Google's official Journalist Studio illustration

Google Journalist Studio: Investigating the “Publisher’s Toolbox”

Google has unveiled Journalist Studio, a suite of tools designed to empower reporters to do their job more effectively. Journalists in renowned newsrooms often struggle to allocate enough time and resources to significant stories. A common frustration arises from the choice between taking weeks on one article, enlisting the help of a team of already-busy colleagues, or writing a program to parse a mound of data.

As such, Google have spent two years developing Journalist Studio with an aim to answering a simple question: “how can reporters focus more time on finding the story, reporting it out and writing the narrative?”

We’ve taken a look at Journalist Studio’s complete toolkit, and broken down how each gadget’s value to individual journalists and publications alike.

The Common Knowledge Project

Google describes The Common Knowledge Project as “a new way for journalists to explore, visualize and share data about important issues in their local communities.” Using Data Commons data, editorial teams can easily create interactive charts from thousands of data points in minutes, embed them in stories and share them on social media. The variety available is huge. For instance, this example made by TCKP displays the number of one-person households in San Antonio, Texas between 2012 and 2018:

Data Commons

Data Commons is “an open knowledge repository that combines data from public datasets using mapped common entities.” It’s complete with tools that make the access, navigation and analysis of massive wells of data straightforward. It includes data from the United States Census Bureau, World Bank Group, the Federal Election Commission, the FBI and many other sources. 

DataSet Search

With its super simple search bar that closely resembles Google itself, DataSet Search is an intuitive tool tailored to allow publishers to efficiently and easily locate datasets that support their story and reinforce their angle.

Google Journalist Studio's dataset search use exampleFact Check Explorer

Fact Check Explorer is a search bar that invites the user to search by keyword. The results presented are a list of unproven claims either made by public figures or circulated on social media presented next to a “True” or “False” verdict from a reputable source, like factcheck.org.

Google Journalist Studio's Fact Check Explorer use exampleData Gif Maker

Data Gif Maker allows publications to decorate their news reports with simple, elegant gifs comparing up to four different figures or terms. Publishers have different presentation options according to what works best for a given story. Here's an example.

Pinpoint

Pinpoint enables reporters to scour hundreds of thousands of documents quickly by automatically identifying the most frequently mentioned people, organisations and locations. It employs Google Search and Knowledge Graph, optical character recognition and speech-to-text technology to search PDFs, images, handwritten notes, emails and audio files automatically. It is, in essence, a “Ctrl+F” command for the future.

Project Shield

Built by Alphabet Inc.’s Jigsaw in collaboration with Google, Project Shield defends human rights, election monitoring and news outlets from distributed denial-of-service attacks. It’s free to use, even for independent journalists.

Tilegrams

A “tilegram” is a map made of tiles where regions are sized proportionally to a dataset, allowing it to truthfully represent demographic data in an instantly clear way whilst retaining a familiar appearance. This free tool allows publishers to browse existing tilegrams that represent popular datasets or make their own for use in interactive online articles.

Google Journalist Studio's Tilegrams use exampleAdvanced Protection

Advanced Protection requires you to use a security key, which is a hardware device or special software on your phone used to verify your identity, to sign in to your Google Account. It provides Google’s strongest defense yet against targeted online attacks. It also provides extra protection from harmful downloads and keeps users’ personal information doubly secure by only allowing Google apps and verified third-party apps to access their Google Account data, and only with their permission.

In these turbulent times, the responsibility of news publishers to report accurately is stronger than ever. Google’s release of Journalist Studio is symbolic of the need for responsible, reliable news coverage and with such a platform behind it, Journalist Studio may just become an industry standard.

Practically speaking, Google Journalist Studio will allow digital publishers of all sizes to access reams of trustworthy data instantly and display it elegantly. It’s an incredibly valuable toolkit for publishers looking to up the value of their coverage without spending a penny.


Apple News logo

Apple's October News Publisher Updates in Detail

Apple has just announced the release of an enhanced version of News Publisher, Apple News Format, and the Apple News API. Here are the updates most relevant to publishers. 

