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By Usama Jawad96
Following success in the U.S., Facebook News to launch in the U.K. next month
by Usama Jawad
Facebook began testing a news section dubbed "Facebook News" in the U.S. back in October 2019. As the name implies, this positioned itself as a dedicated tab containing a wide range of news articles, including the most relevant national stories of the day. Apart from using algorithms to highlight original content, it also depends upon a team of non-partisan curators who select stories to display in the "Today's Stories" section, based on public guidelines. Facebook says that the aim of the program is to allow publishers to reach a wider audience coupled with a wide variety of advertisement and subscription offers.
The program has apparently been successful, as the company has now announced that it will launch Facebook News in the U.K. in January 2021, as it hinted a couple of months ago.
In the first wave of rollout, Facebook will be partnering with over a dozen publishers, including The Economist, Archant, and Guardian Media Group. These publishers host numerous brands such as The Mirror, The Independent, GQ, Vogue, Tatler, and more.
Facebook says that the U.K. launch will allow local publishers to reach new audiences. It also enables consumers to discover new and diverse stories along with credible news reports during "major news cycles". With its launch earlier in the U.S., the company noticed that 95% of the traffic is from people who have never interacted with the publishers and their brands in the past.
Furthermore, in an effort to promote local journalism in the U.K., Facebook is extending its Community News Programme (CNP) in the country for one year. The program is responsible for training local journalists from diverse backgrounds. The company says:
The extension in this program also comes with an additional £2.25M ($3M) investment. Lastly, the firm has stated that it is in negotiations to bring Facebook News to Germany and France next, and will be expanding to more countries soon.
By Usman Khan Lodhi
Web Stories are now available on Google Discover
by Usman Khan Lodhi
Google is officially adding Web Stories to Discover in an attempt to make the familiar full-screen, tappable story format available to a wider web audience. The discover feed, available in the Google app on Android and iOS, attracts about 800 million users each month. Until now, it had been populated by relevant news stories and articles, but the Mountain View firm is now adding a "Stories" carousel.
Browsing Stories is straightforward, as it requires users to tap to move forward to the next page, and if they want to check a different Story in the carousel, they need to swipe. Google notes that the experience is "full-screen and immersive." In addition to rolling out the feature on Google Discover, the firm will work to make Stories surface more regularly across Google Search results on mobile.
The carousel, situated at the top of Discover, is presently available in the U.S., Brazil, and India. Google notes in the blog post that it intends to expand the feature to more countries and products. The firm said it "worked with a diverse group of publishes and creation tools" in the three countries to jumpstart the ecosystem, and resultantly, more than 2,000 sites have already published Web Stories on Google.
By Jay Bonggolto
Google will let you listen to personalized and local news via Podcasts and Assistant
by Jay Bonggolto
Google added a feature on Assistant late last year called Your News Update that allows users to listen to personalized news digest based on their interests. Today, the search giant announced that it is bringing that capability to Google Podcasts.
When you subscribe to Your News Update found in the Explore tab of the Podcasts app, users will be able to listen to a variety of up-to-date news articles based on their interests, location, user history, and preferences. Google says it will personalize the users' listening experience by applying Google News' artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to the audio format. These capabilities were announced in 2018. The feature will provide local and national news all in a single location.
Additionally, users will soon be able to find and listen to local news through Assistant by asking a Nest smart speaker to “play local news” or “play news about [your city]”. The smart speaker will then play local news in both native audio and a text-to-speech voice. Google says the feature uses new text-to-speech voices for a more human-like sound when reading news articles. The voice model also incorporates voice pitch, sound length, and stress on specific words and syllables.
By Jay Bonggolto
Facebook lets users link their accounts to their news subscriptions as part of a test
by Jay Bonggolto
Facebook is experimenting with a new capability that will make it easier for users to quickly access paywalled news articles from its partner publishers. The social networking giant is letting users link their accounts to their news subscriptions as part of that experiment.
The new feature works by sending users an invite to initiate the integration of their accounts with their subscriptions, provided these subscriptions are with publishers that have joined Facebook's news initiative. Once that is done, they won't have to log in again or see a paywall page the next time they stumble upon a premium content on Facebook.
Facebook boasts another benefit from this integration, which is a wider selection of content from partner publishers that will be made available to users. Among the media partners that have joined the test are Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Athletic, and the Winnipeg Free Press.
For publishers, the new feature can help boost their subscription rate. Facebook noted that users who linked their accounts and subscriptions increased their article clicks by an average of 111% as opposed to those who were not part of the experiment. Similarly, the rate of following by those users increased from 34% to 97%. Charlotte Winthrop, The Athletic’s Vice President of Product Marketing, said the new feature improves the experience for subscribers.
Facebook vows to add more subscriber experiences over time. In addition, it's working on more improvements for the subscriber account linking tool, including adding more partners to the test and developing an approach that will let subscribers directly link their Facebook accounts and news subscriptions on the publishers' websites.
By Usama Jawad96
Google criticizes Australia for new code about news media bargaining [Update]
by Usama Jawad
Like every country, Australia clashes with tech giants over various issues from time to time. Back in 2018, Huawei slammed the government ban that prevented it from providing 5G services in the country, claiming it to be a politically motivated. In the same year, numerous companies including Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, and Facebook formed an alliance to combat Australia's efforts to weaken encryption.
Now, the country's legislation has once again come under fire, this time from Google's content publishing wing.
In a nutshell, the new legislation, called the "News Media Bargaining Code", states that organizations such as Google and Facebook will have to bargain with Australian news outlets to secure "fair payment" for the content shown on their platform. Three months will be allotted for negotiations, and if these fail, an independent arbitrator will evaluate which side's offer was the most reasonable and decide in favor of either party within 45 business days.
This code has now come under fire from Google. In an "open letter to Australians," Mel Silva, Managing Director of Google Australia, has stated that the new law hurts the free services that its users utilize. It claims that the company already pays news media millions of dollars per year and provide them billions of free clicks, but instead of fostering this partnership, the Australian government is encouraging local news media to make unfair demands. Silva went on to say that:
Silva has stated that Google will devote its efforts to changing the law while building and maintaining constructive partnerships with news media organizations, and that it will be talking more about this code in the coming days.
Update: The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has now responded to Google's accusations, essentially calling them baseless. The organization went on to say that:
The ACCC says that it will continue to consult with those involved, including Google, until August 28.