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

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Adam Singolda

Adam Singolda, CEO Taboola

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 ~$US250 billion 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?

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Recently, both Facebook and Google pledged to invest $US1 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 $US1 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?

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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 monetise 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 personalise 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 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 service level agreement (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 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 personalised 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.

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

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Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey

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Facebook has had its share of controversies this year. The company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents.

Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.

Yahoo Finance notes, “Facebook has had its share of controversies this year.” Starting in January, Meta-owned WhatsApp got caught up in a huge controversy after the messaging app announced a new privacy policy (Terms of Service). WhatsApp said it would collect user information and share it with third-party apps for a better user experience. However, the app gave users no choice but later made modifications to the policy under pressure. Similarly, the company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents showing the company’s problematic practices. It was revealed that Meta-owned Instagram had a negative impact on teenage girls, but the company did almost nothing to rectify the problem.

Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.

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However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.

On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.

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Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal

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In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.

In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.

Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws

It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.

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Russian social media laws

As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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