Facebook now prioritizes original news reporting

In a win for original news reporting from reputable media organizations, Facebook launched a change in the kinds of stories you should see in your News Feed.

Activating this much-needed update to their news algorithm comes amidst criticism of how Facebook is managing (or rather, mismanaging) other kinds of content, most notably, hate speech. In fact, some of the platforms largest advertisers are now reassessing and adjusting their business relationships with Facebook.

Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Hershey, Honda, Eddie Bauer, North Face, Levi Strauss, Ben & Jerry’s, Verizon and others are either reviewing their ad buys or they’ve already paused, pulled or significantly curtailed advertising on Facebook.

Although not a direct response to the hate speech problem, Facebook’s change to the way to pull in original news content couldn’t come at a better time. Some of what actually classified as “news” over the last several years was classified as hate speech. Cloaked as “real” news, these stories originated from nonreputable sources and creeped into our News Feeds.

Facebook needs more good news — more good news in their News Feed as well as more good news about Facebook.

In a post to Facebook’s newsroom last week, Campbell Brown, vice president for global news partnerships, and Jon Levin, product manager, cited demands from users for more stories that are credible and informative.

Thanks to user research and feedback from news publishers, Facebook updated the way news is ranked in our News Feeds. The algorithm now selects original reporting and stories with clear authorship. In other words, we know what outlet published the content and we know who wrote it (e.g., journalists, columnists, etc.).

“We will now prioritize articles in News Feed that we identify as original reporting on a developing story or topic,” Brown and Levin said. “We do this by looking at groups of articles on a particular story topic and identifying the ones most often cited as the original source. We’ll start by identifying original reporting in English language news and will do the same for news in other languages in the future.”

Facebook also plans to downgrade news content that doesn’t contain publicly available information about a publisher or editorial staff.

“We will review news articles for bylines or a staff page on the publisher’s website that lists the first and last names of reporters or other editorial staff,” Brown and Levin added. “We’ve found that publishers who do not include this information often lack credibility to readers and produce content with clickbait or ad farms, all content people tell us they don’t want to see on Facebook.”

The hope is that original news and reporting we expect to see from credible sources (e.g., Tribune Chronicle, The Vindicator, etc.) will see an increase in distribution as a result of these changes.

The other solution to the News Feed issue is to go right to the source — you know, like reading this column at tribtoday.com or vindy.com.

However, if you’re getting news via Facebook, don’t expect overnight changes to your feed.

“It’s important to remember that News Feed uses a variety of ranking signals to prioritize content,” Campbell and Levin added. In other words, it’s possible that some less-than-credible stories will occasionally appear.

To learn more about this change, search Facebook’s Journalism Project at www.facebook.com/ jour nalismproject for their article entitled “News Feed Today.”

Dr. Adam Earnheardt is a professor of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn.com.


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