Digital Platforms Change Their Relationships with Content Providers

Digital behemoth Facebook recently announced it is changing its News Feed algorithm to prioritize content from family and friends over posts from media organizations and companies.  Another major player, YouTube, indicated it is making its advertising structure more strict for content creators in response to the recent outrage over Logan Paul’s YouTube video featuring what appears to be the body of man who recently committed suicide.

As Recode’s Peter Kafka alludes to, both platforms are trying to figure out what exactly is their relationship with both content providers, content consumers, and inherently, advertisers.

Facebook Changes Its Feed

Mark Zuckerberg posted on his Facebook page that users will “see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media,” and more posts from family and friends. Zuckerberg cites Facebook research that shows “when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being.”

To elaborate, Facebook’s Head of News Feed Adam Mosseri explained in a blog post, “Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.”

What Mosseri said next is what scares media organizations most: “As we make these updates, Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease.”

Business Insider 5/24/17 chart showing Facebook and Google’s Dominance in Referral Traffic

The impacts the media industry are likely to be profound; according to Pew 2016 analysis, 44 percent of U.S. adults get news from Facebook and 66 percent of identified Facebook users say they get news from the site.

Backlash from news organizations has been widespread. In an article entitled, “Facebook is done with quality journalism. Deal with it.” Frederic Filloux, editor of the Monday Note wrote, “Let’s admit that publishers have been screwed by Facebook.”

On Friday, Zuckerberg further wrote on his page that, “After this change, we expect news to make up roughly 4% of News Feed — down from roughly 5% today. This is a big change, but news will always be a critical way for people to start conversations on important topics.”

What garnered more media attention however was his announcement that “as part of our ongoing quality surveys, [Facebook] will now ask people whether they’re familiar with a news source and, if so, whether they trust that source.”  

Zuckerberg’s announcements have made one thing clear: the nature of the relationship between Facebook and news organizations is changing.

Making Money as a YouTuber Just Got Harder

As YouTube posted on its blog, it is shifting the requirement to be a part of it YouTube Partner Program “from 10,000 lifetime views” to “4,000 hours of watchtime within the past 12 months and 1,000 subscribers.” Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan and Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl wrote in the post that, “These higher standards will also help us prevent potentially inappropriate videos from monetizing which can hurt revenue for everyone.”

On its advertisers blog, YouTube told advertisers that, “Moving forward, the channels included in Google Preferred will be manually reviewed and ads will only run on videos that have been verified to meet our ad-friendly guidelines.”  While it is unclear if either change would have prevented the video that Logan Paul posted, both changes make it more difficult for content creators to monetize on YouTube.

According to Statistica, “YouTube accounted for 20.9 percent of the U.S. video advertising revenue market,” in 2016. Additionally, the platform is projected to have net advertising revenue of 3.96 billion dollars in 2018. When YouTube makes a change to its advertising programs its ripple will be felt throughout the digital space.

By making it more difficult to advertise on YouTube, the company is taking a risk to protect its brand. Considering its large market share, YouTube is hoping that the vast majority of content creators have nowhere else to go and will continue producing videos for its website and sharing its profits.

Backlash from creators has been extensive. In an interview with VideoInk’s Matt Lopez, Rumble (a full-service video and rights management platform) CEO Chris Pavloski said, “On the one hand, YouTube should protect its advertisers, but on the other, firing the small creator is not the solution.”

The fight for meaningful engagement and advertising dollars is one that has consumed the world of digital media. Whether it be fake news on Facebook, or inappropriate content on YouTube, both platforms are dealing with the reality that they have become so big that they cannot totally control what dominates traffic on their sites.

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