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The Rise of Social Media Sites as News Outlets

How have Facebook and others fared against the incumbents?

9Sep

Facebook has set its sights on becoming the world’s global newspaper - and depending on which media publication you read, that’s either going to spell the end of online journalism as we know it, or have a decidedly minimal impact.

Social media networks, in general, have become an important source of news for Americans. While Fox News’s Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly won’t be quaking in their boots just yet - TV is still the go-to news source for 48% of all those in the US - the general trend indicates that Millennials, in particular, are starting to look elsewhere.

Millennials, who represent around one quarter of the US’s population, are most inclined to use social media as a source of news. As a group, their scope of influence is unparalleled, and as such, any indication that they might be becoming increasing reliant on social media instead of TV for news, will be alarming.

In May, Facebook made what looked like its first major move into the publishing world. Launching ‘Instant Articles’ on May 12, the release came with much press attention. Some lauded the concept’s advertising model as a way to improve the revenues of media publications, while others claimed that it was part of an elaborate plan, which would see Facebook lure media outlets in, for them only to change the revenue split when it had become the undisputed destination for news.

Yet months after its release, Instant Articles has barely got moving. With its partners - which included BuzzFeed and The New York Times - lining up to take part, the roll-out of articles on the platform has been poor. No articles were published for the three weeks following May 13, and only one article - from The Guardian - has been published since then.

While Instant Articles clearly demonstrates Facebook’s future intentions, it shows that they’re still at an experimental phase. This slow uptake, according to both Facebook and its partners, was purposefully done to use the initial feedback to tweak the platform’s format. It’s also likely that they felt a bombardment of content would have added fuel to their critics fire, something which could have been particularly harmful early on.

Facebook never actually gave a timeline for its Instant Articles plans, but with its aspirations clear, I doubt Mark Zuckerberg wants it to peter out, something which on the face of it, looks like it’s already happening. But don’t expect him to give up on it just yet. With a little bit of tweaking, it might not be too long before instead of switching on your TV, you’ll just log into Facebook to get your news.

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