Social media is not free: Facebook, Google want money for distribution

Social media is not free: Facebook, Google want money for distribution

Summary: When money buys traffic you can bet the web experience will be mediocre and worse.

TOPICS: Tech Industry

Big or small, the Facebook strategy for most brands has been to collect as many “likes” as possible. Facebook is now planning to monetize that strategy by charging companies for newsfeed distribution.

For much of this year Facebook has been gradually cutting back on distribution of a brand’s messages to Facebook users that “like” the brand. Now, it’s offering a way for brands to regain that distribution by paying for it, reports Cotton Delo at Ad Age:

[Facebook] states plainly: “We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.”

Foremski’s Take: All that work to get people to “like” a brands’ Facebook page has been neatly integrated into Facebook’s business model.

Social media was never free but in the early years it seemed that way when companies could get huge distribution of their messaging for seemingly little work. Then as the number of media channels fragmented, it became less free because of the extra management required but the distribution was free. Now the distribution is being locked away and will cost money.

All in all, overall marketing costs are going to go up, way up, as other media channels start to monetize their traffic. Google, for example, is killing search engine optimization services because it wants to sell distribution instead of giving it away through SEO influenced organic search.

Google filters from the inbox of Gmail users all promotional email newsletters and puts them into a separate folder. Google sees them as competitors for the same budgets so why make it easy for them? 

How soon before Forbes and LinkedIn start charging their users to distribute their articles? Publishing without distribution is useless.  There’s a huge market in vanity publishing among professionals in every industry sector.

It was the users that built the community and now those users have to pay to interact with their communities. Facebook and LinkedIn are becoming the gatekeepers to information flow and there’s a toll to pay if you want to reach every member of your community.

There’s not going to be much free traffic ahead which means the quality of the content is secondary to the money.

When distribution is free, content is distributed widely and filtered on its merits. But what happens when traffic is bought by money and not by virtue? The web will become a very dull and mediocre experience.

Which is a good thing because we won’t be missing much. We seem to be transitioning into an everyday reality where our technology is disappearing into the woodwork, into the framework, creating a blended reality where there is no web, and none of its glittering distractions. I can’t wait!

The disappearing web...

It means the world wide web is a temporary Internet phenomena. There’s no need for web sites and web experiences when we’re mobile with our digital technology, and surrounded by our technologies. When they overlay and underlay reality.

There’s no place for a HTML page in that future, which is already here in places. The end of the web is near. Which is why Facebook is concentrating on the underlying technologies of connections between people - so that when the web goes away it does’t matter because its community technologies stay relevant and have a good chance of becoming a de facto standard, built into the woodwork of tomorrow, as dependable and ubiquitous as a chair.

Topic: Tech Industry

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • In the real world

    If a web site starts encroaching on a users use of the site or gives them a substandard experience then the user will go somewhere else. There are a lot of examples out there.
  • What kind of "users"?

    Individual users or corporate users? You talk about companies' pages and likes but then go on to a very generic "Forbes and LinkedIn start charging their users"
    I can see charging corporate users (LinkedIn already charges for job postings) but charging individual end users for social media will simply drive them away.
  • I Bookmarked This

    I've read this over twice. Still ruminating the gist of it. Why? Because it appears to me to be a substantial piece. And thereby exceptional in that regard.
  • The Ebay Effect

    It's the "Ebay Effect".

    Ebay had a great model when they started out, minimal fees, anyone selling anything. Then eBay went public, they had to show revenue "growth". Rather than growing the business, they started stiffing their sellers with more and more fees. It made it tough for the little guys and forced them out while power sellers were cheering "raise the fees" as it got rid of the "little" competition and eventually Ebay had to go find itself as users began defecting. Amazon swooped in and Ebay never recovered (on that side of the business).

    That's what this reminds me of. The current model of likes and social distribution on Facebook and Twitter has allowed anyone to get noticed. If they lose sight of this and make the playing field uneven for "users", then it will open up room for comeptition, where people can get unfiltered content.

    This article offers up a good debate on whether or not the novelty of the World Wide Web will ever be the same. And I'd like to think that the spirit and idea will always remain, though the interaction might be different.