Facebook has been coming under fire for how it describes itself recently along with its handling of trending topics and showing (or rather not showing) specific content. Big questions are being asked about the future of the big blue misery machine but for many newsrooms just being seen would be a great problem to have. All content is created equal on Facebook but that’s sadly where the truism ends once it goes into the endless content sausage factory. After content is lovingly crafted in the status editor box and sent into the ether, numerous answers to questions are applied so that Facebook can determine where in the Newsfeed it should be “shown”. Knowing and understanding what is working then becomes mission critical for many news outlets. It would be unfair to say however that the various platforms aren’t offering newsrooms an array of tools to help newsrooms. Below are five such tools that newsrooms are failing to jump on (for a wide variety of reasons). With clear strategies I believe the following tools offer the next way outlets grow audiences, find news ones, make new revenue and reduce risk:
1) Facebook Live…as a programme
Reuters UK is doing a great job of extending the news product runway with Facebook’s live streaming platform, Facebook Live. Beyond simply entertaining a somewhat captive audience the team are smart and mention other products and areas of interest for the viewer during the broadcasts about the markets. Timed well in the morning with a good pace and level of depth the team has a great opportunity create a new audience and then push them around the Reuters ecosystem. NPR, The Verge, The Young Turks and Digiday are also worth a look for inspiration. Telescope.TV and Groovy Gecko offer teams a variety of set-ups should your strategy go beyond simply point and shoot.
ADDITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: Sponsorship, Product Placement, Branded Content, Partnerships, Ads…it all depends on what your brands is comfortable with… and that you don’t break Facebook’s community rules.
2) Instagram (and Snapchat) Stories…as a story
A huge opportunity springs from corporately owned Facebook in the guise of the shockingly copied Snapchat feature but with a few tweaks. Quartz, Cool Hunting and others all show the potential for this sort of reporting tool and reaching the audience that Snapchat and Instagram boast is important for any news organisation. No-one is getting it right straight away but the numbers are impressive.
ADDITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: Terms of Service for Snapchat are different to Instagram but it’s somewhat the Wild West still out there at the moment. So long as anything paid for is labelled ‘promo’ or ‘ad’ (however faint!) it is usually ok. Naturally partnering with either of these monsters (should they ask you) isn’t a bad strategy either.
3) Animated infographic video…as an entire news product
Different brands report different amounts but between 50-85% of videos viewed on Facebook are viewed without sound. A growing trend in the newsfeed is being based around silent video products (audio costs and people are generally using Facebook in a variety of scenarios where sound is undesirable (toilet, bus). GOOD Magazine’s ‘Data Vizeo’ series is a good example.
ADDITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: In-house or externally this can be done efficiently. Companies like Wibbitz (FD: now working with Reuters) offer to create high-quality videos for very little extra work once the story has been created by the editorial team at the news organisation.
4) Facebook 360 Photos/Video…as an extension strategy
You don’t have to buy the $30,000 camera that Facebook have open-sourced to create beautiful and useful videos of news you are covering. Instead, a regular smartphone, Go-pro or a mid-range drone often will create a high-enough quality product. 360 Video projects need to be carefully thought out (sometimes a fly through adds little) but as the cost continues to fall, these interactive products can add new dimensions to reporting.
ADDITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: From sponsorship to product placement – it’s all a question of ethics and transparency…
5) Messenger Chatbots…as a hook to other places
My experience with Chatbots has been clumsy to date but the technology is improving fast and will not always be so creepy and lackluster. A good experiment, with the right product push strategy, could see some significant traffic pushed into downloading an app for example. Chatbots will also likely see a lot of attention now that Facebook has begun allowing payments to be taken through Messenger. Perhaps a new subscription model looms?
ADDITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: Chatbots have the potential to revolutionise the way we consume news…if we let them. Instead of a ‘show us everything and let us decide’ model we could morph news consumption into something entirely new. Perhaps a more ‘choose your own adventure with some weighting’ type scenario feels right or maybe even as a way to personalise your reactive website experience.
Creating a valuable editorial product remains a hard thing to achieve at scale and speed especially for the “snack-news” world we increasingly live in. While there remain some obvious focuses (video) and simple wins for Publishers, it is increasingly clear Facebook wants Publishers to pay to play in their sandbox. While this may be grating, Facebook clearly owns the sand and sandbox – Publishers can get angry and be cautious but you could also choose to create exciting things which, if used correctly, could help you get your target group to want to exit the sandbox.
Paul Armstrong, guest writer for Inside Agency, runs HERE/FORTH an advisory that helps business leaders decide how to best use rapidly changing, disruptive and emerging technologies. Follow Paul on Twitter @paul__armstrong or contact him on hereforth.com.
This article does not express the views of Thomson Reuters. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author.