Why Is The Media So Afraid Of Facebook?

This year, in lieu of the traditional Best Of Lists, we thought it would be fun to throw our editors and writers into a draft together and have a conversation. Here are Nilay Patel and Casey Newton discussing the hopes and many anxieties felt by the media as their industry becomes increasingly reliant on platforms.

This year we learned that everyone in media is afraid of Facebook, and Snapchat is still trying to grow up. How do we pay for media? How is it distributed? What is a media brand?

Casey Newton: By almost any measure, Facebook had an impressive year. Its revenue was up more than 40 percent in the last quarter, its stock price is a third higher than it was a year ago, and it dominates our attention on mobile and desktop devices. More than a billion people are now using Facebook every day. And even as it dominates the present, it’s made some prescient-looking bets on the future — particularly on messaging apps (WhatsApp, Messenger) and Oculus (virtual reality).

Because of its sheer size, Facebook makes lots of people nervous — its new focus on events, for example, ought to send a shiver down the spine of Eventbrite. But no one was more nervous about Facebook in 2015 than the media, which relies on it heavily for traffic and audience growth. Most publications saw their traffic referrals from Facebook decline this year. At the same time, Facebook introduced its own fast-loading “instant articles” format — which offered publishers the promise of more traffic, in exchange for less control over how their pages look.