Dashboard Analytics: All Channels Dashboard

Users with multiple channels can now view all their analytics in one place in the All Channels analytics dashboard. A user can aggregate data from the past 31 days for between one and ten channels. Users are able to see their Unique Viewers, Total Views, Reach, Video, Discovery Source, and Issues, for News+ channels. Users can also filter by Territory (Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, United States), Content Type (Free, Subscription), and User Type (Non-subscriber, Subscriber). 

Our take

This will allow publishers to more easily aggregate metrics from up to ten channels a month at a time.

Apple News Publisher's All Channels analytics dashboard

Dashboard Analytics: All Channels Roll Up Report

Users with multiple channels can create a Channels “Roll Up” report to provide analytics across all their channels. It can report on a minimum of two channels to a maximum of 20 simultaneously. This report contains aggregated daily data for each of the selected channels. 

Our take

This new type of reporting provides a summary of Views, Viewers, Video and Reach for each of your selected channels, including a breakdown of these metrics by demographic and subscription status. It’s an effective, efficient way to track your progress. This is the first time that metrics for multiple channels have been made available in the same report, so is sure to be a convenient addition to publishers’ data repertoire.

Dashboard Analytics - Articles: Special Topics

On the front-end of Apple News, Special Topics present as a new editorial area curated by Apple News editors:

Apple News Special TopicsInclusion in these areas will be presented as an event on the x-axis of News Publisher users’ analytics graphs.

Our take

A new editorial area is always a welcome addition - with it comes another opportunity to be featured by Apple News editors and drive traffic. These sections appear in users’ Top Stories feeds, and when selected, present a list of News Editors’ Picks for each topic. Apple’s editors include detailed, high-quality news reportage from top-tier sources such as Sky News, BBC and The Independent, and tend to champion new, original angles on popular stories.

Discovery Source: Widgets

The Today View Discovery Source has been changed to Widgets to further differentiate it from the Today Feed. This Channel Summary report now shows Views, Widgets instead of the former Views, Today View: Top Stories; Views, Today View: Trending; Views, Today View: Videos; Views, Today View: Other.

Our take

Previously, the appearance of both Today View and Today Feed in analytics made for mixups when it came to reporting. Removing this confusion by changing Today View to Widgets is a welcome change to Apple News publishers everywhere.

Apple News Publisher's Discovery Source tabCanonical URL -  Override and Search

Users can now add or override canonical URLs directly in News Publisher under an article’s settings. Essentially, they can change what shows if an Apple News user tries to view their article on an incompatible device.

News Publisher users can now search through all published articles by URL rather than Apple News Title.

Our take

This search update will make moving around the dashboard much easier. Rather than open Apple News, locate the article in question either manually or through Apple News’ search, then paste its title into News Publisher’s search, users now have the option to paste the article’s live URL into News Publisher’s to locate it. This will save data analysts time. Also, if an article has a different headline on-site than on Apple News, it’s no longer difficult to locate it - find it in News Publisher using its URL.


COVID-19 map google search results ipad

Google Now Legally Obliged to Discuss Compensating French Publishers

An appeals court has confirmed that Google must begin talks with French publishers about paying to use their content. The decision will likely lead to an industry-wide deal in France, the echoes from which may soon be felt by publishers all over the world. 

What’s happening?

In March 2019, the European Parliament vote decreed that publishers will have the opportunity to negotiate with major technology platforms such as Google for use of their content at a fair price.

It was ruled that search engines and news aggregation platforms must pay to use third-party content, and platform owners became responsible for any content posted without a copyright license. Here, ‘use’ mainly refers to headlines and meta descriptions that appear in Google’s search results pages.

As of Thursday, October 8, 2020, Google is legally obliged to have these conversations with publishers based in France. Publishers can now use them to demand a fee for showing their news snippets.

Last week, Google pledged to invest $1 billion over three years to start paying news publishers for content and to support the launch of a new product dubbed the "Google News Showcase."

