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英语新闻:媒体与Facebook:与虎谋皮?

2015-05-20    来源:财富中文网    【      美国外教 在线口语培训
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英语新闻:媒体与Facebook:与虎谋皮? 

英语新闻:

As has been rumored for some time, Facebook launched a trial project called “Instant Articles” on Wednesday morning—a partnership with nine news organizations, including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed,and National Geographic. Under the terms of the deal, entire news stories from those partners will appear insideFacebook’s mobile app and be able to be read there, as opposed to the traditional practice of news publishers posting an excerpt and a link to their website.

At first blush, this sounds like a pretty straightforward exchange of value. Facebook gets what will hopefully be engaging content for its 1.4 billion or so users, and publishers get the reach that the social network provides—plus keep any revenue from advertising that they sell around that content. (if Facebook sells the ads, then publishers reportedly get to keep 70% of the proceeds.) So everybody wins, right?

That’s certainly the way Facebook is trying to sell the partnership: as a mutual exchange of goods, driven by the company’s desire to help publishers make their articles look as good as possible and reach more readers. But whenever you have an entity with the size and power of Facebook, even the simplest of arrangements becomes fraught with peril, and this is no exception. Why? Because a single player holds all of the cards in this particular game.

And that player is Facebook, as Columbia University’s Emily Bell noted on Twitter:

Main problem for publishers + FB remains theoretical: can you both be journalistic + be part of a commercial power structure?

— emily bell (@emilybell) May 13, 2015

The main reason why publishers like the Times have entered into this partnership in the first place is that they are falling behind when it comes to mobile. As technology analyst Ben Thompson points out, Facebook is quite right when it says that most news sites load too slowly and look terrible, rendering the ads on those pages largely useless. Facebook, however, understands mobile like no one else: everything loads faster, looks nicer and is more appealing to advertisers, in part because Facebook can do the kind of targeting that newspapers aren’t equipped to do.


This is what makes the social behemoth’s offer so appealing. Plus, publishers get to keep some or all of the ad revenue, and they also get data about what users are doing with their content, which is always useful.

The part of this deal that makes it a classic Faustian bargain is that Facebook arguably gets more from the arrangement than publishers do. How could that be, when it is giving away all the revenue? Because Facebook doesn’t really care about the revenue from ads around news content (although I expect most partners will take the 70% deal, if not now then later, because Facebook is better at selling ads). What Facebook wants is to deepen and strengthen its hold on users.

In that sense, news content is just a means to an end. And the risk is that if it stops being an effective means to that end, then Facebook will lose interest in promoting it. But in the meantime, Facebook will have solidified its status as the default place where millions or possibly even billions of people go to get their news. In other words, it will still own the land, and who farms which specific patch of that land is irrelevant.

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.

blush: n.脸红,红色

solidify: vt.& vi.使凝固,固化; 使结晶; 使团结

trepidation: n.害怕; 不安; 震颤

palpable: adj.明白的,明显的; 可感知的

play ball with: 与…合作

unquestionably: adv.毫无疑问地,确凿地

incentive n.动机; 刺激; 诱因; 鼓励

(财富中文网)


正如此前传闻的一样,Facebook于上周三上午正式推出一个名叫“Instant Articles”(意为“即时文章”)的试验项目。该项目是Facebook联合《纽约时报》、《卫报》、BuzzFeed网站和《国家地理杂志》等媒体共同推出的。根据协议,这些合作媒体的文章将全文出现在Facebook的移动应用内,也就是说,用户可以在Facebook上直接阅读全文,而不是像以往一样只能阅读摘要,或通过一个链接转到原网页。

乍一看,这个项目显然是一次直白的价值交换。Facebook为它的14亿用户争取到了高质量的内容,出版商们也通过Facebook获得了大量受众——另外他们还能从Facebook基于相关内容获得的广告收入分成。(据报道,如果Facebook围绕相关内容销售广告的话,出版商可以获得70%的广告收入。)所以这是一次皆大欢喜的合作,对吧?

这显然就是Facebook用来吸引合作伙伴的套路——Facebook高风亮节地为出版商提供了更多的读者,同时双方开开心心地交换了利益。但如果一个企业达到了Facebook这样的规模和实力,哪怕是最简单的安排也可能充满潜在的危险,没有例外。为什么呢?因为在这场特殊的牌局中,所有的好牌都握在一个玩家的手里。

正如哥伦比亚大学艾米利•贝尔在Twitter上指出的,这个“开挂”了的玩家就是Facebook。

“出版商+Facebook”模式的主要问题是理论上的:你能否一边做新闻,一边成为一个商业权力架构的组成部分?

— emily bell (@emilybell),2015年5月13日。

像《纽约时报》这样的出版商之所以要进行这样的合作,首要原因是它们在移动领域大大滞后。科技分析师本•汤普森指出,Facebook有一句话说得很对:大多数新闻网站的载入速度过慢,网站本身也设计得一塌糊涂,这使得这些网页上的大多数广告百无一用。而Facebook对移动的理解是无人能比的,它的载入速度更快,界面看起来更舒服,也更吸引广告商,这在某种程度上也是由于Facebook拥有报刊媒体普遍都不具备的市场定位能力。

这就是为什么Facebook抛出的橄榄枝如此吸引人。另外,出版商们不仅能保持部分乃至全部的广告收入,还能从Facebook那里获得用户对内容的反馈数据,这对出版商来说无疑也是非常有用的。

此次合作之所以有那么一丝浮士德式交易的味道,也是因为Facebook从中捞取的好处要大于出版商。或许有人会问,既然Facebook把广告收入都拱手让人了,它还能获得什么好处?其实Facebook并不在乎围绕这些新闻内容的广告收入(不过我认为大多数合作媒体只能获得70%的广告收入,因为Facebook比它们更擅长销售广告)。Facebook的真正目标是深化和巩固它对用户群的吸引力。

就这个意义而言,新闻内容只是Facebook为达成目标而采用的一个手段。蕴含的风险是,如果这种合作达不到预期效果,Facebook就会对它失去兴趣,不愿意再花大力气推广它。但与此同时,Facebook作为几百万甚至几十亿网民看新闻的“默认客户端”这一地位早已深入人心。换句话说,一旦Facebook成了“地主”,谁是给它耕地的“长工”已经不重要了。

 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。



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