Have Publishers Left the Building?

I learned it on Instagram today: The Chive has officially left Facebook.

Ok, well they haven’t fully left. But they will no longer be posting their articles, videos and other content directly to their Facebook page. Instead, they will be sharing links only in Facebook, and the links will take people back to their webpage. The way God Herself intended.

An instagram post announcing the Chive is cutting ties to Facebook
Chive’s Feb 28th post on my Instagram Feed

 

What is The Chive, you ask? Self described as “The best site in the world”, the Chive is a site that shares funny videos, images and memes, as well as pictures of Bill Murray and sexy photos of young scantily clad ladies. Overall the content seems tailored for a young adult male audience – a sort of Playboy Magazine for the Millennials and Gen Z (but I only go there for the memes, I promise!). Interestingly enough, in addition to be a content producing site, like a BuzzFeed or BoredPanda, the Chive also has a culture of giving back, with community events supporting different charities.

So what does this tell us about Facebook and its relationship to a millennial (and younger audience)? What can we learn about Facebook’s ever fraught collaboration with content publishers, online or otherwise? Well I have a few theories.

The Social Media Lab published a great report this week about the state of Social Media in Canada. In case you didn’t know already, we’re voracious social media users, so we make a good case study. The report showed that 84% of Canadian adults have a Facebook account, and surprisingly, young adults still report having an account with a whopping 95% of adults aged 18-24 on Facebook. So where’s the disconnect?

I suspect that millennials and Gen Z might HAVE a Facebook account, but they are not using it to connect with publishers. My recent research with Brian Traynor and Gilbert Wilkes from Mt. Royal University showed that people have a different range of motivations for using social networking sites, and they often categorize their interactions on those sites based on different uses and gratifications that are related to key relationships in their lives. In other words, some sites will be seen as a vehicle for connecting with family, others with friends, and yet others with work. In the case of Facebook, young people are likely on it, but with their parents and grandparents on it too, they probably aren’t as likely to use it to access content from sites like the Chive.

So from a publisher’s point of view, where’s the ROI? Answer – not on Facebook. If I’m not seeing a return from the content I post on Facebook, then why would I post it there. Sure Facebook can be useful for directing people to where I really want them to go (though, as discussed in my last post, it seems to be less and less useful as Facebook adjusts its algorithms yet again), but I don’t want to GIVE my content away just so Zuck can make another billion dollars. That doesn’t make any kind of sense.

In their Instagram post, the Chive invited other publishers to also stop posting content directly to Facebook. I think this symbolizes yet another inflection point for Facebook. They’ve struggled for years with their relationship with those organizations who create content. With the latest algorithm change, Facebook has basically told publishers “you don’t matter, we think our users will share your content whether or not you’re on board.” And while they may or may not be right about that, publishers have had enough.

Of course, it’s worth mentioning the irony of the Chive sharing this notice on Instagram, which is also owned by Facebook. However, I guess at this time they must feel they still get some value from their Instagram posts. Perhaps they feel that they are more visible there.

Will this matter to Facebook? Time will tell. I think what will really matter is HOW people use Facebook going forward. Will it be seen as the boring place you go with your family? Familiar but ultimately unexciting? Or will it find a way to reinvent itself to users while also providing reasonable ROI to potential partners? I sorta think it will be the Former. Facebook is not going to go away, per se. But it’ll become boring, like Microsoft circa 2005.

As for publishers like the Chive? Well they have another problem. How do you monetize in a sea of content, when people can share what you do outside of your platform, without your permission? I think the ties to community events, building something beyond a content mill is a good start. And I find it interesting that a site like the Chive with a strong community network component, is dialling back on their use of a social networking site as they connect their community members. Perhaps this is because their community isn’t looking to Facebook for connection with their peers.

Have Publishers Left the Building?

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