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【外刊泛读】Social media and newspaper新时代里的社交媒体和传统纸

来源:经济学人精读  时间:2018-03-07 19:57:56

​​​Publishers are wary of Facebook and Google’s heft, but have no choice but to work with them. The second in our series on the future of journalism

In recent months Google and Facebook have made changes that may escape the notice of most of their billions of users, but not of news organisations.(主题句) Facebook began displaying the logos of publishers in some of its posts, so readers can identify the news source. And Google for the first time gave publishers the ability to control how many times the search engine’s users can visit news sites free of charge. (主题句中changes的具体描述)Both will directly help papers to sell subscriptions. (主题句中changes导致的直接结果)

To critics of the social-media giants, that might look like wolves offering to help the sheep while still feasting on(尽情享用) the herd. The business of both Facebook and Alphabet, parent of Google and YouTube, is to occupy people’s time and attention with their free services and content, and to sell ads against those eyeballs. For them, quality journalism is just another hook.

Facebook calls its “News Feed” offering its most important product, but in recent years it has tweaked the feed in ways that de-emphasise(不予强调) actual news, instead prioritising(给与…优先) updates from friends and family over those from publishers. The associated ad revenues(收入) for many publishers have been either nominal(名义上的,有名无实), in the case of Facebook’s fast-loading “instant articles”, or as yet mostly non-existent, in the case of videos they make for the social network. News sites have found they have no choice but to work with the two tech giants, however: Facebook, with its 2bn users, and Google, which directs 10bn clicks a month to publishers, are where their readers are.

So there is no confusion about where the power lies. That is unlikely to change much in future, although publishers are fighting back a bit. In America a consortium(联盟) of nearly 2,000 news organisations, the News Media Alliance, is asking Congress for an antitrust(反垄断) exemption (免除、豁免)to allow publishers to negotiate collectively with the two firms. David Chavern, the consortium’s president, lists some of the demands: more ad revenue; the sharing of data about their audiences on the tech platforms; better branding for publishers, as the use of logos is very limited (people simply say, “I read that on Facebook”, says Mr Chavern); and support for subscriptions(订阅).

That the tech giants are making concessions(让步) on some of these pointsmay be because they sense that the political mood(政策氛围) is Turning against them in America and in Europe, or because of genuine (真实的)concern for the media ecosystem(生态圈). Recently Google News Lab, formed in 2015, helped fund “Report For America”, which will put an initial 18 reporters in small-town newsrooms across the country, with more to come in future years. Facebook started a “Journalism Project” in January to help develop news products in collaboration with newspapers.

Several newspaper executives say Google’s dealings with them seemed more sincere than Facebook’s. But both firms’ changes to click-through(点击) policies are significant(重要的). Google’s old policy for users directed to make their first visit to a newspaper website was called “first click free”, but it actually gave users three free clicks on a newspaper’s site every day. As more publishers put up paywalls online, they lobbied(对…进行游说) Google to limit free access. Google prefers an entirely free, open web—the better for searching and for ad placements— but in the end it relented(减弱).

“We’re pleased that the conversation has moved on from this ideological (思想的、意识形态的)position that all content should be free,” says an executive at the Wall Street Journal, which charges readers for digital access. Earlier this year the Journal opted(决定从…退出) out of “first click free” and experienced a 50% decline in traffic(点击量、流量) from Google. It also saw a quadrupling (四倍)of conversions to subscription among those who came to the site and hit the paywall(付费墙,它最早由《华尔街日报》推出,以收取月费为条件向读者出售部分新闻内容。). To the Journal, both data points confirmed the sheer(绝对的、纯粹的、完全的) power of tech platforms over publishers.

As for Facebook, users today get all instant articles free of charge. It has signed up ten publishers (including The Economist) for a trial that gives some users of Facebook’s mobile app access to ten free instant articles per month but then sends them to a publisher’s paywall. Even so, many readers are not likely to encounter(遇见、邂逅) one.

Media executives (高管)at firms that rely more on selling ads than subscriptions are more enthusiastic(热情的) about Facebook and Google. “We see them as a friend,” says Paul Zwillenberg, chief executive of Britain’s Daily Mail and General Trust, owner of the Daily Mail. Mail Online has doubled daily visitors and engagement(参与度,指用户点赞、转发、评论、下载文档、观看视频、咨询等交互行为) in part by making videos for Facebook and YouTube. That does not mean giving up on direct internet traffic (on which Mail Online can sell ads without sharing revenue with Facebook or Google). About 35% of Mail Online’s traffic in America still comes directly to the news site’s homepage, or “front door”, according to Similar Web, an analytics firm, which is slightly higher than the rate for the homepages of the biggest American papers.

But selling digital ads on their own websites is a challenge for most news organisations, in part because of the competition from the duopoly(双头垄断的市场). Facebook and Alphabet will take the majority of all digital-ad revenue globally this year, and, by some measures, have recently taken 80-90% of the growth in such revenue. Their data on users’ browsing(浏览) activities give them a huge advantage in micro-targeting users. Wherever journalism turns, Facebook and Google loom (日益凸显)large. Their recent moves, although welcome to many publishers, are unlikely to alter (改变)the trajectory (轨迹)of the relationship. ​​​​​

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