Yesterday Facebook announced that it’s getting into the newswire business. With so many stories breaking first on social media, it’s a natural fit for the world’s largest social network. But it also marks a further shift toward the introduction of a human hand in the filtering of the information flow we get from social media.
The FB Newswire features posts that are verified by journalists and selected by editors. It’s made possible by a partnership with Storyful, an aggregator and distributor for news content shared on social networks. With offices on three continents, Storyful’s “global team of journalists source, date and geolocate everything, and add uploader contact details to every story.”
As Storyful’s post announcing the deal points out, Facebook users share an estimated 684,478 pieces of content every minute. Most of that ocean of content isn’t news, but often the first eyewitness accounts of important fast-breaking events are buried in the noise. Storyful boasts that its discovery technology monitors the social web and alerts its team when fresh newsworthy content is being shared. After verifying the source, they acquire the necessary rights and re-sell the content to newsrooms and brands.
Facebook hopes that FB Newswire will compete with Twitter as the first place journalists look for images and video of a breaking news event. By verifying the origin of the content, the new service eliminates one step in the reporting process, where speed is a top priority. A contextual description and contact information are provided, which should also speed up the process. And, like Tweet cards, the posts are embeddable.
For Day One, FB Newswire mostly played it safe, posting content from U2, Peter Jackson, and the NYPD, the origins of which is easily confirmed. One photo of an armoured personnel carrier at a pro-Russian checkpoint in troubled eastern Ukraine made it into the mix, shared by Polish journalist Piotr Andrusieczko. Two hours later, the service posted a photo by Dancing with the Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba about a “cat café” in New York, part of a publicity stunt by a cat food company.
If Facebook hopes to compete with Twitter as the go-to source for original from-the-scene newsworthy content, Storyful will have to find the posts that add real information, perspective, and insight to big, fast-breaking stories. It will take a lot more than the latest cat café photo to carve out a place for FB Newswire in the future of news, but the decision to rely on real human journalists as filters may prove to be a key differentiator for the new service.