Facebook’s watch platform to be new destination for news

By: | Published: August 6, 2018 4:01 AM

Facebook’s newly launched Watch video platform will become the destination for news on the social network, something it has never had.

Facebook has also been cleaning up the timeline for users. (Reuters)

Facebook’s newly launched Watch video platform will become the destination for news on the social
network, something it has never had. Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of global news partnership, says Watch will be a video-only destination for news, but its goal is not to replace TV. Holding up her phone, Brown reiterates that she’s looking at the smaller screen.

“One of the problems that we’ve had in the past is if there is a big breaking news moment our users don’t know where to go. As it is serendipitous, there is no clear destination for news on Facebook… for video at least Watch will become that,” she told indianexpress.com.

Brown says her India trip has been spent listening to publishers, getting their feedback on product development, training, what we’re doing right what we’re doing wrong.

“I have spent most of my adult life as a working journalist and I care deeply about the future of journalism and making sure that news organisations not only survive, but thrive. I think democracy depends on a thriving, you know, community of journalist. So, that’s my motivation,” says Brown, who has been an active journalist, mostly in television, for well over two decades. “In terms of my role, I think of myself as an advocate for publishers within the company. And I spend most of my time sitting down with publishers. And that’s why I’m here,” says Brown, who might well be the most powerful news editor in the world if you consider that Facebook has over 2.2 billion users now.

Facebook has also been cleaning up the timeline for users. So, while it has taken away the financial incentive to create fake news, it is also giving more priority to what it calls meaningful social interaction — this means friends and family will get priority over everything else in your newsfeed. “We found there was so much content just being put on the platform from other sources, and not just news and entertainment, cat videos, sports, when you name it, that it was crowding out the friends and family sharing,” she adds. In a bid to bring this back, there has been an “overall reduction in public content on the platform”, Brown says, adding how it “was a correction that the company needed to make to ensure that friends and family sharing is, first and foremost, what’s happening on our platform”.

But would this mean losing out on high quality news on the platform? Brown says the attempt now is to push quality over quantity and develop signals that identify quality news sources. She calls this a job in progress and something that is really hard to do. “Because if I asked a roomful of people what’s the definition of quality, you get a whole lot of different answers,” she reasons, adding how the attempt is to look at news organisations that are broadly trusted by surveys of the community. So, these are organisations that people trust, even if they you know, may not align politically with that.”

The other signals are news which is informative for the user and then local sources. “But they are just signals. Yeah, one of many, many, signals that go into determining what appears in a person’s newsfeed.”

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