Ad blocker rage is the chickens coming home to roost

Congratulations, publishers. We’ve trained the unwashed masses on the Internet quite well. They are convinced that it’s their God-given, constitutional right to get free access to all the analysis and reporting we produce at great expense. A growing number of people are offended at the idea that publishers should be compensated for their work.

Sensible people realize that the ads they see in a magazine or on a web page pay for the content. Putting up with those ads is the price the reader pays for getting free stuff online.

But the world is not populated by sensible people. The way they see it, it’s natural and ordinary and right for the information to be free, and publishers are money-grubbing bastards for littering the public’s online safe spaces with crude things like advertising.

Well … what did you expect? This is one more consequence of the awful, bad, horrible decision publishers made when they chose to put their valuable work online “for free” — that is, ad supported.

Someone is going to say, “But Krehbiel, you’re writing all this stuff for free.”

Yes, and that’s precisely the point. There should be a distinction between the free stuff — some guy like me jawing about whatever — and real journalism, real research. real data, real analysis.

When you publish your work for free you’re telling the world that it’s no better than a blog.

Recently I have been on the receiving end of some terribly nasty complaints by readers about the paywall policy where I work. We’ve set a strict standard. Paying subscribers can use an ad blocker, others can’t. If they go elsewhere, that’s okay with us because we’re not getting any revenue from them anyway.

That policy is a step in the right direction, but you wouldn’t believe the rage it generates from the snowflakes who think they have a right to read for free all the material we pay a lot of money to produce. It’s pretty amazing.

Publishers are now in the awkward situation of trying to put the genie back in the bottle — or, perhaps, taking the candy back from the baby — and trying to re-establish the idea that quality content isn’t free.

Just in time postal delivery?

I’ve been investigating electronic paper recently. It looks like a very interesting technology that will have lots of helpful applications. Imagine, for example, a piece of fabric sewn into the bag you carry to work every day with a constantly updated train schedule.

I was hoping it would be a good option for Kiplinger Letter subscribers. Our people love to read in print, and only a small percentage take advantage of the digital option — despite the fact that digital readers get the letter a few days earlier.

Maybe electronic paper can bridge that gap, I thought, since electronic paper is a little more like reading on paper. I can envision a situation where we simply deliver the latest edition straight to a piece of electronic paper sitting on the subcriber’s coffee table or desk. It would have some of the haptic benefits of print, but it could be updated digitally.

Alas, it’s too expensive for now.

In the meanwhile, it seems there should be better options for getting good, old-fashioned paper to people a lot faster. After all, Amazon can deliver things more complicated than a newsletter, and often they can deliver it on the same day.

Why can’t every post office — or maybe even every postal delivery truck — have a printer, and insert mail directly into the letter carrier’s bag? It should be possible to have same-day delivery of something as simple as a four-page newsletter.

No doubt there’d have to be some standardization, since these printers wouldn’t be able to offer many options. The publisher may have to limit himself to 8.5 x 11 white paper in #10 envelopes, for example.

(We print on cream-colored 11×17 paper, folded to make a 4-page letter and stuffed in a cream-colored envelope with our logo.)

Adopting standardized format seems like a small compromise to get same-day delivery.

So … why hasn’t this happened? Here are some ideas.

1. To offer it nationwide, they’d have to have this equipment — and somebody to man it — at every post office, and some post offices are little places out in the boondocks. They might not get much use out there, so it might not be cost-effective.

Okay, but why is that a problem? If you can get same-day delivery at most post offices — or even just some — and regular delivery in other areas, what’s wrong with that?

2. Most mail isn’t as time-sensitive as a subscription publication, so there wouldn’t be a lot of demand.

That, I think is the main problem with the concept. How many people need same-day delivery of a printed piece of paper? For most of us, if we need something immediately we just email it.

So … while this would be a great thing for some very niche publications, I don’t think it has broad appeal. Which is too bad.

What can you learn from Pokemon Go?

