The sourcing on this seems somewhat opaque. But Mashable is reporting that Facebook is testing a new system which would remove publishers from your Facebook timeline unless the publishers pay Facebook. This, frankly, doesn’t terribly surprise me. It’s how monopolies operate.
The Mashable article says the test is only underway in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Cambodia. (Here’s a similar write-up in another industry publication.) Notably, those are countries I suspect would generate considerably less industry attention than if you ran the test in the US or France. As I said, the sourcing on the story seems a little fuzzy. We may find out the details are a bit more complicated. But the broad outline seems clear: Facebook is testing a new regime that will require publications to pay Facebook if they want to show up in users feeds.
Again, this doesn’t surprise me. It’s the logical next move for what Facebook has built and the monopoly power it has secured. Speaking for us, I read this news with real equanimity. We’ve never been very dependent on traffic from Facebook. TPM’s traffic has always been overwhelmingly tied to our site’s front page. That’s the benefit of having a true audience rather than being dependent on gaming traffic from Facebook or Facebook social video. But I suspect this will be a big, big deal for many other publishers who are highly, highly dependent on Facebook and will now (if Facebook goes this route) face the choice of paying large sums to Facebook or going out of existence.
It’s been understood that Facebook has been pushing viral video for some time since that’s where the ad revenue is. But looking over the industry numbers, our data and from talking to various folks in the industry I suspect the de facto payola regime has been underway at Facebook for some time.