The media industry has officially broken up with Facebook

Getty Images/Brian Ach
  • Vox Media is the latest media company to call out Facebook for not providing a great way for publishers to earn money.
  • In a memo, CEO Jim Bankoff said that Vox has been out in front of Facebook’s big algorithm changed, and is less dependent on the platform overall.
  • Bankoff called Facebook’s News Feed a solid “promotional platform,” but sees far more potential in earning significant revenue from streaming outlets.

Vox Media is the latest media company to tell Facebook: “You can’t break up with me. I already broke up with you.”

The company’s CEO Jim Bankoff issued a memo on Wednesday touting Vox’s performance in 2017, during which it met some unnamed financial goals and saw traffic for its properties grow across the board.

And in the memo, he made it clear that Vox isn’t panicking over Facebook’s algorithm overhaul, and pretty much knew it was coming. In fact, Vox says it had already been preparing to wean itself off of Facebook.

“We are not dependent on any particular partner, including Facebook,” Bankoff wrote. “As I mentioned in our all-hands in December, well before their announcement about algorithm changes, we had already made a decision to scale back our native programming on Facebook.”

Bankoff’s comments on Facebook’s relationship with the media business were also eye-opening, drawing a distinction between Facebook’s position as a “promotional platform,” and that of a “programming platform.” Bankoff strongly implied that Facebook is not a place to make any real money, particularly for quality content producers.

He said (emphasis added):

“Content in the Facebook newsfeed is generally consumed through serendipity, not intent, making it less natural to grow loyal audiences to any given media brand. A programming platform also enables rich and predictable ways to make money to support quality journalism and storytelling. As of now, Facebook does not offer a viable path to monetise our in-depth video work.”

Vox has joined a growing list of media companies doing something that had been quite rare in recent years – actually speaking out against Facebook.

Many traditional and digital media companies had becoming increasingly reliant on Facebook to deliver audiences. For example, at one point the Washington Post published every story directly to Facebook.Other publishers like Elite Daily or BuzzFeed’s Tasty had at one point existed almost exclusively on Facebook (before eventually diversifying their distribution).

But upon the recent algorithm tweak, a growing number of strange media bedfellows have emerged, calling out Facebook for not better supporting media companies. News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch called for both Facebook and Google to pay for quality journalism while BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti said that Google and Facebook are “paying content creators far too little for the value they deliver to users.”

Now Vox, publisher of SB Nation, Eater, The Verge and Curbed, is jumping into the fray. Essentially, Bankoff is telling Facebook, you’re not a ‘real programmer,’ a not-so-subtle media burn.

“This construct of understanding the difference between true programming platforms and promotional platforms will be an important part of how we work with partners, serve audiences and make investment decisions going forward,” he wrote.

Among the partners Bankoff listed as helping Vox make money from its content were Netflix, PBS and MSNBC – another slight dig at Facebook. In fact, Netflix just green lit a series that’s being executive produced by prominent Vox columnist Ezra Klein, which probably isn’t hurting Bankoff’s confidence.

Whether Facebook is moved by these sorts of memos is unclear. There are lots of reasons why Facebook is unlikely to start media companies (which former Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile outlined here).

Executives like Bankoff may feel like the public – and maybe even regulators – are on their side. Whether Facebook is bad for society has become a much discussed topic. Even Facebook has acknowledged that the product doesn’t always make people feel great, which is part of why it’s tweaking the algorithm and trying to get back to its friends and family roots.

In fact, Facebook’s ability to change users behaviour on a large scale was already on display Wednesday. During its earnings announcement, the company said that people are collectively spending 50 million fewer hours a day on the platform.

Part of that user dip was driven by Facebook weeding out viral videos and suspect news stories, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. Or as Bankoff put it, “fake news and fake views are out.”

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.