Facebook’s Live Rail pullback leaves publishers needing true partners

The recent shuttering of FBX – with LiveRail reportedly next on the chopping block – strengthens Facebook’s walled garden, ultimately hurting publishers.

Facebook recently closed FBX, its real-time bidding ad exchange and is reportedly getting ready to shutter what’s left of LiveRail. The company is clearly retreating behind its (giant) walled garden, and away from providing independent ad-tech services to publishers and their partners.

At the same time, the company is expanding its Facebook Audience Network, which is closed to most outside companies. FAN is even serving ads to outside audiences that aren’t Facebook users. Facebook also has shifted its focus to video, live streaming and branded content.

Yes, Facebook offers a huge audience of 1 billion daily users around the globe, with rich targeting data. It has built a very big and tempting target for publishers. But it’s not the only target publishers should focus on, particularly given ongoing challenges in directly monetizing content on Facebook.

For instance, a new study by analytics company NewsWhip says that non-video content from top publishers is seeing “a noticeable decline” in engagement on Facebook over the past few months. Now, the company is closing LiveRail (which it bought two years ago for more than $400 million) and FBX, which together, provided vital independent services for publishers for all kinds of content.

As a former Facebook product manager told The Wall Street Journal regarding FBX, “they hated any idea of outside bidders having access and control [of Facebook ads]. Facebook always want to have everything owned and operated.”

All this has left publishers wondering whose interests are being served by Facebook’s latest big moves. Hint: in most cases, it probably isn’t theirs.


It will be interesting to see what Facebook will do to answer these questions. While the shift behind the wall may make a lot of financial sense for the social media giant, it creates a deeper quandary for publishers, who have lost much-needed options at a time when digital media is growing fast and evolving rapidly, and programmatic and PMP are increasingly important.

Publishers need – and deserve – independent companies whose interests are aligned with their own, and that work on behalf of their specific needs. Those ad-tech partners must be committed to continually investing in and improving the tools that can power success.

As publishers expand their mobile and video operations, they need sell-side platforms with technology and tools to tackle the latest advancements in SSAS. That includes fine-grained controls over demand partners and advertisements; yield and mediation management; innovations in ad formats, like vertical; accommodating new ad standards, such as RTB 2.4 and VAST 4.0; and built-in viewability and verification services.

Publishers need to be able to access audiences across the entire web, not just through a single giant platform whose main priority is keeping audiences within its own walled garden for as long as possible. As Facebook pulls within itself, publishers should look for partners that can provide the innovative, independent, cross-platform tools they need to build success across all digital media platforms and advertising options.


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