The UK is the second market to get Facebook News, which launched in the US last year. The new feature is a dedicated tab within the Facebook mobile app, accessible by tapping the three-line icon for more options.
The tab features a mix of major daily news stories and “personalised” news selected for each reader based on their interests, as decided by Facebook’s algorithm.
Facebook says it pays publishers “for content that is not already on the platform”, and that the feature will also provide publishers with new advertising and subscription “opportunities”.
Several major news publishers, including Channel 4, Sky News, Financial Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian have signed deals with Facebook to provide content. It comes as the tech industry’s relationship with the media comes under increased scrutiny.
Google last week threatened to pull out of Australia if forced by law to enter commercial agreements with news publishers – something about which Facebook has also expressed concern.
And French publishers recently agreed a deal with Google on how a new EU copyright law about news excerpts should be applied.
Facebook News is the social network’s own attempt to address the long-running friction between it and news publishers, as advertising spend has increasingly moved to the large tech firms instead of individual news outlets.
Speaking in today’s Telegraph, former deputy Prime Minister Sir Nick Clegg who is effectively third in command at the social media giant, has insisted that Facebook is neither a publisher nor a utility and should be regulated as “something entirely new.”
However, Baroness Nicky Morgan, a former culture secretary disagreed. “In my view they are publishers,” she told The Telegraph. “In relation to their news offering, they should be transparent about how they personalise the content for each user otherwise the problem of people being caught in echo chambers and never challenged by different opinions just gets worse.”
Adds Karl Weaver, Future Strategy Club member and former CEO of UK Data at the Publicis Groupe:
“Data is one of the most precious commodities that firms can access. Data can generate incredible commercial insights, and the launch of Facebook News will provide news publishers a much-needed boost. Although this highlights the rise of personalised content in the future, it poses risks around echo chambers and radicalisation.”