Whenever a new technology or tech-related service comes out, you can hold your breath for the amount of time before you see an article explaining how marketers should use it, or how this is a great new opportunity for your business. Usually such articles are rather silly.

Fortunately, sometimes there are also some sensible articles. Like this one: No, publishers can’t learn anything from Pokémon Go

[Pokemon Go is an] augmented reality game based on a decades-old video game franchise, propelled to ridiculous early success on a wave of ’90s nostalgia by people of my own age who grew up with Pokémon and now have the disposable income to buy smartphones? Good luck replicating that situation, publishers.

Right. It’s not that they caught a wave you can ride as well. They caught a laser beam.

But also, and more importantly, just because people are spending a lot of time on something does not mean that it’s an opportunity to get some of that attention. That is a very common error.

“Everybody’s on X, so you should be on X.”

No, not really. Not unless it fits with your market.

I haven’t played the game, but I know some people who do, and when they’re out looking for Pokemon they’re not in the mood to purchase a magazine subscription. Or … whatever you’re selling — unless that’s Pokemon t-shirts.

Think of it in terms of list selection. If you want to send out a million pieces of mail, you want to find lists of people who are like your people. You may want readers in a certain demographic group who have recently shown interest in a publication like yours.

The same thing applies to time. Just because everybody’s on Facebook doesn’t mean they want to buy your thing while they’re there.

You should apply the same sort of critical thinking to these social media and technology services that you apply to lists. Don’t chase the crowd just because it’s a crowd. Find the right people in the right place in a buying mood.

A “digital magazine” is not a magazine. Let’s stop pretending and get on with it.

Imagine going back to visit your high school, walking into the cafeteria and seeing all your old friends, sitting at your old table, still arguing about the same things they were arguing about so many decades ago.

That’s the way I feel about “digital magazines.” Can we please get over it already!

Magazines have been around for a long time, so the word “magazine” has accumulated a lot of meanings that go beyond a reductionist analysis of its “content.” Here are a few.

  • You might put it in a magazine rack next to your couch.
  • You’ll find lots of them at the barber shop.
  • You might think that a particular magazine, on your coffee table, fits with your style and self image.
  • When you pick up a magazine, lots of annoying little cards come falling out.
  • You can get some sense of the quality, distribution and worth of the thing just by holding and touching it.
  • It’s a nice thing to pick up before you board an airplane.
  • It’s easy to pick the magazine you want at the newsstand because you can quickly scan through it by flipping the pages.
  • If you see somebody turning it sideways with a fold out, you have a good idea what kind of a magazine it is.

All those things (and many more) are part of what we mean by the word “magazine,” and none of those things apply to a “digital magazine” in the same way.

A magazine comes in issues with a relatively small number of articles. A digital product has no such limitations. There’s no reason why it has to have issues, and there’s no reason why it should or shouldn’t have one, 15, 100 or 1,000 articles.

A magazine has still photos. A digital product can have video, audio, moving graphics, etc.

A magazine has a discrete, defined size. A digital product may be viewed on a computer, a tablet, a smart phone — maybe even a watch.

A magazine is static. With advanced printing options you can customize an issue to specific market segments, and sometimes to individuals, but once it’s published, that’s it. It’s done. A digital product can be changed on the fly, and the ads usually are.

If you see an ad in a magazine, you can go back and find it by flipping through. An ad you saw on a digital product may be gone forever, or it might follow you around the internet like a lost puppy.

The users of a digital product can have a relationship with one another, and with the publisher, that the subscribers of a print publication can’t. They can comment on articles, they can have chats and even real-time discussions. Sooner or later somebody’s going to incorporate Skype.

Users of a digital product are giving the publisher a huge cache of data that the publisher can’t get from print subscribers. E.g., people who read this article also read this other article, or people in this demographic group spend less time on the page than people in this other group.

I could go on and on with differences. So, as a contrast, what do they have in common?

