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News Outlets and Social Media Giants: Power shifts and relationships

This article discusses the relationships between news outlets/media companies and the social media giants that purchase them. There are pros to this partnership, such as amped up “referral traffic for publishers,” but these come at the cost of divided revenue and control over content promotion. This relates to our class discussion of power in networks, because we can see power shifts in the network from the media companies to social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and the like.

The way social media has taken over certain publications has affected the way they advertise and market their content. Publications must put forth even more effort to boost unique viewership, but the impact of these efforts are also now contingent upon the social networks that have bought the media companies. To give an idea of how much power the social media giants have amassed over the past few years, let’s try using the query “newspapers” in a search engine. “What you will typically observe, if you try this experiment, is that you get high scores for a mix of prominent newspapers (i.e. the results you’d want) along with pages that are going to receive a lot of in-links no matter what the query is — pages like Yahoo!, Facebook, Amazon, and others.” This goes to show how inextricably tied these companies are to publications and news outlets.

The social media giants have caused publications to have a near-complete dependency on these relationships. There is a clear power imbalance; if we were to draw Facebook and a company – say, the Los Angeles Times – as connected nodes, the LA Times would be significantly weaker than Facebook. Facebook, in particular, recognizes this power discrepancy and wishes to exploit it by tweaking its algorithm to put publication/news pages at a disadvantage (posts from media companies will show up in fewer newsfeeds).

Media companies must believe that the relationship is worth investing in, even if it means less power for them. Print companies have been on the losing side ever since the rise of the web and they enter into these partnerships in hopes of regaining leverage.


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October 2016