Making Facebook Make News

Facebook Media and the message.
Facebook is playing catchup. At least that’s what it feels like.

After visiting them last night for the “ONA SF - Facebook Strategies for Online Journalists Meetup,” I get the impression that Facebook wants desperately to be a part of journalists’ lives. But, unlike Twitter, Facebook has yet to be integrated into most news organizations’ daily operation for anything more than promotion. One exception to that rule is NPR.

During his portion of the evening, NPR Senior Strategist Andy Carvin shared some of the many ways they are using Facebook, as well as other social tools, to create, evaluate, and circulate stories to their audience. Additionally, he shared some recent survey results and metrics about audience usage, engagement, and page views.

What I found most important about NPR’s social tools use is that every effort is made to support their broader mission: to create a more informed public. But what I find lacking in their Facebook efforts is not NPR’s fault; it’s Facebook’s.

In the evening’s introduction, Facebook Director of Media Partnerships Justin Osofsky highlighted the resources available on the Facebook + Media page. Sure, there are success stories and best practices, but most point to story distribution and audience engagement. While these are very important for creating and keeping consumers of content, they don’t provide any tools for creating content itself. The next shift for media organizations has to be building social tools for making great content quickly.

Another interesting observation from my trip to Palo Alto was that not one person in the room, during any presentation or subsequent Q&A, said the the word “monetize.” Although I was thankful that the discussion didn’t get hijacked by a debate on how media organizations can make money using Facebook, I was surprised that there was no pragmatic advice on how to effectively and efficiently use limited resources on efforts which yielded no increased income for a struggling industry.

I understand that Facebook is good at letting media brands interact with their users, if they choose to invest the time to do so. What’s more important to me right now, however, is how Facebook, and any other social or online tool, can help news people more easily create good journalism. Twitter is great for breaking news. Facebook is great at sharing news. Who will make it easy to create news? A question that will go unanswered until I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.
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Author  Stephen R. Fox