This new ruling, however, is different, as it will mean finding a sustainable way to compensate publishers forever, after three years of Google News Showcase remunerations has expired. 

Google is required to open remuneration talks within three months of being asked to do so by publishers. Given that this is such a recent development, there are no reports from publishers on the success of this arrangement. We’ll be sure to update this article as soon as there are.


Man checking Google Analytics

Introducing Valley Elevation, the Secret to Building Your Readership

What is Valley Elevation in digital publishing?

Instead of striving for virality time and time again, Valley Elevation posits that publishers should focus on ensuring their next drop in page views isn’t as deep as the one before it. It’s the belief that reliable audience growth starts with raising the depths of your metrics’ troughs. It aims to extend the shelf-life of content well beyond a lone traffic spike. The clue’s in the name!

Whilst exciting, the rewards born of huge spikes can be fleeting. Even large publishers find their traffic spikes for successful articles last just a day or two. Countless factors beyond the quality of your content dictate how it performs. As such, traffic spikes cannot reliably measure the success of your site overall, nor the effectiveness of your team’s approach. At Mathematics we believe loyal audiences are the key to driving growth in digital publishing, and spikes do also have a tendency to deliver casual readers who only visit once. Focus on them too heavily and you make your work more difficult; virality attracts a different audience each time, and they’re hard to win back.

Successful Valley Elevation allows you to grow the valley floor in your site’s metrics over time, reducing the depth of all dips in page views. One of the many perks of Valley Elevation is that while it requires monitoring and scheduling, it’s simpler than continually chasing traffic spikes and focuses on loyalty, as opposed to ‘drive-by’ readers that don’t return regularly. The latter requires constant strategic u-turns to stay ahead of the latest trending topics. Aiming for momentary spikes in traffic subverts some publishing fundamentals, too, whereas Valley Elevation goes hand-in-hand with a long-term evergreen strategy.

What does Valley Elevation look like?

Here’s an example. Your team secures an interview with a prominent musician and produces a great piece. With Valley Elevation, don’t elevate the article to all social channels immediately. Rather, share to one, and let it run some - but not all - of its course. See if it passes your title’s ‘threshold of success’: the number of impressions and engagements beyond which a post can be considered successful. If so, share it again once these numbers fall to approximately half their peak. From there, an intricately planned drip-feed can begin trickling through all your channels, as you share and re-share the article at perfect moments.

Azula - a successful example of valley elevationHere’s an overview of a specific example, and the steps taken to enact it.

A music title has lined up a feature with a world-famous artist. It goes online on Wednesday.

The music title’s timeline:

  1. The publication examines its analytics data from the past 12 months and uses it to inform its Valley Elevation posting strategy for an important new feature. It discovers that Instagram hits primarily on Wednesday, Twitter on Friday, and Facebook on Sunday.
  2. The feature goes live on Wednesday and is shared to Instagram. Our title starts here because Instagram is where most time is spent by loyal readers - we recommend starting with them. The initial flurry of attention garners 15,000 page views, which is over our title’s ‘threshold of success’, qualifying the article for re-posting.
  3. On Friday, the daily page views have dropped to 7,500; half that of the initial surge. The article is shared to Twitter at 10am and 5pm, and shared again on Instagram with a different caption, sustaining its momentum and bringing it to a wider audience. The feature gains an additional 2,000 page views from these tweets.
  4. Twitter referrals tail off quickly, so the article is tweeted once more on Sunday, and shared on Facebook for the first time. Without much competition, this weekend Facebook share earns the feature an additional 10,000 page views.
  5. By the end of Monday, Facebook is responsible for around 5,000 daily article views. So, it’s given a final push on Facebook, and shared once more.

