Having shied away from mainstream news content in a bid to push entertainment and video consumption, Facebook is now mulling over the possibility of a dedicated ‘news’ tab. Company CEO, Mark Zuckerberg recently stated this development in a conversation, in a bid to cater to users who wish to consume more news content. According to Zuckerberg, the focus will be on “high quality news”, and he is open to paying a retainer fee to specific publications to push dedicated news content for this service.
Zuckerberg’s chat with Mathias Dopfner, CEO of Axel Springer, has since been published by Facebook. He emphasises upon “the role quality journalism plays in building informed communities and the principles Facebook should use for building a news tab to surface more high-quality news, including the business model and ecosystem to support it.” To uphold this, he intends to promote verified news content on this feed to add credibility to information shared on the platform.
The discussion rises at the conjunction of the social media platform being plagued with issues of fake news, vile propaganda and unverified content. Building a dedicated news stream will put the onus on Facebook to partner with publications with solid credibility, relying on reporting instead of rewriting to push out news stories from a wide range of publications on its platform. While it also falls similar to the territory of Apple’s recently announced Apple News+ subscription programme, Facebook might not quite have the privacy credentials of not collecting data on its readers, since its entire business model would revolve around readership and preference-based curation and recommendation.
Explaining the importance and relevance of such a platform, Zuckerberg states, “In News Feed, primarily people come to the service to connect with friends, to get updates on people’s day to day lives. There’s a lot of news content in there because it’s so important. But there’s a lot of people who have a demand to want more news, who really want to go deep and have an experience, which is that they can go to that’s all news that will give us hopefully the ability to dramatically increase the distribution and, if it’s successful, the monetization to high quality participants in the ecosystem.”
However, Zuckerberg pointed out that he is not looking at this as a revenue path for Facebook, and would in fact be paying certain publishers a retainer fee to draw them to his platform. At present, Google is mostly looked upon as a primary source of mass scale news, and while many publications actively use Facebook as a way to increase readership and generate ad-supported revenues, it is not quite a news-specific platform. The focus here is quite clearly on garnering more credibility in terms of the information that is shared on Facebook, which is an issue that WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service, is also having to contend with.