Facebook is getting interested in news again with News Tab launch

News junkies on Facebook will be pleased to know that the social networking giant is about to launch its News Tab feature.

The unveiling will take place at a special event in New York City on Friday, October 25, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg — fresh from his appearance before the House Financial Services Committee — and Robert Thomson, chief executive of News Corp., doing the honors.

We first caught wind of the News Tab in August, with Facebook confirming at the time its desire to partner with media outlets for a fresh approach to how it handles news on its site.

It comes almost two years after the company edged away from news delivery in favor of more personal content following criticism over its hosting of fake and misleading news reports on its News Feed.

The News Tab, as its name suggests, is expected to be a standalone section featuring content from a range of high-profile media outlets, as well as news items from local publishers. A full list of those involved at the start is expected to be revealed at the event on Friday.

According to Washington Post sources, Facebook’s News Tab will use algorithms to surface content for users based on their interests, though a small team with editorial experience will also curate some of the content.

Facebook paying to host content

The arrival of the News Tab is notable in that instead of sharing ad revenue, Facebook intends to make large payments — the Post talks of “hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars” — to some of the participating media brands for the use of their content. Others, however, will continue to receive a cut of ad revenue depending on how popular the articles are on the social networking site.

Facebook and other web giants have faced much criticism for hosting publishers’ news articles while at the same time taking most of the associated ad revenue once enjoyed by those that produce the content. In recent years, long-running media outlets both big and small have come under increasing financial pressure as they grapple with fast-changing technologies, whereas platforms such as Facebook and Google have grown immensely in that time.  The extent to which the News Tab eases or increases the challenges faced by news publishers will become clear in the coming months once the system is up and running.

Control for publishers

Reports suggest the new feature will allow news producers to stipulate how much of an article appears on Facebook’s site. It means that, for example, the entirety of an article could appear on in the News Tab section, or, alternatively, only a headline and short preview with a link taking the reader to the publisher’s website for the rest of the article.

In a tweet posted over the summer, Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president for global news partnerships, said his company was working with the news industry “to get Facebook’s News Tab right.”

Brown added: “Still early days but we are getting tremendous partner feedback on the product. I believe we can provide people on Facebook a better news experience.”

On Friday, Zuckerberg will give us a proper look at the feature that he hopes will impress news addicts, please publishers, and lead to even greater engagement on the site.

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