By Kevin O'Keefe

Has Facebook become the face of the Internet for Americans?


Facebook wants to be your portal to the Internet, and it increasingly is, per a story by The Atlantic’s Adrienne La France (@adriennelaf).

La France assembled seven powerful statistics from multiple sources, including the Pew Research Center, Nieman Journalism Lab, and Facebook itself to drive home the point.

  • Nearly half of the adults who use the Internet report getting their news from Facebook alone.
  • Facebook—and, to a smaller extent, social publishing sites like Twitter—has changed the way Americans receive news. For most news consumers, long gone are the days of sitting down to read an entire newspaper. Instead, people are increasingly beginning with Facebook and dipping into a variety of news sites on an article to article basis.
  • Media companies are already hugely dependent on Facebook for traffic. Vox, for instance, gets 40 percent of visits through the site. Other leading news organizations get something like a quarter of site visits from Facebook.
  • Facebook continues to change and fine tune its algorithms so as to deliver news and information that users value. So, in effect, Facebook is becoming America’s news editor.
  • Facebook more than doubled digital ad revenue over the course of two years. The $5 billion in ad money Facebook made last year represents 10 percent of all digital ad revenue.
  • The average American smartphone owner spends more than 42 minutes a day on Facebook. Facebook accounts for one out of every five minutes spent on a smartphone.
  • Facebook has succeeded in thriving financially on mobile while leaving desktop behind. Facebook is getting a quarter of all display ad revenue and more than a third (37 percent) of display ads on mobile. Facebook’s share of revenue on desktop dropped 20 percentage points last year, while its share of mobile revenue went up 20 percentage points.

When I began using the Internet (not sure we even called it that) in 1996, I accessed the net via AOL. AOL, via a dial up modem, keywords, communities, email and message boards, was my portal to the net. It was the face of the Internet for me.

Twenty years later Facebook is the entry point to the Internet for what’s becoming the majority of Americans. While Americans access search, email, other social networks and websites directly, Americans are spending more time on Facebook to network and consume news than anyone could have imagined only a couple years ago.

What’s it mean for lawyers and law firms? To get comfortable with one, the concept of using Facebook and two, using Facebook for networking, sharing and consuming.

Drawing bright lines that Facebook is for personal items only and not a place to share items publicly is not a sustainable position – at least if you are going to be behaving like everyone else, including other lawyers.

Like other social networks, Facebook is learned through trial and error. You’ve got to use it personally, not as a law firm, to understand and get comfortable with how valuable Facebook can be.

Eleven years ago this week, Mark Zuckerberg was asked on CNBC now that Facebook had 100,000 users on college campuses what’s next. He wasn’t sure other than they would add more colleges by the fall.

Look at where we are today with Facebook — whether you like it or not.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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