In today’s latest reminder that you shouldn’t rely too heavily on social platforms when looking to establish your business, reports suggest that Meta is now looking to reduce its investments in news content and newsletters, via its “Bulletin” platform, in favor of focusing on the creator economy and its future plans for the metaverse.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, Meta is currently reallocating resources for its Facebook News tab and newsletter, according to a new internal memo from senior executive Campbell Brown.
According to WSJ:
Ms. Brown said the company will move engineering and product support for both products as “those teams focus more on building a more robust creator economy.”
It’s unclear exactly what these “Creator Economy” projects are, but as noted, it once again underscores the concerns that many publishers have had over time, that if you’re trying to play Meta’s game and as you align with what it’s focused on at all times over time, you’re also at the mercy of the Meta team, who can drop interest in projects seemingly overnight.
And these changes can be devastating for publishers.
A key case study in this regard is “Little Things,” the Facebook-focused web publisher that was once a big winner in Facebook’s now infamous “pivot to video,” in which it encouraged brands to post more in addition to video content in order to fuel consumer behavior.
Until it doesn’t.
In 2017, Facebook changed its algorithmic focus and Little Things, which at one point had over 12 million followers, lost 75% of its organic traffic, almost overnight. The company was eventually forced to close, laying off around 100 employees – and it’s not the only publisher that has lost a lot due to Meta’s broader strategic zigs and zags, as it seeks to maintain relevance and make return users. .
Meta’s latest focus in this regard is, of course, the short video, which TikTok has turned into a key login format, for almost all users.
According to Brown’s memo, Facebook will focus on shorthand content and metaverse-aligned projects, which could increasingly see other Meta bets lose, especially as it seeks to streamline spending and recoup the benefits. losses due to lower advertising spending.
That leaves Bulletin, which Meta launched in April last year, in limbo, along with the various authors and publishers it has established exclusive content deals with for the platform.
In December, Meta reported that more than 115 publications were active on Bulletin, many of which had thousands of subscribers, while Meta also funded 25 local journalists as contributors to the project, which Meta saw as a potential savior for local news.
This seemed like a viable route, given the ubiquity of Facebook and its login advantages for local news content. But maybe Meta didn’t see engagement value as she hoped, which could play into this latest change.
And then there’s the matter of its News tab, and how Meta negates the impacts of shrinking that item.
As the WSJ reports, Meta has paid publishers to participate in its News program, signing deals worth tens of millions of dollars with various news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post.
Most of those initial deals expire this year, giving Meta a way out, and reports have been circulating in recent months that Meta is reevaluating its payouts on this front, with major publishers standing to lose a lot of time as a result.
It also raises questions about whether this could impact Meta’s agreements with news publishers in various countries, where Meta has established revenue-sharing agreements for the use of news content. Australia, Canada and the UK have all negotiated deals that see Meta share a percentage of its revenue with local publishers, based on the content shown in the News tab – but if this is reduced or even removed altogether , that could force a renegotiation, with publishers no doubt ready to up the ante on reps to get that money flowing, where they can.
But overall, as noted, the key point here is not to rely too much on apps from Meta, or any social platform for that matter.
Yes, every platform wants you to share more content because it ensures they have more to show their users when they log in, but becoming too dependent on that traffic and referral revenue can have disastrous effects on your longer-term strategy.
We don’t know what the full impacts will be in this case, but it’s clear, once again, that Meta has changed its mind, which will take money out of the pockets of many partners who had worked in good faith with the platform.