Not a lot. The brand, the articles, and to some extent the ads. That’s about it.

In my opinion, the common elements pale in significance to the differences.

The articles from a magazine can just as well go on a stand-alone web page. In fact, when you hear about “digital revenue” from magazine publishers, that’s what they’re talking about. Not sales of “digital magazines,” which are still (and have always been) in the tank.

It’s time to give up this idea of creating a “digital version” of a magazine and to think of digital products as different things. They’re not “magazines,” they’re something else, and they should be treated as something else.

Print has its benefits and its limitations. So does digital. We need to quit trying to force one into the other. It makes for a worse product in each medium.

Three ways authors can monetize their Facebook feed

Usually I write about professional publishing, but from time to time I take a break and talk about self publishing, which is my hobby.

The question at hand is how an author can use his Facebook feed to his advantage, without trying to sell all his friends and family.

I’m one of those guys who’s uncomfortable selling his friends. I could never do Amway, or any sort of multi-level marketing business. It doesn’t seem right to me. I view friends and family as people I do things for, not people I try to get things from.

I don’t mind asking for a favor, provided I’ve done (or we would be happy to do) the same. That’s because doing favors for one another strengthens friendships, and is part of friendship. But I’m not going to ask my friends to buy something from me unless I know they want or need the thing and I can cut them a really good deal.

And even then … it’s just weird.

Maybe that’s a character flaw that I need to get over, but … that’s the way it is, and if you’ve ever felt the same way, here are some ways I’ve been able to use my Facebook (and other) friends to help me with my writing projects without trying to sell them.

The most obvious way is to get help with an early draft. I simply put the offer out there. E.g., “I’m working on a Merlin story. If anybody would like to read an early draft and give me some comments, that would be great. Just message me.” That usually nets me a few reviewers, who often have valuable insights.

The next obvious way is to tell everybody about free days. I don’t want to sell my friends, but I’m perfectly happy giving them free downloads, so when I do a kindle free day I advertise that to my Facebook feed. This helps to bump my book up in the ratings (on the free side, anyway) and nets me more downloads.

The next one is less obvious, and that’s the real takeaway here.

We all know that Amazon is a fantastic online business. They A-B test their site all the time, and they are constantly tinkering with it to make it a better sales vehicle. I’ve done some testing like that myself, and it’s surprising the kind of effect you can get in response on an online form from a small color change.

Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t extend that courtesy to Kindle authors like me. I have no way to split test a book cover on Amazon. I can try one, then try another, but any decent marketer knows that’s not a fair test.

So I split test my covers with my Facebook friends. I’ll post something like this with the simple question: left or right?

The answer isn’t as valuable as a genuine split test because it’s one thing to prefer a cover, for whatever reason, but it’s another thing to pull out your wallet and pay some money. Still, it’s the best I can do with the resources I have, and people enjoy providing that kind of feedback — perhaps as a relief from cat videos and hashtag activism. And sometimes they have really good design ideas.

This idea doesn’t only apply to covers. Another key component to a successful kindle book (so they tell me) is the description, and, once again, Amazon doesn’t let me do a split test. So I do it on Facebook.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still a novice at selling kindle books. But I’m learning a few things, and as I do I’ll pass them along.

Does “content marketing” actually mean anything?

I recently attended a SIPA conference where three talented, intelligent, experienced publishing professionals gave three fairly different perspectives on “content marketing.”

Each of them had very interesting things to say. One focused on “purposeful content” — that you should have a goal for anything that you write. Another focused on “story,” and how businesses should have a reason for their existence, and the things they write should promote that mission. The last spoke of it in more tactical terms — the kinds of troubles you can get into with advertisers and how to deal with them.

It was all great stuff, but it wasn’t clear to me what held it all together. I asked whether the phrase “content marketing” is so broad as to be somewhat useless.

