Facebook’s latest changes are great for its profits and bad for independent media

Mark Zuckerberg announced last week that Facebook would continue to de-prioritise shared public content like news, videos, and links and would favour “family and friend” content like personal photos and thoughts. He made out that “meaningful interactions” were at the core of the decision.

But that’s just thinly-disguised spin. Facebook isn’t a social media company. It is an advertising company, which, like most online advertising these days, disguises itself as enjoyable, useful, or moving content. Brands are getting us to play games with their products, are sponsoring movies that promote their products, are paying for native advertising to turn their product launches into news, and Facebook is part of this trend. Its US$27.64 billion revenue in 2016 came from advertising. Its ability to supply corporations with a base audience of 2 billion monthly users was the key to that “success”..

Hence, de-prioritising public content means that brands will have to spend even more for their posts to make it to readers’ feeds. And the corporate world: the big publishers, the multinationals, and any companies making reasonable profits will pay for that (as they already are). But independent, alternative, and community media – the media that tells the other side of the story and that doesn’t act like a mouthpiece for corporations – can’t afford advertising. Bloggers, non-profit media, independent vloggers, and the like, will be even more invisible than they already area.

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