Facebook begins public testing of dedicated News tab

Facebook, News

Facebook has started testing its news tab with selected users as the social network seeks to push people towards quality journalism.

The service will only be available to a subset in the US initially, as a separate section on the platform partly curated by journalists.

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg first set out his ambition for the project in April, saying that he wants the tech giant to support struggling news outlets.

Publishers have been increasingly squeezed by Facebook’s dominant position, as more people opt to consume news from Facebook’s News Feed.

Changing algorithms have also been a challenge for many news outlets trying to maximise the reach of their work on Facebook.

In the first wave of testing, Facebook News will showcase original reporting from local publications in the 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.

There will also be the ability to hide articles, topics and publishers that users do not wish to see.

However, the social network admitted it shares publishers’ concerns about the personalised part of the project, because of the limits to machine learning.

(Niall Carson/PA)

“We have progress to make before we can rely on technology alone to provide a quality news destination,” Facebook said.

“We also aim to serve both people and news publishers, and not just the big national players.

“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.”

The firm said the team of journalists curating top stories will have editorial independence and that stories shared on the main News Feed will remain.

A list of participating publishers is yet to be confirmed, but a promotional video suggests Time, The Washington Post, Fox News, CBS News, Bloomberg and Politico will feature.

According to Recode, Facebook is paying some publishers millions of dollars a year to have their content on board.

It is not clear when the service will arrive in the UK, but the social network stopped taking applications for a news curator role based in its London offices at the beginning of October.

Chris Price
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