The "Nightmare Scenario" For Publishers: Facebook Is Testing A 'Pay-To-Play' Model

Remember when Facebook first offered to pay “media partners” to create video content for its news feed? A lot sure has changed since then... and that was only six months ago. In a development that’s elicited anger among journalists and various content providers, the world’s largest social media company appears to be testing a new content-distribution model that would move it away from an organic, free-for-all to a pay-to-play environment. Predictably, news of the tests prompted howls of rage from the media establishment, which depends on Facebook's referral traffic for survival.

As Mashable reports, a Slovakian journalist pointed out that Facebook has quietly started removing posts from its users’ primary newsfeeds and relegating them to a new secondary feed called “Explore” that Facebook debuted last week. Facebook is still only testing this strategy in a handful of markets. But as Recode points out, the Explore Feed’s purpose is to show users posts from people or publishers they don’t follow, in hopes that they’ll find new stuff they wouldn’t otherwise see. In some countries, though, the social giant is also testing putting all publisher content in this secondary feed, even if you do follow those publishers.

The new strategy would create what Mashable described as “battlefield of pay to play where publishers have to pony up the dough to get back into the News Feed.”

Meanwhile, Facebook says it’s goal is to separate personal updates from family and friends from news stories that are widely disseminated on its app. Here’s a statement from the company, courtesy of Recode:

“With all of the possible stories in each person's feed, we always work to connect people with the posts they find most meaningful. People have told us they want an easier way to see posts from friends and family, so we are testing two separate feeds, one as a dedicated space with posts from friends and family and another as a dedicated space for posts from Pages. To understand if people like these two different spaces, we will test a few things, such as how people engage with videos and other types of posts. These tests will start in Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Guatemala, and Cambodia. We have no current plans to roll this out globally.”

However, the notion that media organizations – many of which are struggling to survive now that Facebook has siphoned off the advertising business on which they used to depend – might soon need to pay to promote their stories would create a “nightmare scenario” for legitimate publishers, while also undercutting the company’s mission to crack down on “fake news” on its platform.

For now, the setting is only available in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Cambodia, according to the Slovakian journalist who first pointed out the shift.

While Facebook claims it doesn’t plan to roll this out globally right now, the fact that Zuckerberg is even testing this should be terrifying for publishers who are heavily reliant on the newsfeed for distribution. As Recode explains, the new Explore Feed is not easy to find. It’s buried on the lefthand rail on Facebook’s web version, or in the “Explore” tab on the iOS app.

Placing this type of invisible barrier between users and content would create a huge problem for media companies. In Slovakia, for example, where this new test is under way, a journalist wrote on Medium over the weekend that organic reach for publishers fell by “two-thirds” after Facebook moved Page posts to the Explore Feed.

In an era when two-thirds of Americans say they get some or all of their news from social media, the mere thought of paying for placement fills publishers with margin-crushing dread. And as Recode points out, Facebook has a long history of changing the rules on a whim, leaving publishers scrambling to keep up.

Or, as one Twitter user put it…


techpriest Rainman Mon, 10/23/2017 - 17:02 Permalink

The whole idea of a "free platform for everyone to post on" was nice, but it looks like the hopium reactor project failed, so they need actual resources to power the servers.

The real question is, does this mean that the investor hopium is running out, or does Zuckerberg realize that he is dependent on NSA funding that ultimately reports to Trump, and he's trying to stay independent? That would be quite the deep state war, if so.

In reply to by Rainman

Sir Edge IH8OBAMA Mon, 10/23/2017 - 18:37 Permalink

 Please...Oh P.U.L.L.E.Z.Z.E let Facebook force a non opt in strategy which rightly kills its subscirber base and returns social media back to reality and stops the easy monitoring of the internet by the NSA/CIA.All I Want For Christmas Is NSA/CIA Facebook Gone... NSA/CIA FaceBook Gone.. FaceBookGonnne...Please sing along with me... Edgey

In reply to by IH8OBAMA

TwelveOhOne Sir Edge Mon, 10/23/2017 - 19:28 Permalink

Seems like an opportunity for competitors, like Steemit.If they hadn't broken their code with the latest update, that is...@ned said the attacks have stopped, the issues are now all "self-caused" (not his words).  Awesome.  But, now they're working on a competing paradigm, SMTs, Steem Media Tokens, and soon there will be many, many alternatives to Facepalm.

In reply to by Sir Edge

OverTheHedge techpriest Mon, 10/23/2017 - 23:13 Permalink

As mentioned above about the server costs, would the ultimate free, open source system be to use the individual users' computers to supply the computing power for the system, a la BitTorren? I have no idea if that would be possible, especially as everyone now uses iCrap instead of real computers these days. I don't know what Facebook's server requirements are to be able to suggest this, but you would like to think that they only have a small %age of their users' overall computing power.I'm sure that brighter people than me have thought of this many years ago. Can you tell I'm not a Facebook user?

