I've personally worked in a newspaper that went bankrupt and remember the feeling. We had to cut costs, content quality was diminishing, people were afraid of being let go and everyone was looking for side gigs. On the other side, Facebook keeps growing, keeps making more money, keeps paying their interns more and so on. The paradox between these two worlds is shocking: both are selling ads and both are providing content to their users but one is thriving while the other one is dying.
Media missed the digital wave
Newspapers have had their golden age and got too confident. They lost the ability to adapt which is a total killer in today's world. When smartphones appeared, they thought they were riding the digital wave by creating E-paper apps, by building apps or website's that showed today's articles but they missed the bigger picture.
How we consume content has changed
If we look at today's most successful consumer-facing apps, there is one clear trend: the newsfeed. And not just any newsfeed. Users want what they want. Now. They want a newsfeed that adapts to their interests, that shows them exactly what they want. This is the fundamental shift traditional media outlets seem to miss. Newspapers keep categories, and show articles based on what editors decide will be today's "hit". But nowadays, through using data, we can do much better, and Facebook is doing it very successfully.
How to beat Facebook
Even though Facebook is still well in advance, there are a few things that Facebook will never be able to do as well as newspapers:
Newspapers have great journalists that are able to produce much better content than pictures of cats and dogs. This is a fundamental issue for Facebook: since they don't produce their own content, they can only hope that their users will produce interesting content.
Given the amount of content that Facebook has to deal with, it's impossible for them to label it efficiently. How to know what a post is about, what this picture is saying, … Newspapers on the other hand, given that they produce a fraction of the content, can easily label content very accurately.
Precise & valuable ads
I've done advertising on Facebook myself and in theory, it looks great. You can target people based on so many different criteria! The disappointment comes later: the targeting simply is not working. I've looked at what Facebook thinks I'm interested in and the results were shocking: apparently, I like images, reading and photography. None of which are accurate or useful of course.
Their inability to target users precisely is due to the problem I mentioned earlier: their inability to label content correctly.
Given that they have so many advertisers, Facebook can't control the quality of ads, which leads to poor ad experience for users.
Newspapers can do all of this much better! They can target people's interest much more accurately and serve them awesome and curated ads.
The future of media looks bright
I'm working for an app development agency and we're really excited to partner with multiple newspapers to help them build the necessary software to thrive and get these market shares back from Facebook! Reach out if we can help you!