There’s a fascinating interview on Splitsider with Matt Klinman of Funny or Die, who recently had to lay off its entire editorial staff due to Facebook’s devouring its entire revenue stream from their video shorts. He’s very candid and forthcoming about what it’s meant for the company, in a way I’ve seen few publishers be:
The whole story is basically that Facebook gets so much traffic that they started convincing publishers to post things on Facebook. For a long time, that was fine. People posted things on Facebook, then you would click those links and go to their websites. But then, gradually, Facebook started exerting more and more control of what was being seen, to the point that they, not our website, essentially became the main publishers of everyone’s content. Today, there’s no reason to go to a comedy website that has a video if that video is just right on Facebook. And that would be fine if Facebook compensated those companies for the ad revenue that was generated from those videos, but because Facebook does not pay publishers, there quickly became no money in making high-quality content for the internet.
Now this is true for news organizations as well as comedy sites. Klinman has some interesting insights on the way that Facebook has a flattening effect on the sites that we view: so that a link from a Macedonian content mill looks very similar to a Washington Post front page story.
I hope this heralds a move more generally toward the open web, although, as a proprietor of an independent site on said web, I am not a disinterested observer. Still, I see in pieces like this and elsewhere, a general realization that Facebook is not an ideal way to experience the internet, and may even be harmful. That this idea is moving beyond technical elites (who had always been snobbishly skeptical of it) is heartening to me. Does it mean a return to the open web, as I hope? Likely not as a mass movement, but as an underground movement of people moving back to feed readers and blogs and away from over reliance on social media, perhaps.