In theory, the music title has sustained a high volume of readers for its big feature and extended that feature’s shelf-life well beyond what it might have been had it been shared to every social platform at the moment of publication. If they take the same approach with all posts that return enough page views to be considered successful relative to the publication’s size, the troughs in their page views should slowly begin to elevate

Our hypothetical music publisher would have been aided by organic re-sharing that puts the feature in the hands of additional members of relevant reader communities. The title may also communicate their posting schedule with their artist’s PR, who can ensure it doesn’t match theirs, keeping the article in feeds for as long as possible.

Of course, it makes sense to share to different platforms at different times of day. The smart publication will take stock of when its readers engage the most heavily on which channels, and allow that to inform the times of day the content is shared and re-shared. Spend time understanding how your content is consumed so you can promote it when your audience is most receptive. Although, you risk oversaturating feeds if you re-share all pieces the moment their referrals drop to half of their initial traffic surge - only do this if the first post returns enough page views to be considered a success for your title. But, if an under-performing post is attached to an article you’d like to receive more limelight, try something totally different next time.

Successful Valley Elevation settles at an elevation far above that of your start point. It’s what you have to show for a dedicated, expanding audience that never stops enjoying your output. As mentioned before, it doesn’t require an overhaul of strategy; effective Valley Elevation strategy is built on a foundation of robust marketing practices. Valley Elevation requires your publication to consider social strategy on a more atomic level than before, but its payoffs can be invaluable.


Google nest mini on a cluttered desk

Voice Search SEO and Digital Publishing

Only recently, voice search SEO felt far enough in the future to not be a concern. But, such is the nature of digital publishing, it’s become a priority topic in the search industry seemingly in a matter of seconds. While voice search technology overcame its teething issues with the proliferation of smartphones, the popularity of sophisticated voice assistants (smart speakers and compatible smartphones) has snowballed into something of a voice search revolution.

number of voice assistants worldwide 2019 to 2023

  • 20% of mobile queries are currently done with voice search.
  • Nearly 40 million Americans currently own a smart speaker.
  • 5.8 million UK households had a smart speaker as of the end of 2019, meaning over 10 million regular smart speaker users nationwide.
  • 58% of people have used voice search to find information about a local business.
  • 72% of people who use voice search devices claim they have become part of their daily routines.
  • 43% of smart speaker owners use the technology to shop.

Thanks to its speed and ease of use, voice search is a critical area for publishers aiming for SEO success. Much noise has been made about its importance. So, let’s take a look at some surefire ways of successfully optimising content for voice search.

Optimise for Rich Answers

This one’s easier for some publishers than others, but worth exploring all the same. An SEMrush voice search study found that "70% of all answers returned from voice searches occupied a SERP feature (with 60% of those returning a Featured Snippet result)." In plain English: 70% of voice search answers came from Google’s quick, summarised results (as opposed to a listed search result), like this one:

what is a rich answer rich answer

Here are some effective ways to optimise for rich answers.

  • Implement schema markup to tell Google what part of your article directly answers a search query - it’s a type of data you can add to your HTML to make your site easier and quicker for search engines to crawl
  • The more directly your article answers a search query, the more likely it is to be selected by Google’s algorithm as the rich answer for that query

For more information on rich answers, we recommend Grizzly’s quick guide.

Write With a Conversational Tone

Voice search queries are, by definition, conversational: voice searches are a conversation with the voice assistant. Remember this. The more clinical and “typed” your language reads, the less likely it is to directly address a voice search query.

Google relies on Natural Language Processing (NLP) to refine its voice search results by processing voice texture and rhythm, and the searcher’s interests and search behaviour. With time, it “learns” the user’s language, accent, and other patterns in the way they speak, and uses them to focus on the semantics of their search query.

When you search in the traditional way, your query might look something like “pubs south East London”. But, a voice search with the same intent might run something like “what are the best pubs near deptford high street station”. 

The technicalities of NLP are intricate, but all publishers need to know is studying the query style of a voice search and anticipating it in their articles will pay off. It shouldn’t mean major stylistic compromises, either - if anything, writing conversationally enhances readability. 

Target Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are those over three words, and regularly appear in conversational search queries as a result. Optimise for the long-tail and you’ll inadvertently help yourself to optimise for rich answers simultaneously.

