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Facebook rolls out 'Breaking News' label globally and says it's driving publisher traffic


By John McCarthy | Media editor

November 1, 2018 | 4 min read

Facebook has expanded its 'Breaking News' label as it looks to help users identify the timeliest stories circulating its network. As well as boosting its own news credentials among readers, the social network is pitching the move as a way for publishers to boost their traffic.


The Facebook Breaking News label

The social network has been testing the feature with prominent publishers in North America since 2017 and has introduced more than 100 titles from across the world to tag their stories as 'breaking news'. These labels help indicate to users the stories that may be most pressing for them, with each label tagged at a maximum of six hours.

In addition to helping users identify the most cutting content, publishers have also seen a rise in clickthroughs as a result of the feature. In the US and Canada from 8 August to 19 September, clickthrough was up 8%, likes up 2% and shares up 10% on average.

Alex Hardiman, head of news products at Facebook went into great detail, she outlined that the Facebook NewsFeed lists content by relevancy, not chronology (a major differentiator from Twitter which is also experimenting in the middle).

She outlined the problem, which may contribute to some of the misinformation issues on the site.

"When a news story stretches across multiple days and multiple updates, people on Facebook can end up getting that story in scattered, potentially out-of-order bits and pieces. People might see reports on the trapped teens, but then wouldn’t have a way of knowing if those were the latest or most crucial updates."

The below chart shows how the network is approaching the problem, helping to order the stories as readers see them.

Breaking News Chart

Initial tests in North America saw the feature levied in the Mueller investigation and the Thai cave rescue.

Joey Rhyu, product manager at Facebook, said: "When people see news on Facebook, they want to easily identify when it is timely. And news publishers have told us they want help highlighting urgent news stories on Facebook.

"In the test period, we've seen that breaking news posts about politics, crime, disaster, and business perform best. We're using data like this to help publishers understand how to use the label to connect people with the breaking news that they need to see most."

The social network claims it has also had positive feedback from users about more clearly visualising the importance of these select stories.

As an added precaution to protect the feature from abuse, users can report pieces they feel was mislabelled as breaking news.

Meanwhile, the network is looking to encourage advertisers to buy up space in 'Stories' amid its NewsFeed hitting capacity. This shift may have wider ramifications with how users consume news on the site.

These tests show how Facebook is acting to improve the site's health following it receiving a girthy fine for the Cambridge Analytica leak, overstating advertiser metrics, and compromising the data of 29m users.

It has embraced UK political veteran Nick Clegg to handle its global policy issues and steer it through controversy.

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