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Facebook (s FB) is testing out original content publishing with Facebook Stories, a site that will “share the stories of people using Facebook in extraordinary ways.” It’s unclear what Facebook Stories is yet, and it may just be an experiment — but it has hints of Patch (s AOL), Flipboard and the Huffington Post.
Facebook Stories will curate content around a monthly theme. This month, the theme is “memories” and the content includes a video report about a man who lost his memory when he got meningitis and a news story about a group of Ontario residents who used a Facebook page to help save the local Petrie Building.
In addition, each issue of Facebook Stories will have regular features: The Bookshelf has “a Goodreads list of books that helps you dig deeper into each month’s theme,” while “Playlist” curates songs from Spotify. And “Reading List” includes “exclusive access to the archives of some of the world’s best storytellers.” This month, three pieces from the New Yorker — stories that are normally available only to subscribers — are included. Facebook is also running a monthly Stories podcast, and a monthly infographic focuses on the issue’s theme. This month, it analyzes how people around the world share “life’s biggest moments.” Users are invited to share their own stories, which might be included in a future issue.
The Facebook design team’s Skip Bronkie and Peter Jordan are leading the project. Dan Fletcher, who was hired as Facebook’s managing editor in January 2012 and was previously a reporter at Time magazine, is editing and vetting stories from users. He also wrote the “Guelph, Ontario: Saving a Slice of Downtown” story in this month’s issue. Other team members include Allie Townsend, formerly Time‘s social media producer; editorial producer Jeffrey Gerson; Matthew Harnack and Mandy Zibart.
This is only the first issue of Facebook Stories, but there are a number of paths that it could take. Facebook spokesman Bounds warned against interpreting this as a competitor to other news sites, though. “The Facebook Stories site is designed to work with media partners and contributors who are providing us original content,” he told me, “and we are helping showcase their content in the context of unique user stories that we’re discovering on Facebook.”
Still, Facebook Stories’ geographic focus — you can click on “Map” to see the stories arranged on a world map — hints that it could be a possible competitor to AOL’s Patch, though if each local story is required to have a Facebook angle, that concept could wear thin. Its mosaic layout is tablet-friendly and already makes it look a bit like personalized iPad magazine Flipboard or Zite. Then there’s the aggregated content from the New Yorker, and the original content from people like NPR’s White House correspondent Ari Shapiro — a combo with hints of Daily Beast or Huffington Post. A tablet magazine consisting of user-generated local content, aggregated content and original content is an ambitious move — but it seems possible when you consider that such a magazine could have over a billion readers.