Facebook launches news tab to support journalism

Facebook has launched “Facebook News”, the latest attempt by the social media giant to support journalism on its site.

The section will appear alongside the familiar news feed in a special “news tab”, dedicated solely to journalism.

After being tested internally with Facebook staff, the tab will be rolled out today to “a subset of people in the US,” before becoming more widely available over the next year.

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg first announced the plan in April, saying he wanted the tech giant to support struggling news outlets.

Mark Zuckerberg
Image: Mark Zuckerberg first announced plans for the news tab in April

However, the project has already run into controversy, after Mr Zuckerberg confirmed that right-wing website Breitbart would be one of the publishers selected to appear on the news tab.

That follows a row over which outlets would be paid for material, with some being asked to contribute without payment.

After Facebook launched its News Feed in 2006, it became very successful with readers, leaving publishers squeezed as advertisers chose to advertise with the social network.

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Algorithm changes also made life difficult for publishers, as Facebook’s tweaks – such as a switch to “meaningful content” in 2018 – changed the number of readers that came to their websites.

In the first wave of testing, Facebook News will showcase original reporting from local publications in largest major metro areas of the US, including New York, Los Angeles and Boston.

The section will eventually feature top stories chosen by journalists, personalised articles based on the news users read, and specific topic sections, as well as a section for people who have linked their paid news subscriptions to their Facebook account.

In a change from its normal practice, Facebook has hired journalists and editors to curate the stories on Facebook News.

However, the firm confirmed that it would rely mainly on automated systems to select the stories, saying: “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.”

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