Facebook is reportedly negotiating with a number of big media companies to try and convince them to integrate their sites more deeply with Facebook. The move could enable firms such as Time Warner to use Facebook to authenticate subscribers and drive audiences to more content. In return, Facebook would gain access to subscriber data, giving it more information on its users' social interactions. This would also enable the firm to improve its ad targeting and build out its value as a recommendation engine. Facebook is yet to comment on the rumours.
According to an All Things Digital report, Facebook has hired a number of "ambassadors" and is also sending some of its top execs to New York to meet with firms including Time Warner and Verizon. Andy Mitchell, previously VP of business development at the Daily Beast, and Nick Grudin, who previously worked at Newsweek, are reportedly heading talks, with sources suggesting that media companies are "reasonably receptive" to Facebook's approach.
While Facebook integration could give media companies a deeper understanding of their audiences, it would mean giving up valuable user data. This would help Facebook build up its own database of user information even further, making its platform even more appealing to advertisers – a potential drawback for media companies that already compete with Facebook for ad dollars. "They're both friend and foe simultaneously," says one unnamed media company executive, speaking to All Things Digital.
The move is a further sign of Facebook's desire to expand its presence across the web. It has already positioned itself between some media companies and their users through its 'share' and 'like' buttons and via Facebook Connect. However, if Facebook manages to convince media companies to deepen their relationship it would be a first. Pay-TV operators have traditionally been very wary of letting third parties act as gatekeepers between their subscribers and their content. Facebook is believed to be having some success in its talks with Verizon, but established cable giants such as Comcast are likely to be more difficult to convince, especially as Facebook's power continues to increase.
Meanwhile, Facebook accidentally went live with a number of features that are still under development, including a site-wide but short-lived overhaul of its Pages service. Upon noticing the mistake, Facebook disabled the site and removed the new features, tweeting an apology for the down time. However, the mistake revealed that Facebook is planning to update Pages, or on-site company profiles, with a Questions function, a 'switch accounts' feature for page admins, a new Memories feature that records photos and status updates and an 'outside world' filter for the news feed. It also showed a redesign for Pages that removed tabs, instead placing navigation on the left-hand side of the page to put its layout more in line with Facebook Profiles and Places.
"While we are always experimenting with new features internally, we are not making changes to Pages right now," says a Facebook spokesperson. "Organisations invest a lot of time on their Facebook Pages because millions of people find them useful everyday. We remain committed to providing ways for Page owners to customise and control the experience on their Page. If we do make changes, we will provide partners with advance notice."