The world's largest social network is already a source for all kinds of user-generated content, but it might soon become a hot spot for professional news stories.
Facebook has partnered with The New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic to start testing a program that would see the news sites provide their content on Facebook in addition to on their own pages, The New York Times is reporting. Facebook, which has been engaging in talks for some time with at least six news outlets, would like to start testing the service "in the next several months," according to the Times.
Bringing content to Facebook, which would be entirely opt-in for news producers, would represent a seismic shift in the way news is accessed and consumed. Currently, major news publishers and Facebook's own users can share content from other sites by linking to it in their feeds. If the talks turn into reality, content would be viewable entirely on Facebook, rather than forcing users to go to another site to read a story.
With 890 million daily active users as of December and 1.4 billion monthly active users, Facebook has the clout to send boatloads of traffic to news sites. In fact, when a story goes viral on Facebook, it's not uncommon for sites that can't handle the load to get overrun with traffic and go down because of server overload.
For news companies that can keep their sites up, the traffic can be beneficial, since advertising is often the basis on which they generate revenue. The more traffic a site generates, the more revenue a site should be able to generate.
The rumored Facebook model, however, turns that on its head. While the news companies would still be free to have their content on their own sites and maintain that business model, much of their traffic from Facebook would stay on Facebook.
According to the Times, Facebook is working on a method for sharing revenue generated from that content with content creators. Stories would have ads running in tandem with content and a revenue-sharing deal would be decided on between the parties, according to the Times' sources.
So far, Facebook hasn't confirmed any plans to become a new-age news publisher, but the idea may be one that the company would at least consider.
On several occasions over the last few years,for making Facebook a central hub for content across the Web. At the center of that is Facebook's Open Graph, which attempts to bring all social activities going on across the Internet into Facebook to share with friends. As , Open Graph figured to "become the heart and soul of the Web; it would become our history books; it would become our lives."
For Facebook, the idea is simple: companies across the Internet -- news publishers or otherwise -- should integrate Facebook's Share and Like buttons and Open Graph markup into their sites. When a site's users share that content on Facebook, the site owner can control how the information looks and works on Facebook. In other words, it's all about framing content on a site's pages for the eventuality of being shared on Facebook.
The new idea for Facebook is to make that effort more codified and for publications to simply syndicate their content on the site in the manner they wish. Meanwhile, Facebook can keep users on its site and generate some revenue off the content.
Facebook has already indicated its interest in news content with its "Trending" area. When users go to their News Feed, they see a list of trending topics that are being heavily discussed in real-time on Facebook. Clicking on those items provides a live feed of Facebook updates about the topic, as well as a selection of news content. All of those selections, however, link to external sites and include only snippets from individual stories.
According to the Times' sources, not every publication is so interested in the social network's idea, fearing that the Facebook model would mean sharing (and perhaps losing) revenue with the social network. Still others fear that by not participating, they could lose the valuable traffic provided by Facebook, according to the Times.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.