Facebook has moved into print for the first time with a new quarterly magazine aimed at reaching “business leaders”.
However the US social media giant has insisted its new marketing product is not a magazine, although it carries interviews with leading business figures.
Grow by Facebook was quietly launched in the UK earlier this month under the slogan: “Grow your business. Grow your network. Grow your mind.”
The print product has been sent directly to marketing clients and distributed in selected airport and train business lounges, including the British Airways executive lounge at Heathrow Terminal 5, with a view to reaching an audience of top business professionals.
“We know that business leaders have limited time for long reads at work, so we’ve also created a physical version with journeys in mind,” Facebook’s micro-site for Grow said.
The magazine is run by Facebook’s northern Europe marketing team. It has no cover price and does not run advertising.
Leila Woodington, Facebook’s head of business marketing in northern Europe, said in a statement: “Grow by Facebook is a business marketing program that shares thought leadership content directly with our clients through an annual event as well as print and online marketing channels.
“We do not sell any advertising or charge for any of the events or content as this is purely intended for marketing communications purposes.”
Facebook has repeatedly said in response to questions that Grow is not a magazine, but a “business marketing programme”.
However Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s EMEA vice president, refers to it as a “magazine” multiple times in her introduction to the first issue.
She said the idea for Grow by Facebook had started at a “small event in the English countryside” three-and-a-half-years ago.
The event, which is now run annually, brought together “traditional brands and disruptive newcomers, creators and creatives” to “connect the dots between them”, said Facebook.
“We’ve enjoyed the conversations we’ve had at Grow over the years so much that we decided to take them online and into print. And here we are.”
Mendelsohn added: “Our first magazine explores the rise of niche brands – one of the most important business stories of the past couple of years.”
She ended the introduction by saying: “I do hope you enjoy the magazine.”
The launch issue leads on an interview with Oscar Olsson, the boss of H&M’s new /Nyden brand for millennials, with the headline: “Meet H&M’s millennial whisperer.”
It also features pieces about the burgeoning tech industries in Paris and the Middle East, and advice from Business Insider founder Kevin Ryan on success and failure in entrepreneurship.
On the page, Grow is described as “Facebook’s new platform for stories about people, companies and trends stirring up the status quo”.
A new digital home for Grow is coming soon, Facebook has also said, and its content will also be distributed on Instagram and Linkedin.
It will also launch a podcast series in partnership with Vanity Fair and entrepreneurial network Founders Forum later this year.
Grow’s editor-in-chief Kate Maxwell is also a Conde Nast contributing editor and the former group editorial director at Soho House & Co.
However Facebook told Press Gazette there were no journalists working on the magazine’s content, instead saying it was created by people commissioned to write marketing material.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly insisted that Facebook is not a publisher, but a platform as he has faced increasing pressure to take responsibility for the content it shares.
During his evidence session before US Congress last month, the billionaire entrepreneur said: “I agree that we’re responsible for the content, but we don’t produce the content.
“I think that when people ask us whether we’re a media company or a publisher, my understanding of the heart of what they’re getting at is, do we feel responsibility for the content that’s on our platform.
“The answer to that I think is clearly yes, but I don’t think that’s incompatible with [what’s] fundamentally at our core, being a technology company where the main thing that we do is have engineers and build products.”
Press Gazette understands that Facebook considers Grow to be completely unrelated to the social network itself, and that it does not believe the existence of the print magazine means the company can now be called a publisher.
Picture: Juan Señor/ Innovation Media Consulting