Media companies don’t understand Facebook yet

There was a lot of hoopla in the blogosphere today about the New York Times launching a Facebook application. What they didn’t tell you is that few people on Facebook care: despite all the cool ways that the app lets you interact with New York Times content, only 16 people used the app today.

Even if that number if off by an order of magnitude, it’s clear that while the New York Times is making efforts to connect to Facebook users, they’re not resonating with very many so far.

But the Times is not alone. Similar applications from NBC Sports and CBS News have been around for much longer but are only engaging 32 and 29 Facebook users per day, respectively.

Heck, even Internet tech media company CNET is having trouble: its CNET TV app is only garnering 20 users a day.

What’s the point? Essentially that most media companies have not figured out how to package or distribute content in compelling ways inside Facebook.

Some would argue (with good cause) that this is simply because the Facebook audience is not interested in consuming content like “CBS Breaking News Headlines.” However, before stopping there, here is one last example that may shed more light on this question:

Yahoo!, clearly a company that understands how to distribute many forms of media on the web, built an app that distributes its music video collection called Yahoo! Music Videos. As you can see, it achieved minimal success. Then, Yahoo! called up powerhouse app developer RockYou to help them redesign their application, and voila:

The reincarnated Music Videos application has achieved 1 million installs and sports 30,000 active daily users – 50 times more than before.

All this to say, Facebook is different. It’s a new medium and different than the rest of the web. There is some expertise involved in building Facebook applications that users will actually use to shuffle your content around their social network. While building an interface or RSS feed for your content is an easy project (and easy money for contract Facebook application developers), web sites and media companies who try this will fail to achieve any significant business objectives.

[tags]facebook,new york times,cbs,nbc,rockyou,application design[/tags]

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Leave a Reply

20 Responses to “Media companies don’t understand Facebook yet”

  1. Paul Reilly says:

    I can almost imagine how the initial meeting went.

    It’s almost cringe-worthy when a brand so large gets it this wrong.

    Ah well, at least is won’t have been too expensive a project and I’m sure they’ll learn a great deal from this error in judgment.

    Paul Reilly

  2. jon says:

    true, but RockYou also provided their ad platform to drive traffic to the application. How much of it all is a savvy redesign and how much plain all advertising?

  3. Kam says:

    How about a post on what RockYou did to increase adoption 50x.

    Would be interesting for all to see if it was just plain advertising as jon says.

    I’d digg a post like that in a second.

  4. Brian Breslin says:

    so what did rockyou redesign? i don’t see that much difference between the new app and the old one. the new one seems to ask for invitations at signup, and more prominently emphasize sharing. Or did yahoo drop a bunch of money on buying installs, so rockyou sent them 500k users, and then let it grow from there?

  5. Josh Catone says:

    I’m not sure if this is the most fair analysis. A number of these large media companies were late to the party and entered Facebook after the rules had changed (i.e., to make it harder to spread your app quickly). Gaining a massive amount of users is a lot harder now than it was in May or June. Not only because of Facebook’s changed rules, but also because of the great saturation in the app marketplace — many users are just overloaded and cutting through the noise is increasingly more difficult.

    Take a look at The Compass app from the Washington Post, for example, which was an early mover on the platform, and it still has 3,453 daily active users today. Considering how inactive that app is (i.e., you take the survey and let it sit there), how little it has changed since launch, and the teen unfriendly topic (politics), those are fairly impressive numbers.

    Finally, the NY Times app launched yesterday — I’m not sure it fair to declare it dead so quickly.

  6. Josh Catone says:

    Excuse the typos… I don’t sleep enough. ;)

  7. Justin Smith says:

    Hi Brian: my understanding is that while Yahoo may have purchased some installs, the redesigned features made most of the impact.

  8. Mark says:

    it should have been titled “Media companies don’t understand Facebook, yet”.

  9. Justin Smith says:

    Hi Mark: I agree :)

  10. Gary Wiens says:

    The second one does not have the Yahoo! name.

  11. Paul Malin says:

    Brian said: “don’t see that much difference between the new app and the old one. the new one seems to ask for invitations at signup, and more prominently emphasize sharing.”

    The ads do work but not 50X (in my experience)so my hunch would be that Jia turned the viral meter from OFF to ON and surprise surprise it worked…

  12. Mark says:

    697 daily active users
    (113% of total)

    NYT Facebook numbers for today. You might have jumped the gun in writing this app off (after 1 day?!).

  13. Media-Blog » Archives » Medienunternehmen haben bei Social Networks wie Facebook kaum Erfolg says:

    [...] Facebook ist die nächste grosse Herausforderung im Kampf um die Mediennutzungszeit der User. Wie schwierig es für etablierte Medienunternehmen ist, in diesem Umfeld Fuss zu fassen, zeigt ein Blogpost bei Inside Facebook. [...]

  14. Robert S. says:

    The number of active users is now at 1010. Perhaps it’s important to remember that by their very definition, these sort of viral apps start off small in number and then increase by geometric proportions if they prove engaging. Give it another week and let’s see how many users it has.

  15. Mark says:

    and today in the faceosphere the NYT app is being called a success:

  16. links for 2007-09-17 « David Black says:

    [...] Media companies don’t understand Facebook yet – Inside Facebook “What they didn’t tell you is that few people on Facebook care: despite all the cool ways that the app lets you interact with New York Times content, only 16 people used the app today.” (tags: internet newspapers newspapersites socialmedia socialnetworking widgets api facebook) [...]

  17. links for 2007-09-19 | Daily EM says:

    [...] Inside Facebook » Media companies don’t understand Facebook yet …despite all the cool ways that the app lets you interact with New York Times content, only 16 people used the app today (tags: advertising facebook newspapers applications usability business media marketing facebookapps) [...]

  18. Marketallica: Pazarlama trendleri ve yeni iş fikirleri says:

    [...] Medya Sirketleri henuz Facebook’u anlayamadi. LINK [...]

  19. Güncel Haber Başlıkları » Blog Arşivi » 5 Link says:

    [...] Medya Sirketleri henuz Facebook’u anlayamadi. LINK [...]

  20. MTV Builds Viral App for New Reality Show says:

    [...] traditional media companies initially struggled with how best to utilize Facebook, their understanding of the Facebook ecosystem has improved in reaching their audiences during the [...]

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