Facebook ‘newspaper’ spells trouble for media

November 23, 2014 5:32 am
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The huge social network has become a key source of news for many users, as part of a dramatic shift in how people get information in the digital age/FILE
The huge social network has become a key source of news for many users, as part of a dramatic shift in how people get information in the digital age/FILE
WASHINGTON, Nov 23 – Facebook’s move to fulfill its ambition to be the personal “newspaper” for its billion-plus members is likely to mean more woes for the ailing news media.

The huge social network has become a key source of news for many users, as part of a dramatic shift in how people get information in the digital age.

Company founder Mark Zuckerberg told a forum in early November that his goal is to make Facebook’s newsfeed “the perfect personalized newspaper for every person in the world.”

Zuckerberg said that while a newspaper provides the same information to every reader, Facebook can tailor its feed to the interests of the individual, delivering a mix of world news, community events and updates about friends or family.

“It’s a different approach to newspapering,” said Ken Paulson, a former editor of USA Today who is now dean of communications at Middle Tennessee State University.

“It’s neither good nor bad, but it’s something a traditional newspaper can’t do.”

With Facebook, editorial decisions about what members see are made not by a journalist, but an algorithm that determines which items are likely to be of greatest interest to each person.

This may concern the traditional journalism community, but even some media experts acknowledge that Facebook appears to be able to deliver more of what people want to see, in an efficient way.

“It’s intimate, it’s relevant, it’s extraordinarily timely and it’s about you. That’s more than any newspaper can do,” said Alan Mutter, a former Chicago daily newspaper editor who is now a consultant for digital media ventures.

Mutter said that as newspapers cling to their “ancient” business model, organizations like Facebook are making the news more personal.

And he said the trend will continue as younger readers shun print in favor of digital and mobile platforms.

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