News of the launch of the Facebook Journalism Project comes on top of recent criticism of the platform for its perceived role in the spread of fake news during the US presidential election, questions over whether it should be considered a media or technology platform and longer-term concerns from publishers fast losing ad dollars to the tech giant (and Google) and concerned of giving up too much control of their content to arguably the world’s most powerful content distributor.
With the Facebook Journalism Project, Facebook hopes to address criticisms and concerns and strengthen its media ties and collaboration.
The project includes access to new features and tools for sharing their stories on its network, free access to analytics tool CrowdTangle, training for journalists (expanding into nine languages), a series of e-courses on Facebook products and tools for journalists, collaboration on monetisation strategies such as subscription drives and more. Beyond that, Facebook is expanding its involvement with the First Draft Partner Network, a group of about 80 publishers that creates guidelines on how to find, verify and publish content on social platforms. And it aims to visit newsrooms around the world on a “global listening tour” to promote regular communication between the industry and the company, and discuss best practices.
Here is what Fidji Simo told us.
Regarding Facebook’s pilot collaboration with German news organization BILD: can you tell us more about this?
As part of The Facebook Journalism Project, we’ll be collaborating more with our partners on product development. 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.
BILD told us last year that helping them move people from engaged readers to subscribers was critical to their business which prompted our collaboration. Our engineering team worked with BILD’s engineering team in the second half of 2016 to develop a test to explore offering free trials to engaged readers, right from within Instant Articles. It will be launching this month. This is exactly the kind of collaboration we want to do more of.
The announcement told us that the pilot project will explore offering free trials to engaged readers from within Instant Articles. How will it work?
We’ve been testing Calls To Action (CTA) to prompt readers in Instant Articles to subscribe to newsletters, or like a Facebook Page or in the case of the test with BILD, try a free subscription from their favourite publishers.
Business models and monetisation are big media concerns right now. Is Facebook looking at the development of other business models in collaboration with media? If so, which ones? (And, how would they work?)
In addition to the collaboration discussed for the test we’re launching with BILD, we’ll also keep working on monetisation options for partners, such as expanding our live ad break test to a wider group of partners, and exploring ad breaks in regular videos. More generally, we know that monetisation won’t be a one size fits all so we’re committed to supporting a variety of partners’ business model; that’s the reason why we developed support for branded content last year for example.
The Facebook Journalism Project will offer partners free access to CrowdTangle, an analytics tool acquired in November. What does CrowdTangle do that would help publishers? How is it different than other analytics tools? How might it benefit publishers?
CrowdTangle is a tool to surface stories, measure their social performance and identify influencers. Publishers use the critical social media analytics that CrowdTangle provides to measure their performance on social media and identify great stories for newsgathering.
Project partners thus far include The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Vox. Who else? How many other media organisations are partners?
That is just a small sampling of the publishers that are working with us on the Facebook Journalism Project – we are working with publishers of all shapes and sizes. As part of our deeper collaboration with the industry, we want to work with all publishers on global scale and want to hear from everyone.
If the project is limited to certain news organizations right now, how long will it be before others can benefit?
The Project is not limited to a certain number of publishers, and we are hopeful that through our variety of efforts we’ll be a better partner to the industry as a whole. For example, we will be organising hackathons in multiple places across the world in order to bring to the table the voices of smaller publishers we don’t already have established relationships with. In the context of our early work on local news, we will also be meeting with a lot of local news organizations. This is just the beginning of our efforts on that front — we have much more to do.
Is there a way for others to become part of the Facebook Journalism Project? To become part of projects, tools, testing?
The Facebook team that works with publishers will be discussing with them directly how we can collaborate more closely and representing those opportunities within FB. We’ll also be posting updates to the Facebook Journalism Project site, including details on our hackathons which will be open to the long tail of publishers – so please continue to follow the site for the latest news.
Facebook is also working with The Poynter Institute to launch a certificate for journalists — what will this do? Signify? Achieve?
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’re partnering with Poynter as they are a renowned media institute and has a long history in providing training and tools for journalists. Additionally, Poynter has a proven track record of partnering on custom certificate programs. In October, we launched four new e-learning courses developed for journalists. In partnership with Poynter, we will enhance and supplement these courses, and develop an assessment element.
What will the certificate program teach? When will it start?
The certificate program will focus on content discovery, story creation and audience engagement, among other topics and Facebook tools, and help journalists use Facebook effectively for their work. They are e-courses and they are free. They began rolling out in October, Facebook is in the process of revising these original courses and working closely with Poynter to incorporate some of their journalistic best practices. From there, Poynter will lead on writing an assessment which we hope to launch soon.
We are curious about the “global listening tour.” What does Facebook hope to achieve, or do, with this tour? Why?
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 with the goal of hearing feedback more regularly and collaborating more deeply with news organizations, not just at the business development level but also at the product development level. 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.
Where will it go? When will it start?
We’ll begin with publishers in the US and Europe in the months ahead. We’ll be in cities like New York, London, Atlanta, Dallas and more, as early as February – and continue to expand globally as the year continues.
How widely and soon will lessons learned be shared and benefits achieved be made available to others?
We are just beginning these efforts but will regularly share updates on this initiative on the hub. This is just the beginning of our effort on that front — we have much more to do.
The Facebook Journalism Project is a big step for Facebook – some sources suggest it is in response to criticism the company has faced over the last while, others suggest it builds on recent steps Facebook has taken to minimise fake news, yet others suggest the company is beginning to own up to its role as a media organisation. What does the Journalism Project mean to Facebook, in all seriousness?
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. That’s why we care so much about journalism, and why we’re launching this program to establish stronger ties between Facebook and the news industry.
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