Posted by Tyler Hustwick 3 years, 6 months ago

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In recent months, I’ve consciously noticed an uptick in my use of Facebook. While I enjoy using Facebook as a way to stay in touch with friends, past and present, I’ve always done so sparingly, hesitant to succumb to the opiate that is social media. Despite my best efforts, I now begrudgingly find myself using Facebook more and more, not as a social platform, but as a comprehensive news outlet.

Over time, Facebook has adjusted its presentation of your news feed, by tracking who and what you engage with most. As a result, my news feed almost exclusively displays posts from my favorite blogs and news outlets. An initial scroll through my feed features posts from BBC News, ESPN, The New York Times, Business Insider, my favorite sports teams and status updates from a handful of friends.

As it stands currently, the news articles I find on Facebook are linked to the publisher’s own website and are opened in a separate tab on my web browser. However, it appears that the social network is looking to change this process. The New York Times reported this past week that Facebook is currently in talks with Buzzfeed, National Geographic and The New York Times to host the publishers’ content directly on Facebook and its apps.

What does this mean? Publishers would be considering a deal that would pull readers away from their own website. The reasons for doing so are simple, Facebook has 1.4 billion users and is offering publishers better access to this audience. In addition, Facebook is offering a share of the revenue from ads running alongside the publisher’s content. From a logical standpoint, many would view this deal as a “win-win” for Facebook and publishers, Facebook gets to keep users on its platform and publishers get to expand their reach beyond what their own website can provide.

Despite the mutual benefits this deal may pose, there is still a potential downside. Facebook estimates that posts that are linked to an external source typically take about eight seconds to load. In today’s fast paced, mobile dominated society, those eight seconds can be considered an eternity. This potential deal, along with modifications to Facebook’s algorithm, are expected to dramatically reduce loading times for articles, giving a significant edge to Facebook’s partners. Currently, in spite of the longer loading times, Facebook remains a vital traffic source for smaller online publications. These smaller publications can ill afford to lose the precious advertising dollars generated from their own website's traffic. With significantly improved loading times for publishers partnered with Facebook, those who are not, could be in jeopardy of losing a fickle audience’s attention. Furthermore, if Facebook’s algorithm were to favor its partners content over other news content, smaller online publications could be in even deeper trouble.

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