April 6, 2016

Facebook demonstrated on Wednesday it’s serious about Facebook Live with a big update to the livestreaming feature that offers several tools aimed at broadcasters and viewers alike.

The features, which are available beginning today, include real-time reactions (such as “like” and “love”), the ability to broadcast a live video within a self-contained group and additional video filters.

Today’s announcement is the latest signal that Facebook is serious about Live, the livestreaming platform that became widely available earlier this year. In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hailed the dawn of a “golden age of video” that he says could take hold of the social networking giant.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you fast-forward five years and most of the content that people see on Facebook and are sharing on a day-to-day basis is video.

What does this mean for the news industry? In general, when Facebook decides something is a priority, journalists would be wise to pay attention. Because the company determines the rules of the game for distribution of content across its vast network of users, Facebook has enormous power to drive audiences to or away from news content. It’s a tastemaker for advertisers and news consumers alike.

News organizations are already taking heed of Facebook’s video push. After Live debuted for mass audiences earlier this year, news organizations flocked to the feature in the hopes luring huge audiences with cheap, easy-to-produce video streams. The social network has been slow to monetize the feature, which has been a sticking point for many news organizations, The New York Times reported last week.

But in some cases, the situation has changed. In an interview with Re/Code, Fidji Simo, a product director at Facebook, acknowledged that the social network has offered a “financial incentive” to news organizations such as The New York Times and BuzzFeed that use the livestreaming feature.

Sources say Facebook is paying the New York Times, BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post, among other publishers. We think, but haven’t confirmed, that Vox Media* — the company that owns this website — is getting paid, too.

As Facebook has yet to provide a direct financial incentive for most news organizations using its livestreaming service, editors, reporters, photographers and producers might be slow to emphasize the product in their daily duties. But it could become a priority for early adopters looking to maximize their audiences now in the hopes of monetizing them later.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
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