After taking heat for the proliferation of “fake news” and misinformation on its platform during the US presidential election, Facebook is aiming to strengthen its ties with the news industry.
“We care a great deal about making sure that a healthy news ecosystem and journalism can thrive,” Facebook director of product Fidji Simo said in the announcement today.
The new Facebook Journalism Project will focus on creating news products with feedback from publishers, providing training and tools for journalists, and promoting news literacy for the public.
In 2015 Facebook launched Instant Articles to deliver publishers’ content instantly in exchange for advertising revenue. The platform will be expanding the feature to combine multiple Instant Articles in one post, starting January 12, 2017.
“We’ve heard from editors that they want to be able to present packages of stories to their most engaged readers on Facebook,” Simo said. “We’re starting to work with several partners on how best to do this. We’re going to start testing this using Instant Articles, so that readers can start to see multiple stories at a time from their favorite news organizations.” Facebook is currently testing this feature with BILD, BuzzFeed, El Pais, Fox News, Hindustan Times, The Sun, The Washington Post, and other publishers.
In April 2016, Automattic partnered with Facebook and VIP-Featured-Partner agency Dekode to develop Instant Articles for WP, a plugin that outputs a compliant feed of posts wrapped in the required markup for Facebook. The plugin passed 10K active installs at the end of 2016, but its star rating continues to plummet due to numerous errors with updates and a lack of support. Only 1 of 42 support threads has been marked resolved in the last two months. Publishers who depend on the plugin may need to have a developer on staff to handle issues with the plugin or select another solution.
Facebook is also planning to collaborate with publishers on subscription business models for their content. Participation in this feature will require the publisher to make its content available through Instant Articles.
“Many of our partners have placed a renewed emphasis on growing their subscription funnel, and we’ve already begun exploring ways we can support these efforts,” Simo said. “This month our engineering team in collaboration with the engineering team of the German news organization BILD will launch a test to explore offering free trials to engaged readers, right from within Instant Articles.” Simo also said they are working on other monetization options for publishing partners, including advertising breaks in regular videos.