How Facebook plans to help publishers, journalists and advertisers

Facebook is looking at improving the integrity of its news feed as the company strengthens its offerings for users and publishers said the company’s Adam Mosseri on his recent visit to Sydney.

The vice president in charge of Facebook’s news feed service made his comments the day before News Corp’s CEO, Robert Thomson, flagged the media company is looking to digital subscriptions from online platforms for future revenue in the face of ongoing declines.

As Facebook’s most senior company executive to visit Australia to date, Mosseri described how the company is working with media organisations and explained how it was improving its news feed with measures to combat spammers, ‘false news’, and click bait content.

Mosseri: Facebook is trying to get people out of their filter bubbles

Mosseri admitted he had spoken to local News Corp executives on his Australian visit: “It was good, we had some good conversations,” he said, despite the media company’s criticism of Facebook and other online online platforms recently.

His visit was part of a company-wide strategy to engage with the media: “We’ve been making a concerted effort to travel more and make ourselves more available to the media industry – most importantly for the news industry.

“News organisations can’t survive – not to mention thrive – without meaningful monetisation to pay for news, which is not cheap to produce. So we’re exploring mid-roll ads on videos, we’re exploring subscriptions with a number of partners.”

Mosseri’s comments about mid-roll ads are timely with the US launch of the platform’s Watch service last week which allows users to curate feeds, and publishers to release video serials on the platform.

While his role doesn’t cover Facebook’s advertising services, Mosseri sees the news feed improvements as enhancing the company’s offering to marketers, particularly in reducing what he calls ‘false news’.

“It’s bad for business. People don’t want false news, people don’t want to be mislead, so we don’t want any part of it and we don’t want it on our platform. We always listen to our community and we’ve heard loud and clear.

“It erodes trust in our platform, not just with readers but with publishers and advertisers and we’re an ad-based business, so that can be really painful.

“The goal is pretty close [between Facebook’s ad and news feed systems], we really want to show people ads they are interested in. So we use signals to predict what people are actually interested in.”

Facebook is also experimenting with features to encourage users out of their filter bubbles, notably with the Explorer feature – internally known as Discovery Surface – which it started rolling out earlier this year.

“Explorer can be a space where you can learn about stuff from publishers you haven’t connected with yet.

Facebook Explorer Feature

“This will either be something either that is incremental or valuable for people so we will launch it or it won’t – in which case we’ll sunset it quietly – this is something we haven’t talked about before.”

Supporting a healthy news ecosystem where journalism can thrive on the platform is part of Mosseri’s job: “One of the reasons why I’ve been travelling so much is to explain how the news feed works, journalists and news organisations can only make informed decisions about how to leverage our platform if they understand how it works.

“Helping news organisations tell more compelling stories in new formats to basically cut through the noise,” he said. “People are inundated with information today.”

Local coverage of issues is one of the key problems Mosseri sees: “We have a team dedicated to local news, that’s meeting with regional publishers in a number of different markets to see how we can help and collaborate.

“To be honest, we don’t have the answers. Local news is suffering more than national news in every country I have been to. Local news is the foundation for local communities.

“I’m bullish about the ideas we currently have, but I want to acknowledge I think we are behind and we need to move a lot more quickly.”

A common criticism of Facebook is over enthusiastic censorship of posts, particular those featuring mainstream topics like breastfeeding. Mosseri agreed there is work to do on that front.

“I think we get criticism for being too conservative and taking too much down and from the other side for not taking too much down. I think that’s natural that different markets will value different things.

“Our community standards are something we’re continually iterating on, we are always looking to improve by taking new information as we come along, we’re just going to continue to take feedback and try to do the best we can, try to reduce mistakes and be honest and apologetic when we make mistakes so we can move forward.”

Facebook, Google and monetisation will be discussed at the upcoming Publish conference. Be among the first to hear more by signing up for the Publish newsletter here. 


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