Minimise Your Load Times

The potential downsides of a slow load time make it a primary ranking factor for voice search SEO like never before. If a voice searcher isn’t returned an immediate result, the conversational nature of voice search is undermined. In practical terms, if you have a slow website that takes an eternity to load, your content won't be selected as the answer to a voice search query. Google’s PageSpeed Insights is an invaluable tool for minimising load times. 

As search assistants proliferate at an exponential rate, refining voice search SEO could be a major competitive advantage for your title. The digital publishing world hasn’t quite started this conversation yet, and you won’t regret getting ahead of your peers.


The Athletic when subscriptions are linked with Facebook account linking

News Subscription Account Linking on Facebook Brings Results for Publishers

As an effective digital subscription strategy continues to become more important for digital publishers than ever before, Facebook has developed a new account linking tool that improves how Facebook users interact with news content from publishers they subscribe to. While it has yet to be gifted a catchy name, the tool allows users to link their digital news subscriptions to their Facebook profile and access them easily, all in one place. News subscription account linking works by matching digital subscribers to Facebook profiles, then sending these profiles an invitation to link their subscription accounts.

The aim of this new feature is to strengthen publishers’ relationships with their subscribers, whilst simultaneously improving the news consumption experience on Facebook for those subscribers. It is, in theory, a win-win. One key way news consumption will be improved for Facebook users is that once this new tool is live, linked subscribers will not meet paywalls when accessing articles via Facebook, nor will they be asked to sign-in every time they click an article by a title they’re subscribed to.

Also, subscribers of eligible publishers will see more of their stories in their Facebook News tab. At the moment, these “eligible publishers” are all US-based, but Facebook plans to expand over time.

Facebook user's linked magazine subscription feed

Facebook has tested this tool with a select few publishers already, and the early results look promising for both subscriber engagement and content distribution. In June, a test group who had linked their subscription accounts on Facebook had on average 111% more article clicks compared to those not in the test group. In the same period, publishers’ Facebook followers jumped from 34% to over 97% with subscribers who had linked their accounts.

David Grant, program manager for the Facebook Journalism Project’s Accelerator programme, said: 

Publishers in all world regions are building sustainable, enduring relationships with loyal readers. Through account linking, we hope that Facebook can be a powerful extension of those efforts, helping news organisations drive deeper subscriber engagement and bring more paying readers to their high-quality journalism, which is the foundation of keeping communities informed and connected.”

So, what’s next for this feature? Facebook has outlined the upcoming steps it’ll take to improve the subscriber account linking tool:

  • It’s adding additional partners to the product test.
  • It’s actively working to measure subscriber retention driven by account linking, and other approaches to measuring impact for publishers.
  • It’s testing new places for subscribers to link their accounts within the Facebook app, such as within Facebook News.
  • It’s actively working on an approach that would allow subscribers to directly initiate the account linking process on publisher websites.

Apple News+ interface

Apple News' August Publisher Updates in Detail

Apple’s latest updates to Apple News are geared towards analytics, although some neat new bits of functionality, like time zone-specific notifications and great control over the podcast component, allow publishers to improve UX in their channel.  Here are some of the new features we'd like to highlight:

Send Notifications to Time Zone Regions

Publishers can send notifications to specific time zone regions in specific territories, including: 

  • Australia (Western, Central, Eastern); 
  • Canada (Pacific, Mountain, Central, Eastern, Atlantic); 
  • United Kingdom (London); 
  • United States (Pacific, Mountain, Central, Eastern). 

These are accessible through the Create Notification dialog box under Territories & Time Zones. Time zones have been added to the notification metadata, and publishers can see time zones and territories in the Analytics dashboard under Notifications.

Apple advises that a successful notification does two things: it increases engagement with your content in the app, and provides a high-value experience for the reader. To guarantee this, publishers must use notifications responsibly, and use them to clearly highlight an experience that only they can provide in 130 characters or less. Teaser notifications are discouraged, as are marketing notifications, and any that feature vulgar language.