The word “content” itself is a pretty amorphous term. Publishers are involved in so many things today — words on a page, words on a website, data, charts, video, audio, training, etc. — that we often need a catch-all term to describe what we do, and “content” seems to be the best bet. But, once again, it’s so broad as to be somewhat meaningless, and in some ways it’s misleading.

It’s misleading because publishers really aren’t in the “content” business. We’re in the solutions business. We don’t sell “content,” we sell aspirations and goals. We sell money and sex. We sell power. We sell living a better life when you’re 90. We most definitely do not sell “content” because nobody wants to buy it.

If you don’t believe me, send me a check for $100 and I’ll send you some “content.” Deal?

So the word “content” doesn’t contribute much to the phrase “content marketing.” What about “marketing”?

A loose definition of “marketing” might be “a series of activities to promote and sell products or services.” But in the context of “content marketing,” that goal gets even broader. It includes things you write on your blog to become an opinion leader — to draw people in so that you can sell them later. It includes material that is valuable in its own right, that might lead to sales, like the Jello Cookbook. In short, it includes all those elements of “marketing” that are hard to justify because we can’t calculate the return on investment.

So “content marketing” seems to be the murky intersection of two vague concepts.

I’m not against any of these activities in any way. We should always write with a purpose. A company should have a story to tell about why it exists. We should learn how to deal with advertisers, and we should use all kinds of creative means to brand ourselves and our companies as the place to go for certain information.

That’s all good stuff, but I think it loses some precision when we lump it all under the odd phrase, “content marketing.”

I don’t say that to be pedantic. The point of precision is not to win points in an argument on Facebook. The point is to know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and whether you can measure if you’re doing it well. I don’t think “content marketing” contributes to that kind of analysis because it’s too squishy.

Please let me know if you agree or disagree.

If you appreciate articles like this, you might want to sign up for my once-weekly email. Use the form at the top right to sign up. Otherwise, please tweet, like, share, or comment on the social media platform of your choice. (I’ll post it to LinkedIn tomorrow.) And as an amusing side note, you might enjoy this article. Dear Journalists: For the Love of God, Please Stop Calling Your Writing Content.

A dozen thoughts on marketing automation

I admit I’m a bit of a curmudgeon, so take this with a grain of salt. When someone says “marketing automation,” it usually annoys me.

That’s mostly because people speak of “marketing automation” as if it’s a new concept — as if we’ve only recently been able to configure systems to automate messages or content in response to customer behavior.

But … that’s wrong. We’ve been doing it for decades. Renewal notices and welcome letters are “marketing automation.”

However — taking off my curmudgeon cap for a moment — there is something fundamentally different about marketing automation in the digital age. It’s not a difference in kind. We’ve been able to respond to customer behavior and automate repetitive tasks for a long time. It’s a difference in degree. The types of marketing automation that are available today are truly amazing.

So, for example, It’s not just that we can program systems to reply to customer actions. It’s that we can do it more precisely — in smaller numbers, and with more fine-tuning.

With that introduction, here are a dozen thoughts about marketing automation.

1. Don’t ignore it just because the evangelists are annoying. As with anything tech and marketing related, the hype can be too much. Dial back the enthusiasm if you need to, but look for the part that could actually help your business.

2. Be skeptical of “solutions.” The marketing automation you need is unlikely to be a new platform that you plug into your existing systems and, hey presto, cool things happen. Rather, it will be a series of tools and methods that are always changing.

The problem with a “solution” is that there’s no guarantee it will work with your current configuration. If you buy some comprehensive solution it’s very likely you’ll either get less than you paid for or you’ll kill yourself trying to hook up all the bells and whistles.

3. It comes down to integration. The essence of modern marketing automation is Instant connectivity and the ability to respond based on customer data. That means you have to connect the data to the logic, the task and the message.

As with most of these gee whiz marketing technologies, the devil is in the details. The “system” might have all sorts of capacities, but it needs your data and your business rules. To put this in practical terms, it doesn’t help you if the marketing automation system can send an immediate message upon purchase if it can’t access the purchasing system in real time.

