As other social networks look to mine the intrinsic link between social media and news, Facebook hopes to steal a march on its rivals by wooing journalists with the launch of Blueprint, a training and feedback programme which marks its "commitment to be collaborative" moving forward.
The free online courses are designed to help journalists find and repurpose content before it goes viral across both Facebook and Instagram as the social giant attempts to tease out a breaking news platform which competitor Twitter has built much of its growth upon.
“There is an appetite for finding content before it goes viral, before it trends, and in a breaking news scenario,” says Aine Kerr, manager of journalism partnerships.
There are three core pillars to the Blueprint update: helping journalists find user-generated rich images, video and text that is newsworthy, verify and repurpose it; decide which products of its portfolio including Live, 360, mentions, Instant Articles fits the content; and help them build an audience around this.
The courses will vary from the initial steps of getting set up on Facebook, how to get verified, how to alter privacy settings so you can communicate both publicly and privately. More in-depth courses include product tutorials on Facebook Live, 360 Video and Photos and Instant Articles, as well as navigating Live Maps, advanced keyword searches and hashtag searches on Facebook and Instagram, working out the timestamp of a post and geocontent.
Geolocation is what Kerr believes makes Instagram “one of the most accessible platforms for journalists”, since many users geotag their posts, makes it easy for journalists to establish the date, source and location of a piece of content, and verify its worth.
The idea is for Facebook to act as a “one stop shop” for journalists and editors, says Kerr, who sees this as the beginning of its “open conversation with journalists”. The most important thing, she says, is to make sure journalists “really understand the power of this platform”. It is emblematic of Facebook’s move away from social network and into media owner, as evidenced by its push into live video and by its content hub Instant Articles.
That said, there are no immediate plans to change the way breaking news content is pushed out on the platform, to make it more of an immediate feed like its competitor Twitter. Andy Mitchell, global news partnerships director, references Facebook’s ‘News Feed Values’ which announced in summer, putting friends and family first, and the “need to inform people” second. At the time it meant publishers slipped down in prominence, meaning a likely decline in reach and referral traffic. It didn’t go down well with content producers, but Facebook is showing no signs of changing this.
“This is more about enabling [journalists] with the tools to publish themselves on that platform rather than the platform changing to accommodate that,” says Kerr.