As Facebook celebrated its tenth anniversary this year, its role in how people consume journalism has changed how news organisations see outreach and engagement on social media, and how audiences consume journalism.
The world’s largest social network has appeared front and centre in the debate to try to answer the question of the best way to engage audiences in news in the 21st century, especially young people, as a report from the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom, released 15 December, saw more 16-24 year olds turning away from television and radio and logging into Facebook.
Three new ways to engage
As the debate on how to best engage continues, innovations continue to be made, including from Facebook itself. On 10 December, the social network gave publishers and media organisations an early Christmas present, unveiling three new features likely to change audience engagement.
The first is interest targeting, which only targets a post to users who like a certain interest. The post would appear in those news feeds, however would also appear as a public post on the publisher’s page.
The second is post end date, which would allow publishers to decide when to remove a post from a user’s News Feed (for example, scores of yesterday’s Premier League matches). Those posts, in spite of being removed from the feed, are still available to be accessed on that organisation’s page.
The third is smart publishing, where frequently shared links from a publisher would appear in the user’s News Feed. Those posts won’t be seen by users, but would allow a new way to measure interest and traffic on the social network, according to a blog post on Facebook’s web site.
— Louise Hosie (@LouiseHosie) December 10, 2014
Most of these tools can be accessed through Facebook on desktop, and smart publishing, Facebook says, is currently available to a limited number of news organisations. It is unclear as to when this would be expanded.
The next click
Although these tools are still being tested, some view the changes as positive, including Gayle Tomlinson, the head of social media for the regional publications of Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Daily Mirror, the Manchester Evening News, the Birmingham Mail and the Western Mail in Wales.
In a telephone interview, Tomlinson said she and the nine social media editors of the publications were assessing what tools would work best. Tomlinson said however that Trinity Mirror was using interest targeting, compared to smart publishing, allowing the ability to target people who want to read that specific content.
“Engagement is better and click through [to the site] is better,” Tomlinson said. “It targets people who are actually interested in the story. If we post a celebrity live story on a news channel, some readers don’t see it as a good fit. If you target it to fans, there will be an appeal [for it].”
Tomlinson says that it comes with a challenge, whether to target a story or post the story publicly for all to see. If a story is targeted, it would also be available to be accessed through the Facebook page.
“Target and interest appeals to us so we can build a local audience on certain issues,” Tomlinson said.
Tomlinson says she and her team are still testing what works, but on the whole the tools would be positive for journalists and organisations on Facebook, and benefits users as they go through their News Feed.
“[It’s] more engaging,” Tomlinson said. “[It’s] more of what Facebook gives them [consumers].”
What do you think? How will these new tools change how journalism is consumed on Facebook? Are these tools for the better? Have your say in the comments section below.