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What a Facebook IPO Could Mean For Publishers

Influences from shareholders could help the company triumph, or falter.

TJ Raphael By TJ Raphael
12/01/2011 -14:09 PM

As you probably already know, if Facebook were a country it would be the third largest country in the world, more than double the size of the United States, with more than 800 million active monthly users. News circulated across the globe Tuesday that the company is seeking $10 billion in its initial public offering [IPO]. This could have huge ramifications for the media industry.

If Facebook were able to raise the $10 billion for its initial public offering (personally, I don’t think it would be hard for them to do that), the total amount of the company’s value would be boosted to around $100 billion, with about $10 billion in shares backed by equity to be circulated through the corporate casino known as the stock market.

That number represents about four times what Google’s IPO was just 7 years ago.

This news is particularly valuable for the media industry—as the company goes public, there are more avenues for media companies themselves to get a piece of the medium that so much of their content is distributed through and where so many of their loyal consumers are waiting for them.

When a company enters into the public sphere, making internal changes becomes more difficult, something that could prove beneficial for professionals working at publications. Right now, it seems that every six to eight weeks Facebook rolls out new changes to its interface and format. With slower changes, media professionals can better study and adapt to the interface, allowing for optimized content distribution and consumer interaction.

While stricter limitations on changes could bode well for media, it could also cause the platform to become obsolete: the innovation and ingenuity that has made Facebook so popular could be stifled by the views of shareholders, causing users to migrate. While that seems unlikely, think of MySpace. When something more interesting, like Facebook, came along, users jumped ship.

Tech Crunch’s Josh Constine makes an excellent point in his most recent post on the subject.

“In addition to aggressively advancing monetization, stockholders could rail against the product’s evolution,” he writes. “Changes that disrupt user behavior and ask people to be more open might cause temporary stock price dips they don’t want. Instead, they could turn Facebook into Microsoft, slowing innovation and making it vulnerable to more agile competitors.”

One disruption Constine mentions, and this reporter remembers, is when the newsfeed feature was implemented in 2006. There was outcry from those that used the site, something that individuals now actively engage with. A new set of changes that are initially rejected by the 800 million (and growing) users could cause the market to take a big hit, and cause stock holders to scale back changes that may have been just what the public was waiting for, but didn’t know it.

TJ Raphael By TJ Raphael -- T. J. Raphael is the Associate Editor of FOLIO: Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @TJRaphael.

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