Facebook is promising publishers “better targeting” and “more intelligence” with the launch of a suite of tools it hopes convinces them to invest more resources into distributing content across the network.
The company unveiled the products this evening (10 December), presenting them as a reaction to concerns media owners have expressed in recent months. From overposting content to the challenges of creating a viral post, publishers have waded warily into Facebook’s eco-system as they look to uncover new ways to boost traffic.
The tools will address these challenges, according to the social network, following workshops with publishers and a series of beta tests earlier in the year. But the products will not spark a “fundamental” shift in relations with the industry, insisted Facebook, with articles still hosted in its mobile browser, which links back to publishers’ sites.
News is finding a bigger audience on Facebook, according to Quantcast, which found the social network to be responsible for nearly a quarter of referrals to news sites. Facebook expects the figure to grow even more next year and wants the tools to “encourage publishers to develop and distribute their content” across its network.
To win over publishers, the technology business is sharing anonymised interest-based data with the promise of better targeting. It has beefed up its “Domain Insights” tool, offering deeper URL-level reporting as well a feature that notifies publishers when other pages and influencers share their posts. Media owners can see referral traffic to their site from Facebook as well as an audience breakdown that extends to fans’ friends that share articles, for example.
Secondly, publishers can now use "Interest Targeting” to push articles to smaller sub sets of their followers in a similar way to how Facebook advertisers already target their ads. For instance, a media owner could use the tool to serve a story about a sports game that will only be shown to people that like the teams playing.
Another product lets publishers specify a day and time to prevent posts appearing in News Feeds. The aim of the “Post End Date” tool is to slash the number of people of seeing out-of-date posts in their feeds, while the same posts will continue to appear on users’ Pages.
The “Smart Publishing” product is being promoted to publishers as away to understand how articles go viral on the platform. A lot of publishers want to know “what content is really taking off”, claimed Facebook but until now they have not had the level of insight needed to identify their most popular stories and who they are being shared by. For those viral stories not yet published on Facebook, the social network will republish on behalf of publishers and promises to boost their organic reach as a result.
The service is currently available to limited number of media organisations but the company said it hopes to make it more widely accessible in the coming months.
Speaking to The Drum, director of news and global media partnerships Andy Mitchell said: “What we’re accomplishing is empowering our publishers to understand their audiences better and adopt a refined way for how they publish and distribute content [on Facebook]. It’s about allowing them to maximise the audience they reach on Facebook.”
The launch follows reports in October that Facebook is to offer publishers a revenue share deal to host articles directly on its app. While such a venture would give content creators access to the social site’s 546 million daily active mobile users, it could cut traffic to their sites and give Facebook access to key user data.
The tools it has launched will not involve any revenue share deal, according to Facebook and will give publishers far more access to data than they have previously had.
Facebook’s charm offensive on the publishing industry forms part of a wider play to keep users within its own eco-system, particularly on mobile. The prospect of editorial content from well-established titles combined with Instagram and WhatsApp, reflect Facebook's broadening scope beyond its core social network premise. It is a strategy also adopted by Twitter as both look to exploit Google’s stuttering mobile business in order to become the premier platform for advertiser content.