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Facebook Executive Hints at Media Plans

Launch of new media sharing features expected later this week
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Facebook executives aren't quite ready to let the whole cat out of the bag when it comes to the media-sharing service the site is reportedly announcing very soon, but they are dropping a few hints.

When Ethan Beard, the social network's director of platform partnerships, spoke at Ad Age's Digital West conference in San Francisco Tuesday, he was asked about the numerous reports that Facebook is about to announce deep integration with music services like Spotify (and also to introduce buttons for sharing what users read, watch, and listen to) at its F8 conference on Thursday. Beard said he doesn't want to give too much away. However, he did offer some thoughts on how Facebook looks at media.

"Think about what happened before the Internet," Beard said. Most people found music socially, by sharing records and mix tapes with their friends. An online music store like iTunes offers a "fantastic" experience for buying music, but he said it loses the traditional, social ways of finding music.

"Social media and platforms like Facebook are really perfect for actually adding people and injecting social into that experience," he said.

And social features are how a company like Spotify is going to stand out, Beard added. After all, music services will probably offer a similar library of songs, so when people decide which service they're actually willing to pay for, he asked, "Why not choose the ones that have your friends?"

Facebook's media plans aren't limited to music either. The company has already talked about its vision for social TV, and it has also run test promotions with movie studios Warner Bros. and Miramax where users can watch movies in Facebook. According to Beard, those tests showed that "people aren't coming to Facebook to rent a two-and-a-half-hour movie and watch it on their computer." But these efforts can be successful if Facebook can couple those movies with an experience that's more engaging and more social than what you'd get otherwise.

As another example, Beard talked about trying to program what shows to record using his DVR. 

"My dream experience is to go to my DVR and it shows me what my friends are watching," he said. That way, when he's at the water cooler talking about the previous evening's TV shows, "I'm not sitting there, as I am now, wondering what you're talking about."

More broadly, Beard said that as Facebook becomes more ambitious on the media side, the goal is not to "recreate the Internet at Facebook.com." Instead, the company aims to become "a platform for users to discover interesting forms of media and content that their friends are sharing."