Facebook has been busy collaborating directly with broadcasters and publishers through the Facebook Journalism Project to create new initiatives that take aim at the local news market.
As broadcasters gathered at PromaxBDA’s Station Summit, Josh Mabry of Facebook’s Local News Partnerships team broke down the different tools that are in development, being tested, or recently rolled out for local stations to better connect with audiences.
“I’m passionate about local news because I started in local news,” Mabry said.
The methods go beyond Facebook’s efforts to reduce clickbait and fake news, and focus on quality content that puts friends and family first, informs and entertains—to dig into ways journalists can better leverage the platform.
Bought last year by Facebook, the free tool prioritizes local publishers by allowing them to compare performance across different social accounts to get a better handle on data such as comments, shares and followers for different dates and content.
Essentially, it’s designed to help publishers break down trends and analyze what’s working and what’s not.
“It’s all about discovering stories, benchmarking performance and identifying influencers,” Mabry said.
2. Today In
This newsfeed consisting entirely of local news, events and announcements is in alpha testing in six cities and beta testing in 30 cities across the country.
“This is not taking local news and putting it somewhere else,” Mabry said.
Rather, “this is adding another place where people can find local news and information where they live.”
Facebook is determining the Today In newsfeed’s value for local communities, and the tests are going well so far. There’s “more to come in the coming months on a possible expansion,” said Mabry.
3. Breaking News
How do you get breaking news to cut through Facebook’s newsfeed, and show up more prominently and quicker?
Facebook is testing out a breaking news tag does just that by elevating such stories on its platform.
So far, it’s being tested in with several publishers in different markets. Mabry believes there’s a lot of potential to use this tool to connect to developing news as it unfolds.
“We’ve gotten pretty good test results, but want to make sure we get it right before we expand it to everyone,” he said.
4. Publisher Branding and Identity
Some Facebook users may have noticed a small ‘i’ icon on certain posts. Clicking on it provides more information about the source that posted.
“Publishers tell us over and over again that brand is the reason people turn to you,” Mabry said. This is a way for users who are familiar with someone’s brand to gain more information and put the post into context.
“We started to roll that out more broadly and will continue to iterate on it,” he said.
5. Instant Articles
Facebook’s Instant Articles feature preloads photos, videos and articles so they appear in newsfeeds 10 times faster, resulting in more people reading the article, rather than abandoning it due to slow load time.
Revenue opportunities have grown for the widespread feature and Facebook allows for ad monetization in Instant Articles through direct sold, audience network and branded content formats.
The feature has been improved significantly since it was rolled out, Mabry said.
“If you tested Instant Articles say, two years ago when it first launched, it’s just a different landscape now,” he said.
Facebook also has an Instant Article Building in beta, which is a tool that will allow publishers to convert regular articles into instant articles with minimal technical knowledge.
“Our engineers built this to make your life easier,” he said.
6. Facebook Live
Publishers are constantly seeking more direct connections with audiences. Mabry recommends using a consistent posting schedule to create viewer habits. Don’t be too short, be interactive, and have a good reason for going live, he says.
7. Facebook Watch
This video feature is essentially Facebook’s answer to television. It caters to short-form, serialized content that also creates monetization opportunities such as during ad breaks, and engages the community in the storytelling process.
Facebook’s goal is to work with publishers to better understand this ecosystem, and monetize it in a way that makes sense.
“News hasn’t been a priority on Watch up to this point,” Mabry said. “But we think there could be an interesting opportunity to make Watch a place people can turn to for news.”
More Info: Facebook News Publisher Resources