How Has Facebook Changed News Delivery?

By Justin Lafferty 

When Facebook introduced its redesigned News Feed, it did more than change how people view memes and photos of cats — it altered the way stories are seen. Now everyone can make news. But for those who make a living by spreading news, Facebook has changed the way stories are presented. Dean Praetorius, a senior editor with The Huffington Post, talked with AllFacebook about how the way news is presented on Facebook requires some changes to the traditional approach.

The Huffington Post has recently been lauded for its popularity on Facebook. Pew Research Center presented findings regarding news and social media, citing a study by Newswhip showing that the online newspaper was by far the most engaged news source on Facebook.

In terms of Facebook interactions, HuffPost beat out more traditional companies, such as The Daily Mail, The New York Times, and CNN.

How did HuffPost accomplish this? Praetorius said that the company has taken a well-rounded approach to social media, knowing that the story is far from completed when it’s published. HuffPost also thinks about stories differently from print media outlets and TV stations. Praetorius said that stories on the site are meant to generate conversation, and not so much to simply inform, as an old-school newspaper would:

I would say it’s thinking about thinking about content a little differently than a traditional publication. I think, as far as Facebook is concerned, is it doesn’t just ask a question, but it’s leaving people with the right questions that the content that we’re writing answers. That would be more likely to engage people and bring them closer. I think instead of telling, asking, and creating a conversation with statuses and the content you’re creating, is extremely powerful … We’re putting the question out there for people to discuss. We’re giving our answer at the same time, but we’re making it something that everybody wants to talk about.

Before the advent of social media, news was largely one-sided. People would watch a newscast and understand that there’s an important event going on in their city, or read a newspaper to learn more about last night’s basketball game. They could talk about both of these topics with their friends or send in a letter to the editor, but there really wasn’t a way to engage with the publication or station.

That has changed with sites such as Facebook and Twitter. News-based posts from outlets about city budget cuts and movie reviews are now in the same stream as posts from friends and family. People want to have discussions on both types of posts. Rather than simply pushing out information, Praetorius said HuffPost has been more focused on generating and becoming a part of that discussion. Other news outlets that have decades upon decades of experience with old media are still trying to catch up in this realm.

Praetorius told AllFacebook that all of the editors on staff are also social media editors, with an eye for how to tell the story through these new channels:

Print journalism doesn’t necessarily allow you to have that conversation back and forth, in its traditional sense. That’s something that’s very different for editors to get used to. It’s a different mentality. I think that’s one of the benefits of The Huffington Post — most editors understand that the story does not end after you hit “publish.”

Knowing how news is presented, especially with the redesigned News Feed, means understanding the power of photos. The Huffington Post not only shares links and status updates, but also makes sure to share rich, engaging pictures. Praetorius said the staff knows that content on Facebook is a complete package. It’s not just a link, or a story, but a combination of all elements on Facebook.

Readers: What other news sources excel on Facebook?