My friend Jay Rosen asks for comments on Facebook's request that content providers give them access to the full text of their stories. A NYT report earlier this week said that Buzzfeed, the NY Times and National Geographic were among the first publications that had agreed to do this.
I've commented on this many times over the years. The news industry could have seen it coming, prepared, already had a distribution system in place to close off the opportunity for tech. They didn't. That's still what they have to do. And it doesn't seem like it's too late, yet.
Do the deal with Facebook. They have access to 1.4 billion people, that's huge. There's never been a news distribution system even remotely like it. How can you not try to use this system? It's as if you were a world-class skier and the Olympics asked you to compete. You of course would thank them for the honor, and go.
At the same time, be part of an independent news system, one that's not captured by any company, that does what Facebook hopes to do. It's too soon to throw in the towel. The technology already exists to do this, easily. (Even the lowly Knicks show up to compete every night, in theory at least, and sometimes they embarrass the current world champs.)
There's good reason to think the independent system will be much better than the Facebook-captured one, because it can offer things that no captive system can, independence and some measure of objectivity. Don't miss that Facebook has become a newsworthy entity. Expect this to develop over the years, as their audience grows to cover every person on the planet. No one can fully trust them. And you should trust the people, your readers, to know that. Offer something interesting and independent. It may never reach the size of Facebook, but it can be a sustainable, and growing service.
Partner with Twitter. Encourage them to support full content as Facebook is doing. That means relaxing the 140-char limit.
Run your own river on what used to be your home page. The smart ones will point not just to stories on your site, but everywhere there's news. Include all the sources your people read. You can't compete with Facebook and Twitter with a system that only contains your stories. Stop thinking so linearly. People return to places that send them away.
Expand. Have a goal to have twice as many sources reporting on your site every year. Accept that the roles for your current editorial people will change as they grow to lead teams, to teach large number of sources how to go direct to readers, with integrity. (Jay: Teach this new role in J-school.)
You have to become more like Facebook, but please only the good high-integrity parts. No snickering. There are a lot of good people who work at Facebook, people who really care. Some of them used to work for you. Listen and learn from them. News is changing. Be the change.