Facebook is taking another shot at news curation by hiring a “small team” of journalists to select stories for its upcoming News Tab, a section of its mobile app that’s due to begin testing later this year. Although The New York Times notes that most of the articles in the News Tab will be generated algorithmically, the top stories each day will come from this team of under 10 veteran journalists. The News Tab will be separate from Facebook’s main feed.
Facebook has struggled with how to surface timely news stories to its users. At its best, its previous “Trending Topics” section would often surface stories that were old and sometimes bore little relevance to the topic in question. However, at its worst, the algorithm that underpinned it would actively promote false and misleading stories. Back when it used to have a team of contractors curating news for the section, the company also faced allegations that these contractors routinely suppressed news from conservative publications. Facebook killed off its trending topics section last year.
This latest push is different. Not only will Facebook hire full-time employees rather than relying on contractors, but it also said it’s willing to pay select publishers millions in order to feature their stories. Facebook’s decision to hire a team of full-time journalists reportedly came out of discussions it had with publishers, according to Digiday. The new tab will sit outside of the News Feed, the main column of user-generated content within Facebook.
Digiday notes that Facebook hasn’t gone as far as Apple with its news curation plans, since Apple is thought to have had a team of around 30 people when it launched Apple News. However, Facebook’s plans seem to be more limited in scope at first. While Apple’s team stretched from Sydney to New York, Facebook’s will be based mainly in the US, with a single journalist stationed in the UK. The News Tab will enter a testing phase in the US starting in October, according to Digiday.