Last month we featured an article on the implications of Facebook’s ‘Instant Articles’.
The platform, which will allow people to use their Facebook app as a news-reading function, will see prestigious publishers like The New York Times and The Guardian post articles on the social network’s ‘News Feed’ function.
This development has attracted attention for a number of different news outlets - with much of it negative. Social Media Today led with the headline ‘Facebook Instant Articles Have Arrived: The End of Publishing as We Know It?’, surmising that whilst the current terms and conditions benefit everyone, Facebook ultimately has the power to change them when it sees fit.
If Facebook decides that it isn’t going to post content from a particular source, will that publisher suffer from an adverse algorithm change, and if they do, will that mean that their content is so far down Google that nobody will see it? There’s also the small issue of advertising revenue and whether Facebook will continue with the model it’s currently using - which is beneficial for everyone.
The reason why ‘Instant Articles’ is a potential game-changer is that Facebook could become the one dominant website in publishing. Writer and Consultant, Andrew Hutchinson states;
‘Obviously, there’s no way of knowing how it will play out, but it’s generally agreed that building a reliance on ‘rented land’, in social networks or any other platform of which you don’t control the back-end, isn’t sustainable practice in the long-term.’
It’s not just Facebook that’s having an effect on the publishing industry. New sites, such as ‘Pronoun’, are offering a model that gives authors 100% of the royalties they earn from their books. Pronoun has yet to be launched, but it’s not far off release.
Pronoun was born from a merger between the publishing firms Byliner and Booklr and was a direct response to companies such as Author Solutions, which continues to take substantial royalties from its users.
As an extension of this, the new era of digital publishing will have to work out how self-publishing can evolve so that ebooks can be placed in front of their ideal audience. At the moment, the growth of content, coupled with the lack of technology to give significant power to unknown authors means that power will remain with the agents whose networks allow them to speak to advertisers.
This is important to recognize, because the ability of a digital publisher to make a book more visible should be critical in the next phase of digital publishing. We’ve got recommendation engines, with Amazon being a good example of this, but none have the capacity to match a reader with a book they’re definitely going to love.
The significance of Facebook’s ‘Instant Articles’ remains up in the air. It will be up to Facebook to treat publishers with the freedom they’re currently promising, but whatever the case, the power of publishers will surely take a hit as Facebook becomes the ‘rented land’ of digital publishing. Self-Publishing is also a concept which digital needs to address - the way that power is shared across the publishing industry in regards to its stakeholders looks like it’s changing, and hopefully this will usher in a new era in digital publishing.