Facebook traffic to publishers is gone - and Campbell Brown just erected its tombstone

Reports from Australia make it clear the traffic from Facebook is a thing of the past - and that Zuckerberg never took it seriously in the first place.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

What does Mark Zuckerberg really think of the press? Many of us long suspected that he has little or no respect for the fourth estate, and it appears we were right:

A senior Facebook executive has privately admitted Mark Zuckerberg “doesn’t care” about publishers and warned that if they did not work with the social media giant, “I’ll be holding your hands with your dying business like in a ­hospice”.

Guess who? Yes, it was our old friend Campbell Brown, who, as ever, is only showing an interest in a very select pool of publishers - and who is quite happy to tout her own power:

“Mark [Zuckerberg] doesn’t care about publishers but is giving me a lot of leeway and concessions to make these changes,” Ms Brown said.

If you tried to follow the above link, you probably bounced off the Australian’s paywall. Luckily, Joshua Benton at Neiman Lab has done the hard work of extracting the most choice elements.

He concludes with the most important thing in the whole damn piece:

Facebook isn’t interested in sending you more traffic. That’s its right! But it’s a reminder that the responsibility for building a sustainable model for news is on us, not on anyone in Menlo Park, Mountain View, Cupertino, Redmond, or Seattle.

This was always the case. We’ve spent the last decade or so distracted by dancing to the social platforms’ tune - and it was a big ol’dead end. If you’re not already, now is the time to get back to some serious direct audience engagement through channels we own and control.

That’s the clearest lesson of the first half of 2018. This piece is just the capstone on it.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.