I’m sure most of you have heard about Facebook’s plan to launch a dedicated news tab over the next couple of months. The news section will display content from a selected group of publishers, whose content will be licensed by Facebook for content licensing rights.  We have a look at how the new tab will affect the media industry.

What we know about the upcoming news tab

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is planning to introduce a separate section on its network for news stories, and will pay the likes of the New York Times, The Washington Post and Dow Jones “as much as $3 million” for the privilege. A spokesperson for Facebook then confirmed the plans for the news tab on Twitter.

The news tab will allegedly display news headlines and short previews of articles, with links to read the full story on the publisher’s website. It will be free for users, but Facebook will pay publishers for their content.

Should news publishers trust Facebook?

Facebook and trustworthy news; not something many of us may use in the same sentence these days. From the Cambridge Analytica scandal to the rise of misinformation and election meddling accusations, Facebook hasn’t had the best reputation as a trusted news source over the last few years.

As for publishers, trust in Facebook as a reliable channel for traffic generation and brand growth has been waning with every new algorithm update.

At its peak, Facebook was a huge traffic generator for many publishers, to the point that Buzzfeed famously claimed Facebook was its biggest traffic source, overtaking Google.

Facebook then updated its algorithm, drastically cutting the number of users it showed business posts to. This was to push more businesses to advertise on the platform, and favour content that keeps people on its platform for longer (videos) over content that takes them to a third-party website (link posts). This change had a huge effect on publishers – cutting their traffic by half, which impacted ad revenues and bottom lines for many.

What the news tab could mean for publishers

The news tab is a very interesting move from Facebook because, unlike its efforts in the past to keep users spending as much time on Facebook as possible, it will encourage users to leave Facebook to read a news article on a third-party website. This is something Facebook has previously worked very hard to avoid.

For publishers, this is great news. The tab could provide them with a new way to generate web traffic and could be great for ad revenues.

Having a dedicated section for news could mean publishers no longer have to worry about the main Facebook feed, where they have to compete with every other user for their content to be seen. Instead, they may have to put their efforts into reworking their headlines and article blurbs, and make them as irresistible as possible to entice users to click through to their websites.

Written by Dija Mulla