Facebook has announced the rollout of a new News tab as part of a limited to 200,000 users in the US. The company wants to dedicate this new section in its mobile app to a mix of 200 publishers like The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, BuzzFeed, and USA Today, in an effort to keep them afloat in an era that is challenging traditional media. The feature is expected to roll out to more users in the coming months, and is generally seen as a positive change.
Facebook is betting a lot on the News tab to attract users with higher quality news on business, technology, science, politics, entertainment, health and sports. The company says it has worked with publishers to develop key aspects of the new feature, such as the ability to filter your news feed according to your preferences and the option to link in your paid news subscriptions to your Facebook account.
It’s worth noting Facebook has hired a team of journalists to curate the News tab, after being criticized for the way its algorithm works and for inflating content viewership metrics. By doing that, it believes it can also help smaller, independent publishers reach an audience and gain back some user trust for Facebook as a source of news. It’s also pouring $300 million into local newsrooms to give them a boost.
Facebook wants to avoid criticism with regards to bias and misinformation, so it’s trying to be as transparent as possible with the selection process for publishers, who need to follow specific guidelines and avoid spreading misinformation or hate speech. They also need to have a “sufficiently large audience,” and their integrity will be assessed periodically to determine if they meet the standard.
As for Facebook’s editorial team, the company says it will be able to independently decide if news is worthwhile, including stories about Facebook itself.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during a media event in New York where he answered questions for News Corp CEO Robert Thomson that “there needs to be a strong and free press… and have that at scale.” He acknowledged the impact tech giants have had on the business model of many publishers, and he believes internet platforms have a responsibility to fund and partner with news organizations to restore the balance.