Facebook on Wednesday announced a new program of training, products and tools aimed at further solidifying the social network’s relationship with publishers, which view the Silicon Valley giant as both a firehose of referral traffic and an at-times fearsome adversary.
The program’s debut comes days after Facebook hired former TV journalist Campbell Brown to be its head of news partnerships.
The initiative (which includes a partnership with Poynter) includes a trio of steps that put Facebook in conversation with news organizations around the world. The partnership will focus on local news and emerging business models, among other things.
Facebook is a new kind of platform and we want to do our part to enable people to have meaningful conversations, to be informed and to be connected to each other. We know that our community values sharing and discussing ideas and news, and as a part of our service, we care a great deal about making sure that a healthy news ecosystem and journalism can thrive.
That’s why today we’re announcing a new program to establish stronger ties between Facebook and the news industry. We will be collaborating with news organizations to develop products, learning from journalists about ways we can be a better partner, and working with publishers and educators on how we can equip people with the knowledge they need to be informed readers in the digital age.
The Facebook Journalism Project will work in three ways:
1) Collaborative development of news products
We can better serve the needs of people on Facebook, and those of our partners, when we work together to develop products. While we’ve worked with our news partners on this in the past, as part of the Facebook Journalism Project we’ll begin an even deeper collaboration with news organizations across the spectrum, connecting our product and engineering teams so that we can build together from the early stages of the product development process.
New storytelling formats. As people’s preferences for consuming news evolve, it’s critical to work together on figuring out which new storytelling formats will help people be more informed. We want to work with partners to evolve our current formats — Live, 360, Instant Articles, etc — to better suit their needs, and work with them on building entirely new ones. For example, we’ve heard from editors that they want to be able to present packages of stories to their most engaged readers on Facebook. We’re starting to work with several partners — including the Washington Post, Fox News, El Pais and the Hindustan Times — 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. This is a very early test — and we will continue to work with partners on how to make this product great for them.
Local news. Local news is the starting place for great journalism — it brings communities together around issues that are closest to home. We’re interested in exploring what we can build together with our partners to support local news and promote independent media. This initiative is in its earliest stages; we want to talk about it now so that we can get as much input from newsrooms and journalists as possible, working together to shape what local news on Facebook could look like.
Emerging business models. One key area of collaboration is existing and emerging business models. 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. 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. This is the kind of work we want to do more of. We’ll also keep working on monetization options for partners, such as expanding our live ad break test to a wider group of partners, and exploring ad breaks in regular videos.
Hackathons. One of our longest standing traditions at Facebook is hackathons where our engineers take a break from their day-to-day work to explore new problems and technical solutions. We’ll be launching a program globally where Facebook engineers will host sessions with developers from news organizations to collaborate to identify opportunities and hack solutions.
Continuing to listen. We meet regularly with our media and publishing partners — and as part of the Facebook Journalism Project we’ll make an even more concerted effort to do so, with new rounds of meetings with publishers in the US and Europe, as a start in the months ahead. We’ll expand that listening tour around the world over the course of the year. We’ll host many of our global partners at F8, Facebook’s annual conference in the Bay Area, and we’ll keep sponsoring important journalism and publishing conferences, including the Digital Content Next conference in January and the Perugia Festival of Journalism this spring.
2) Training & Tools for Journalists
Training. In addition to the newsroom training we currently offer, we’re now conducting a series of e-learning courses on Facebook products, tools and services for journalists. We will be expanding these trainings to nine additional languages, and partnering with Poynter to launch a certificate curriculum for journalists in the months ahead.
We regularly visit newsrooms to learn and share, and host journalists from around the world to discuss best practices so that they’re able to discover information on our platform, distribute work on Facebook, and engage and build audiences around their reporting. Going forward, we will be providing training at scale for local newsrooms through collaborations with Knight Foundation, Detroit Journalism Cooperative, Institute for NonProfit News, Local Independent News Online (LION), Institute for Journalism in New Media and more.
Tools. We recently acquired CrowdTangle, a tool to surface stories, measure their social performance and identify influencers. Today we are announcing that it will become free for our partners, which you can read more about on the CrowdTangle blog.
We’ve seen that journalists are using Facebook Live to find and share news, and connect with their audiences. We’re now building more tools to help journalists use Live to report and discover news as easily as possible. Today, we’re launching the ability for Page administrators to designate specific journalists as contributors, giving them the ability to go live on behalf of the Page, a change designed to make such reporting more flexible for newsrooms. In the future, we also want to bring to Profiles all the flexibility that the Live API provides to Pages, so journalists can use their professional equipment to go live. And, we’re now going to offer journalists a simple way to see how their public videos are performing on their Facebook profiles. You can read about these and other updates on our media blog here [LINK].
Helping with eyewitness media. Eyewitnesses who upload videos and images during breaking news events have become powerful and important sources for journalists. We are proud to be a member of the First Draft Partner Network, a coalition of platforms and 80+ publishers, that works together to provide practical and ethical guidance in how to find, verify and publish content sourced from the social web. We will increase our commitment to First Draft, helping them establish a virtual verification community and more.
3) Training & Tools for Everyone
As we seek to support journalism, we will also be working on new ways to help give people information so they can make smart choices about the news they read — and have meaningful conversations about what they care about. Some of this we’ll do in direct partnership with journalists; at other points we’ll work with educators and researchers. We are kicking off this work in the weeks ahead, in meetings with news organizations globally, and will support existing and new projects for innovation and research. Our main areas of focus initially will be:
Promoting news literacy. We will work with third-party organizations on how to better understand and to promote news literacy both on and off our platform to help people in our community have the information they need to make decisions about which sources to trust. We will help organizations already doing important work in this area, such as the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and bring a consortium of experts together to help decide on what new research to conduct and projects to fund. In the short-term, we are working with the News Literacy Project to produce a series of public service ads (PSAs) to help inform people on Facebook about this important issue. Our longer-term goal is to support news organizations with projects and ideas aimed at improving news literacy, including financial grants where needed.
Continuing efforts to curb news hoaxes. We recently announced improvements on our platform to further reduce the spread of news hoaxes — including ways for people to report them more easily and new efforts to disrupt the financial incentives for spammers. In addition, we launched a program in collaboration with Poynter to give third-party fact-checkers who are signatories of their Fact Checking Code of Principles the ability to identify hoaxes on Facebook. This problem is much bigger than any one platform, and it’s important for all of us to work together to minimize its reach.
This is just the beginning of our effort on that front — we have much more to do. The Facebook Journalism Project Page will serve as a hub for our efforts to promote and support journalism on Facebook, and we’ll update you on our initiatives.