Two months ago, Facebook struck fear into the hearts of digital publishers by unveiling changes to its news feed algorithm that would de-prioritize news and advertising while elevating personalized content - like photos from your cousin's wedding.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg justified the decision by citing several studies purporting to show that people are happier when they're not constantly bombarded with news. But by de-prioritizing news, Facebook will inevitably bury "fake news" with it. And while this might not be the most nuanced strategy, it should get those pesky Senate Democrats (who threatened to pass laws to hold Facebook accountable for foreign powers' election meddling).
Barely a month after Facebook changed up its newsfeed, the shift claimed its first casualty, a women's lifestyle website called LittleThings.
And fast-forward to today, Axios is reporting that Facebook has decided to throw a sop to publishers by launching a new section of its new Watch page - its hub for original video content - where it will work with media companies to provide engage daily content.
Furthermore, Facebook will share its advertising revenue with the media companies, per the Wall Street Journal.
Why it matters: This would be the first standalone news product for national news in Watch. The tech company previously launched several products, like Instant Articles and Facebook Live, with an array of publishers which included but was not limited to news companies.
While Facebook is reportedly in talks with 10 media organizations to produce the videos, and it shared some of its content guidelines with Axios.
The content needs to be a minimum of three minutes.
Facebook plans on launching the feature this summer and testing what works best.
Sources say Facebook is working strategically with publishers to understand budget needs and monetization opportunities on the platform.
By launching the service, Facebook is hoping to generate "more meaningful engagement" on its platform, Axios said...
The big picture: Facebook is trying to create more meaningful engagement on its platform. While executives have said they don’t know exactly how they will measure meaningful engagement through comments and shares, creating a news product that’s native to the platform and includes content from vetted publishers will hopefully drive less passive engagement and curb the spread of misinformation on its platform.
Campbell Brown, the head of news partnership for Facebook, said in a statement that the offering is an attempt to "innovate on news programming tailored to succeed in a social environment."
"Timely news video is the latest step in our strategy to make targeted investments in new types of programming on Facebook Watch... As part of our broader effort to support quality news on Facebook, we plan to meet with a wide-range of potential partners to develop, learn and innovate on news programming tailored to succeed in a social environment. Our early conversations have been encouraging, and we're excited about the possibilities ahead."
While Facebook would have you believe that this is part of its push to stay relevant while imposing more of a wall between its personal and news content, there could be a clear ulterior motive here: If it's successful, Facebook will control the purse strings for a badly needed source of revenue. That will give the company much more leverage over its media "partners"...and, in turn, the exact slant of the content they publish...
News organizations recognize this, and some expressed reservations about the product to WSJ.
That said, given the prospects of exposure on the world’s biggest social network and potential revenue from lucrative video ad sales, some news publishers are still considering participating in the Facebook Watch news initiative — under the right circumstances.
"I think anytime Facebook is willing to pay, we’re more willing to play," said a publishing executive familiar with the program. "The problem is that when these pilot programs expire, there is still no clear revenue channel. Then you’re stuck."
Facebook famously offered some media companies money to offset production costs - as well as a sliver of the ad revenue - when it launched its Watch product last year.