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How a 79-page Facebook report becomes cocktail conversation

By Dawn McMullan


Dallas, Texas, USA


In the past week two weeks, I have mentioned Grzegorz Piechota’s new INMA report, “The Facebook-Media Relationship Status: It’s Complicated,” twice at dinner parties — over mojitos or wine and hors doeuvres with friends who have nothing to do with the media industry.

These are psychologists, bankers, stay-at-home moms, teachers. Their intersection with the media industry is consuming news and, of course, being daily Facebook users. So why was I talking up our 79-page, in-depth, media insider report?

Because Facebook is fascinating.

Any why did my friends care over an adult beverage on a Friday night?

Because Facebook is fascinating.

The deep dive into Facebook is fascinating — from the news media industry and just about every other angle.
The deep dive into Facebook is fascinating — from the news media industry and just about every other angle.

My three favourite “duh” moments, as Grzegorz has a tendency to bring out in when he digs deep — as he is known to do — on this topic:

1. Facebook is the worlds largest editor. Seriously. Why did this never occur to me? I have been in the news media business since for 27 years (31 if you count my time as a journalism major in college). 

As Grzegorz points out, Facebook decides what is news for 1.7 billion people. I am one of those people. I make a living in the news industry. As mentioned, I have a degree in journalism and have worked as a writer/editor my entire career. At one time in my life, I read five newspapers a day. Every day. 

Now I read The New York Times, I watch CNN, dabble in Twitter and Instagram. The rest — making up 90% of my news — is guided by Facebook. 

Zuckerburg maintains Facebook is a tech company, not a media company. As Grzegorz says in his report: “Each week, more than half of Internet users worldwide access news on feeds curated by algorithms designed by Zuckerberg and his teams, making him the super editor-in-chief.”

2. Facebook runs the audience world. Grzegorz reports that 86% of people globally use at least one Facebook service, including Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. That reach is astounding — and the bottom line to any discussion about the company.

That audience spends between 19 minutes (Japan, by far the exception to the social media obsession) and 3 hours, 37 minutes (Brazil) on social media every day. The top two platforms? YouTube and Facebook. 

Interestingly, the top reason for using social media is “to stay in touch with what my friends are doing,” at 43%. But 37% use it “to stay up-to-date with news and current events.” That puts our content way ahead of “to meet new people” (26%) and “to network for work” (22%).

3. Facebook is focused on people-to-people communication, just as it was when it started in 2004 — only a dozen years ago! — as a way for college students to communicate.

To get to the heart of Facebooks strategy, Grzegorz sought the companys patents. Interestingly, he found that Facebook doesnt file its patents as a company. Individual employees file them. Lucky for us, Grzegorz is a smart guy. He got the names of the News Feed employees and found their patent requests.

Heres the crux of what he found: “Within the network, the piece of content has a value only if it is part of somebodys conversation.”

We all know there is too much content on Facebook. It is overwhelming. So Facebook prioritises what is good for Facebook: conversation and community.

Which leads Grzegorz to this advice: “Do you want your news content to thrive in social media? Then make it part of people’s conversations.”

I am barely scratching the service of this report, which has been everywhere since its release a week ago. Grzegorz posted a Medium blog. Mediawire mentioned Digidays coverage of it. Digital Content Next reported on it, as did NiemanLab, and

If you havent downloaded your report (free for INMA members), do it. What else are you going to talk about over cocktails this weekend?

About Dawn McMullan

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