It remains somewhat controversial, but Facebook has announced that it will expand its dedicated News tab into the UK in January, the first region to get Facebook’s ‘trusted’ feed of news content outside the US.
As you can see in this image of the US version, the News tab highlights key news updates from a listing of Facebook-approved sources, aligned with your interests. In order to be approved by Facebook, publications need to adhere to Facebook’s Publisher Guidelines, which include “a range of integrity signals in determining product eligibility, including misinformation – as identified based on third-party fact-checkers – community standards violations (e.g., hate speech), clickbait, engagement bait and others.”
Hence the controversy – the dedicated News tab is essentially hand-picked by Facebook, though it has been upfront about its selection process. Still, some would prefer Facebook stayed out of it, and now, UK users will have the option to choose whether to get their news content from the dedicated tab, or stick with what’s shared in their News Feeds.
Facebook first launched its News tab in selected US cities back in October 2019, then expanded the roll-out to all of the US in June to help provide more coverage amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Facebook announced in August that it would be looking to expand the program in 2021, and the UK will become the first cab off the rank in the new year.
Facebook says that it’s already signed deals with Archant, Conde Nast, The Economist, ESI Media, Guardian Media Group, Hearst, Iliffe, JPI Media, Midland News Association, Reach, and STV, which will see it share revenue with them for the usage of their content in the dedicated news tab.
“Facebook News offers a mix of curated and personalized top stories to deliver informative, reliable and relevant news. Readers see the top headlines and stories of the day alongside news personalized to their interests. During major news cycles, Facebook News provides timely news digests, highlighting original and authoritative reporting on pressing topics. Facebook News also helps people discover new topics and stories based on the news they read, share and follow.”
It’s hard to guess at what the impact of the tab will be – because users actually have to visit a dedicated tab, it likely won’t change overall sharing behavior or discussion, which, you would assume, would limit its impact.
Still, Facebook says that it has seen some key successes with the US launch:
“We’ve found more than 95% of the traffic Facebook News delivers to publishers is new audiences that have not interacted with those news outlets in the past.”
In this sense, it’s less about weeding out misinformation than it is about establishing better connections with publishers, and with some publishing groups looking to make Facebook pay for the use of their content, this could help to establish better relationships moving forward.
In addition to this, Facebook has also announced an expansion of its Community News Programme in the UK, with an additional $US3 million to support local journalism.
In many ways, the News tab seems more PR than functionally valuable, but more verified news content on Facebook can only be a good thing, and it may help to counter the spread of false narratives.
Meta Will Shut Down its Newsletter Platform Early Next Year
Another sign of Meta’s fleeting interest in the latest trends, the company launched Bulletin in April 2021, as part of an effort to take a piece of the growing newsletter market, with platforms like Substack seeing massive growth in facilitating direct connection between writers and their audiences. Twitter also acquired newsletter platform Revue, and it had seemed, at the time, that newsletters could offer a new, supplementary income stream for creators, aligned with social apps.
In addition to this, Meta also saw an opportunity to provide a platform for local publications that had been shut down due to the pandemic. With ad dollars from local businesses drying up, due to lockdown measures, many smaller publications had to shut down, and Meta viewed this as a chance to make Facebook an even more critical element of community engagement, by providing a direct pathway for independent journalists to serve their audiences through the app.
As part of its initial push, Meta allocated $5 million in funding for local publications to convert to Bulletin instead.
And it sort of worked. Bulletin, at last at one stage, supported over 115 publications, with more than half of the creators on the platform reaching over 1,000 subscribers.
But this year, amid tougher market conditions, Meta lost interest.
The company has been gradually scaling back its investment in news and original content in recent months. Back in July, The Wall Street Journal reported that Meta had reallocated resources from both its Facebook News tab and Bulletin, in order to ‘heighten their focus on building a more robust Creator economy’
In other words, Reels – Meta’s main investment focus for the future of the Creator Economy is short-form video content, which drives more views, more engagement, and is the big trend that Meta’s chasing right now.
As a result, Meta says that it will shut down Bulletin by early next year.
As per Meta:
“Bulletin has allowed us to learn about the relationship between Creators and their audiences and how to better support them in building their community on Facebook. While this off-platform product itself is ending, we remain committed to supporting these and other Creators’ success and growth on our platform.”
So long as they create Reels, I guess.
Again, the decision here is no surprise, but it does serve as another reminder that Meta chases whatever trends it can, and it has no real, long-term commitment on any of its new pushes.
Video is the thing, as it has been several times before, and Meta will keep pushing that till audiences lose interest. Then it’ll be something else that Meta’s pitching to brands, publishers, users, etc.
Logically, Meta follows the latest trends in order to maximize the benefit of such within its tools. But it is worth noting that, when it does lose interest, it tends to move on entirely, leaving anyone who’s invested in its last whim out in the cold.
Overall, Bulletin isn’t huge, and it won’t impact a heap of writers and publishers, as such. But even so, for those that have invested in the platform, in good faith, it’s a bitter pill, and while they will now be able to move on to other platforms as well, it’s good to remind yourself that Meta chases trends, and moves on quick.
‘Don’t build on rented land’. ‘Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket’. Don’t trust social platforms to keep supporting that feature or platform that you’ve come to rely on.
The closure of Bulletin may seem like a side note to many, but it’s an important reminder that you need to diversify your strategy to avoid such impacts.
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