Thinking small in the 2020s
Now, this was in the first half of this decade, when Facebook was aggressively ramping up its monetisation efforts, but whenever it happened, there’s something wrong at a company that calls a process ‘friendly fraud’ and encourages it.
Mark Zuckerberg has written in the Wall Street Journal
about his desire for “a world where everyone gets an opportunity to use their voice and an equal chance to be heard.” I believe Zuckerberg really does want that that, to some extent. But I also believe his company is incentivised at every juncture to exploit the data it needs to build that world, using it in ways that are increasingly clever but just obtuse enough that users aren’t put off.
The job cuts in US online news media this week – just the latest example of an ongoing trend – show how building a new media company at massive, but sustainable, scale doesn’t seem possible. The race to reach targets set by demanding investors often plays against the best interests of a publisher’s output.
The same can be said about Facebook – the need to meet investor expectations reduces its ability to deliver a 'pure’ version of the company’s more PR-friendly vision of the world.
A coming recession may lay waste to many online news media companies, forcing them to be acquired by more resilient incumbents or shut down. We may see journalists fight back by launching smaller, perhaps non-profit, publications that generate enough revenue through subscriptions of membership to pay a few salaries, but don’t want or need to grow any bigger. A network of smaller, independent publishers might ultimately be the more sustainable way of running online news publishing in the coming decade.
For all its PR problems, Facebook isn’t going away any time soon, but perhaps we’ll see a similar shift in social media? People want to be social online but it doesn’t have to involve data harvesting and subterfuge.