A letter from the open web: Top 5 things publishers want from Google & Facebook

Guest Column: Adam Singolda, Founder & CEO, Taboola, writes that industry’s favorite duopoly focuses on consumers first but both Facebook and Google forget about their partners on the open web

e4m by Adam Singolda
Published: May 25, 2021 9:08 AM  | 6 min read
Adam Singolda

When you’re a consumer company, you rightfully put consumers first and partners second, or never, because your consumer business grows independently from your partners. The industry’s favorite duopoly focuses on consumers first — and they’re good at that — but both Facebook and Google too often forget about us, their partners on the open web.

This can become problematic if a consumer company grows to become important, or even too important, to their partners. For example, let’s say you’re a consumer company, and the majority of your revenue comes from consumers, but for some reason, your partners make most of their revenue from you. 

To make this point more clear, imagine a world where both Facebook and Google were not consumer companies, and their businesses were dependent on publisher sites, and the way they reached consumers was not via an app, or a search engine, but through publishers. Imagine the revenue Google and Facebook generate now, nearly ~$250B a year came from publisher sites, from the open web, from their partners. What would they do differently to ensure those publisher sites on the open web thrived? 

Recently, both Facebook and Google pledged to invest $1 billion in news to demonstrate that they do care, and want to pay for content that fuels their services, and there have been a lot of different opinions on whether or not this is actually valuable.

Some negative feedback cited that most publishers will not receive this payout, and it’s unclear if their respective $1 billion represents the true value of content appearing on search engines, and in social feeds. Even more importantly, are we even talking about what truly matters to the open web and publishers? 

If Google and Facebook were B2B companies that focused on their partners, and were truly oriented to make the open web, journalism and publishers grow because the majority of their business came from partnerships and not from consumers, these are 5 things they would do for us, the open web: 

  1. Send traffic, don’t host it. Pledge to keep sending traffic to the open web forever instead of coming up with new ways to host it. We don’t want any more solutions like Instant Articles. These types of initiatives have killed sites like The Awl and DNAInfo. We like money, but we like direct relationships with the consumers on our sites even more.  And  in the spirit of Passover, “Let our people go.”
  2. Make the open web better using insights you have about it. The data you use for your own services helps you monetize and engage consumers on social feeds and insearch pages. In fact, people spend 50 minutes a day scrolling. As our partner, train us, share anonymous insights about how our users are engaged on your digital properties, including what people read, click, and watch on your platform. Give us ideas for content we should create, how to create better quality journalism, how we can better personalize our sites, how we can get people to spend 50 minutes a day with the open web and grow. 
  3. Build an early warning system to protect publisher traffic, a small change for you: a huge change for the open web  When almost 50% of the open web’s traffic, comes from social networks and search engines, every small change to the algorithms, or how traffic is being sent, creates a butterfly effect in the open web. Sites like Mic and The Little Things have suffered tremendously after waking up one day to changes in traffic.

    If 100% of Google’s and Facebook’s revenue came from sites like Mic, and The Little Things, and for whatever reason, their traffic dramatically decreased, as great partners, Google, and Facebook would root cause this immediately to try to fix it. They would try to help Mic and The Little Things and to help themselves, because that’s what partners do.Perhaps what should happen is that when more than 10% (a common number used when drafting an SLA between firms) of changes in traffic happen for a segment of publishers, it triggers a notification, and Google and Facebook commit to a cure period to try and help the publisher. Perhaps there is some service level agreement (SLA) that we all try to meet. 
  4. Help us get 3 billion people on the open web to login. Today, people login to Facebook and Gmail — help us get them to login to cnbc.com, usatoday.com nytimes.com, and so many more. If Facebook and Google know the person visiting our site, they should consider giving us an idea of how we can better serve them by allowing us to provide a more personalized experience, better cross-device experience, and drive a better average revenue per user (ARPU). Perhaps even help us sign them up to newsletters, paid services, to our events, and more. This will make the open web we all love and need even better, and stronger. If 100% of your revenue came from us, you would help us as our partner.
  5. Even if at times, Facebook and Google were our Ultron, we can still band together to fight Thanos: defeat fake news and hate speech because that’s what heroes do. We’ve complained a lot for years, it’s true. And the reason is that we’ve always felt Facebook and Google have this identity crisis where at times they’re a friend and a partner, and at times they’re not.

    So while for years we saw them as our Ultron, there is a greater evil out there — things like fake news and hate speech, which truly hurt people — those evils should not exist. They’re Thanos, and a risk to everyone, Facebook, Google, and us combined. Let’s build a public policy, and share bad actors' information with one another so we can all block them faster. Let’s share pieces of content with one another that should not exist, and make sure that there is always diversity of opinion globally. 

A thriving open web is good for humanity, for our kids, for their kids and it’s amazing for Facebook and Google’s businesses too. It’s great for making the search engine, and social feeds more interesting, and it's better for the hundreds of thousands of employees who work for the platforms. 

This is it, our “letter from the open web.” Together, we’re stronger. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com

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