If you can hook up all your systems to a comprehensive solution, that’s great. Just be very sure it will actually work.

4. There’s still a lot of work to be done. Sending customized messages based on consumer action is a great thing, but somebody has to write the templates from which all those customized messages will be created, somebody has to create all the appropriate rules, and somebody has to test it. Nothing’s easy.

5. There’s a strong probability of major screw-ups. Think of the last time you got an inappropriately worded customer service note from a company. That was an automated system. Either some rep pulled up “Template A” when Template A didn’t apply, or some programmer wrote a rule that didn’t quite work.

Automating such tasks can be a labor saver, but it can also be a customer service nightmare.

6. Think long and hard about how you’re going to test it. You would never send out a renewal notice without reading it carefully, but how are you going to check your “renewal notice” if there are 2,437 different iterations based on customer data? The more customized you make things, the more things there are to check, and the more likely somebody’s going to get a weird message. (“Welcome back, Mail Stop 27.”)

7. You might already have some of the tools you need. Your list broker might be able to model your market for you. Your email system might be able to send automated replies. Your shopping cart might be able to add new customers to your lists. Don’t buy a completely new “solution” before you find out what you can already do.

8. Think about how you’ll measure success. Analytics need to be a part of the discussion from the start. There’s no point in building a new system if you can’t determine if it’s doing what you want it to do.

9. Question whether this will work with social media. A lot of “marketing automation” solutions include a social media component. Is that a good idea?

Social media isn’t really my thing, but the people who claim to be social media mavens say “authenticity” is very important. I’m not sure exactly what the intersection of authenticity and automation looks like, but I imagine it will look silly more often than you’d like.

10. Don’t do it just because you can. There’s an enormous amount of data that’s potentially available to marketers. That doesn’t mean we should always use it. And I’m not only speaking of ROI. At some point, you’re going to creep people out.

Given the right data and the right systems, you can send an email selling your jelly bean maker to somebody who just viewed your web page on jelly beans. But … is that a good strategy?

11. “Analytics” gets awfully scary. I’ve already mentioned the need to measure things, but now you can see just how big a monster you might be dealing with. Measuring whether panel A did better than panel B in an email campaign is easy. Measuring all the effects you’re going to unleash with marketing automation might result is analysis psychosis.

Let’s say you do the jelly bean thing I just mentioned and you get an uptick in sales. Great, right? Sure, but what if that level of intrusion makes people mistrust you and they install ad blockers and delete the cookies from your site? Was it worth it?

Behavior is an incredibly complicated thing and it’s very difficult to evaluate. Getting into the deep waters of marketing automation is almost like becoming a social scientist. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe social science.

12. The bottom line. By all means, automate stuff where you can. But be conservative about it.

“Digital revolution” or “digital transformation”?

Just a short one this week, folks.

I think we need to stop talking about “the digital transformation.” It sounds too much like “the death of print,” or “everything’s going digital,” and all that misguided talk. If you’ve been paying attention to the publishing industry for the past few years you know that’s not how it worked out.

We have to embrace reality and avoid getting caught up in theories. The theory — oft-promoted by the digital whiz kids, conference speakers and such — was that everything would go digital. The reality is that print continues to have a place in the market because it turns out that it’s better for some things.

The vacuum cleaner didn’t eliminate the broom and FM didn’t eliminate AM. Digital didn’t replace print so much as create more options.

I read on my iPad and on my phone every single day, but I prefer flipping through the pages of a print magazine. There’s simply no digital equivalent, and we have to quit pretending there’s a digital replacement for every print publication. There isn’t, and we need to stop trying to make it happen.

The Economist recently did a study of millennials that should make us reconsider all the dubious claims about “digital natives” and the other stuff people have been telling us for years. It turns out millennials aren’t exactly the way the experts predicted. What a surprise.

Here are a couple things that caught my eye from that report.

