Facebook will create a section for ‘hard news video’ within Watch

Since joining Facebook as its head of news partnerships early last year, former CNN anchor Campbell Brown’s two priorities are: (1) to help publishers improve the revenue they generate from the content they distribute on the social network and (2) to increase the visibility of higher-quality sources of news on the social network

On Monday, Brown offered details on two ways she will try to satisfy those ambitions.

First, Facebook will experiment with a section within its Watch video hub dedicated to “hard news video,” Brown said on stage at Recode’s Code Media conference in Huntington Beach, California. In addition to being a destination for people seeking out news videos, the section will also serve as an opportunity for Facebook to highlight coverage of breaking news events, she said.

Details of the test, such as when it will roll out and to how many of Facebook’s users, are scarce. Also unclear is how Facebook will try to ensure that Watch’s hard news section drives not only viewers but revenue for publishers. For example, will Facebook sell ads against these videos differently from other videos on its platform, such as by putting a velvet rope around this inventory and pitching it at a premium to advertisers? And how will Facebook direct its users’ attention to Watch’s hard news section at a time when those users are still becoming aware of Watch’s existence in the first place?

Asked if Facebook will monetize videos in Watch’s hard news section differently from other videos and how the company will raise awareness of the section, “I don’t know,” said Brown.

Brown had more details to share about another way that Facebook is looking to help publishers make money.

Paywall program will extend to iOS

In October, Facebook announced it would begin testing a program for publishers to put up metered paywalls around their Instant Articles. But at the time, that test was to be limited to people viewing those articles through Facebook’s Android app and would not include people using its iOS because of an impasse with Apple regarding the iPhone maker’s 30 percent tax on apps’ subscription revenue. Facebook has resolved the issue, and the Instant Article paywall program will roll out to users of its iOS app on March 1, said Brown.

“Explore” feed testing continues

Facebook’s head of news feed, Adam Mosseri, offered an update on a different kind of wall that Facebook is testing.

Last year, Facebook confirmed that it was experimenting with extricating organic content from publishers — and all other Pages — from the regular news feed and placing it within its own separate feed called “Explore.” Despite the initial backlash, Facebook has not given up on that experiment. The company continues to run the test in roughly a half-dozen countries that are home to a “small percentage” of users and “evaluating it on a regular basis,” said Mosseri.

As to whether Facebook will expand that test to more users or officially wall off Page posts into a separate Explore feed, Mosseri said he had “nothing new to announce” and that he hopes to resolve the experiment “within the next few weeks,” without any indication of what exactly that may mean and how it relates to the company’s recent de-emphasis of public Page posts within people’s news feeds.


About The Author

Tim Peterson
Tim Peterson, Third Door Media's Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat's ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar's attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon's ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube's programming strategy, Facebook's ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking's rise; and documented digital video's biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed's branded video production process and Snapchat Discover's ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands' early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo's and Google's search designs and examine the NFL's YouTube and Facebook video strategies.