The New York Times Tower on Eigth Street — Photo: Richard Gutjahr

New York Times goes Facebook

“Instant Articles” -

a Faustian Bargain?

Today is supposed to be the day when the New York Times will start posting selected content directly on Facebook. So the reader will no longer be lured to the NYT website via a teaser, the NYT stories will be available right there on Facebook — in full, and for free. Apparently it took them almost a year to negotiate the deal.

The paper had announced only last Monday that they were going to give away their NYT Now App in future. They had hoped that a large number of readers would be willing to pay $8.00 per month for it — that hope was not fulfilled.

Smart move or confession of failure?

And now they made a deal with Facebook. Smart move, some pundits say. According to Pew Research 30% of Americans consume news via Facebook. With this move the NYT could reach readers that haven’t visited any newspaper site in ages. Allegedly the Times can keep up to 100% of advertising revenue generated through their articles.

Others see the deal as a declaration of failure. The NYT is giving itself up to the friends network, they say. After all “being friends” is not what business is about, is it? What if Mark Zuckerberg will downgrade the deal for content providers one day?

When I visited the NYT offices a few weeks ago I could sense that they were nervous. A high-ranking manager and a well-renowned data journalist had just left the paper in order to join a startup. Left the best newspaper in the world — in order to work for a startup?

Fleeing from a melting iceberg

The NYT is like an iceberg, a former staff writer once told me. A formidable iceberg that was going to support those who walked on it for another little while, but still an iceberg. A lot of journalists don’t want to go on passively any longer, and so they’ll grab any straw they can see.

And so the NYT is seeing itself in a fatal downward spiral. They never made more than 2% of their revenue from the PayWall. The ice continues to melt, and in consequence talent is quitting, which in turn accelerates the melting process.

Will the Times manage to cut the Gordian knot by selling its crown jewels to Facebook? It is a risky manoeuver that could be the beginning of a turnaround … or it could spell the beginning of the end of an era for the NYT.

And so it comes as no surprise that the NYT has abandoned another tradition recently: Because the print edition has lost its significance they just stopped holding a daily page-1 meeting.

“Instant Articles” on Facebook: Ultimate coup or ultimate surrender — what’s your opinion?

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