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Facebook Plans To Give News Its Own 'Neutral' Section

Mark Zuckerberg has discussed a new plan to change the social media platform's relationship with news, by creating a new subsection dedicated to hosting articles.

In a video interview with Mathias Döpfner, CEO of publishing giant Axel Springer, Zuckerberg described Facebook's latest plan to create a subsection dedicated to news distribution.

Zuckerberg likens the design of this potential news subsection to the Video section, which does not curate content as specifically for users as the News Feed and acts as a more neutral content platform.

He said he is willing to design an ecosystem for "high-quality journalism" whereby Facebook could pay publishers for the right to host their content. However, this is not yet guaranteed and Facebook may instead simply continue to offer ad revenue to publishers.

Zuckerberg suggests that this service could differ from the News Feed in that Facebook would forge a direct relationship with trusted publishers, rather than relying on users to simply share content with their friends.

While news outlets would prefer that Facebook act as a neutral platform with a broad range of content that is chosen democratically, Zuckerberg makes it clear in the interview that he is still undecided about Facebook's curatorial role.

Facebook have trialled separate subsections of posts in the past with minimal success - in late 2017 they experimented with the Explore Feed in six countries, which was intended to parse personal content shared by friends and family from the posts shared by pages that users were subscribed to. This model ended in March of 2018 after users complained that they were less able to access both personal posts as well as important news content.

However, the new proposed subsection wouldn't relegate news entirely to the separate section and would instead act as a newsreader service.

The news subsection is expected to be trialled by the end of 2019.

It is clear with this announcement that Zuckerberg is trying to address the tumultuous relationship that the social media giant currently leads with media outlets. Facebook's opaque algorithms for News Feed content have been blamed for the decline of legacy news outlets as well as new generation media companies such as BuzzFeed and Mashable.

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In order to reach the Facebook audience of two billion monthly users, news outlets have been heeding Facebook's demands by pouring content onto the platform and receiving minimal amounts of ad revenue in return.

While Facebook have attempted in the past to increase outlets' satisfaction with the platform by introducing paywalls on their Instant Articles (IA) function, which keeps news audiences on Facebook rather than being diverted to external sites, news sites have continued to lose revenue and access to their readers' data.