In February 2018, Facebook reduced the amount of news that would show up on users’ main feeds by 20%. Then, in June 2018, it did away with the Trending section, which displayed the most talked-about topics on the platform.
At the time, Facebook said it was working on a new solution to offer users trustworthy news content about trending topics in a space set apart from users’ (ironically named) News Feed.
This morning, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed the social media giant is planning a dedicated tab within the site that will bring together content from news publishers, Variety reports. Zuckerberg said the tab is still in the planning stages, but that Facebook is consulting with the news industry to build it, because “we don’t want to build this in a vacuum.”
Zuckerberg compared his vision for the final product to be for printed news what Facebook Watch is for video: a content destination that’s part of the main site and free for all Facebook users, but still separated out. (To be clear, Facebook does work with creators and companies who make content exclusively for Watch, but with the news tab, it doesn’t appear that Facebook plans to engage in content creation, only aggregation.)
The reason Facebook’s taking Watch as a model is because the service has “really started to grow quickly,” Zuckerberg said. (It’s true; since Watch launched in 2017, it’s amassed 400 million monthly and 75 million daily viewers globally.) “We’ve decided that there really is an opportunity to do something like this with news as well.”
Zuckerberg also said Facebook is looking into monetization options for publishers. It’s been testing out news monetization tools since 2017, when it rolled out a feature that let users buy subscriptions to publications like the Washington Post without leaving Facebook.
Early results from that tool, according to Facebook, showed people were 17% more likely to subscribe to publications directly from Facebook than on the publications’ sites or through other web links. But Zuckerberg said today that though the tool is “off to a reasonable start” Facebook still has “lots more to do there.”
“There is a real opportunity to have better monetization for publishers than we have today,” he explained. (It’s worth mentioning here that Facebook has invested a lot of money in local journalists and publications. In January, it put $300 million into various initiatives to support local newsrooms and help them develop sustainable business models.)
Something else Facebook is working on with the new tab: how to provide a balanced mix of content a user may be interested in and content from sources they’re already following.
As Variety points out, one of the biggest sticking points about the new tab may be the European Union’s recently passed copyright reform. Article 13 has been the most commonly discussed part of the reform, as it requires platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to remove all copyrighted content uploaded by users, with no exceptions. However, Article 11 is where Facebook could run into problems. Article 11 gives news organizations the right to make search engines and news aggregators — which Facebook will be — seek licenses in order to link to their news content.
About the reform, Zuckerberg said, “That’s definitely something we should be thinking about,” and that there are “a lot of details to be worked out there.”