Facebook’s full-spectrum media play

So Facebook just bought Oculus Rift.

I interviewed many many UK teenagers in 2012 and 2013 about sport, life and technology on behalf of a client. Even then, none of them admitted to using Facebook any more, it was all Twitter and Instagram. Though I suspect they were still popping in to see old friends in the same way they were still popping in to see their nans on a Saturday afternoon to plunder her Quality Street.┬áSince then a lot of clever media innovations have cropped up that teenagers have lapped up like Vine and Snapchat. ‘Facebook is dead‘ studies said, because their audience was ageing fast. But it seems now that all you need in order to stay young forever is access to massive reserves of capital. It makes me think that if Facebook’s model is to stay as an advertising platform, they are simply buying access to the eyes of the complete spectrum of internet society. Facebook.com is really the bottom of the barrel, the dregs of the internet the ‘1 weird tip that will make you thin’, WhatsApp perhaps offers something a little younger and more connected, while Oculus offers the absolute bleeding edge of interactive hardware. It’s akin to Google’s recent acquisition of Boston Dynamics and their work on driverless cars.

It makes me think that something huge that’s missing from Facebooks spectrum is a really popular video platform, it has nothing like that which might rival YouTube. I wonder if Facebook will buy Vimeo in the next year or so?

2 thoughts on “Facebook’s full-spectrum media play

  1. I’ve long felt that in the communication space commentators overthink the functional aspects and network effects while missing the fact that it’s more like a fashion business. Groups of people aren’t searching for better tools or more ubiquitous ones, just novel ways to spend time with their clan. Why did Facebook steal the crown from MySpace? I remember lots of talk about apps and APIs. But maybe it was just that MySpace felt like flared jeans.

    This is an important distinction when it comes to acquisition strategy for any cash-rich digital giant. If they take the functional view they’ll look for ‘gaps’in their portfolio – a video service for example – then snap up a suitable target only to suffocate it by integration with the parent company. Cue exodus of users and talent followed by little noticed writedown a few years down the line.

    The smart money would take a different view, more akin to that of fashion conglomerate LVMV or a media group like Conde Nast. When the cool kids start deserting the service that made you rich, morph into a stable for a number of communications brands. Realise some efficiencies in the commodity back end and media sales. But don’t kill the golden geese by ever imaging that users will see your corporation as more than the sum of its brands. I can see Facebook taking this route successfully.

    Bonus reckon on the tech as fashion front: if Apple bought Burberry (whose CEO they recently hired) they could disrupt apparel like they did music and mobile.

  2. Smart reckons* as usual Matt. So many examples of that pattern of neglect of new acquisitions- itv and Friends Reunited, Newscorp and MySpace, but then also there are some examples where the new acquisition is fostered and loved, like Google and YouTube, Experian and HitWise, Twitter and Tweetdeck. I suppose we need to consider the motives for the acquisition- if it’s talent e.g. Google and Sparrow or Twitter and Posterous or if it’s tech, like Facebook and Oculous or if it’s traffic like itv and Friends Reunited or Facebook and Instagram. Can you think of any other motives for acquisitions other than technology, traffic or talent? If you can, please please let’s make it start with a T!

    *I am sensing the influence of Dan Hon’s excellent newsletter with the use of the word reckon here. I was only thinking today how much I like that word and how useful and non-committal it is.

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