NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When Facebook (FB) was new, I used to describe it to people by saying, "It's like a newspaper to see what's going on with people you actually know." This week, Facebook is becoming more like an actual newspaper than ever before -- and taking the rest of the news media along for the ride. The question is, how wary should established media brands be?
Its new offering, "Instant Articles," means Facebook hosts articles from some of the best news organizations around (including the New York Times, BuzzFeed, and National Geographic) on its own site, rather than linking back to news organizations' Web sites. What this means mechanically is that readers will see some, special stories a few seconds faster than they would have otherwise -- and on Facebook's site. Facebook is testing out the feature now, but I've yet to see one of these stories in my news feed.
Print media has been under pressure since the birth of the Web; and the pressure has intensified significantly since the introduction of the iPad in 2010. While it has been flailing about trying to figure out how to either develop or better monetize digital, social media has surged in popularity with platforms like Facebook attracting 1.4 billion monthly active users. Social media has been more than just a valuable tool that news sites have used to promote their content, it has actually been a channel that directs a lot of traffic that can be monetized. The downside to that is that Facebook uses algorithms to determine what people either see or don't see, and news sites, whose livelihood depends on building an audience, are at the mercy of those algorithms.