The recent announcement at the F8 developers conference that developers can now build bots for Facebook Messenger has created a stir in the publishing community: publishers are eager to get bots up and running for the platform, which sees over 900 million users per month. At the time of the program’s launch, only a few publishers such as CNN and Buzzfeed were ready with bots, but the number of publishers entering the field is growing quickly.
Facebook Messenger is not the first messaging platform to open itself up to publishers and brands: the messaging app Kik launched a bot shop in April and has invited developers to create their own bots for it. However, Facebook, with its commanding online presence and huge user base, has stimulated more interest from publishers looking for new ways to deliver content. The platform allows publishers to communicate directly with subscribers, bringing them news and other information.
Facebook Playing Favorites?
Some claim that Facebook is playing favorites with publishers, only working closely with a few chosen darlings. For example, the viral news company Buzzfeed was contracted to make live video for the platform. It was one of only nine publishers ready for the initial launch of Facebook’s Instant Articles, and is reportedly the highest paid company by Facebook, receiving $3.05 million for its live video work.
CNN was also one of the first publishers to launch a bot with Facebook, already reaching an audience of more than 21.5 million people. CNN’s bot was even promoted by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg when he announced the launch of the bot store. Zuckerberg demonstrated how CNN’s bot would send users news stories that would gradually become personalized over time. CNN’s goal for Facebook Messenger is to expand its reach internationally by finding new audiences around the world.
The New York Times was the third highest paid publisher by Facebook. Less prominent publishers claim that the Times has an unfair advantage because it is often approached early for input in the development of new platforms. For example, the Times helped convince Facebook to allow for more flexibility in monetizing Instant Articles. The Times also worked very closely with Google on the development of its Accelerated Mobile Pages.
Other Publishers in the Field
Besides giants like the Times, CNN, and Buzzfeed, other publishers like Business Insider and Mic were ready with bots at Facebook’s bot store launch. Mic, a youth-focused publisher, offers creative ways for interacting with stories. It gives users a deep look into one story per day, emails stories to users with a read-later feature, offers photo-only versions of stories, and even “choose your own adventure” tools for looking at stories from different angles. Meanwhile, Business Insider’s bot, called Business Insider Update, sends users alerts about top stories.
The Washington Post is currently working on its own bot for Facebook Messenger. The bot is part of the new trend of conversational news. The idea is that not only will the bot respond to direct user commands, it will also be able to interact with users more, responding to open-ended questions about different news topics, and giving more detailed information upon request. The Washington Post is just one of many publishers working on such a bot and hoping to launch soon. All in all, there is pressure in the publishing world to evolve and take advantage of the new era in communications technology.