Facebook Releases Two APIs That Allow News Organizations To Tap Into Its Real-Time Public Posts

By David Cohen 

Twitter has company in the real-time news-related social media arena, as Facebook Monday announced the rollout of two application-programming interfaces aimed at allowing news organizations to tap into its public posts in real-time: the public feed API, which displays a real-time feed of public posts for a specific word; and the keyword insights API, which tallies the total number of posts that mention a specific term during a specific time period, as well as enabling news organization to feature anonymous, aggregated results based on gender, age, and location.

The two new APIs are initially available only to a select group of media partners: BuzzFeed, CNN, NBC’s “Today,” British Sky Broadcasting, Slate, and Mass Relevance.

Facebook said it is in discussions with other media organizations and Preferred Marketing Developers about the public feed API and keyword insights API, and the new tools will be made available to more partners “in the coming weeks.”

Justin Osofsky, the social network’s vice president of media partnerships and online operations, said in Facebook’s Newsroom post announcing the new features:

If there is something interesting going on, people are talking about it on Facebook. From favorite television shows to sporting events to the latest news, the conversations are happening on Facebook. Last week’s kickoff of the National Football League season garnered more than 20 million likes, comments, and shares on Facebook by over 8 million people.

Over the past few months, we have rolled out a series of products aimed at surfacing the public conversations happening on Facebook, including hashtags, embedded posts, and trending topics. We are committed to building features that improve the experience of discovering and participating in conversations about things happening in the world right now, including entertainment, sports, politics, and news.

Starting today, selected news organizations can begin to integrate Facebook conversations into their broadcasts or coverage by displaying public posts of real-time activity about any given topic. For example, CNN’s “New Day” can now easily incorporate what people on Facebook have to say about the latest, breaking news event during their show.

Partners can also use these tools to show the number of Facebook posts that mention a specific word over a period of time, including a demographic breakdown for the people talking about that topic. For instance, now every week during the “What’s Trending” segment of the “Today” show, NBC can easily include how many people on Facebook talked about a popular subject, where it’s getting the most buzz, whether it’s most popular among males or females, and with which age groups. Mass Relevance, a technology company that enables social experiences, is also leveraging these new tools in interesting ways to highlight the trends and conversations happening on Facebook for its media clients (see screenshot below).

Facebook Director of Partnerships Andy Mitchell said in an interview with The New York TimesBits blog:

This is a way for news organizations to tap into and understand what people are talking about. The possibilities are kind of endless once we have this in the hands of talented, creative journalists.

NBC News VP of Digital Innovations and Social Media Ryan Osborn told Bits:

As a news organization, we’re always trying to answer what our people talking about.

And CNN Digital Senior VP and General Manager KC Estenson told Bits:

You might get a little bit more personal and intimate sense of who a person is off their Facebook usage than their Twitter usage.

This is the social media equivalent of man-on-the-street reporting. Over time, we’ll be able to put a lot more intelligence against that.

As a glimpse of what people are talking about, and how it breaks down, those can be clues as to what’s going on in this world.

Readers: Is there enough room for both Twitter and Facebook when it comes to real-time social media reaction to breaking news or big events?

Breaking news image courtesy of Shutterstock.