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    Facebook Plans to Expand its News Tab Beyond US

    Facebook News, the social network’s dedicated news section launched to U.S. audiences in June, is soon expanding to international markets. The company announced today it plans to accelerate its plans to bring the product to non-U.S. markets, including the U.K., Germany, France, India and Brazil, within the time frame of six months to a year.

    The company’s timeline is vague: “within the next six months to a year,” so it’s curious why Facebook would announce something not yet imminent. But given Facebook’s volatile history with the news industry, and the trend toward requiring platforms to pay news outlets for their content, it’s possible the company is simply testing the waters for its next move.
    Notably absent from the list of possible countries that would receive the News tab next is Australia, which recently unveiled plans to compel tech platforms to help pay for the free content they disseminate. France, which is on Facebook’s list of possible future News targets, ordered Google to pay for content from French publishers in April.

    In Tuesday’s announcement, company vice president of global news partnerships Campbell Brown says the News content may vary by country to keep pace with consumer habits. “We’ll work closely with news partners in each country to tailor the experience and test ways to deliver a valuable experience for people while also honoring publishers’ business models,” Brown wrote.

    There are plenty of reasons for news publishers in the US and elsewhere to be wary of Facebook’s news efforts. Its News Feed algorithm and ad business have proven devastating for the industry, particularly for local news publishers. And its track record on news is littered with failures, including the infamous “pivot to video” movement of the early and mid-2010s, with publishers pouring resources into video production seeking to benefit from Facebook’s video platform. “Pivot to video,” however, has become a catchphrase meaning “short-sighted failure,” because it turned out Facebook had juiced the metrics. And of course there’s the debacle of the 2016 election cycle, which resulted in Facebook removing its Trending Topics section amid accusations it was biased against conservative media.

    What the regulatory environment will look like for Facebook and other social media platforms six months to a year from now is anyone’s guess, and it may depend, at least in the US, on the outcome of the November presidential election. Until then, it appears Facebook is holding its cards close to the chest.

    At launch, Facebook News had over 200 general news publishers and thousands of local and regional publications in the U.S.

    Today, the company says its plans are to also grow Facebook News in the U.S., in addition to bringing the product to new markets. It will focus more specifically on growing engagement with Facebook News in the U.S.

    Facebook also claims that over 95% of the traffic Facebook News delivers to publishers is incremental to the traffic they already get from News Feed.
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