Why the New York Times doesn't need Facebook

Know the value of your assets. 

I was reading this article on TechCrunch about the New York Times making a deal to allow Facebook to “host” its “content” for free. And I had multiple problems.

The writer (Tom Goodwin, no less) asks:

“So does the New York times [sic] see this as free content marketing to gain subscribers, or as incremental advertising revenue? Only time will, and maybe they don’t even know?”

Once you’ve parsed that into English it seems very clear the NYT doesn’t have a clue. If it did, it would not be giving away its prize assets and brand equity to someone else.

Smoke and mirrors

Facebook can no longer even claim to be at the vanguard of a mysterious new phenomenon called social media. We all know what that’s about and we also know that Facebook is not the all-powerful behemoth it used to be. Facebook’s star is fading. Just look at the growth in active users over the last year (Source – Statista):

social media growth 2014

Yikes. Facebook is now into what we analysts like to call negative growth. In other words, adoption has peaked and now people are moving away from it. Facebook was founded in 2004. The brand hit critical mass in about 2008. By 2014, people were already voting with their feet. In 50 years’ time the Facebook phenomenon will show up as no more than a tiny blip.

Brand equity

In contrast, the New York Times was founded in 1851 and, since 1918, has won 114 Pulitzer Prizes — more than any other newspaper. In the six months to end March 2014, the paper reported solid circulation growth of 15% for the daily and 8% for the Sunday edition, mainly down to the strength of its digital subscription packages. The NYT is successfully navigating the shift from print to digital and has no need to give away anything.


It turns out content is worth more than the means of delivery. But you knew that, right? Facebook is running scared. As with Myspace a few years before, Facebook no longer has confidence in its core offer, it has no idea what to do and hopes providing the world’s most valuable journalism for free will stop the rot. Facebook needs the NYT more than the NYT needs Facebook. So the NYT should not allow Facebook to “host” its content for free. Pure and simple.

So …

The next time someone asks you to provide work, time, “content” or other assets for free, or at a rate that devalues what you do, ask yourself: am I a Facebook or am I the NYT. If you’re a Facebook, by all means clutch at any straw you can.

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