I haven't been a Facebook user for about six months and I'm one of the only people I know who keeps a website. This week, as Facebook is releasing Instant Articles I'm finding myself compelled to spend more time writing on this website rather than going back to Facebook.
In the introduction post for Instant Articles, Michael Reckhow reports:
Mark Thompson, President and CEO, The New York Times Company said, “The New York Times already has a significant and growing audience on Facebook. We’re participating in Instant Articles to explore ways of growing the number of Times users on Facebook, improving their experience of our journalism and deepening their engagement. We have a long tradition of meeting readers where they are and that means being available not just on our own sites, but on the social platforms frequented by many current and potential Times users.”
The fact is, Mark Thompson is right. The readers are on Facebook. If they're not going to the New York Times, then they definitely aren't coming to my website.
Back in March when Instant Articles was first announced John Gruber quipped:
I can see why these news sites are tempted by the offer, but I think they’re going to regret it. It’s like Lando’s deal with Vader in The Empire Strikes Back.
In his Facebook Reckoning post, Ben Thompson notes that Gruber's criticism is probably valid, but the publishers have no choice. They have to be on Facebook.
The problem with Gruber’s criticism is that Lando never really actually had a choice. Vader was far more powerful than he was; taking a chance on a deal was the best of a bunch of bad options. That, I think, is the case with most publishers when it comes to Facebook.
I hope all of this doesn't apply to me. I'm not a publisher am I?! I still feel a great compulsion to host my own stuff on my own website. Ben Thompson's Smiling Curve is keeping me sane.