In June, the head of Facebook's news partners announced that the social network would fund newscasts for his watch video service. "Watch is the destination on Facebook where people come together for videos," said Campbell Brown in a blog post. Flash forward to date, Digiday reports that two-thirds of Watch's news program will not be renewed.
You will be forgiven if you are new to Facebook Watch. A survey last summer found that 50% of adult users had never heard of the video service. And at the end of last year, Facebook itself boasted that "more than 400 million people" – or just over one in six global users – watched at least a minute of Watch each month. Despite this, Facebook remains optimistic about its latest push in video news.
"Watch continues to experiment with the news publishers and share what we're learning," said Shelley Venus, Facebook's Gizmodo News Partner Video Channel, in an email. "We're working with these organizations to build sustainable video businesses where Facebook can be part of their overall strategy."
When Facebook announced its first-ever news coverage on Watch last year, it saw eight shows from partners such as ABC News, CNN, FOX News and Univision. According to Digiday, it has since expanded to 21 shows. It is unclear who will do the cut. A spokesperson would not give specific details as to which news programs would be renewed in Watch, noting that the show contracts vary.
Facebook has a skilful relationship with the news. Mark Zuckerberg assured in 2016 that the social network was "not a media company". "We are a tech company in our hearts. We hire engineers, "Sheryl Sandberg told Axios the same year. "We do not hire reporters, nobody is a journalist, we do not report news." But the company has almost comically contradicted these explanations. A study by the Pew Research Center also found that 66 percent of Facebook users reported being notified of news on the site.
One of Facebook's most spectacular failures to become a source of quality news does not seem to be dissimilar to its watch aspirations. The social network spent more than $ 50 million to pay both publishers and celebrities to create Facebook live video to emphasize much of that content and not renew many of these offerings, which the misguided publishers did The programming of Watch may not have attracted the masses. For beginners, unlike many Facebook videos, these shows seem to be mostly on a separate tab with a nondescript icon. And Facebook Watch itself was introduced as something that can best be described as a chum box with moving pictures. While the company has received more quality content since its launch in September 2017, it still lacks prime real estate on the main Facebook platform. One of my colleagues did not even know that Facebook Watch had news programs.
It's clear that Facebook still does not really know what the hell it does if it's a popular news source – and I can not over-emphasize that quality content.