and more effectively with Facebook.” In a post that has since been deleted, she wrote: “I will be working directly with our partners to help them understand how Facebook can expand the reach of their journalism, and contribute value to their businesses.”

While taking the stage on Monday evening at Code Media, Brown gave a message to publishers that was far less optimistic and appealing than the previous one: “My job is not to go recruit people from news organizations to put their stuff on Facebook,” she said.

When Brown was asked about whether she was concerned about Brazil’s largest newspaper, Folha de Sao Paolo, had decided to spot publishing to stop publishing to its 6 million Facebook followers. She said she wasn’t concerned, at all. “This didn’t come as a big surprise to me quite honestly,” she said. She added that Folha hadn’t been publishing regularly on Facebook for quite some time, and in any case, it wasn’t her job to persuade them to publish on Facebook.

“My job is to make sure there is quality news on Facebook and that publishers who want to be on Facebook … have a business model that works,” she said. “If anyone feels this isn’t the right platform for them, they should not be on Facebook.”

Facebook’s experimentation with the future of media has failed more than once over time. For example, the company’s failed experiment with Facebook Live and the weak monetization of Instant Articles, it appears that Facebook doesn’t really know where media is headed and isn’t really too concerned with it right now.

“I don’t think any of us knows what the future of journalism looks like,” Brown said. “We’re going to have to experiment.” Brown said she wanted Facebook to communicate much more clearly to publishers: “We have to be way more transparent and candid with publishers going in that this may not work out,” she said. Her message to them was basically this: “Jump in with us if you’re ready for a big experiment that might not work.” Pretty foggy, I must admit.

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Hamza Khalid

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