A Visit to The Facebook Building

Posted on March 14th, by Michael Rosenblum in New Media. 7 comments


Over there… on the left…

Two years ago, we began a very interesting experiment with a major cable provider.

We built and ran (and continue to run) a hyper-local TV station which is probably the most cost-effective in the country. It’s a model for others.

Now, after two years, we are going to start our second one.

When we sat down to do the budgets, the first thing we cut out was the office.

We had an office for the first station, but realized after a year, no one went there. There was no need for it.

All of our video journalists work from the field, cut on their own laptops, and set their own schedules. Coming into an office every day would only eat into their reporting time and serve no purpose. Not to mention the vast cost of a physical office – the building, the desks, the carpet, the lights.  All unnecessary.

So when we set out to design our second station, we eliminated the building and the office entirely.

Don’t need it.

Don’t want it.

I raised this concept recently at a media conference held at CUNY in New York, chaired by Jeff Jarvis.

Many journalists on my panel were upset at the concept.  “You need a newsroom” they opined.

No, I don’t think you do.

Facebook now has 170 million members.

It seems to function quite well as a nexus of information, both text and increasingly video.

It gets information, processes it and distributes it.

It has a net value of $15 billion last time I looked.

There are not a few television networks or newspapers that would like to have the same financials as Facebook – or the same viewership.

They don’t.

Outside my livingroom window is 30 Rock, the headquarters for NBC. It’s a very big building and they pay a very big rent to be there.

It’s a remnant of another era.

Have you ever seen The Facebook Building?

Have you ever been inside it?

Have you ever even seen a picture of it?

Where is Facebook?

It is nowhere, and it is everywhere.

Where is the Craigslist Building?  Craigslist, the website that destroyed the newspaper business in the US.

You don’t need the building to gather, curate, edit and distribute information.

You don’t need the overhead.

The New York Times building on 8th Avenue and 40th Street is a stunning tombstone to $800 million that could have been spent on content, instead of steel and glass.

Newspapers and local TV news (and networks soon) will be faced with the need for major cost cuts. They will fire the editorial staff first, because it’s easier to get the writers out of the building than get the building out of the writers.

But it’s the building that should go.

And the carpet, and the chairs, and the desks and the tables and the coffee machine.

Lose the overhead. Keep the staff – at least the ones who make the content.

7 thoughts on “A Visit to The Facebook Building

  1. Facebook main buliding is in Palo Alto, Craigslist is in San Francisco. The main google buildings are on the Google campus (26 acres in Mountain View CA), but they also have buildings in capital cities all over the world.

  2. Pingback: Footnotes for new journalism « Adam Westbrook

  3. Here’s the craigslist building: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Craigslist01.jpg

    According to the craigslist FAQ: “25 of us work out of a victorian house in the Inner Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco.”

    Facebook (from its corporate info): “Headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif. U.S. offices: Atlanta; Chicago; Dallas; Detroit, New York; Venice Beach, Calif. International offices: Dublin, Ireland; London; Paris.”

    Much of their work is distributed, more is automated, and in neither case are employees producing content, but they have offices.

    A newsroom isn’t an office, though. It served a purpose (workspace, mostly) that may or may not still be needed. It’s worth dissecting what we do there. Having worked off a laptop for the last few years, I tend to think it’s less necessary.

  4. Pingback: Telecommuting can replace newsrooms | The Journalism Iconoclast

  5. Facebook may have more readers than the NY Times, but who has more revenue?

    Facebook may be valued at billions. At one time, so was Pets.com.

    Yawn. This argument is getting so old. Show us how to make MONEY with this social networking crap, Mr. R. That’s the test. Any monkey can throw a web site up there. With the possible exception of Google, only ones rolling in dough, not surprisingly, closely imitate brick-and-mortar models. (eBay, Amazon, WSJournal) For the rest, a website and web presence is a business cost, like janitorial services, not a revenue model, like an advertiser base.

  6. Mr. Grabowski: Right you are. Very level headed. So many people, including Mr. R and the editor of Wired, think they “get” it when they’re clueless idiots.

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Every day Michael Rosenblum blogs about the latest developments in the world of video and the media as well as future trends in technology and equipment.

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