Facebook newsfeed feeds the news

By Louis Eksteen

Another new media milestone was reached 10 days ago when web research company Parse.ly announced Facebook has overtaken Google as a referral source for news. The newsfeed now delivers proper news, in addition to breaded cats.

Facebook has certainly become my favourite real news source. Following events unfolding has become so much easier, because Facebook’s algorithms learn what you respond to and intuitively delivers what you want. This means the days of print publishers doing research after the fact about reader habits is simply no longer valid.

Analysing Facebook link trends to stories and news provides much better insights into who the followers of a particular news source are, compared to traditional readership research.

What I also like about Facebook’s news referral capability is that good, but old stories seem to pop back into one’s personal news feed via friend likes. Take this example from Business Insider about a Mad Man’s perspective on life as a creative in an agency. Without a referral system to news sources, a gem such as this would have disappeared. (By the way, Business Insider itself understands the fundamentals of the new newsroom. Advertising’s out. Value-adding product sales is in. The news is just a conduit.)

My father was an avid reader of newspapers. As a lexicographer he followed word use in general media and scissored interesting snippets from newspapers and magazines for dictionary use later. Today, a quick scan of Facebook’s newsfeed reveals a much richer array than any one person can fathom on her own.

Not many people gave Facebook a chance in the referral news game. But what Zuck and Co perfected is the value of a published story in a context as vast as Facebook. By simply Liking a news source you value, you will be able to quickscan your own newsfeed and read the source article from within Facebook itself.

So powerful has Facebook become in news sourcing that it’s virtually unthinkable for stories not to be published to a medium’s Facebook Page for inclusion in fan newsfeeds.

The impact of a media business model that tries to generate revenue from advertising in a traditional digital sense is thus in serious trouble. News wants to be free. Read all about it in your Facebook newsfeed.

On a side note, check out Facebook’s new digital assistant M. Powered by AI and real people in a hybrid model, it’s an interesting experiment in an entirely new direction for Facebook.