Facebook Still Wants to be a Media Company with a Newsroom

Michael K. Spencer
Aug 21 · 6 min read

In spite of nearly unlimited advertising revenue, Facebook has made a lot of very bad to exceedingly poor decisions. It’s realistically given Mark Zuckerberg an unlimited blank slate for failure.

Misinformation and making sure it doesn’t push misinformation are among those failures, but Facebook still (and always) appears to have plans for news, news curation, and video — in spite of really not thinking it through very well.

Facebook’s newsroom has imploded many times, but it’s always trying to do something. Despite plans to hire humans for news curation (like Linkedin does for Microsoft), the company said most aspects of the new project will remain algorithmic. That’s pretty confusing.

Got to love where the older Gen X and Baby boomers now hang out.

Yep, you guessed it, that’s on the legacy Facebook app. Those generations actually still watch the News.

Facebook has long relied on algorithms to select news stories for its users to see. But that story doesn’t always turn out that well! Without humans a lot of the content that trends isn’t even accurate and can be prone to foreign agents hacking western democracy, as we saw in 2016, before and since.

Facebook Must Hate the News

Facebook is a musical chair of online news strategy. It did not say how many journalists it plans to hire. The new deal will curate the News Tab, a separate product from Facebook’s News Feed that will appear only in the mobile app. Make sense?

Facebook literally always seems to be in talks with publishers, and things are slow to change or actually happen. For news lovers, it’s gotten a bit ridiculous. YouTube is at least reliable with algos that recommend what we like! Facebook has no idea how to balance personal groups and our curiosity about the wider world, sadly.

Facebook said it planned to hire seasoned journalists from various outlets for the roles and would put up job postings on its employment board in August 2019. But this is not the first time we’ve seen this kind of merry-go-round. With so many changes in management, Facebook is always re-creating the wheel. In recent years, there’s been a serious exodus of talent from Facebook as well.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Facebook and Apple Want Content Licensing Deals

In recent months, Facebook has been pitching content licensing deals worth millions of dollars a year to publishers for its reimagined news module. For the general public, it’s a confusing process without much transparency .

Aside from an interest in paying publishers, the News Tab is a reincarnation of Trending Topics, a previous Facebook product that algorithmically selected widely shared news stories and repackaged them under headlines written by editors. It’s all very sad to see what algos have done to Media, and I’m not sure Facebook, Apple or Google care all that much about journalism jobs.

With News publications going behind paywalls, it’s not the information utopia promised to us in the mid 90s, that the internet was going to democratize media, freedom online and fulfill our curiosity. Instead, we’ve been force fed Ads, porn, dating apps and a lot of algorithms going in the direction of censorship. Facebook has also dismantled our trust online.

Facebook’s painful history with bias is obvious. Trending Topics became a genesis point for now-familiar complaints that Facebook is biased against conservative views (Google also suffers from this). Facebook later fired the human curators involved in the project and left its oversight to engineers, a decision that may cast a shadow over its News Tab efforts.

Photo by Lee Campbell on Unsplash

Facebook as a Failed Media Company

Facebook doesn’t admit it’s a Media company, because it’s so terribly bad at it.

I have to do mental gymnastics though to understand it all.

  • News Tab is part of the company’s effort to highlight real-time journalism and news.
  • It will exist outside of the News Feed, Facebook’s never-ending stream of status updates and friend requests.
  • Facebook thinks stories are the new News Feed but have failed to create a long-form video-based product that’s relevant, trending or helps deliver news.

Facebook has basically become a digital wasteland of the past and all that’s wrong and superficial about being online. That being said, Facebook Marketplace, Facebook Events, Facebook Groups, and Facebook Live have some limited if useful applications for global citizens.

Facebook, in spite of a huge ecosystem of Billions of users, seems to always teeter and flirt on the edge of irrelevance in an age of information overload, digital burnout, echo bubble prisons, and data harvesting fraud.

That being said, long live the News Tab. News Tab will not be agnostic to user preferences. The News Tab hopes to be or provide a personalized, highly relevant experience for people. What does that even mean in 2019 for news lovers?

Photo by Matthew Guay on Unsplash

Can a News Tab Save News on Facebook?

Many tech companies hire human editors and curators: LinkedIn employs a staff of writers and editors to produce their own curated summaries of their media partners. It’s pretty awful but I still like it since I’m just a LinkedIn lover in general.

Facebook is a whole different story. Facebook recently revealed that China was behind Facebook pages and groups that were sowing disinformation about the protests in Hong Kong. The fact that this can still even happen shows Facebook’s impossibility to moderate and audit itself.

Facebook should not be in charge or have an algorithmic power that influences what News we are exposed to. How do you trust ad platforms like Google, Facebook or Twitter to deliver us News? It’s just so ridiculous and wrong. We need independent regulated platforms that are news specific for that if we value real media companies and the freedom of information.

Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn make a mockery of what news has become. Tech publications simply all share their own versions of the same story in a news cycle that lacks depth, varied perspectives and is choked full of clickbait and advertising and paywalls. When centralized platforms have killed local media and community regional newspapers, the world is more isolated than ever (not connected).

Facebook still wants to dominate how we consume and get our news. In 2019, curating the news is an even trickier business for Facebook than ever. But Facebook has no problem making the same mistakes again.

Photo by Keenan Constance on Unsplash

Facebook’s Vortex of Mistrust

Facebook is now working to restore its reputation as a place where people can find trusted sources of information, but the damage has been done for America. The American media, tech monopolies, and democracy are almost a laughable chaos of internal dysfunction and a parade of stupidity.

That doesn’t sound like a place where the media is not on the decline. Facebook has been a significant bad actor for creating social unrest in the United States as a weaponized platform by foreign agents. T

That doesn’t go together with the news. That Facebook wants to be a newsroom again shows the profound and regrettable ignorance of its founders and leaders as we approach the 2020 elections.

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FutureSin

Futurism articles bent on cultivating an awareness of exponential technologies while exploring the 4th industrial revolution.

Michael K. Spencer

Written by

Blockchain Mark Consultant, tech Futurist, a prolific writer. Always writing. 🌞 DM me on Twitter for quotes: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelkspencer/

FutureSin

FutureSin

Futurism articles bent on cultivating an awareness of exponential technologies while exploring the 4th industrial revolution.

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