From Newsstand to Newsfeed: Facebook and the Shift to Mobile

On Wednesday, the keynote speeches of International Journalism Festival took off with one by Andy Mitchell, Director of News and Global Media Partnerships for Facebook.

Mitchell, who brings with him the experience of building the, world’s first constantly updated news website, started with introducing himself as the one responsible for news publications on Facebook, and enumerated a number of world’s leading news brands that are so far present on the social media platform.  CNN was the first of this big number, and it started its partnership with Facebook by enabling a live translation of Barack Obama inauguration ‒ the event that many Americans wanted to see, but couldn’t since it took place on a work day.  Another novelty in which CNN took part was the creation of Recommend button, which first appeared on its website, too. Mitchell remembered how the CNN explained to Facebook tecm, at that time very small, that most of the news couldn’t really be ‘liked’, and suggested giving the news organisations an option to have a ‘recommend’ button, instead.

Moving on to the central part of his keynote speech, the speaker emphasizes the growth of mobile news consumption. The news publications recognise the importance of mobile platforms, are adjusting, and experimenting with new formats of news reporting. And news make a big part of what people communicate about. Facebook is a news source for many people ‒ 88% of millennials get their news from Facebook. And it is not only the source of news, but of opinions, as well.

Mitchell recognises, however, the low quality of mobile news consumption experiences. What Facebook is currently trying to do, is to make this experience better, and as it gets better, people are consuming more news content. Mitchell claims that 50% of referrals to news publications come from Facebook, and continues to explain the works of Facebook newsfeed. He emphasizes that the main function of the newsfeed was to connect people to each other.  Facebook algorithm analyses the kind of content, and the type of content (video, articles, or photos) that users like, and supplies them with more of that content. It shows users stories from the pages they don’t follow based on their interests, and Facebook is currently experimenting with new product such as trends.

Mitchell continues with showing examples of journalists who have created a considerable following through Facebook, like Jörgen Todenhofer, the journalist talking to ISIS soldiers and posting the content natively to Facebook. From individual journalists, he moves on to publications, and talks about Vox, a new explanatory news publication, and describes their interaction with Facebook by creating videos that can be viewed in a mute mode, like the recent interview with President Obama.

The speaker then continues introducing the new products Facebook offers to news publications, like smart publishing and post end dates, and invites the public to join the Facebook news, media and publishing community.

Mitchell then proceeded to answer the questions from the public, and repeatedly emphasized the nature of Facebook as a means to connect people, and not a primary news source. It should not, he concluded, take on itself the responsibilities of the press.

by Daria Sukharchuk