Have you ever been to Facebook’s office? I have. It’s your standard ‘urban loft’ style media space in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, where staff walk around eating free bananas and admiring the tasteful graffiti.
In fact there is only one thing about the office that is in any way remarkable – just how few staff there are in it. (Apparently about 40).
Fewer people work at Facebook Australia than it takes to staff the NT News.
And yet its reach is – how can I put this politely – just a tad higher than that of our nation’s foremost chronicler of crocodile-related incidents.
Perhaps a better comparison, since Facebook is turning into a video medium, is with broadcasters.
And thinking that through, I just feel tremendously sorry for the broadcasters.
Consider Australia’s No.1 TV show, The Bachelorette. It’s well-made, fantastically entertaining, and fully deserves its haul of around a million viewers per episode. But just think of what Channel 10 has to do, to get those million pairs of eyeballs.
In the first episode alone, they had to hire an actual helicopter, which touched down in the middle of the SCG (also rented for the afternoon). In subsequent episodes they’ve put contestants up in vintage planes, sent them skydiving, even flown them to Perth. And that’s before you get into the cost of the mansion itself, the writers (sorry, producers), cameramen, editors, directors… plus of course the wine and cheese that seems to be a mandatory presence on every date. And the tux hire.
Whereas all Facebook had to do was build a website.
Channel 10, as a business, is running a kind of circus. To get people into their tent they have to provide a never-ending parade of entertainment. They’re paying for trapeze artists, strongmen, clowns, horses, midgets… many of whom are earning a fortune (Osher doesn’t come cheap, I’m sure). Whereas Facebook is like the circus owner who doesn’t put on any entertainment at all, but just puts up a tent – not even a real one, a virtual one – and suggests the attendees show each other their holiday photos. And we do.
Channel 10 is paying a fortune to create content. On Facebook, it’s the punters who create the content themselves.
And if anyone is thinking that it’s ridiculous to compare a website to a TV station… bear in mind that they’re both competing for exactly the same advertising dollar. Actually, they’re competing for the same investment dollar too.
I love TV and I also love Facebook. They can obviously co-exist. But if I was an investor, I know where I’d put my money.