For a long time, I knew—as well as many of my peers—that Facebook’s role in our lives went far beyond likes and pictures posted by our family and friends. It’s always been a news source and an integral part in the media ecosystem.
Until its recent announcement of its new Journalism Project, Facebook has largely ignored its responsibility as a major news media player. To help remedy that, Facebook is going to offer three sets of tools to develop an expanded relationship with news organizations and content publishers (brands or individuals) that will allow:
1) Collaborative development of news products
2) Training and tools for journalists
3) Training and tools for everyone.
As a former journalist, I can’t imagine the challenges Facebook faces trying to identify and sift out fake news. During the recent presidential election, fake news may have even swayed the vote in favor of Donald Trump.
Many media outlets rely on Facebook for real-time public reactions, story ideas and even a peek inside an NFL locker room. Facebook also serves as a major distribution platform for media outlets and brands. All of these publishers are vying for eyeballs and need Facebook’s audience; a true Catch 22. With the Journalist Project, Facebook has essentially provided a peace offering to those who view Facebook as indispensable, but are wary of their dependence on the platform and Facebook’s constant algorithm changes. Nevertheless, here we are, finally, with Facebook making an effort to reach across the aisle.
This announcement also means Facebook will partner and collaborate with large media companies like Vox Media and The Washington Post. In the past, Facebook would roll out new features without consulting media companies or brands leaving everyone to fend for themselves and conform to Facebook. This initiative promises to bring everyone and Facebook together to work on solutions.
So, what does all this mean for public relations?
With video and Facebook Live becoming increasingly popular, and because Facebook rewards posting such content, Facebook’s collaboration with media companies is worth keeping an eye on.
Facebook has also expressed interest in working with the media to build products for local news and independent news media, which could help supplement traditional news coverage with a digital component.
The biggest takeaway from the project announcement is Facebook consciously working with its users and the media and no longer dictating the terms. That operational shift could benefit all parties, a win for publishers is a win for Facebook.