For Apple’s full notification guidelines, click here.

Podcast Component

Publishers can use the podcast component to link to a podcast or podcast episode. The link provides a button ‘Listen on Apple Podcasts’ prompting readers to listen to the podcast or podcast episode. The link opens the Apple Podcasts app.

Apple News podcast componentPublishers should know that the component uses two optional properties to provide basic layout and colour theme customisations. By default, ‘Orientation’ automatically adjusts the layout of the subcomponents according to the width of the reader’s device, and ‘Theme’ allows publishers to specify a light or dark appearance independent of the device’s light or dark mode setting.

For Apple’s full Podcast component guidelines, click here

Channel Summary Report for All Channels

The Channels Summary report is available to publishers with more than one channel. The Administrator, Editor-in-Chief, Editor, or Sales role is required to access it. The report includes data for all channels but the data for each channel is kept separate. The maximum date range for the report is 31 days.

Apple News publishers will now be able to see data about notifications and featured/trending articles, download analytics reports from charts or top articles tables, receive recurring analytics reports via email, receive custom analytics reports for single channels, receive the same for multiple channels, and more. Elsewhere, click-through rate has been added to notification reports and the Analytics dashboard.

For more information, click here.

API Updates

Publishers can now use either the Share URL ID or article ID to update, delete, or read article information. Also, there’s a helpful new error message, entitled DUPLICATE_ARTICLE_FOUND. If received, it’ll reveal the original article ID. Developers, consult Apple’s guidance on creating an article and updating an article for more information.

A number of updates have been made to Apple News Format, too, including deprecations of some objects and properties. Publishers, we’d invite you to get to grips with these changes here.


Google Analytics on rollerskates

Publishers Can Now Determine Google News' Traffic Value

Google has formally introduced a new feature to Search Console which will finally disclose how much traffic Google’s News areas give publishers, who also now have the ability to analyse the traffic that arrives via the News tab in search results. This new functionality will reveal impressions generated solely by the News section. Here’s how the filter looks in Search Console:

Google's new News search type filterAccording to Google, this feature has been heavily requested for quite some time. And yet, its recent addition means that archived data is unavailable. The tech giant offered further details in an email sent subsequent to the announcement, which states:

“We’ve recently added new data to the Performance report in Search Console: Google Search’s News tab data. This data shows clicks, impressions, and click-through rates for any links seen in the “News” tab in Google Search results. To access this data in the report, click the “Search type: Web” filter on the top of the report, then select “News”.”

This addition to the Search Console is a valuable one that will undoubtedly help inform numerous digital strategies with a view to succeeding in Google News. If you’re a publisher who’s recently decided to investigate the platform further, you might be relieved to hear that you no longer need to submit your site in order to be eligible to appear in Google News. Google’s official guidance reads: 

“Publishers are automatically considered for Top stories or the News tab of Search. They just need to produce high-quality content and comply with Google News content policies.”

Also, consider taking a look at Google’s “Webmasters” series. Here, it features a list of essentials publishers must consider if they’re going to succeed in Google News. 

Unsure your publication receives the traffic it should? Mathematics’ gap analysis service is designed to identify holes in your digital strategy, and increase readers and revenue with a thorough investigation into distribution platforms, personalised to your publication’s unique goals and needs. Head here if you’d like to know more.


Apple's official News+ audio user interface

Apple Has Launched the News+ Audio Tab in the US

When it launched in June, Apple’s latest iOS 13.5.5 beta revealed some seriously noteworthy new Apple News+ functionality in the form of audio versions of stories, as well as an audio news briefing hosted by Apple News editors.

The Audio tab wasn’t available for everyone when the Apple’s beta dropped, but 9to5Mac’s documentation of their exclusive access revealed audio versions of articles from The Wall Street Journal, Variety, WIRED, People and New York Magazine.

