Tech by VICE

Facebook Still Controls the Future of Online Media

For media companies, f8 is fate.

by Carles Buzz
Apr 15 2016, 4:00pm

This week's Facebook F8 developer conference gave us a glimpse into the future of our most popular informational feed, and it won't be in the same scrolling browser format of today. Big box content farms and online media companies were listening carefully because although F8 is a developer conference, it is basically the unveiling of the features that are likely to take over our lives' in the coming years. It is the future of the popular digital experience that is envisioned by the tech zeitgeist forecasters employed by Facebook. Online media companies must also follow these rules closely in order to keep the evolving social network as a source of traffic. Play by the rules of Facebook, and you will continue to stay relevant.

The most recent era of the content farm was defined by a relatively simple-to-diagnose Facebook dependency. If you are a content farm, the game was to get as many likes as possible for your page, post more stories, engage trending topics, and embed videos within the platform. It was simple, but now Facebook is creating new features that will make content creators less dependent upon them as a simple social platform, and more dependent upon them as an omnipotent platform for all humans.

Here are a few features that your favorite big box media company will have to implement to stay relevant according to the changing rules of Facebook.

Chatbots are coming for you.

As I documented last week, Chatbots are the buzzworthiest old technology that is being reintroduced as a new media disruption. Building your media company's custom app was a waste of time. Now, every media company will have a Chatbot on Facebook messenger, there to deliver a customized version of the news to you. As Messenger apps transition into content reminder systems, Facebook and Facebook-owned WhatsApp will be there to bombard you with the latest non-news from big box content farms branded as news providers. It will probably also have a personality that can deeply relate to Millennials. At launch, no sponsored content is allowed to be pushed to users, but we can count on that to change.

Bookmarking is hotter than ever.

The act of bookmarking is an ancient internet process. Pressing Command+D dates back to some of the earliest browsers. Eventually, the cloud came along and bookmarks saw a new life with the promise of social features. It's a practice that just hasn't died because people like to read things later, and know they are stored safely at a place where they won't forget. Facebook's bookmarking system is a bountiful harvest of low-hanging engagement. The currently buried "Save for Later" feature is used 250 million times per month. Imagine how much #engagement will occur now that Facebook will allow publishers to add a "Save" button to their own site's content.

You can now share clean quotes on Facebook.

Our current social feeds can be overrun by outbound links with broken snippets, screenshots of news from people's phones, and pasted quotes without a visual context of being from a valuable source. Facebook will change this with a feature that is as obvious as the more prominent bookmarking strategy. Publishers will be able to add a quote-sharing plugin that gives the user the ability to quickly share a specific segment of an article in their newsfeed. Look for the most outspoken person in your Facebook feed to be heavily using this feature to share some of the best angles from the deepest thinkpieces on the web. At least the display of information won't look so chaotic.

Livestreaming and 3D cameras are an incremental step towards virtual reality.

During the drive to get more Facebook video engagement, the practice of freebooting wasn't heavily regulated. Video was taken from an already-viral YouTube video and uploaded to a content farm's Facebook page. This digital rights violation would get millions of views from autoplaying features, boosting the algorithmic value of the publisher. The move to release an API for Facebook's own livestreaming video feature is a move to generate more original content and clean up the perception of video. Quality content providers will hopefully one day prefer the eyeballs of Facebook viewers above all other mediums. Livestreaming from any camera means more original content.

While online media companies might not have a plan for the future of virtual reality, we will probably see some media companies go all in on Facebook as their preferred video source capitalizing on the era of livestreaming video as a bridge to the future.

Artificial Intelligence is the goal of everything.

After Facebook-hosted articles were launched last year, the real question from me was, what separated the platform from the media company? At times, it felt like the snake was continuously eating its own tail. Facebook's ambition and retained knowledge of user behavior is what will separate it from being 'only' an aggregator of the world's most popular news stories with accompanying comment threads below each post.

One of the overarching themes of F8 is the drive to create an artificially intelligent entity that accurately curates content for every individual consumer. Whether it is a chatbot delivering the news, or a snippet accurately summarizing the contents of a story, the artificial intelligence collected by Facebook is what really impacts publishers. While I am typically a skeptic, perhaps Facebook will create a digital realm for every individual that accurately reflects their own interests. The resulting intelligence will either segment media companies from their readers, or help them move in front of eyeballs that might be genuinely interested in their content. The result could be content companies with true specialization, as opposed to the 'everything store' model of big box content farms that has defined recent times.

Soon, only a few critical platforms will be necessary to keep on your preferred device. With the type of ambition laid out by Facebook at f8, it actually feels like Facebook is rewarding 'the media' with not only reach, but future services that no other company could do better. When you have 1.59 billion active monthly users, the power of the platform is real because you have the necessary reach to define reality. It doesn't feel like a social network any more—Facebook is an existence accompaniment tool. Your favorite content farm can't neglect that kind of potential.

Life on the Content Farm is a weekly column about internet media written by the last relevant blogger.