Facebook takes aim at Twitter with news curation tool Signal
The media industry is used to thinking of Twitter as a journalist’s best friend — after all, many use it to track breaking news, and also to share their work, in the hope that it will be redistributed. But Facebook has been making a concerted effort to break into that cozy relationship, by offering journalists and media outlets a range of tools and services for finding and distributing their content.
The latest is a tool that the social network launched on Thursday called Signal, which is designed to help media outlets find, filter and embed content from Facebook (FB) and Instagram (the photo-sharing network that is owned by Facebook) for news purposes.
According to a description on the Signal launch page, it’s supposed to give journalists a look at what is trending on both social networks, and then make it easy for them to embed that content in stories they are working on. Journalists “can monitor which topics are trending and then quickly display related content that has been shared publicly — unranked and in chronological order — from both people and Pages for deeper context on those trends,” the site says.”
Twitter (TWTR) has been working on its own trending and discovery tools, but it has been a bumpy road (although there are high hopes for a news curation tool called Project Lightning). And while the network has a tool for finding and curating tweets around a specific topic — which it calls Collections — it is little used.
Twitter also has a tool aimed specifically at journalists called Curator, which is similar to Signal. And embedding tweets is such an easy thing to do that some news stories consist of a few sentences of text and then a bunch of tweets from famous users or news-makers. Facebook is clearly hoping that its new tool will encourage more journalists to use its network in the same way, which in turn would boost engagement.
Facebook says the tool is powered by its own Media Solutions API, as well as by APIs from third-party providers including CrowdTangle (which many media companies already use to track trending content) and Storyful, the social-media verification service that is now owned by News Corp.
The new addition comes on the heels of several other important media-related offerings from the giant social network. One was the opening up of the Mentions tool to users with verified profiles (a group that includes many journalists). This service was originally promoted as a way for celebrities to chat with their fans, but Facebook is also pitching it as a tool for journalists to interact with readers.
Facebook also launched FB Newswire last year, a selection of news headlines from a variety of sources who post content to the network, which is filtered and verified by editors working for Storyful. And then there’s Instant Articles, which Facebook launched with partners like the New York Times and the Guardian, who will be publishing articles directly to the network’s mobile platform.
There’s no question that Facebook has become a powerful platform for finding and sharing news. A recent survey found that more than 60% of millennial users found news on the social network, compared with a relatively tiny proportion who did so on Twitter. Whether new tools like Signal will shift media awareness away from Twitter and towards Facebook remains to be seen.