Facebook’s News Feed Changes is a Reminder That Owning Your Distribution is Key

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When Facebook announced their plan to change its News Feed algorithm to prioritize posts from friends and family over public content it sent content providers and brands scrambling. Why the alarm?

Since its inception, Facebook has always tweaked its platform and algorithms, impacting many to its aspirations and company goals. For example, when game developer Zynga shared every rake through different feeds to increase awareness, Facebook tweaked its algorithm to prevent this.

Yet news publishers, content providers and brands have continued to utilize the platform as their leading source of traffic to garner impressions. However, as the Zynga example shows, they were always at the whim of Facebook’s algorithm. Now the day has come and the faucet of Facebook’s News Feed has been shut off.

But let’s step back, why did publishers not try to pursue their own avenues of distribution and monetization? Acquire Retain Monetize (ARM) is one of the most difficult things to master profitably and at scale, which is why most “homeless content” companies relied on Facebook. It’s not necessarily that they didn’t want to control monetization and distribution but because they either didn’t know how to or were not successful in doing so. Before we knew it, Facebook was feeling more like a media company as it provided publishers with the ultimate platform to reach consumers.

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The same way ARM is extremely difficult to master, creating quality, engaging content is an art and becomes exponentially more difficult when you have to adapt to new screens and formats. Having gradually veered from its roots as a social company, it was time for Facebook to reevaluate its mission, as Mark Zuckerberg announced, “to encourage meaningful social interactions with family and friends over passive consumption.” A pivot back to its foundation was underway.

On the other hand, we can look at media companies like Hulu and Netflix, who have mastered ARM and offer quality content. What’s missing here is one critical element to retaining views and impressions: format innovation and adaptation to mobile behaviors. Seemingly for these companies, mobile is just an extension of their core, but as “big screen first” generations are getting older they will hit growth issues in their quest to capture the entertainment time of younger audiences. It’s no secret that consumer behavior is changing rapidly and dramatically — people seek out mobile content and want to be micro-entertained throughout their day.

At Mammoth Media, mobile is at the heart of everything we develop and we built our company so as not to rely on other distribution avenues such as Facebook. Our company fully controls distribution, monetization and content. To control and own all three of these pillars is essential for long term success. We are defining this new generation of mobile media beyond the traditional avenues of books, TV, films and gaming.

Our apps focus specifically on micro-entertainment in daily life and from the outset, data was a critical component to achieve this. Our collection and utilization of data empowers us to understand viewer behavior, as we’re continually testing different production formats and content to understand what resonates with users. As a result, we’re able to quickly create and launch unique content that keeps viewers entertained. Importantly, we are able to deliver revenue, brand value and data-driven insights to content owners and advertisers.

Our properties including Yarn, the innovative micro-storytelling platform, and the tap-to-vote social networking app Wishbone, are proof that our model is working. Yarn has become a dominant destination for short-form storytelling with a total of 59 million stories read, 19 million episodes read per week and 8 billion messages read to date. On Wishbone, a total of 80 million cards have been created. The app has an average of 352 million votes per month and a total of 18 billion votes cast to date.

While traditional entertainment avenues like television, films and books have cornered the market for centuries, content creators cannot ignore mobile’s massive reach and its depth in consumer interaction. Those who do will have limited growth as they will miss innovative opportunities for entertaining and forgo connecting with key audiences.

We’re defining the next mobile media landscape and we’re just getting started.

Fei XIao