Facebook in media drive

26 September 2011

PALO ALTO: Facebook, the social network, has announced tie-ups with partners including Netflix, The Washington Post and Spotify, a move it believes could fuel change across the media industry.

Speaking at Facebook's F8 conference for developers, Mark Zuckerburg, the company's chief executive, suggested its range of new initiatives had the potential to "transform" the media sector.

"People can discover an order-of-magnitude more content," he argued. "We are making it so you can connect to anything you want. Now you don't have to like a book, you can just read a book. You don't have to like a movie; you can just watch a movie."

The Washington Post has launched an app providing access to its own material and that of select other sources, and which will automatically add the stories users have browsed to their profile and the News Feeds of their contacts.

Donald Graham, CEO of The Washington Post Company, said: "What do newspapers need right now? Great journalists and great technologists. We have plenty of great journalists, and they have the great technologists."

Members of Spotify, the online music platform, will also be able to log in and listen through the social network. Such a move particularly appeals to Spotfy given that consumers recommended songs via Facebook are twice as likely to pay for them.

"This essentially associates your Facebook profile with your Spotify music consumption activity," said Ken Parks, Spotify's chief content officer. "Anything that wrings out the friction and the ability to discover new music [and] share new music really benefits the entire music industry."

Netflix will allow its customers to watch films and shows directly from Facebook, again distributing the details. However, due to legal restrictions in the US, such tools are initially only available in Canada and Latin America.

"We were a little bit suspicious," said Reed Hastings, Netflix's CEO. "[We asked] 'You want all the viewing activity, you're going to have all this information about Netflix members, and 'Doesn't that make us competitively vulnerable?.' We spent a lot of time trying to figure that out."

In pulling this varied data together, Facebook has introduced a "Timeline" feature, which will record, on an on-going basis, what users do, from messages sent to TV programmes streamed.

"Millions of people curate stories of their lives on Facebook every day and have no way to share them once they fall off your profile page," he said. "We have been working on Timeline all year … It has three pieces: all your stories, your apps and a new way to express who you are."

Among the further media and entertainment groups integrating with Facebook are Yahoo, the online giant, TiVo and Hulu, the broadcast services, and Rhapsody and Deezer, both rivals to Spotify.

Data sourced from Financial Times, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Daily Telegraph; additional content by Warc staff