Testing a dedicated place for news in the US
By Campbell Brown, VP, Global News Partnerships and Mona Sarantakos, Product Manager, News
Journalism plays a critical role in our democracy. When news is deeply-reported and well-sourced it gives people information they can rely on. When it’s not, we lose an essential tool for making good decisions.
People want and benefit from personalized experiences on Facebook, but we know there is reporting that transcends individual experience. We want to support both.
Today we’re starting to test Facebook News, a dedicated place for news on Facebook, to a subset of people in the US. News gives people more control over the stories they see, and the ability to explore a wider range of their news interests, directly within the Facebook app. It also highlights the most relevant national stories of the day. News articles will continue to appear in News Feed as they do today.
As we looked to build a place where people can find more news on Facebook, we changed our approach to gather insight from journalists and publishers before we started developing a product. As Mark Zuckerberg said in a conversation with Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Europe’s largest publisher Axel Springer, we wanted to build this product in a consultative way, sharing our ideas and getting input from the industry. We talked to news organizations about what they’d like to see included in a news tab, how their stories should be presented and what analytics to provide.
As we talked to people and publishers, we identified key features to help make Facebook News valuable:
- Today’s Stories chosen by a team of journalists to catch you up on the news throughout the day
- Personalization based on the news you read, share and follow, so you can find new interests and topics and Facebook News is fresh and interesting every time you open it
- Topic sections to dive deeper into business, entertainment, health, science & tech, and sports
- Your Subscriptions, a section for people who have linked their paid news subscriptions to their Facebook account
- Controls to hide articles, topics and publishers you don’t want to see
Regarding personalization, publishers worry that machine learning has limits and they’re right. We have progress to make before we can rely on technology alone to provide a quality news destination. We also aim to serve both people and news publishers, and not just the big national players. We want new forms of journalism in the digital age, including individual, independent journalism, to flourish. So we will continue to expand the algorithmic selection of stories driving the majority of Facebook News.
When we started talking to news organizations about building Facebook News earlier this year, they emphasized that original reporting is more expensive to produce and better recognized by seasoned journalists than by algorithms. So to help reward this kind of work, we formed a curation team to manage the Today’s Stories section of Facebook News. The team will have editorial independence and will select stories based on publicly available guidelines, which you can learn about at facebook.com/news.
What You Can Expect to See in Facebook News
Facebook News will feature a wide range of content across four categories of publishers: general, topical, diverse and local news. At the beginning of the year, we surveyed over 100,000 people on Facebook in the US about what topics they were most interested in and found that we were under-serving many topics people wanted most in their News Feeds, especially around categories like entertainment, health, business and sports. We took this into consideration as we identified publishers across those four categories.
How do we identify these publishers? They need to be in our News Page Index, which we developed in collaboration with the industry to identify news content. They also need to abide by Facebook’s Publisher Guidelines, these 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. We’ll continually check Pages’ integrity status to ensure eligibility criteria is consistently being met. Lastly, they must serve a sufficiently large audience, with different thresholds for the four categories of publishers.
Our criteria will evolve over time to make sure people are seeing sources that are valuable to them and that we’re including reporting across these topics.
During the initial test, we’ll showcase local original reporting by surfacing local publications from the largest major metro areas across the country, beginning with New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Philadelphia, Houston, Washington DC, Miami, Atlanta and Boston. In the coming months, we’ll include local news from Today In, our local news and community information tab, which recently expanded to over 6,000 US towns and cities.
Facebook News was built to bring people closer to the stories that affect their lives. We’ll continue to learn, listen and improve News as it rolls out more broadly. We hope this work aids in our effort to sustain great journalism and strengthen democracy.