  • they like print subscriptions
  • traditional media brands played a significant role in their lives

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all unexpected.

  • They consumed more online news media than any other generation before them

The point here is not to write about millennials, but to remind everyone that when facts and theories collide, go with the facts.

Yes, print has declined, for obvious reasons. But it’s not going away. At least not any time soon. So we need to embrace a publishing strategy that includes print and digital options.

Why publishers should abandon Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google

At first I was going to name this post, “How publishers can beat the Evil Empire,” but that title requires some explanation.

“The Evil Empire” is my label for the big platforms — Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, mostly. I like each one of those companies for certain things. I love Amazon prime, for example, and I read and publish books on the kindle. But when it comes to my professional life in the publishing industry, they’re evil.

The evil is somewhat subtle and it amounts to this: they’re looking out for the long-term benefit of their platform and not the long-term benefit of the reader.

Yes, I know, that doesn’t sound terribly evil. In fact, it just sounds like good business. But the more you think about it, the more you realize its destructive capacity. (I don’t honestly think they’re evil, of course. But “Destructive Empire” doesn’t conjure up the right images.)

One practical example of the bad influence of the “platform first” approach is the confusion it creates with digital editions of magazines.

If I subscribe to a print magazine, and I also want to have the digital edition on my kindle or iPad, those two subscriptions live in completely different places – all because of the misguided policies of the platforms.

The print subscription is managed at a fulfillment house, which is where it belongs. Fulfillment systems are incredibly complicated things that benefit from decades of experience dealing with all the intricacies of subscriptions and subscription marketing. But the digital edition is managed through Amazon, or Apple or some storefront that thinks a subscription is not all that different from buying a lamp.

This causes innumerable headaches for the publisher and for the subscriber. The subscriber thinks of the whole thing as his subscription to the magazine. He doesn’t care about all the back-end nonsense or Apple’s silly rules. So when he has a customer service complaint, or wants to change his address, who does he call?

The sensible thing is to have all the customer data reside with the fulfillment company, and have the platform access that information through an API. But the platform’s first concern isn’t helping the customer, but acquiring the customer. The Evil Empire wants to convert all the publisher’s customers into their customers.

The problem isn’t limited to subscriptions. The big book publishers also faced problems with the platformers. Amazon and Apple wanted to set the price for ebooks. Why? Because they had data to show that their take of sales at $9.99 would be more than their take of sales at $19.99 — or whatever price the publisher wanted to charge. So in the interests of the platform they intervened in setting prices. Courts had to step in and untangle the mess.

And what about news? We’ve recently heard accusations that Facebook prefers news of a particular ideological persuasion. Whether or not that allegation turns out to be true, there’s no question that sort of bias will happen, for one of two reasons. Either people with an agenda will impose that agenda on the news, or profit-seeking will.

Think about it. If articles that express View A get more clicks (and generate more advertising revenue) than articles that express View B, then View A will be preferred. It doesn’t require a partisan editor to make that happen — just math, and the normal variations in what’s popular.

Today the news may favor one view, and tomorrow it may favor another, but there’s simply no question that there will be bias.

Does that serve the reader? If I’m looking for information on some topic, are they serving me the best information on that topic, or are they serving the links that’re most likely to make then money?

How does this sort of bias serve the publisher or the reader of the out-of-fashion view? Are his articles at a disadvantage because the platform has determined that the other view will generate more ad revenue?

I’m not naive enough to believe there will ever be a level playing field with the news, but dumping all of the news into one or two platforms will distort the viewpoints that readers get to see. I don’t mean to sound too dramatic, but … is that good for the country?

Again, not to be dramatic, but remember what happened to Microsoft’s artificial intelligence app on Twitter? Social media tends towards the lowest common denominator. It turned that Microsoft app into a Nazi in a few hours.

You’ve seen the effect of social media with LinkedIn. What was supposed to be a business networking site has taken the predictable path towards pictures of attractive women showing some skin, cat videos, religious opinions and so on.

