In April, Facebook launched a standalone feed of news called FB Newswire — powered in part by Storyful, the news-verification startup that News Corp. acquired last year — and now the giant social network has added a tech-specific version of the feature, known as FB Techwire. Described as a “resource for technology journalists,” the new offering appears to be a shot across the bow of Techmeme, the popular technology-news aggregator run by Gabe Rivera and his editorial team.
Like the main Newswire, the technology-focused version filters through all the content that gets posted on Facebook, and uses algorithms to pull out the posts that have something to do with technology — posts which Storyful’s team of editors and fact-checkers then verify to ensure that no hoaxes get published by mistake.
Facebook’s hope is that journalists will use the content they find for their stories, and by embedding the posts will help promote Facebook as a place to find news. In that sense, as I pointed out when the site launched the original newswire, Facebook wants to be a partner for media entities — but it is also in some ways a formidable competitor as well.
Facebook and the news
The site is already driving huge amounts of traffic to some media outlets — Mashable editor Jim Roberts estimates that it accounts for between 30 and 35 percent of its traffic on the average day — and now it reportedly wants them to post more content directly to the site. But to the extent that people come to depend on Facebook for news, the value of each individual outlet decreases.
In an email, Rivera — who founded Techmeme in 2004 — said that moving into technology news aggregation makes sense for the social network, as technology becomes more mainstream, and he admitted that Facebook is clearly going after some of Techmeme’s core readership. But he said his site has more to offer than just the simple aggregation Facebook is doing:
[blockquote person=”” attribution=””]”We’ll be fine. I think Techmeme readers will continue to need Techmeme’s hierarchy (biggest stories on top), speed (big stories get posted quickly), and comprehensiveness for industry-situated people (we strive to include all the stories people in the industry need to see).”[/blockquote]
One flaw with Facebook’s newswire approach is that it only pulls from content that has been posted publicly on the social network. Techmeme, by contrast — which uses both algorithms and human editors to select the news stories it highlights — pulls stories from anywhere on the web, and also curates tweets that are related to those stories, which can add a lot of value (Full disclosure: I consider Rivera to be a friend).
In other words, the potential downside of Facebook’s newswire is similar to the downside of the company’s approach to other things: namely, it assumes that the Facebook universe contains everything that is worthwhile — for journalists or for content consumers of any kind — and that just isn’t the case. Not yet, anyway.