As more publications are closed or cut back, why isn't traditional media facing down Facebook?
Things often speed up towards the end. It’s probably in one of Newton’s laws and it best describes the recent carnage in the printed media industry. It feels like we’re finally at a tipping point, and, in the past week, we’ve seen the men’s style media hardest hit with Esquire halving the frequency of its print edition and Shortlist, the biggest UK men’s title by readership, closing altogether.
Add in Johnston Press, which owns more than 200 titles including the i, The Scotsman and The Yorkshire Post, going under (the business was subsequently acquired by its bondholders wiping out its debt but, for now, savng its titles), and it’s free-fall in the newspaper and magazine publishing business. You’re doing very well to stand still.
According to a recent Evening Standard article, in the past decade over 300 local newspapers have closed, circulation has more than halved, advertising revenues have nosedived by 75% and 6000 fewer journalists are employed.
What’s killing these businesses isn’t the falling number of copies being sold - while that doesn’t help - it’s been the giant migration of advertising and marketing revenue to the online monopolies of Google and Facebook.
It’s obviously a shift to online, but the big question is, why have all the magazines and newspapers happily sat back and watched both these businesses take away all their revenues?
In 2017, Google's revenue amounted to $109.65bn. Google's revenue is largely made up by advertising revenue, which amounted to $67.39bn in 2015. Facebook made $39.9bn in ad revenue in 2017. Mobile advertising represented approximately 89% of advertising revenue for the period, up from 84% of advertising revenue in the fourth quarter of 2016, while the company saw the biggest jump in revenue in Europe (31%).
No amount of rebrands or editors being replaced will compete with this dominance.
Condé Nast just announced it was closing American Glamour, this follows Teen Vogue, and there are rumours W is next, if it can’t find a buyer.
While Google keeps its nose relatively clean, it’s Facebook that seems to jump from controversy to controversy.
At the beginning of this year the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal revealed Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of millions of people's Facebook profiles without their consent and used it for political purposes. It opened the eyes of the general public. Facebook wasn’t this cuddly and friendly village notice board anymore, but rather an aggressive marketing tool selling access to their lives. This was a huge sucker punch to this online Goliath and the newspapers and media should had been encouraging us all to close our accounts and walk away.
"Facebook wasn’t this cuddly and friendly village notice board anymore, but rather an aggressive marketing tool selling access to their lives."
The media should have pushed for us to delete Facebook. It was a huge opportunity for them to damage Facebook and take back a slice of revenue. Much in the same way we joined, if all our friends left, we would leave or no longer be active on there.
Recent evidence also suggests Facebook knew about Russian political activities on its platform even while Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s Founder, publicly denied it. The Facebook culture is said to be one of ‘delay, deny, and deflect’ and is full of ‘fake news’.
This has had a slight effect on visitor numbers. According to the company's latest figures, the number of Europeans logging onto the site every day dropped from 279m to 278m, while monthly European users fell from 376m to 375m.
However, total global user numbers continue to slowly rise, with more than 2.2bn people using the platform every month. The latest results showed total revenue of $13.7bn dollars (£10.8bn), an increase of 33% on the same period last year.
After its financial results in July when Facebook said it expected revenue growth to slow and costs to rise, more than £90bn was wiped off the company's value. The latest figures show costs rose 53 per cent on the same period last year to $7.9bn (£6.2bn).
Facebook is trying to change its image, with adverts telling you how much they care and it publicly committed to recruiting thousands of new content moderators to help improve its ability to remove malicious content from the site - an area it has been widely criticised over.
It also just announced they have partnered with regional publishers Reach (formerly Trinity Mirror), Newsquest, Archant, JPI Media (formerly Johnston Press), and the Midland News Association to launch the “Community News Project”, a scheme that will help fund 80 community journalists.
Ironic when you consider they have mostly disappeared because of Facebook. This is, now, media as charity, subsidised by Facebook to give a veneer of unbiased and local coverage. The scheme follows in similar footsteps to the BBC‘s “Local News Partnership”, which has helped fund more than 140 local democracy reporters.
What all this shows is Facebook isn’t unstoppable. People and their time is the value in Facebook and if we walked away we could damage it. It’s probably naive to think it would disappear, but just a small slice of those huge revenues returning to more independent media would make for a healthier and broader media landscape.
The current traditional media feels very passive and defeatist with regards to these advertising revenue giants when they should making them public enemy number one and encouraging us to walk away.
Are you ready to delete yours?