September 22nd, 2011

Facebook Makes a Push to Be a Media Hub

The New York Times

Facebook, the Web’s biggest social network, is where you go to see what your friends are up to. Now it wants to be a force that shapes what you watch, hear, read and buy.

The company announced new features here on Thursday that could unleash a torrent of updates about what media choices Facebook users are making: Frank is watching “The Hangover” on Netflix, Jane is listening to a Jay Z song, and so forth. The idea is that those updates will act as guides for those users’ friends, influencing tastes and purchases.

Facebook is not becoming a purveyor of goods, like Amazon.com or Apple. Instead, by teaming up with companies that distribute music, movies, information and games, it is positioning itself to become the conduit through which news and entertainment is found and consumed. Its new partners include Netflix and Hulu for video, and Spotify for music.

“We think it’s an important next step to help tell the story of your life,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, who unveiled the new features at the company’s annual conference for developers. He called what Facebook was doing an effort to “rethink some industries.”

For companies that distribute entertainment content, a partnership with Facebook can draw eyeballs and subscribers. For Facebook, the potential payoff is huge, especially as it seeks to make itself more valuable in advance of a possible public offering. It can reap even more data about consumers’ habits and desires, which in turn can be used to sell more precisely customized advertising.

The site’s evolution could make it easier for Facebook users to decide how to spend their time and money. But it could also potentially allow them to shut out alternative viewpoints and information that is not being shared among their social community on Facebook.

As of May, Americans spent more time with Facebook than with the next four largest Web brands combined, according to Nielsen. Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, described Facebook as “sort of a walled garden” that, for better or worse, can increasingly filter every other activity on the Internet.

“As Facebook becomes more and more synonymous with the Internet experience, that is going to benefit Facebook shareholders,” Mr. Brynjolfsson said. “Facebook has been very successful in getting the lion’s share of people’s time and attention. Their challenge in the coming years is to convert that dominance in time and attention into a bigger share of consumer wallets — a bigger share of money they spend either directly on Facebook or indirectly through advertising.”

Read more: http://nyti.ms/nbYQhZ

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