It’s simply the way social media works, because “crowd sourcing” is done by crowds.

The bottom line is that the big platforms are not good for anybody — except the big platforms. And for people who want to see pictures of pretty women, argue about the minimum wage or watch silly videos.

Put it all together and then ask yourself: is that where you want your content to live?

But … what else is there to do? Aren’t we stuck? Hasn’t Zuckerberg won the field, and publishers are left hoping to get some scraps from the leftover spoils?

Join the revolution

Join the Revolution

Let’s stop here and take the question from the other direction. Let’s imagine a platform that would be good for the reader.

For example, it’s not to the magazine subscriber’s advantage to have a print subscription with Hearst, but a digital subscription with Apple. It’s not to the book reader’s advantage to have some books on Kindle, some on Nook, and some on Google books. And it is not to any reader’s benefit to have all these things – magazines, books, news, newsletters — on separate apps and devices inside competing walled gardens. It’s not to anybody’s advantage for serious content to be surrounded by and twisted by the downward spiral of social media.

The reader doesn’t give a hoot who publishes his favorite magazine, or who owns the platform he’s reading it on. And he certainly doesn’t want his content filtered through some algorithm that’s calculated to maximize ad revenue, or that’s distorted by the dumbing down effect of crowd sourcing.

Most readers are willing to pay to read things they value, but it’s an annoyance to feel as if you’re being forced into the Amazon (or Apple, or Facebook, or Google) ecosphere. The reader is willing to compensate the author and the publisher, and is willing to pay a reasonable convenience fee. But what the Evil Empire has done is to twist the market around so that everything works to the benefit of their platform. That platform is the locus of their attempt at domination of the market and control of all the customers.

The problem publishers face today is that no individual publisher can compete with any of the platforms, so publishers have felt trapped. They don’t want Facebook to control their content, but … Facebook has all the people!

It’s time for turnabout.

No individual publisher can compete with Facebook, but Facebook can’t compete with the entire publishing industry. Except maybe with cat videos and hashtag activism.

So leave that stuff to Facebook, but stop feeding it your expensive, professional material so they can make money off it and steal your customers. Instead, publishers should join together to create a new place where customers can read serious content. It should be a place that puts the reader first, the publisher second, and the platform last.

Publishers: quit being suckers, before it’s too late

If you’re a publisher, I’m sure you’ve been tempted to post your valuable content on Facebook to get more audience. That’s short-term thinking. Don’t do it.

Let Facebook keep the cat videos and the hashtag activism, and let publishers create their own communities around meaningful, professional content.

“Facebook … gets an unequal share of the value when publishers use it as a platform.” So says Tony Silber in Facebook as a Publishing Platform Isn’t Good For Publishers The social network is becoming a news and content network, thanks to your content..

Well of course they do.

If you’re a publisher, Facebook is not your friend and it’s not trying to keep you in business. Quite the contrary. Facebook wants all your customers to become their customers, and they want to relegate publishers to being their contract writers, vying for attention on a platform that Facebook controls.

“Facebook is playing chess, while publishers are playing checkers,” Silber continues. Or as I’ve said before, Facebook is happy to help publishers play yesterday’s business model — selling ads against articles wherever you can — while Facebook plays tomorrow’s business model, which is data. And they want the game to be played on their field.

“Facebook … [is] now more a source of news and information, grafted onto a platform that’s ideal for that purpose.”

And publishers are willingly playing along, planting the seeds of their own demise.

So if Facebook is transitioning to a content company — “quality” content in the feed has long been rewarded in the algorithm, and live video is a new priority — what does that mean for content producers? Well, yes, the audience is there, and that audience needs to be engaged. But is the loss of direct contact with the audience, the ceding of ad dollars, and the movement away from individual websites except for referrals really a good thing when considered in the long-term, secular sense? I say no.

Silber is right. Publishers have to quit being suckers and helping their opponents beat them.