In 2004, there was a little website with the URL www.thefacebook.com. It let you “friend” people, see their friends and map your social network. There were no pictures, poking or videos.
Flash forward to 2017, where the media giant Facebook is used by 1.8 billion users. A lot has changed, but Jason White, Manager, US News Partnerships for Facebook, says they are only 1 percent done, and two percent is a long way off. “We’re still trying to figure out how people share and consume information and connect with friends,” he said.
But on Monday he assured attendees of mediaXchange 2017 that publisher relations are a priority.
He addressed the news feed algorithm, and explained the goals and how it works. After friends and family, the feed should inform, entertain, show authentic communications and be a platform for all ideas. This puts publishers in a good position to engage on the platform because papers engage audiences every day and provide key currency for how people talk to each other.
There are 1 billion pieces of content posted to Facebook each day, with the average person’s news feed showing 2,000 stories. “That’s a lot of content, and it has increased over time,” White said. “But the time to consume content has not.”
The feed ranks content with a score based on how likely someone is to find it meaningful, ideally surfacing the right content for the right people, so they can find the five to 10 stories they want to talk about around the dinner table each night. Each feed is personalized.
For publishers, it then becomes about putting the brand in front of as many viewers as possible. White presented a case study of the Times-Picayune and how the publisher covered a tornado.
During the storm, they posted a live video of the funnel cloud, then immediately after, they walked down the streets, showcasing the damage. Next, they took to the skies with drone footage shared on Facebook, which readers wouldn’t otherwise have.
“Viewers are part of the story as well, leaving comments and reacting in real time,” White said. “It’s very different than broadcast media.”
The storm coverage on Facebook was auxiliary to the content posted on the Times-Picayune site. “Besides all of this, they did what they’ve always done, which is put together a great print newspaper,” he said.
This year, Facebook launched the Facebook Journalism Project, as a public commitment to news integrity. They’ve engaged in public sessions on how to improve the platform for publishers and have hosted hack-athons.
“We want to help you get more value out of your work with the platforms,” he said. They are focused on video monetization, Instant Articles, and news integrity.
Facebook is testing ads that roll midway through videos. Publishers will decide when the ad plays. They are also testing a Video Discovery tab.
Facebook is now partnered with CrowdTangle, providing metrics to publishers for free.
White addressed that there was still work to be done on Facebook Instant Articles. However, they are testing Calls to Action, including app downloads, free trials and email sign-ups. They have also increased ad frequency from one ad every 500 words to every 250 words to allow for more monetization opportunities from the pages.
In December, Facebook began to let users tag articles as false. These are then checked by third-party fact checkers and tagged as disputed, then downgraded in the algorithm.
White also said they partnered with First Draft News for False News Education, which ran at the top of user news feeds, educating them on how to consume news critically and improve media literacy.