Mark Cuban’s move a worrisome sign for Facebook

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Dan Lyons over at ReadWrite writes about an interesting email exchange he had with Mark Cuban, who had tweeted a few weeks ago about his displeasure with Facebook. According to Cuban, Facebook was requesting payment in order for Cuban’s Mavericks team to reach a broader number of its 2 million followers at a rate of $3,000 per 1 million customers.

Facebook says the move to get brands to pay for reach is part of a broader push to cut down on spam. That explanation hasn’t made Cuban any less annoyed, and the billionaire says he is already migrating his properties — which include not only the Mavericks but many small businesses acquired through Shark Tank — onto alternative platforms like Twitter and Tumblr.

Cuban’s annoyance about Facebook makes sense: After all, if you don’t have true reach to your existing followers on Facebook, you have to wonder if it’s valuable to build community on the platform. But I still don’t think Tumblr and Twitter (and especially Myspace) are in any way comparable replacements today.

Cuban knows this (and indicates as much), which is why he isn’t eliminating his Facebook presence. A quick look at some of the small businesses Cuban acquired through the Shark Tank shows they appear to still be making use of Facebook. Realistically, only one of Cuban’s businesses, the Dallas Mavericks, has to worry about Facebook’s new reach tax, because it’s the only business likely big enough to have to pay.

While Cuban is an early mover in looking for alternatives to Facebook, it’s still a worrisome sign for the social net that brand leaders would balk so publicly at its revenue initiatives. I can see how Cuban is annoyed and how others would be rankled by Facebook limiting reach to less than earned followers. Facebook is understandably in search of a revenue model, but by forcing brands to pay to reach existing followers (rather than new followers), Facebook is likely to see others follow Cuban’s lead.

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