I always knew it would happen, but not this quickly.
According to data crunched by Hitwise, Facebook is now the fourth largest source of traffic to news and media sites, sitting just behind MSN.
With its dizzying growth and the new options it creates for content publishers, Facebook could avoid the vampire stigma attached to machine aggregators like Google News.
This is how Facebook compares to Google News as an upstream source of traffic to news sites:
Facebook, in a blog last week, extolled the virtues of its news-distribution abilities, pointing to what it considers the best filter for you: Your friends.
In this era of social news, information is more ubiquitous than ever before and the rate at which we consume and share news has never been quicker. Your friends on Facebook help you cut through the clutter so you can read what’s most relevant to you, discover new items and carry on thoughtful discussions.
It’s clear that Facebook can deliver the traffic, but can it help publishers monetize on the social media site itself? Right now, distributing on Facebook creates two problems for publishers:
First, you’re further fragmenting the conversation by splitting comments (although this can be avoided in some degree through Facebook Connect). Second, there’s no meaningful way for you to advertise and target your news consumers on Facebook.
Despite the traffic it sends, many more people are reading and interacting with news content directly on Facebook. Most users don’t care where the news comes from, as long as it is deemed credible and accurate. So what can be done to monetize that user base?
For Facebook to succeed, it needs a deeper engagement with publishers who will have to start counting beans at some point. What do users do after they read your article on Facebook? How many people do they recommend it to? How many of their friends follow through by clicking on the link? And why aren’t there keyword ads?
Distribution and dialogue are great. But at some point, you’ll still have to monetize it.
(Photo: U.S. Navy, Sailors at Naval Air Station, Beaufort, South Carolina, listen to a radio broadcast of news of Japan’s surrender, 14 August 1945.)