Should News Sites Make a ‘Faustian Bargain’ With Facebook?

This Friday, May 18, 2012, file photo shows Facebook's headquarters behind flowers in Menlo Park, Calif. Facebook is stepping up its efforts to fight Ebola by adding a button designed to make it easier for its users to donate to charities battling the disease. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
This Friday, May 18, 2012, file photo shows Facebook’s headquarters behind flowers in Menlo Park, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

(Yahoo) – According to a March 23 report in the New York Times, Facebook is working with a number of media outlets –– including BuzzFeed, National Geographic, and the Times itself –– on a deal that would see those outlets publish news and other content directly on the social platform instead of just linking out to stories on their own websites.

If you follow any journalists on Twitter, you may have seen the term “Faustian bargain” used more than once to describe this arrangement. Faust, of course, was a legendary German scholar — immortalized in a play by Goethe — who was dissatisfied with his life and wound up making a deal with the devil: unlimited wealth, fame, and knowledge in return for his immortal soul.

That analogy might be overstating the downside of Facebook’s deal just a tad. But the rumored partnership is definitely a double-edged sword, and media companies shouldn’t buy in without considering both the upside and the consequences.


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