Facebook plots new ways to help people find news on Facebook — including ‘trusted’ sources list

Behind Local News
Jun 16 · 5 min read

Facebook is drawing up a list of trustworthy news sources worldwide and plans to give organisations making the cut special treatment in the future.

The company’s European director of news partnerships told an editor’s conference that the organisation was committed to supporting journalism — and promised more opportunities to create a sustainable business on the platform.

Jesper Doub, who was known to be one of Facebook’s more vocal critics in his previous role as CEO of German media giant Spiegel Online, set out the plans to provide additional support to legitimate publishers at the Global Editors Network Conference in Athens this weekend.

He told Matt Kelly, Archant’s Chief Content Officer: “We want to make sure that the content is worth the time that people are spending on it and we want to make sure that we have more trustworthy content on the platform.

“One of the things I asked as a publisher is why don’t you put the trustworthy sources on a list so that you know who they are and then you treat these guys different from the rest of the people on Facebook. We actually are doing this.

“It is available in English Spanish German and it’s constantly rolling out. We have the ambitious goal to be globally globally available in every language that we support.

“In general, it looks at your page, and if you are adhering to journalistic standards, if you can be verified so that you actually exist and not are a troll farm somewhere in the world posing as a news outlet or a pro-gun propaganda agency or whatever you are.

“But if you are into professional journalism then you will be allowed onto that list and we’re looking at treating the people and their organisations on this list differently when it comes to traffic monetisation and access to features.

Jesper on stage at GEN with Matt Kelly (right) of Archant

“This is not just for like the New York Times or Spiegel of this world but also for individual journalists and bloggers and start ups because it’s not about size. It is making sure that you are into professional journalism and that you are a trusted source that adheres to these standards.”

Jesper added: “It’s kind of a premium for journalism, but if you’re not on that list it does not mean you cannot be on Facebook.

“If you are on the list, what you get access to so something like the breaking news label that we just tested and have rolled out which is important for people and to show up higher in the ranking.”

The rules which govern the list will be fraught with challenges for Facebook however, as the company will have to determine who does and doesn’t qualify for the list. Asked whether Russia Today, for example, would appear on the list, Jesper said the focus would be on publishers which are ‘independent’ of state control.

Jesper also told the audience that he felt publishers were now better off as a result of the changes Facebook made last year to the prominence it gives news, despite many publishers seeing a drop in traffic as a result.

He said: “It came as a surprise and in hindsight it was probably not well communicated. Partners weren’t prepared. I was on the partner side at the time, and I did not know what was going on didn’t know whether this would have declined forever or if it would ever stop.

“From a Facebook perspective it actually was successful because the the way that people behaved on the platform was moving in the wrong direction and was becoming more and more random and not meaningful.

“It actually is also successful for publishers. You might not see these big spikes in traffic but if you look back and look how they were created, it was very much the clickbait stuff like these are the ‘10 things that you should do in the town, the third one made me cry’ where people just clicked on it and were disappointed. This is actually the stuff that we don’t think should be on the platform.

“We are down ranking things that actually are not meaningful to people. So if it is something that is over promising and then doesn’t deliver it on a backhand but by the users behaviour this is something that we actually are ranking down.”

Matt, who told Jasper during their ‘fireside chat’ session at the GEN conference that his company Archant had barely seen referral levels from Facebook move in the last 18 months, and asked what steps Facebook was taking to promote local journalism.

The Today feature which has been rolled out across the USA

Jesper said: “One of the things that we are testing in the US market is a feature that call is called ‘Today’ and it allows you to pick either your hometown because you might care about that one or the local town you’re in at that very moment.

“It will give you news from the local sources. It will give you the community — the council announcements, school news, sports events everything that is happening locally.

“What we’ve seen in the US with the studies on the news deserts is that there are areas where it’s really really difficult to find substantial news around communities.”

At the Online News Association in September last year, Facebook reported that the Today service had led to an increase in visitors to the news sites of those involved.

The $6m investment in the UK’s community reporters scheme, brokered by major publishers, the NCTJ and Facebook last year, was also cited by Jesper, along with a scheme costing $2m to find new subscription options for German publishers.

>> How Facebook plans to help people find the news which might not make the algorithm cut

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