Now, Apple News+ Audio is officially available to paying, US-based News+ users. Non-News+ users will receive previews of audio articles, reports 9to5Mac, but paid users will have full access to everything the Audio tab offers. That said, the daily audio news briefing - entitled “Apple News Today” and co-hosted by Apple News editors Shumita Basu and Duarte Geraldino - is available for free to all listeners every morning, Monday through Friday. It’s also available in Apple’s Podcasts app.

Apple News Today audio article hosted by Apple News editors

The new area operates like a stripped-back Apple News, with a daily featured audio article and a reduced “For You” section. Once the user hits play on a piece of Audio, the interface resembles that of Podcasts, with 15-second rewind and skip options. Users will also be able to adjust the speed of playback. Also, like Spotify and other DSPs, users are able to “cue” audio stories to play next. Apple has also introduced “CarPlay”, an Audio support feature that enables users to safely enjoy Apple News+ Audio content while driving.

Apple News CarPlay user interface

“Apple News showcases so much great journalism, and we’re excited to help bring it to life in new ways with Apple News+ audio stories and a new daily news show, Apple News Today,” said Lauren Kern, Editor In Chief of Apple News. “We also greatly value our many local news partners — our new local news feature highlights their work for readers who live, and are interested, in those communities.”

Crucial to the uniqueness of what Apple is offering here is the Audio tab’s ambition. Apple won’t be licensing existing podcast content, but rather producing original audio versions of premium news articles, read by voice actors. Such impressive claims call into question the functionality’s long-term viability, but Apple aims to manage the workload by producing no more than 20 audio stories a week across a wide range of interests. We’re excited to see how realistic this impressive goal is.

Unfortunately, there isn’t any information available to publishers on how they may become eligible for Apple News+ audio stories. It’s such a new feature that as it stands, only those approached by Apple initially have audio stories on their channels. But, if successful, Apple may democratise the process. We’ll be the first to know if this happens, and will update this article accordingly.


Facebook Status area

Publisher Essentials: Facebook Updates Algorithm to Boost “Original Reporting"

For better or worse, the USA’s 2020 presidential election is drawing closer. Historically, Facebook’s News Feed has been criticised for giving biased, amateur news and misinformation precedence equal to - and often greater than - quality reporting. To put it bluntly, that’s a dangerous game. Now, it seems, Facebook realises this, and has renewed efforts to uphold the integrity of its News Feed to minimise culpability for the election’s outcome. 

The tech giant will achieve this by “prioritising original reporting”, an executive told Axios. Artificial intelligence will analyse groups of articles on a particular topic and identify those most often cited as the original source of a story.

Isn’t “Original Reporting” Difficult to Define?

Yes, but thankfully, Facebook knows this. They’ve been talking with leaders in both editorial and the business end of publishing to help define this term accurately, and bolstering their results with user research. The outcomes of these processes will be fed to its algorithm, so that it becomes increasingly more proficient at identifying “original reporting” as a news story’s original source.

What Else Should Publishers Know About Facebook’s Algorithm Change?

As it stands, Facebook will focus on English language news sites and stories. It’ll begin integrating other languages in the near future. This leads to another key point publishers should be aware of: right now, the algorithm changes only apply to news.

Facebook’s good intentions have seen it hit a hurdle regarding bylines: the company stated that its new algorithm will limit attention given to stories without bylines or titles that don’t make information about their staff easily available. And yet, they acknowledge that often, anonymity is vital for the protection of journalists. How they’ll address this conundrum remains to be seen. In the meantime: publishers, make your bylines clear, if you can.

The brand expects publishers to see a small but definite traffic boost from original reports. This is a minor but useful algorithm update, but a critic could characterise it as something Facebook will be able to identify as an attempt to fight against misinformation that in fact comes at no great effort to Facebook.

This change comes just as Google announced that in its “new news product” - more details on which will be available soon - it will begin paying publishers for “high-quality content”. Time will tell if tech giants siding with responsible publishers represents the beginning of a significant change to our industry, or merely a PR trend.