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How Facebook and Twitter Enable News Discovery


It seems that senior executives at big media companies are still not quite sure if Facebook and Twitter are friend or foe -- relative to their legacy advertising-centric business models.

Granted, the realm of online media used to be more predictable when there wasn't much innovation and all the big players could anticipate their collective lack of creativity. But it was just a matter of time before someone would come along and disrupt their quiescence.

According to the latest market assessment by eMarketer, Facebook and Twitter have taken evolutionary steps to become publishing platforms for news -- not just text, also video, photos and entertainment content.

"Users are learning that the more they share, the more they discover," said Paul Verna, senior analyst at eMarketer. "And the more they discover, the more likely they are to turn first to Facebook for content they used to get elsewhere."

Since late 2011, Facebook has been gradually rolling out its "Timeline" interface, which puts greater focus on media activity compared with the previous iteration of the Facebook news-feed.

According to a report from Simply Measured, as of February, worldwide content engagement on Facebook has gone up by 46 percent -- compared with before the launch of the Timeline.

Apparently Twitter's addition of the "Discover" tab to its navigation menu was also designed to encourage interaction among users and published stories.

Even before Timeline, Facebook’s strategy has been to use social apps to draw users into the media space. eMarketer believes that this has proven to be a winning formula for Facebook and media partners such as The Washington Post, The Guardian, VEVO and Spotify, as well as Zynga’s FarmVille.

"Whether through the efforts of media companies or the unprompted sharing activity of users, more media content is making its way across the social web. This trend has put Facebook and Twitter at the center of the media ecosystem and turned their users into active participants in the content loop," said Verna.

According to the findings from the Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism, 39 percent of Twitter users said most of the news they got on Twitter in January 2012 was not material they would have read elsewhere. On Facebook, the corresponding percentage was a bit lower at 34 percent.

Therefore, by eMarketer's current estimates of the Twitter and Facebook user bases in 2012, more than 11 million Twitter users and more than 48 million Facebook users are getting news on those services.

Verna has concluded that "Marketers who are savvy about how to use Facebook are focusing on the site's strength as a content portal, its viral power and its ability to deliver qualitative and quantitative feedback on brand campaigns."

That being said, it's still not clear if senior executives at big media companies approve of these latest developments and associated trends -- or if they're viewed as unwelcome encroachment.

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