Facebook plans to start a news section for its Watch video platform and is testing content partnerships with about 10 publishers, Axios reported. The social network, which has about 2 billion users worldwide, wants to create its first standalone video programs for national news by working with traditional and digital-first media companies.
While details about the new programming are scarce, Facebook wants content that is at least three minutes long. As the company tests out what works best on its platform, it is also working with publishers to figure out budgets and how to monetize the programming, per Axios.
Campbell Brown, the former news anchor who joined Facebook last year as the head of news partnerships, originally announced the plans to create a video news section at a conference last month. Facebook started the Watch platform in August to compete more directly with other video streaming services, per TechCrunch.
By working with professional media companies to produce video news, Facebook is taking another step toward gaining control over the information that people see on its network. That may help the company weather criticism that it has become an unwitting purveyor of political propaganda, fake news, hate speech and child pornography. A standalone destination for news gives a Facebook a way to guide its users to credible sources on its platform, especially during breaking news, when misinformation tends to spread faster, per Axios. It also gives the social media network a chance to work more strategically with publishers on achieving their branding and monetization goals while opening up new video advertising opportunities.
While Facebook has a massive global reach, detailed audience data and a dominant share of the digital ad market, the company has had a tortured relationship with publishers and news content in general. The company faced criticism for allowing about 3,000 Russian-bought ads about the 2016 U.S. presidential election to be shared and viewed between January 2015 and August 2017. The company revealed that 500 sock-puppet accounts bought the ads to stir up fervor about divisive issues like immigration, gun ownership and LGBT rights, per a blog post.
Over the years, Facebook has added more publisher content to its news feed that appears as a continuous scroll of posts from friends, shared content and ads. The company in January announced a change to the feed that would emphasize more posts from friends and family, which had a chilling effect on publishers that depend on Facebook for most of their viewership. Last month, social publishing startup Little Things shut down after suffering a major decline in Facebook viewership.
Facebook needs to build up its video programming to lure a greater share of ad dollars, especially as media companies are warming up to Google’s YouTube. While Facebook has put less priority on publisher content, YouTube is letting content producers monetize their efforts with direct selling of ads in their videos, per Digiday. Video is a sales driver for publishers, making up about 85% of all third-party revenue, according to Digital Content Next data cited by Digiday.