Facebook Is Not A Media Company (Today). Facebook Is The Mass Media (Tomorrow).

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What makes a piece of content a television show, a movie, a YouTube clip?

It’s not a new discourse. It’s something that many (including little old moi) have discussed, dissected and drafted articles about (for years). The thought is simply this: it’s all just video content at this point, isn’t it? The way that content gets distributed and displayed is becoming less and less about the format of the media, and more and more about the content. When you stream a movie on Netflix, what makes it a “movie”? How is that any different than watching an episode of Sherlock (which, sure looks, feels and act like a movie… in the traditional definition)? You can pay/watch a movie in YouTube? You can watch a movie in a movie theatre… or not? They play movies on television. You can pause, rewind and archive your television shows. There are so many nuanced ways that we define any medium used for transmitting moving images in two (or three) dimensions with sound that they all seem to have transcend their own definitions. 

Where do you watch your video content?

This only makes our ability to define video content by the platform it is viewed on to be more confusing. More often than not, many people are watching a “movie” on their television sets, but it’s through Apple TV or Netflix. They will then continue watching it on their smartphone or tablets later. They may continue watching the movie at their office, on their computer, during their lunch break. A myriad of experiences across multiple screens, platforms, environments and distribution channels. All for one piece of content that we have defined as a “movie.”

It’s an important concept for business professionals to think about.

If the type of video content, screen that a consumer is watching it on, size of screen, fixed or mobile screen, location, time, etc… no longer define the content, there is only one thing left: where that content is coming from is what matters. In fact, it’s not hard to see that the video content battle is happening – on the front lines – with the famed FANG group of businesses (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google). Each company is making the case for why they will be the dominant player in video content. Some of these dragons even have multiple platforms that are making a run for it. Facebook has integrated video more and more. Instagram is running at video (owned by Facebook). Amazon Prime Video, iTunes (streaming, downloading, etc…), Apple TV, Netflix, YouTube, etc… Look at where all of the time consumers are spending with video (and where the ad dollars are flowing), and it’s a handful of companies battling for what is quickly becoming a trillion-plus dollar industry.

Facebook is not a media company.

That’s what Mark Zuckerberg said is November 2016. Then, in late December 2016 Facebook said that it’s “a new kind of platform. It’s not a traditional technology company. It’s not a traditional media company… we build technology and we feel responsible for how it’s used. We don’t write the news that people read on the platform. But at the same time we also know that we do a lot more than just distribute news, and we’re an important part of the public discourse.” Whether Facebook concedes that it’s a media company or stays focused on being a technology company, one thing is clear, Facebook had 30% more revenue per user in the fourth quarter of last year and grew it’s advertising revenue beyond anyone’s expectations in an ad world that has seen a slowdown. In short, Facebook’s revenue shot up more 51% to $8.81 billion dollars this past quarter. They may be a technology company, but that money is coming from advertising, which makes it feel like a media company to anyone with a critical eye.

More time on video means more focus on video.

Facebook is thinking deeply about video. So much so, that it’s starting to feel like Facebook thinks it could become your next TV (read: It’s official: Facebook wants to be your next TV via Recode). Not just video content. Not just a TV channel. Not just a network. The entire platform. It’s easy to scoff at these kinds of grandiose claims. It’s easy to feel like this is just some pundit trying to accumulate clicks and likes by making brash statements. It’s also easy to see just how true and obvious this can be. The first sign of this happened years ago, when Facebook’s small (but growing) sales team would not compare digital efficacy, their platform and analytics as a better advertising solution, but would often compare themselves to television in raw audience size and attention. They were looking for the big brand advertisers, and using very traditional media metrics to sway the dollars. On Facebook’s quarterly earnings call yesterday, Zuckerberg spent a lot of time talking about how they want users to use Facebook for watching video in the now… and always. Meaning, disregard the usual scheduling of TV and movie content and move towards live, now, feed-based and on-demand for everything. From Zuckerberg…

“The goal that we have for the product experience is to make it so that when people want to watch videos or want to keep up to date with what’s going on with their favorite show, or what’s going on with a public figure that they want to follow, that they can come to Facebook and go to a place knowing that that’s going to show them all the content that they’re interested in. That’s a pretty different intent than why people come to Facebook today. … The experience is designed to deliver on that promise — [that] you want to watch videos, you want to keep up with the content that you watch episodically week over week. This is going to be the place where you go to do that.”

Big claims that can be backed up.

In the past, we have seen other companies (small, medium and large) make a run at concepts like this. From a business perspective, it always seems like a tough line to tow. If you look at Facebook, their plans for video (a push for more high-quality content, a push for more long-form content, a push for original content, a push for Facebook video apps, a push for testing more formats of video ads, etc…) are profound and far-reaching.

It feels like Facebook could not just disrupt television, but become the television.