Nowadays, Facebook is either the protector or destroyer of journalism. Everyweek, around 600 million people see a news story as Trending new...
Nowadays, Facebook is either the protector or destroyer of journalism. Everyweek, around 600 million people see a news story as Trending news on Facebook. And the founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg wants to monopolize digital news distribution via social network. He said to his users last years that “When news is as fast as everything else on Facebook, people will naturally read a lot more news,” and also added that he wants Facebook Instant Articles to be the “primary news experience people have.”
Facebook’s strong control over the traffic pipe has pushed digital publishers into an apprehensive cooperation with the $350 billion giant, and the news business has been caught up in a jittery debate about what, actually, the company’s intentions are. Will Facebook swallow the business whole, or does it really just want publishers to put specific things in its' users’ news feeds? For this part, we all know very well that Facebook has recently started paying publishers including New York Times and BuzzFeed to post a quota of Facebook Live videos every week. Thus, build its relationship with the media as a mutually beneficial like a landlord-tenant partnership.
Want to Know What Facebook Really Thinks of Journalists? Here's are some facts When It Hired Some.
Facebook’s trending news section launched in January 2014 and occupies some of the most well-known real estate in all of the internet, filling the top-right hand corner of the site with a list of topics people are talking about and links out to different news articles about them. The dozen or so journalists like Buzzfeed, New York times, etc. paid to run that section are contractors who work out of the basement of the company’s New York's head office.
This trending section drives a large number of monthly views to news outlets. Facebook wouldn’t specify, but subjective evidence suggests that being featured in the trending widget boosts clicks to a story by many thousands. The trending news section is responsible to say many of the stories the average person reads when they’re using Facebook. But nobody really knows much about how it works—and the company isn’t telling.
The trending news section is mostly run by university graduated people in their 20s and early 30s. They’ve previously worked at well-known Journalism companies like the Bloomberg, New York Daily News, The Guardian and MSNBC. Some former curators have just left Facebook for jobs at prominent organizations like the New Yorker and Mashable.
As per the former team members of facebook trending interviewed by Gizmodo, this small group of facebook trending team has the power to choose what stories make it onto the trending bar. “We choose what’s trending,” he said. “There was no real standard for measuring what qualified as news and what didn’t. It was up to the news curator to decide.”
The news curation team writes headlines for each of the trending topics, and also writes a three-sentence summary of the news story and choose an image or Facebook video to attach to the topic. The news curator also chooses the “most substantive post” to summarize the topic, usually from a news website. They also select articles from a list of preferred media outlets that included sites like the New York Times, Time, Variety, and other traditional outlets.
(The guidance to write this article is based on the Gizmodo. All the information provided here are the assets of Gizmodo and all the interview of former contractors are conducted by Gizmodo.)
News curators also have the power to “deactivate” a trending topic. A topic was often blacklisted if it didn’t have at least three traditional news sources covering it. When, the work became increasingly demanding, Facebook’s trending news team started to look more and more like the worst stereotypes of a digital media content farm. Managers gave curators aggressive quotas for how many summaries and headlines to write, and timed how long it took curators to write a post. The general standard was 20 posts a day.
According to one contractor, a colleague sent around a letter asking if facebook employee were unhappy with their working conditions. Managers told contractors not to mention that they worked at Facebook on their resumes or in any public profiles. “This is why they wanted to keep the magic about how trending topics work a secret,” said another former news curator to the Gizmodo.
When Gizmodo asked about the trending news team and its future, a Facebook spokesperson said, “We don’t comment on rumor or speculation. As with all contractors, the trending review team contractors are fairly compensated and receive appropriate benefits.”
According to current facebook trending news contractors, their peers still at Facebook believe their jobs are being phased out. From a group of about 20, Facebook has fired at least eight people this year, and as per the former curators, the company has yet to replace any of them. “They had hired us and promised us a job for at least a year,” said one. “Within three months, six of us were fired. No reason was given. We were just told ‘the company is cutting back.’”
The data Facebook is gathering from upwards of 1 billion users clicking through the trending news could have a significant and impressive impact on the future of news—what we read, how we read, and from which sources is most important. A future that, if it’s not being determined by a group of 20-something contractors in a trending news basement, it will be determined in part by the algorithm that group trained. “They have it down to a science,” said by one former curator to Gizmodo. “We were truly slaves to the algorithm of trending news on Facebook.”