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Facebook Plans to Launch Watch-Like News Tab

Facebook wants to launch a dedicated tab within its app to aggregate content from news publishers, CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed during a conversation with Springer CEO Mathias Doepfner Monday morning. Plans for the news section are still in early stages, according to Zuckerberg, who said that the company was looking for input from the news industry. “We don’t want to build this in a vacuum,” he said.

Zuckerberg likened the planned news tab to the way the company has broken out video in its Watch tab, which is aggregating video from a number of publishers, some of which are producing video exclusively for the platform. Facebook Watch “has started to really grow quickly,” Zuckerberg said. “We’ve decided that there really is an opportunity to do something like this with news as well.”

Zuckerberg didn’t share many additional details, and said the company was still trying to figure out how to balance curation with aggregation of the sources a user was already following. He also suggested that the company was looking to give publishers new ways to make money. “There is a real opportunity to have better monetization for publishers than we have today at news feed,” he said.

He cited Facebook’s news subscription efforts as evidence that the company was looking to support the industry financially, but also had to admit that these efforts haven’t been very impactful yet. “That’s off to a reasonable start. There is lots more to do there,” he said.

Facebook’s commitment to double down on news comes after the company began to de-emphasize news articles in its main news feed to re-focus on personal connections between its users. Those changes, instituted in early 2018, resulted in a 20% drop of news content shown to its users, according to numbers shared by Facebook executives shared at the time.

Facebook posted a video of Zuckerberg’s hourlong conversation with Doepfner Monday morning as a first of what is supposed to be a series of talks about the future of the internet and society. Doepfner was a bit of a polarizing choice to kick off the series: The Springer CEO has led the company’s foray into the digital space, but has also been a strong advocate of recent European copyright changes, commonly known as “Article 13,” that have been criticized by many as being harmful to the internet.

In his conversation with Zuckerberg, Doefner celebrated the European parliament’s recent passage of those changes, likening them to the compulsory licensing regimen the music industry has been working with for decades, and suggesting Facebook should adhere to similar rules.

Article 13 had gotten a lot of public push-back from Google in particular, with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki arguing that it would make it impossible for millions of users to upload content to her site, or to view content posted by U.S. creators.

But on Monday, Zuckerberg seemed open to embrace similar rules. “That’s definitely something we should be thinking about here,” he said with regards to Article 13, while also cautioning that “there is a lot of details to be worked out there.”

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