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Facebook, the newspaper of the future?

JINOY JOSE P | Updated on November 26, 2014 Published on November 26, 2014

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Frankly, more than half my news diet comes from FB now.

Mine too!

But what it has got to do with the future?

Well, your favourite social media platform wants to be the personal ‘newspaper’ for its 1.3 billion users. To this end, early this year, it announced ‘Paper’, a stand-alone app that produces a customised newspaper featuring reports from across the globe. According to futurists, customised, personalised and curated content is the future. And FB, the biggest social media player today, has bigger, broader plans on this front.

Customised news?

Yes. The stream of news you see on your ‘wall’ will be tailored to suit your needs and interests. It will filter all the junk. News consumption will become a very personal affair. And this is what Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg meant a few days ago when he said his goal was to make Facebook “the perfect personalised newspaper for every person in the world”. His idea is simple. Unlike a newspaper, Facebook can tailor its news feed to the interests of the individual, delivering a mix of world news, events and updates about friends or family. That would mean more eyeballs, enhancing consumer loyalty. And that also means more revenues from advertisements.

But who’ll personalise it?

The algorithm; it will scan your keywords, likes, comments, friends list and other elements to come up with what kind of news you’d like to read. As the algorithm gets perfected, you’ll be missing zilch in terms of what you want to read about.

Is the personalised paper a new idea?

Not exactly. But it’s an idea whose time has just come. A few digital platforms offer similar services. Take paper.li for instance. It helps you create an online newspaper based on your social media feeds, keywords, and any topic of your interest in an easily organisable and negotiable fashion. Paper.li — which has been in action for over four years now and publishes more than 200 million articles a day — claims to be a content curation service, something Facebook too is trying to be. The difference is, in services such as paper.li, the organising is first done by the user. Once the user sets the criteria, the algorithm will take control, producing the newspaper for you every day. But with FB, it’s done by the algorithm.

But Facebook won’t be producing content like a media company, right?

It won’t, as things stand now. But the entire cyberspace is deluged by all kinds of content today and consumers are bombarded with a lot of stuff they just don’t want to see. Studies show that what is lacking in this space is the presence of a quality gatekeeper. That’s where Facebook enters. It has already tweaked its Feed algorithm to weed out cat photos and memos.

Yes, I have noticed that. I hate cats, anyway.

Zuckerberg now wants content creators to post their articles directly to its mobile app so that it can curate it and deliver it to users via news feed. This, Facebook feels, will save bandwidth and time and can help publishers win more readers for longer-durations. And that means business.

Appears to be a win-win deal...

Not to all. Some — like Chris Duncan, chief marketing officer of News UK (an arm of News Corp) — feel this would mean giving away content control to Facebook. He calls posting content directly to FB a ridiculous idea. He terms it “a tax on navigation” and a “tax on audience”. For those publishers who have pay-to-access content, it’s a further tricky situation as it’s unlikely that FB users would entertain a pay wall. But these issues can be sorted out by technology.

And once that’s achieved, it will change the business of news delivery like never before, changing the contours of traditional media business forever, say media theorists. So, watch your feed!

Published on November 26, 2014
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