Gawker Media owner Nick Denton appears to have performed a complete u-turn on his view toward Facebook Instant Articles.
Facebook Instant Articles allow publishers to select certain articles to appear in their entirety on the Facebook mobile app in return for a “10 times” faster load time, and for the ads alongside that content to be targeted using Facebook data.
Publishers receive 100% of the revenue if they sell the ads themselves, but Facebook takes a 30% cut if it sells the ads. And publishers also receive a lot less data about the readership of those articles than they would with the audience on their own platforms.
Like many other publishers, such as News UK, Denton initially had some trepidation about joining in with the project — back in July he told Fortune such a distribution partnership would see media companies forcing themselves into a position of “abject surrender” to Facebook’s algorithms.
But a few months down the line, the Gawker, Jezebel, and Gizmodo-owner’s tone has softened. In fact, he’s now somewhat of an advocate for Facebook Instant Articles, telling Re/code’s Peter Kafka on the tech site’s Re/code De/code podcast that he far prefers Facebook’s offering to the current “ad tech mess” media owners are subjected to as they try to monetise their content online. (It’s worth pointing out that News UK softened its approach too, with The Sun signing up as an Instant Article partner.)
Gawker Media is going “all in” on Facebook Instant Articles, Denton said, adding that he was in fact “totally into Facebook from the very get go.”
Trumpeting Facebook versus other distribution methods, he said:
“Who is best positioned in this world to target ads against categories of users? Who knows the most about those users? Who can supply the most relevant ads and in a way that doesn’t degrade the user experience?
I think Facebook is, in contrast to much of the ad tech ecosystem, it’s a coherent strategy and I think they can provide a better experience, both when a story is viewed on Facebook, but also potentially when a story is viewed on our website. I don’t think we would be adverse to Facebook supplying, acting almost like a network or exchange on our mobile sites for instance.”
When challenged by Kafka that articles distributed via Facebook Instant Articles will surely make less money than on Gawker’s own properties, Denton said his company is much better positioned than other publishers given that its costs are low and its reach is large. Plus, Gawker has first-mover advantage.
Denton said he also holds hope that Facebook could soon start offering premium advertising slots and sponsorships that could soon see ad rates on its platform exceed the rates on ad exchanges and networks.
“I think this is happening. It’s like: It’s happening, get with it, it’s gravity — it’s a better form of gravity than the ad tech mess, I barely understand the ecosystem or the language … the combination of ad tech vendors all piled on a page degrade the experience,.
I think that Facebook, if they can create an integrated experience for users and work with publishers in a coherent way — like they are with Instant Articles — then I wish them a lot of success.”
Gawker Media has undergone several sizeable changes in the past few months, including relaunching its flagship site Gawker — which used to focus on everything from New York, media, and culture — to focus solely on politics.
Last week, The New York Times reported Gawker is planning to sell a minority stake in its business to Columbus Nova Technology Partners in order to fund its growth in categories such as ecommerce and video, and to be put toward its ongoing lawsuit with wrestler Hulk Hogan.
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