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商业 - 传媒与文化

媒体与Facebook:与虎谋皮?

Mathew Ingram 2015年05月18日

Facebook日前联合《纽约时报》等媒体推出名为“Instant Articles”的试验项目。根据协议,用户可以在FB客户端直接阅读这些媒体发布的完整文章;媒体则可以借此获取大量用户,并坐享广告分成。乍一看,这似乎是天作之合。但事实并非如此。因为在这场特殊的牌局中,所有的好牌都握在FB手中。

    现在新闻出版界已经开始弥漫恐慌的气氛。《纽约杂志》称,走进《纽约时报》的办公室,你就会感受到人们对这次合作的焦虑。因为我们已经知道,当Facebook失去对某个事物的兴趣时,它会面临怎样的后果——凋零和死亡。这样的事情就曾经发生在Zynga等社交游戏公司身上。Zynga的研发和推广也离不开Facebook的大力推动,它一度也是一家市值几十亿美元的大公司,后来突然就跌下了神坛。2012年,在Facebook的建议下,《卫报》和《华盛顿邮报》等出版商也推出过一系列“社交阅读应用”,现在它们也早已踪迹难寻。

    那些应用与如今的“instant articles”之间存在很多共同点。首先它们也允许用户在Facebook的一个应用内阅读新闻全文,也的确有几百万用户注册了相关应用。但后来Facebook改变了它的算法,这些文章和应用出现的频率大大降低,读者群几乎一夜之间就大大缩水。

    对于出版商来说,最大的风险并不是Facebook会故意摧毁或腐蚀新闻业的根基,或是向新闻媒体开战(不过我的同事艾林•格里菲斯认为,Facebook与新闻业关系紧张是事实,而Facebook对新闻进行审查的情况也并不鲜见)。最大的风险是,Facebook会抢走新闻媒体与读者的关系,而当Facebook随后转头追求其它东西时,它会在不经意间摧毁新闻公司的业务模式。这种可能令丹•吉尔摩等Facebook观察家们深感担忧。

    短期看来,Facebook的“instant articles”对于一些媒体公司是件好事。但作为一个整体,新闻业所面临的后果要坏得多。

    — Dan Gillmor (@dangillmor) ,2015年5月13日。

    汤普森和很多观察人士认为,新闻界在这个问题上几乎没有选择的权力,只能被迫与Facebook共舞。这也就是为什么此次合作比经典的“浮士德式交易”还要令人悲哀。由于新闻业自身的僵化无能,加上数字媒体市场的大浪淘沙,新闻业已经失去了他们对读者的控制——尽管他们和广告商都在不遗余力地吸引读者。

    这就是为什么说所有的好牌都在Facebook手里。它的平台、势力范围、用户群以及对广告商的吸引力,是大多数新闻公司根本无法复制的。即便像《纽约时报》这样的媒体“大牛”,用户每月平均花在它的网站上的时间还不到20分钟,也没人想要付费使用它的新闻应用,其付费墙收入的增长也在骤然变平。谁知道他们的未来在哪里?

    Facebook抛来的橄榄枝,无疑会对任何一家加盟的新闻公司都起到帮助作用(反过来也会刺激其他媒体公司继续加盟)。风险则是Facebook将获得更多的好处。要知道,Facebook是一家“一切向钱看”的公司,没有任何证据表明它真正理解和在乎“新闻业”本身的意义。因此人们有理由怀疑,它是否是一个可信的新闻来源,至少它是否比发布新闻内容的媒体本身更可信。

    新闻消费者是否能从此次合作中获益呢?答案显然是肯定的——至少对于Facebook的用户来说。或许那些动作缓慢、低效、笨拙的新闻提供商也不值得我们为之洒泪。那么,一个由Facebook掌控新闻渠道的世界会是什么样子?且让我们拭目以待。(财富中文网)

    译者:朴成奎

    审校:任文科

    One big reason why there is trepidation in news-publishing circles—New York magazine said there was “palpable anxiety” in the Times newsroom about the deal—is that we already know what happens when Facebook loses interest in something: it withers and dies. That’s what happened with the social games that companies like Zynga developed and promoted through Facebook, a multibillion-dollar business until it suddenly wasn’t. It’s also what happened with the “social reader” apps that publishers like The Guardian and The Washington Post came up with in 2012 at Facebook’s behest.

    The similarities between those apps and the current “instant articles” arrangement are many. The apps allowed users to read entire articles inside an app within Facebook, and millions of readers signed up to do so. But then Facebook changed its algorithm so that these articles and apps didn’t show up as frequently, and readership plummeted overnight.

    The risk isn’t that an evil Facebook suddenly tries to destroy or pervert the causes of journalism, or goes to war against media entities (although the network’s relationship with news is troubled, as my colleague Erin Griffith points out, and censorship is not uncommon). The big risk is that Facebook plunders the relationship that news companies have—or should have—with their readers, and then destroys their business model almost accidentally, while it is in pursuit of other things. That’s the kind of thing that concerns Facebook-watchers like veteran journalist Dan Gillmor:

    Facebook “instant articles” will be good for a few media orgs in the short run. But journalism will be far worse off as a whole.

    — Dan Gillmor (@dangillmor) May 13, 2015

    Thompson and others are right when they say that news companies don’t really have any choice but to play ball with Facebook, which is why this is actually much worsethan the classic Faustian bargain. As a result of their own incompetence and/or inflexibility, combined with the shifting sands of the digital-media market, they have lost their grip on the audience that both they and advertisers are trying to reach.

    That’s why all the cards are in Facebook’s hands. It has the platform, it has the reach, it has the users and it has something to offer to advertisers that most news companies can’t hope to replicate. Publishers like The New York Times have websites that users spend less than 20 minutes on in the average month, apps that no one wants to pay for, and paywalls whose growth is flattening sharply. What does the future hold for them?

    What the social network has to offer is unquestionably going to help any of those publishers who sign up (and that in turn will create an incentive for others to do so). The risk is that it will wind up helping Facebook more, and that eventually Facebook—a for-profit company that has shown no evidence that it actually understands or cares about “journalism” per se—will become the trusted source of news for millions of users, rather than the publications that produce content.

    Do news consumers ultimately benefit from this deal?Clearly they do, or at least the ones who use Facebook do. And perhaps we shouldn’t shed too many tears for slow, lumbering, inefficient news providers who have failed to adapt. But what does a world in which Facebook essentially controls access to the news look like? We are about to find out.

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