Publishers rely on Facebook at their own peril

A new report spotlights the challenges publishing companies grapple with on Facebook as the social giant continues to gain power over publishers even as it regularly changes policies and causes confusion.

A new report from video advertising company Mixpo details how today's publishers place their futures in the hands of Facebook and its algorithms. Every time Facebook changes its policies, as it did last month, publishing companies are reminded of the potential perils that come with relying on Facebook for their audiences. However, the data suggests publishers have little choice.

Publishers overwhelmingly cite video as the biggest trend in digital media today, and video makes them even more dependent on Facebook, according to Mixpo. "While social distribution helps publishers grow mobile [video] traffic, and perhaps even exposes their content to new audiences, it has also left publishers vulnerable and eliminated significant money-making opportunities," Mixpo wrote in the report.

Facebook dominates online publishing

Video is the fastest growing ad format in digital media, and Facebook video ads are a top priority for publishers, with 36 percent saying they use or plan to use the format this year, according to the report. Advertisers will spend almost $10 billion on digital video ads this year, marking a 28 percent increase from 2015, according to eMarketer.

"The gap between advertiser demand for video ads and publisher supply of video inventory is notable," Mixpo wrote in the report. "This seller's market has made video a valuable ad product for publishers, but it has also created pressure to find new ways to deliver video and take full advantage of 2016's video boom."

[ Related: Social networks continue to eat news publishers' lunch ]

While publishers are increasingly anxious about Facebook's power over them, 24.3 percent still use or plan to use the company's mobile-app ads. Almost 23 percent expect to use link ads, 22.1 percent have plans to use "page like" ads, and 20.9 percent use or plan to use photo ads, according to Mixpo.

Finally, while Facebook's Instant Articles, which load in users' News Feeds up to 10 times faster than standard web articles, may help, publishers are skeptical. "While the improved user experience of Instant Articles sounds compelling, publishers are wary of becoming dependent on third-party platforms that define how their content is monetized," Mixpo wrote. Only 13.6 percent of the publishers surveyed by Mixpo say they use or plan to use Instant Articles.

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Matt Kapko

CIO (US)
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