2017.10.03,

Critique

Armenian Media Held Hostage by Facebook

author_posts/samvel-martirosyan
Samvel Martirosyan

Media researcher

Changes were once again underway in Facebook this past month. The social networking site does everything to remain a monopoly platform in the world. For a few years now, Facebook has been throwing its main competitors in national markets out of the arena. If there were many national social networking sites a few years ago, they came to an end, and today Facebook is the number social networking platform in almost the entire world. The exception are those countries where Facebook is simply blocked; for example, China and Iran. Besides that, there are countries where Russian social networking sites Odnaklassniki and VKontakte are still dominant (for example, Russia and Armenia). In the rest of the countries, Facebook almost doesn’t have a serious competitor.

But the market has to be kept since times and generations change. For this reason, Facebook regularly changes its algorithm, makes different types of websites and sources more inaccessible for users. The main changes are directed against the manipulations, misinformation, and propaganda of the “yellow press.” 

Such changes are implemented globally, but they don’t work so well in specific markets. In addition, the system is automated. As a result, the changes are not always expressed positively on all pages. Besides, operating in Armenia’s Facebook advertising market are many unscrupulous organizations, which offer services to collect “likes,” taking advantage of methods that Facebook considers unlawful. As a result, problems arise for many news websites. Facebook simply stops showing users the content on their pages. The consequence of all this is the number of visits to these news sites from Facebook is decreasing. 

All around the world, social networking sites are for news websites a place where users make the transition to the website. But in Armenia, Facebook is the main network for disseminating content. Armenia’s online media industry is seriously dependent on this social networking site. Meanwhile, the picture in the world is not as unequivocal.

Let’s take, for example, leading (in terms of number of visitors) media outlets from the US, Russia, UK, and Armenia — without mentioning the name of the particular media outlet, since the picture is almost the same everywhere.

This is the distribution of traffic from social networking sites of a typical American news site (data according to Similarweb.com).

And this is the picture we get in the British press.

As we see, Facebook again has a dominant position, but it’s not a monopoly.

This is the picture in Russia, where local social networking sites continue to stifle American social networking sites.

And this is Armenia. Here only Facebook exists; the rest are simply fluctuations. Facebook clearly has a monopoly position.

By the way, other countries’ media outlets aspire to have a large loyal audience, when users simply visit their website daily or find the site through search engines. In such cases, visits from social networking sites comprise less than half of overall visits to the site. In Armenia, for many media outlets, the Facebook audience is practically their only readership. There’s no other option: there is simply no audience outside of Facebook.

Such dependence on one platform is dangerous, since Facebook, in turn, is one of the most capricious social networking sites. It may one day simply block the page or not permit it to share links. This is a serious problem for Armenia’s news media industry.

Of course, editors often say they have no other option since people are active only on Facebook and read the news only there — there’s nowhere else to go. But on the other hand, it’s the editors who, in some ways, turned people dependent on just this platform, since they don’t even try to use other social networking sites.

Samvel Martirosyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.


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