News organisations’ approaches to publishing on platforms such as Facebook Instant Articles, Snapchat Discover or Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) have varied a lot so far.
Some have gone all-in on one or even all three, while others are still reluctant to put their journalism in the hands and algorithms of technology companies.
But how should they approach this constantly evolving relationship – with scepticism or a willingness to collaborate?
“There is no doubt that getting your news through the engines that Twitter and Facebook have built is a better experience for the reader in terms of speed and design than those built by many publishers,” said Emily Bell, director at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, speaking at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia yesterday (8 April).
“I don't think there's any alternative – journalism has to be more tightly integrated with the platforms people use to find and get news,” she added.
But Bell also pointed out that the results news organisations are seeing from publishing on Facebook Instant Articles for example, can differ wildly and some publishers are not seeing a huge increase in traffic.
Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, director of research at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, identified three ways in which news outlets approach their relationship with platforms: coexistence – “by far the most common outcome” – confrontation, and collaboration.
“There are news organisations who have shown that you can build large audiences very rapidly on these platforms.
“But the companion to that is the fear of missing out, if one of these platforms approaches you as a publisher to say they’re building a new product that they don’t even know the specifics of yet,” Nielsen said.
At News Corp, who owns The Sun, The Times, The Sunday Times and The Wall Street Journal among other titles, Raju Narisetti, senior vice president for strategy, said the relationship with platforms is a “love-hate” one.
He credited initiatives such as Instant Articles and AMP for helping publishers “realise they have a fundamental problem with engagement, something they had ignored for years”.
But the fundamental issue remaining is that “we don’t want to mortgage our future,” he added.
“[News Corp] believes in multiple streams of revenue for our content, such as advertising and subscriptions and we don't want to give any of them up just because they don’t fit in with the business model of these platforms.”
Liz Heron, executive editor at The Huffington Post and former head of journalism partnerships at Facebook, said news organisations should understand their leverage in their relationship with technology companies.
“Platforms are now coming to media organisations, they want to work with and create products specifically for us.
“But if we don't make the effort to see what these platforms care about and what their goals are, which sometimes align to our own goals, we won't be able to benefit from them.
“Investing time and resources into the products they develop also means they’re likely do the same in order to make that product better.”
A main focus for The Huffington Post at the moment is mobile livestreaming, Heron added, so the outlet sees as its competitors media companies who are also putting their efforts in this field.
“We prioritise partnerships, we always have. We see ourselves as a platform in addition to being a publisher,” said Heron.
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