With the launch of the Facebook Journalism Project in January, the social media giant’s latest incursion into the world of content is a development not to be missed
The project aims to “establish stronger ties” between Facebook and the news industry, prompted by the social network’s late-2016 fake news quagmire. Although news broadcasters are the project’s main focus, it will have repercussions for content creators of all kinds.
Facebook have proposed a three-pronged project, the goal of which is to “enable people to have meaningful conversations, to be informed and to be connected to each other.”
The first step is collaborative development of news products, meaning more work with news outlets to enhance user experiences. Examples include a greater range of available formats, more local news and hackathons to “identify opportunities and hack solutions” with the help of developers from news organisations.
Facebook’s second move will be to increase interaction with journalists. E-learning courses and tools such as CrowdTangle (a device for spotlighting stories and measuring their social performance) will take centre stage.
The project’s final gambit is training and tools for everyone. The theory behind this scheme is that news literacy, coupled with intensified efforts to prevent news hoaxes from breaking out, can give Facebook users the information they need to decide which sources to trust.
Pros and cons for content
It’s easy to see the hand of Zuckerberg at work here. Embarrassed by 2016’s fake news scandal, this has all the hallmarks of an attempt by Facebook’s big cheeses to tighten their grip over the news industry, despite benevolent talk of strengthening ties and enhancing collaboration.
The raised ire of a social media behemoth is a fearsome prospect for content marketers. The Facebook Journalism Project could have some unwelcome consequences.
Although aiming to neutralise partisan news sources, the scheme is likely to raise their profile. Training Facebook users to be more discerning may weed out the most unscrupulous dealers of dodgy news, but it could just as easily encourage content polarisation and consolidate social media echo chambers. Should content marketers take the plunge and make their content more political, or try to transcend the mudslinging and risk irrelevance? It’s a conundrum with no easy answer. Content Desk looks at the options in more detail here.
Assuming content marketers manage to navigate the hill of Facebook’s more politically attuned userbase, they then face the Everest of producing content on Facebook’s terms. Facebook is such a vast social network that content creators will inevitably be at its mercy if it decides to change the goalposts in future, for example with algorithmic alterations or new red tape for writers to deal with.
Can there be any oases of optimism in this desert of uncertainty? Thankfully, yes. For one thing, the project shows that, after diving headfirst into the world of automation, Facebook is scaling back to think more carefully about the importance of a human touch. This could put content creators in an advantageous position.
Furthermore, Facebook’s announcement demonstrates shrewd awareness of content trends. Its promise to emphasise local and location-based news is particularly timely as demand for content personalisation peaks thanks to the rise of wearable technologies.
Finally, although creating content on Facebook’s terms opens up the possibility that smaller content creators could be engulfed by a laundry list of unachievable content demands, content minnows may benefit in other areas. Spotlighting different content formats could give niche content producers a boost, promoting diversity by thrusting once overlooked mediums into the mainstream.
An unpredictable undertaking
Content creators will have to be on guard as content platforms start throwing their weight about. The Facebook Journalism Project may sound benign, but it could set a precedent for more intrusive content policies from a greater number of social media platforms.
Nevertheless, the crucial facts of content marketing remain – consumers crave content that is relevant and authentic. This is true irrespective of how aggressively Facebook decides to wield its social media clout. And, with more opportunities opening up via localised content and Facebook’s increased engagement with content of all types, there are plenty of reasons to look on the bright side.