The Latest in the Facebook “Friend or Foe” Debate
As the "fake news" controversy unfolds, regional publishers need to rise above the noise.
Like all traditional media these days, regional publications have been pushing all the social media buttons, using multiple channels to grow their imprint on their communities, and, perhaps grow subscribers, print or digital, of the future.
According to data from the Pew Research Center, Facebook has the largest market share (79 percent of internet users), the broadest relevance across age groups, and has been aggressively adding on attributes of other social channels — Facebook Live has been quite popular as an easy alternative to YouTube, for example — to enhance engagement.
We use Facebook for content, sponsored posts, as a place to tease a story, blog, or some big news with one-day viral potential — things that might not be applicable to a monthly publishing cycle.
On the sales side, we tout our social numbers to our existing and potential advertisers (Rhode Island Monthly has over 30,000 Facebook followers) and exhort the promotional power of social media that can be harnessed to put their print ads and promotions in hyperdrive.
Whether it be an election, a hoodie, or where to eat during the holidays, Facebook has become quite adept (read: scary) in targeting online habits by geography and use.
The revelations about “‘fake news” producers and their growth is troubling for those of us who revere our journalistic brand alongside our marketing prowess. At times, it appears that social media has become less of a channel in our portfolio and more of an ominous competitor for advertising dollars.
Regional magazines have enjoyed a unique market position by celebrating a sense of place, with an educated and affluent readership. Facebook pages that purportedly do the same thing are now multiplying at a dizzying pace, as any citizen journalist can create a page and aggregate content — however, the liability and integrity of the content is not without question or 100 percent reliable.
When I see a lapsed advertiser sponsoring posts on these sites as a substitute to what was previously a print ad in my magazines, it gives me pause to think about viewing social media not as another attribute in our portfolio, but as a potential competitive threat.
Media convergence is a do-or-die proposition for many of us, but Facebook is a business that, just like my magazine, is driven by the Holy Grail that is the economic success all for-profit businesses seek.
Or, as the Official Dictionary of Sarcasm puts it, “A friend is someone you use to pass the time with between relationships.”