Kobo’s recent announcement that they are going to roll out their social reading platform Pulse to enable FaceBook users to share and discover books brings Facebook into play. This comes hot on the heels of similar announcements from both Spotify and Netflix.
Privacy concerns aside, FaceBook have now firmly nailed their content strategy to the mast and that strategy is clearly all about collaboration.
While Amazon and Apple are slugging it out with their headline grabbing, go it alone, device centric, knife fight – FaceBook have quietly given their ¾ of a billion users access to 3 of the worlds largest content libraries, direct to their screens, in a completely device neutral environment.
FaceBook have deduced that their customers want to access music, books, and video content without worrying about taking a gamble on either the Apple or Amazon technology platforms coming out on top.
FaceBook have given their customers the opportunity to discover what their friends are listening to, watching and reading – surely the next obvious move is to provide them with a method of accessing that content?
The purchase earlier in the year of Push Pop Press by FaceBook was explained away by some commentators as merely a ‘talent acquisition’ – that now seems to have been rather short-sighted in light of these more recent developments.
There were some who didn't dismiss the possibility of Facebook entering our business.
Notably, FutureBook blogger Michael Bhaskar, Digital Publishing Director of Profile Books who wrote at the time;
'I think this is 100% about publishing. Here is why: Facebook are overvalued and need to find much more diversified revenue streams if they are going to hit their IPO targets. Having media sales, creation and distribution channels opens obvious potential revenue streams, that given their existing scale could collectively nudge that valuation towards the upper end of the spectrum. Having recently acquired office space for 7000 employees with 1000 currently employed, its obvious they plan to massively expand - and that expansion will be about monetisation, not just through ads.
Whether this is a publishing as a service (PaaS anyone? a publishing toolkit?) or retail space or some kind of imprint or whatever it doesn't really matter. I just don't buy that this is solely about bringing in a couple of nice UI touches.
I'm expecting a suite of FB branded media creation and distribution tools, a content store and some lead FB created products within 18 months.'
And Mike Cane who tweeted at the time, 'Let your imagination wander ... Facebook web OS. Facebook tablet. Facebook phone. You think it's just FB the site? Noooo.'
Take a bow chaps, and the others who saw beyond the smoke and mirrors.
So, the big question, as always is 'Where’s the revenue generation going to come from?'. Looks like a subscription model is the only answer.
Surely, it can be no coincidence that Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings has recently taken up residence on the FaceBook board of directors?
Again, some commentators felt sure that this was just another ‘talent acquisition’ and that his role would be confined to offering advice to Mark Zuckerberg in the run up to FaceBook’s much rumoured IPO.
At the time of the appointment, Hastings was quoted as saying;
'Facebook is propelling a fundamental change in how people connect with each other and share all kinds of content, I’m looking forward to working with Mark and the rest of the board to help Facebook take advantage of all the opportunities ahead.'
Perhaps we are beginning to see what shape those ‘opportunities’ might take?
Who knows more about building subscription revenues than he does, and now that he has been given access to a prospect list of more than ¾ of a billion people surely it’s only a matter a time before the announcement of a Facebook entertainment subscription?
It’s not too great a leap to imagine FaceBook offering users unlimited access to the books, the music and the movies that their friends are recommending to them for a flat monthly subscription.
So what does that mean for publishing? Whether we like it or not, the future of content consumption will be defined by a handful of West Coast ‘tech geeks’. Our mission, should we choose to accept it – is to quickly, as an industry, accept the new reality, embrace the change, and adapt our tactics to avoid becoming obsolete.
(I'd also like to tip my hat to Kobo, in my opinion, this will prove to be their most strategic and lucrative move yet and firmly places them with the big boys. Exciting news.)