Facebook is getting back into the news business.
After months of rumors and speculation, the company is officially announcing Facebook News, a new section in its app dedicated to “high-quality” news.
Facebook News will get its own section of the Facebook app, similar to Watch or Marketplace, though only a small group of U.S. Facebook users will see it to start.
Unlike News Feed, where Facebook’s algorithms tend to favor inflammatory headlines from sometimes questionable sources, Facebook has much stricter rules for publishers that are part of Facebook News, which will emphasize original reporting.
Facebook and the media: It’s complicated
Facebook has long grappled with its role as a new source and its relationship with publishers. The company is undeniably one of the most influential platforms in determining the news diets of adults in the U.S. More than 40 percent of U.S. adults rely on Facebook as a news source, according to Pew Research.
The problem, for Facebook and publishers, is that much of the news that gets pushed to the top of users’ News Feeds isn’t exactly “high quality,” despite the company’s many attempts to weed out clickbait and fake news.
Last year, for example, Mark Zuckerberg announced the company would be revamping its News Feed to emphasize posts from friends and family rather than publishers in an effort to improve “wellbeing.” The update cratered Facebook referral traffic for a number of publishers. And while there is some evidence that Facebook users began seeing more posts shared by their acquaintances, the most widely shared stories were just as inflammatory and misleading as ever.
So it’s not surprising, then, that Facebook News (mostly) circumvents News Feed. A spokesperson says the company will likely promote Facebook News in News Feed as it becomes more widely available, but Facebook News isn’t expected to change the way other news stories appear in News Feed.
Higher standards and original reporting
If the news you typically see in News Feed is the media equivalent of junk food, then Facebook News is meant to be more like your daily dose of fruits and vegetables. The company plans to highlight original reporting as well as local news, and topical stories that Facebook says users have told them they are “under-serving” in News Feed.
The content will be driven by a mix of algorithms and human editors, much like Apple News. A team of editors will handpick top stories each day, while each user will also see algorithm-recommended stories based on their interests and reading habits.
Facebook is reportedly paying some outlets up to $3 million for their content to appear in the section. In return, publishers who want their content to appear in Facebook News must abide by a new set of “publisher guidelines,” which “include a range of integrity signals in determining product eligibility, including misinformation.”
“We hope this work aids in our effort to sustain great journalism and strengthen democracy,” Facebook’s VP of Global News Partnerships Campbell Brown wrote in a statement.