The Mark Zuckerberg Manifesto Is a Blueprint for Destroying Journalism – The Atlantic
Craigslist was the first signal (and became the prototypical example) of a massive unbundling of news services online that would diminish the power and reach of the news, culturally, and make it more difficult to produce a profitable news product.
Zuckerbergâs memo outlines a plan for the next phase of this unbundling, and it represents an expansion of Facebookâs existing threat to the news industry.
Facebook already has the money. The company is absolutely dominating in the realm of digital advertising. It notched $8.8 billion in revenue last quarterâmore than $7 billion of which came from mobile-ad sales. One analyst told The New York Times last year that 85 percent of all online advertising revenue is funneled to either Facebook or Googleâleaving a paltry 15 percent for news organizations to fight over.
Now, Zuckerberg is making it clear that he wants Facebook to take over many of the actual functionsânot just ad dollarsâthat traditional news organizations once had.
Zuckerberg uses abstract language in his memoâhe wants Facebook to develop âthe social infrastructure for community,â he writesâbut what heâs really describing is building a media company with classic journalistic goals: The Facebook of the future, he writes, will be âfor keeping us safe, for informing us, for civic engagement, and for inclusion of all.â
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In the past, the deaths of news organizations have jeopardized the prospect of a safe, well-informed, civically-engaged community. One 2014 paper found a substantial drop-off in civic engagement in both Seattle and Denver from 2008 to 2009, after both cities saw the closure of longstanding daily newspapers. (In Seattle, the Post-Intelligencer halted its print edition, but continued to produce online news; In Denver, the Rocky Mountain News folded.) Lee Shaker, an assistant professor of communications at Portland State University and the author of the 2014 study, found that the decline was ânot consistently replicated over the same time period in other major American cities that did not lose a newspaper,â wrote the paperâs author, suggesting that the decline in civic engagement may be attributed to disappearance of local news sources. (The effects in Denver, where 20 percent of the population had subscribed to the shuttered Rocky Mountain News, were especially pronounced.)
News organizations provide the basis for public action by building and strengthening community ties, âso, if local media institutions are strong and are binding individuals and groups together, then citizens should be participating in more community groups, contacting their government more frequently, and circulating more petitions because they are more aware of shared problems, interests, and opportunities,â Shaker wrote.