Last month, Facebook announced its coming slate of exclusive video news programs for Watch, which will indirectly replace its recently retired 'Trending News module. Now, rather than relying on an algorithm to highlight the news of the day, Facebook will be able to choose the publishers it works with - so if you want news content on the platform, you can just switch over to Watch and... um, watch it.
This week, Facebook has released its first schedule of news content, while it's also announced some additional news programming that will be added to its growing Watch list.
First off, on the schedule - Facebook's video news schedule - which begins next Monday (7/16) - currently looks like this.
As you can see, the current schedule includes content from BuzzFeed, CNN, ATTN and Fox News among others - reputed names that will no doubt bring in users. But there are still some spots to fill out - in line with this, Facebook has also announced six new news programs, including content from Bloomberg and NowThis.
Most of these new programs are already listed in the schedule, but Facebook will be adding in more throughout the Summer.
Releasing an actual schedule is a good move. On Twitter, there's a heap of exclusive, live-streamed content regularly being broadcast, but it can be hard to find out what's on at any given time. If you have a moment free and you want to check out what's happening, you need to know which profiles to look up in order to view relevant content. Having a schedule will make this easier, while Facebook has also added a dedicated 'News' tab within Facebook Watch, so you can flick over at any time.
Notice that 'Gaming' channel next to 'News', and the hint of a 'Sports' one at the edge of the frame?
As per Facebook:
"As we continue to improve the Watch experience, we are also rolling out sections for other types of video - like Gaming - to help people reliably catch up with the publishers and creators they care about."
That'll make Watch somewhat like Instagram's new explore layout - on the main page, you'll get an algorithmically curated listing of shows you might like, based on your activity, while there'll also be dedicated channels you can switch across too, expanding on key interest areas.
Really, this is key for Watch's success. As noted, many people are now switching across to digital video channels like they would regular TV, checking out what's on when they have a moment, as opposed to planned, dedicated viewing. For news in particular, this lessens the benefit of the 'on demand' nature of such options, as timeliness is key, so Facebook needs to provide an option to easily switch over and check out what's happening at any given time. As such, the dedicated tab should help boost usage.
Facebook still has a way to go to make Watch a hit, with both YouTube and Netflix already dominating the VOD market, but its exclusive news content could be key, and the noted removal of Trending may play a larger part than you'd think.
Whether you turn to Facebook for news coverage or not, research shows that a lot of people do - as per Pew Research, around 65% of Americans use Facebook, with some 45% of the population also getting news content from the site.
With so many people getting news updates from the platform, and the Trending section now removed, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Facebook add in a Watch panel where Trending used to be, highlighting the latest news stories as they go to air. That could get a significant number of users clicking through, bringing more attention to Watch, and enabling Facebook to promote their other programs.
And that could be good news for marketers looking to use the platform. Last month, Facebook also announced that they'll be opening the Watch platform to more creators, which would give all video producers on the platform more opportunity for exposure, in line with Watch growth. That would include brand produced video content - but more than that, the more that people are engaging with Watch, the more accessible video ads will become.
You may not be able to afford a TV campaign, but Facebook, with its advanced targeting options, could make TVCs more affordable, and more focused, offering new opportunity for advertisers.
Essentially, if Facebook can make Watch work, it will be of significant benefit for advertisers. There are still risks, of course, Facebook's algorithms are still at play, and publishers might be hesitant to invest too much into Watch till they know they can rely on it. But the potential is significant - and these new moves will only help.