In reply to by techpriest

European American Rainman Mon, 10/23/2017 - 17:51 Permalink

"It's where Granny posts pics of her 8 cats."No, it's where people with extremely low self esteem post "SELFIES" and type jibberish nonsense about themselves and what they did today, to make them feel important, as if they are relevant. Thankfully, or should I say, hopefully, those that come to Zh never got sucked into that cankerous disorder.

In reply to by Rainman

WhackoWarner Creepy_Azz_Crackaah Mon, 10/23/2017 - 19:40 Permalink

Facebook? Cellphones?  The new society is controlled from birth.YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED. and they are.It is genius when you look at it.  No room for any info or thought.  ALL is fed and controlled. GPS tracking via cell phones and more invasive GPS and info via the 'Smart Home" where all aspects are tracked.Started with the Smart Meter grid and then sold itself into some idiotic convenvience. Frig this all.  The minute that  spy devices were put on every home throughout the world?  And payed for by public utilities but feeding $$$ to private corps.This is nonsense.  Nobody needs a smart meter and nobody needs a cell phone.  NOBODY needs to invite this BS.\And then people object?

In reply to by Creepy_Azz_Crackaah

WhackoWarner WhackoWarner Mon, 10/23/2017 - 19:46 Permalink

If I was a family?  Which I am.  Would I consider any invasion into my private life as a boon? So now I am GPS tracked via my car/cell phone  and monitored 24/7.  And now I get to p-ay money to buy TV and refrigeration systems that communicate via my smart grid?  So now I have this smart meter that interacts with my appliances and TV and stereo and sends back all info??? Yeah OK.

In reply to by WhackoWarner

Yes We Can. Bu… Mon, 10/23/2017 - 17:07 Permalink

I need Facebook like I need a gambling habit.  Twitter, too.  Got neither.But I own a domain, and run my emails through it.  Like Hillary, but legal.When I go postal, you won't see my mug on CNN.  My content ain't free.

Kefeer Mon, 10/23/2017 - 17:01 Permalink

Information control; what good will come of it.  Wait until the "Net Neutrality" act proves itself to be anything but neutral.  Put the antithesis to the name of the bill or act or law or war and the truth shines in all of its darkness.

rf80412 techpriest Mon, 10/23/2017 - 18:01 Permalink

Net neutrality is based on the assumption that the threat to an open and "equal" internet is private interests, not the government.Net neutrality is specifically designed to prevent either buyer-driven or seller-driven emergence of tiered service, where 21st Century speed and bandwidth become a privilege that not end users but rather content providers have to pay a premium for, while the rest of the internet time-warps back to the Nineties.

In reply to by techpriest

techpriest rf80412 Mon, 10/23/2017 - 18:42 Permalink

For the tiered service, that fearmongering is obviously a non-issue to anyone who works in that industry for a living.

If you are running a low-traffic blog, you don't need a lot of bandwidth, and this is a non-issue. If you want to set up a streaming service that competes with YouTube, it would be madness to think that you can still pay 6 bucks a month to Bluehost and expect the same performance. Duh.

Major cloud hosting companies will pool the payments form each of their clients in order to pay for appropriate bandwidth. The service I use has multiple infrastructures optimized for normal servers, computation-heavy applications, or bandwidth-heavy applications (streaming video/music), and you pay for what you need at the moment you need it. It isn't cheap, but it isn't expensive either. Also, you can put all of your low-bandwidth stuff into your own site, and put the high storage/bandwidth stuff on Youtube.

In reply to by rf80412

waspwench Mon, 10/23/2017 - 17:08 Permalink

As long as people can find what they want, without paying for it, they will not pay.Facebook will quickly find that people will go elsewhere.   And there will always be a proliferation of "elsewheres" 'cos nature abhors a vacuum.

markitect Mon, 10/23/2017 - 17:14 Permalink

Has anyone ever calculated how many hundreds of billions of dollars have been pissed down the internet toilet bowl since dot com boom that could have been used productively somewhere else?  

Dickweed Wang markitect Mon, 10/23/2017 - 17:24 Permalink

I haven't calculated it but I can tell you it's a tiny fraction of the amount of money the USA has pissed away on the military, "security" and "intelligence" (there's an oxymoron for sure) racket.  Since 9-11 that amount has to be over 10 trillion dollars.  We will probably never get a true accounting of that money.

In reply to by markitect

bluez Mon, 10/23/2017 - 17:15 Permalink

I have just started a new charity to help out all those beleaguered journalists and various content providers! Please send me Bitcoin so I can help out these poor victims in their hour of dire need!

Dickweed Wang Mon, 10/23/2017 - 17:19 Permalink

I've said it before on ZH and I'll say it again . . . I have never used Facefuck for anything, and never will.One thing that really pisses me off is on certain web sites in order to make a comment you have to login using Facefuck and there is no other option. I try to avoid those sites just because of that issue alone - even if I have no intention of commenting.Fuck Facefuck and fuck Suckerturd.