Facebook: ‘If we’re not good for your business, you shouldn’t be here’

Facebook's Campbell Brown and Adam Mosseri.
Image: code media/recode

Facebook is famous for the mantra “move fast and break things.” But these days, the tech giant is all about time well spent, and with that comes a new tagline for everyone to follow: 

If you don’t like us, leave. 

That’s what Facebook executives Campbell Brown and Adam Mosseri stressed on Monday during their onstage grilling at Recode’s Code Media conference. 

Brown said three separate times in the 50-minute conversation that publishers and businesses should feel free to leave Facebook if they feel the social network isn’t working for them.

“If anyone feels that this isn’t the right platform for them, then they should not be on Facebook,” Brown said.

The company’s Head of News also insisted that “people don’t come to Facebook for news,” even though studies show the majority of adults in the U.S. get news on Facebook. “They come to Facebook for friends and family,” she said, echoing Facebook’s latest PR blitz meant to dampen criticism of News Feed.

The speaking engagement came as Facebook faces ongoing scrutiny from partners, including news publishers, advertisers, investors, users, and its own employees. This same day, Wired published a cover story on Facebook’s last two years of battling its reputation with the news industry and consumers. Meanwhile, Unilever threatened to pull its ad spending from Facebook, and a new report from eMarketer showed young users are fleeing, with some choosing to leave for competitor app Snapchat. 

And that’s just Monday. 

Over the last few months, former Facebook president Sean Parker and former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya spoke out about the negative effects of social media. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff argued Facebook should be regulated like cigarettes. 

Yeah, there’s been a lot of hate, but the message from Brown and Mosseri was made clear: Facebook’s job is to not beg you to stay. 

“I’m not there to convince them to be on Facebook,” said Brown, who serves as head of news partnerships. “My job is not to make publishers happy. My job is to ensure there’s quality news on Facebook and the publishers that want to be on Facebook have a business model that works.”

“My job is not to make publishers happy.”

Brown said her role is to make sure high-quality news is available on Facebook. And yet, she’s not meeting with publishers to force them to stay. She is listening to their concerns and trying to implement some solutions. According to Brown, publishers’ main concerns have been surfacing around their work and guaranteeing a business model. 

“You had a lot of dinners?” Kafka asked of Brown’s time at the company since joining last year

“Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, pretty much 24/7. It was the same two things over and over … better monetization, more visibility for high-quality sources in News Feed,” Brown said. 

To address those needs, Facebook has de-prioritized fake news and clickbait and is testing a subscription service. But if those don’t work, the publishers are free to leave, as always. 

“Facebook is merely one solution I hope. We’re trying to get better at the part that we can be value add. What I want to move us away from … the constant focus … on my traffic is up,” Brown said. 

Indeed, publishers have long complained about the ever-changing Facebook algorithm. That’s the blackbox run by Mosseri, also present at Code Media, who shared Brown’s message of love it or leave it. 

“If you are a publisher who feels like Facebook is not good for your business, you shouldn’t be on Facebook,” Brown repeated in response to an audience question. She then turned to Mosseri. “What am I leaving out here?”

Mosseri added, “I don’t think there’s a world where there’s no news on Facebook.”

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