Though Facebook has committed to fixing the news feed in a way that users end up seeing more posts from friends and less from publishers, the company is still trying to improve its relationship with news items.
It's no secret that Facebook's algorithm for breaking news stories is lackluster, often surfacing crucial, urgent news days later after the event has happened. As a result, Twitter has largely become the place where breaking news is distributed. Facebook isn't introducing any drastic changes to become a breaking news site, but it is giving even more publishers permission to use the Breaking News label.
Breaking News Label On Facebook
The company began testing the said label back in November 2017, reserved for developing stories. Now, Facebook is extending that to 50 more publishers in North America, Latin America, Europe, and Australia. That's on top of the preexisting "small group of local and national publishers" that already use it. If things go smoothly, Facebook may end up extending it to even more publishers from here on out.
As seen on the image above, the Breaking News label is indicated by a red "Breaking" tag alongside a time and source. This is an attempt to make such post more readily noticeable in the news feed. Presumably, it's also an effort to indicate to users that what they're watching is a legitimate news source, not fake news.
The Breaking News label may be used via links, Instant Articles, and Facebook Live content. Publishers can use it once per day and set a specific time limit — but breaking news videos should not be longer than six hours.
How Effective Has It Been?
Meanwhile, users can also report a Breaking News story if they feel that a post doesn't deserve to be labeled that way. Facebook says this will help improve the tool. Thus far, the company says the tag is proving effective.
"From this initial test, we've seen positive results. People in the US engage more with posts that are labeled as breaking news," the company said in a blog post.
Further, it claims that from Dec. 8, 2017, to Jan. 14 this year, there was a 4 percent lift in clickthrough rate, 7 percent lift in likes, 4 percent lift in comments, and 11 percent lift in sharing. Plus, at least one publisher seems to swear by the tag. Here's The Washington Post:
"We've been pleased to collaborate with Facebook to elevate breaking news on their platform and are excited — but not surprised — to see readers respond the way they have."
Facebook is reportedly planning to roll out a special Breaking News section on the video-focused Watch tab.