Battle Royal: The Duel Between 2 Different Facebooks
BY Will Yakowicz
CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants Facebook to become a "highbrow" digital newspaper, while users want a land of viral videos. But which version is better for advertisers?
There are two distinct Facebooks: The version its users want and the version CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants.
As All Things Digital reports, Zuckerberg wants Facebook to become "the best personalized newspaper in the world." He wants the News Feed to be a "refined, highbrow" experience with a mix of "high-quality" photos and stories. He doesn't want users to hop on Sunday morning to laugh at the photos their drunken friends uploaded from the night before, but rather to scroll a stylized digital newspaper with 1,000-word articles.
Zuckerberg and Vice President of Product Chris Cox are campaigning their newspaper-like "Reader" initiative, All Things D says, and both want this "ideal" News Feed to be part of its 1 billion users' everyday routine. But after a problematic rollout of another redesign in March, Facebook has decided not to release "Reader" and continue tweaking it until it's not as dramatic a shift from the current News Feed.
The second version of Facebook is what its users want: "A sort of tabloidized version of Facebook, where 'junk-food stories with LOLcat art' do insanely well and show up more often," All Things D writes.
Well-written news pieces often don't fare as well as a BuzzFeed meme. "Viral content inside Facebook means more engaged and potentially satisfied users," the site continues. "And happy users often means a happy Facebook."
But what does this all mean for advertisers?
Dan Levy, Facebook's director of small businesses, says the social media site has 1 million advertisers, according to Mashable. Facebook also has 25 million small businesses with active company pages, meaning that only 4 percent of companies active on Facebook use the network for advertising. Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, says these numbers mean potential is boiling over--if only half of the 25 million small businesses start to advertise, Facebook can rake in $1.25 billion in ad revenue.
Depending on who wins--the Facebook newspaper or the viral cat videos--Facebook could become The New York Times or a site more akin to BuzzFeed. Either way, businesses may be faced with a choice about whether it's worthwhile to advertise on what could be a considerably different social network than the one they're familiar with today. Which version would you rather associate your business with to attract customers--a site with plentiful clickable, sharable content, or a site with highbrow news? Let us know in the comments below.
WILL YAKOWICZ is a reporter at Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and politics at Patch.com, and his work has been published in Tablet Magazine and The Brooklyn Paper. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. @WillYakowicz