Historically, Facebook’s had a turbulent relationship with the news. That’s putting it lightly. A while back, the tech giant provided users with a shortlist of trending stories from across its network. In 2016, it firedthat list’s human curators in an effort to eliminate bias that culminated in its AI circulating fake news instantly. Facebook Instant Articles were great for users but risked stunting the subscription, advertising and recirculation areas many publishers rely upon for revenue. Perhaps most notoriously, in 2018, it introduced its ‘meaningful interactions’ algorithm which prioritised posts by friends and family over publishers. Many titles never recovered and went under.
Now, Facebook has formally launched Facebook News in the US and hopes this time things will be different. The company has reverted to human curators, who’ll work with algorithms to create, in theory, a well-tailored, personalised news selection.
Users have a lot of control over what news they’re exposed to. They’re able to react and share (but not comment), and hide articles, titles and topics that they don’t want to see. However, once again, this risks trapping users in an echo chamber of their own views. But of course, having only just launched, its effectiveness remains to be seen.
How do publishers integrate with Facebook News?
If a publication’s audience is large enough, it shouldn’t be tricky to see their content surfaced on Facebook News. Facebook doesn’t describe its criteria specifically, but it factors a publication’s integrity with misinformation, clickbait and engagement bait before including a title in Facebook News. If a user interacts with Facebook News frequently, it transforms from a bookmark to a tab in the app.
Facebook is now testing news video, which is a brand new feature. Also, the company seems to have listened to concerns surrounding the slow disappearance of local news organisations, as it’s introduced a local news section to Facebook News too. It hosts thousands of local and regional publications. As a result, the vast majority of Facebook News’ sources are local and regional titles.
Still yet to launch on desktop, it’s early days for Facebook News. It appears the company has been reactive and pragmatic since trialling the new feature’s launch in late 2019, and if its team continues to adapt to the changes publishers need, Facebook News could prove to be a very worthwhile venture indeed. Its competition – namely, Apple News and Flipboard – is stiff, but Facebook News has the tools at its disposal to match the performance of its peers.