Piece by piece and feature by feature, Facebook is building a network where users don't ever have to leave the safe, familiar interface.
Case in point: The social media juggernaut is adding a News tab to their mobile app starting sometime later this month. Cue the violin-playing journalists.
About 200 publishers including The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post will provide breaking news links. From all reports, it looks like about 25% of the publications will cut a deal with Facebook for the privilege. The rest won't receive any compensation from users clicking the links other than the ad revenue it generates.
That seems to be the theme lately with Facebook and many social media companies, considering the Watch tab that's already housed in the app below your feed is also limited in terms of who is paid to host videos in that part of the social media app. Revenue is moving farther and farther away from licensing deals and has more to do with clicks.
That's because of the walled garden approach. With 2.41 billion users, Facebook is one of the best lead generators not just for clicks to news stories but for all marketing and promotion, corporate news, Facebook Marketplace sales, and much more.
Companies know that customers spend their day looking for content on Facebook, more so in the past few years. I know a handful of friends and family members that only check Facebook and don't wander too far outside of that network.
For users, the News tab will provide tangible benefits. Many users have followed news publications, but in some cases, this clogs up their feed. If a user follows Inc. Magazine, for example, they will see a half-dozen posts throughout the day (all of them worthwhile, of course). It makes readers feel like part of the wider community.
Yet, if there's a News tab, users can take back some control over their feed. Another benefit is that the tab will aggregate stories in one central location. When users are hunting for news, they can look in one place instead of scrolling back constantly in their feed looking for links that didn't pop up throughout the day.
This is not necessarily the best scenario for publishers, however. If users end up unfollowing publications and use the News tab instead, the publishers won't benefit from the spontaneous interactions and having posts show up in feeds organically.
And then there is the issue of bias. Links that pop up in the News tab may be collated and selected by editors at Facebook, which raises all of the same concerns as before.
What's the main takeaway here?
For most Facebook users, the convenience of having a News tab might outweigh the benefits of spontaneous discovery in the feed, but it's also easy to ignore the Watch tab. It would be hard to call Facebook Watch a raging success compared to TikTok or Netflix.
Only time will tell, once the tab debuts this month, if users start looking to that section of the app more and more for extra links and content or if they simply dismiss it.