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Facebook’s Strategy for Investing in Ethical Journalism: Making Friends with Local Media Outlets

by Belfort Group | Thought Leadership
March 30, 2017

Fake news on Facebook is old news. Facebook users have witnessed the following situation firsthand. A friend shares an article as truth that you know is false—causing Facebook to be criticized about its journalistic standards. Since so many people get their news on Facebook, the meteoric spread of Fake News is a real problem.

Facebook is now taking steps to rectify the situation and prove it can be taken seriously by activating its platform to help local news outlets expand their reach and grow their audience—all the while establishing Facebook as a trusted journalistic source through these alliances. According to a recent study by the Media Insight Project, when it comes to news on social media people tend to trust the person sharing the article more than the source. Facebook’s new attempt to capitalize on the same community sharing aspects of storytelling that allowed fake news to spread so quickly, aims to elevate the platform as a reputable and reliable media outlet by allowing local and trusted reporters a greater platform to share their word.

To accomplish this goal, Facebook has been on a national “Listening Tour” stopping in major US cities (so far Atlanta, Dallas, and San Francisco) to cultivate relationships and share knowledge with local media outlets. The effort, among others, stems from the Facebook Journalism Project, launched in January 2017, in swift response to the denunciation of the site for its tolerance of the spread of “fake news” stories.

Facebook’s initiative to invest in local and accurate reporting comes in the wake of Facebook’s own declaration that they are a tech company, rather than a social media company. Facebook could be following in the footsteps of other major tech companies by carving out its own corner of the consumer content market. While Amazon has Prime Video, Google has YouTube and the new, RedTube, Facebook is developing its own network of local media contacts all over the country to establish news credibility. Could these new alliances be in preparation for the new, whispered Facebook “Spotlight” module? Though many speculate Facebook will use its platform to host entertainment type shows, a branded news outlet may also be a logical assumption.

Facebook has the unique advantage of controlling an extremely large audience with technology that holds the power to fuse once very distinct and separate industries together at warp speed. This ability has allowed for unique developments to the platform over the years, like Facebook’s recent venture into retail, for instance. The platform only recently launched the Marketplace feature, which connects users by location to buy and sell anything from clothes to cars. With developments like these, it’s no surprise that Facebook is working its way into other industries that might benefit its user base, like a convenient one-stop shop for reliable news. We look forward to seeing what will transpire as a result of Facebook’s new interest in traditional media and storytelling.

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