On March 5th, Facebook announced that it added 50 new publishers to its 'Breaking News' tag beta test. This test lets publishers add a 'Breaking News' tag to time-sensitive posts, links, and Facebook Live videos. Publishers are currently limited to tagging one post per day for up to six hours. The beta remains invite-only.
Facebook started the Breaking News beta late last year with a limited number of local and national publications. Since then, publications in the beta have seen increased engagement on their Breaking News posts. A post on Facebook's blog notes that, from early December to mid January, posts tagged as Breaking News saw a 4% increase in clickthrough rate, 7% increase in Likes, 4% increase in Comments, 11% increase in Shares—not too shabby!
These engagement increases are completely organic too. Facebook notes in its blog post that Breaking News posts aren't given priority over other Facebook posts in News Feed, so to the best of our knowledge, the engagement increase is almost solely because of visual cues.
We hope to see Facebook add more publishers to its Breaking News beta in the near future. It provides a much needed increase in engagement to news posts and gives them an increased sense of legitimacy, something that's needed in the era of "fake news". On the flip side, opening the platform to everyone could cause an opposite affect.
Facebook adding more publications to Breaking News shows a continued commitment to publishers despite recent News Feed changes. The company announced a number of changes to its News Feed earlier this year. These updates prioritize person-to-person posts over posts by publications and other "public" content, bringing the social network back to its roots. Facebook openly stated that this update will decrease traffic and engagement to publishers in 2018.
The expansion of Breaking News shows us that Facebook still needs publishers in order to maintain a balanced and engaging platform. Hopefully this is a sign of more positive changes to come.
What do you think about Facebook's Breaking News tag? Do you think it should be opened up to the public? Let us know on Twitter.