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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Newspapers make themselves at home on Facebook

It doesn't seem that long ago that newspapers' involvement with social networks like Facebook and Bebo was restricted to tutting over how much time some of their employees spent sending messages and updating their status during work hours.

Now newspapers have their own Facebook profiles, run campaigns on Facebook and, more importantly, are figuring out more and better ways of getting their content into the personal space of Facebook users and, all going well, luring them back to their websites (rather than hoping Facebook users will rock up to their websites under their own steam).

The New York Times has lifted Most Emailed Articles from its site and made them available as a Facebook App. It displays cleanly on the page and fits well with the minimal Facebook aesthetic. A nice feature is that you can click on a headline and read a summary before deciding whether you can be bothered clicking through to the full article. I love this. It means I can read what I know I'm interested in rather than having to spend time clicking through to the site to find out whether or not I'm interested.

They have a daily news quiz too which opens inside your Facebook page. It's nicely done and links back to the site - required if you're not a daily reader and want to do some research so you can impress your friends with a 100% score - but of limited appeal for those in a hurry.

The Washington Post has a great Facebook App called News Tracker which lets you choose what kinds of stories appear on your page by defining the search - news, business, media, technology, politics etc. The tracker then displays relevant stories in the Washington Post - and in other publications. Smart. It also gives you a breaking news feed and a Hot News Topics tag cloud.

There are plenty of other examples of newspapers making themselves at home on Facebook, such as The Sun's and The Daily Telegraph's Fantasy Football apps and EU referendum campaigns and the growing number of Facebook groups dedicated to newspapers and their causes.

You might ask why I wanted news on my Facebook profile at all. I didn't, particularly, and like many things at the moment I signed up more in a spirit of discovery than in response to a recognised need. But now that it's there, I like it.

I like reading news about the US and international news with a US perspective and I used to make mental notes to myself to go and visit sites like the NY Times and Washington Post from time to time. Now I don't have to make mental notes, I naturally come across them on my Facebook profile and dive in when I see something of interest.

I don't want all the world's newspapers running feeds on my Facebook profile, however. Just like I don't want everyone's news ticker running across my desktop (I do have the BBC's) nor all the world's widgets on my desktop. And I never get round to reading everything piling up in my inbox let alone in Bloglines which I tend to load up like a plate at a buffet - eyes bigger than stomach.

In fact, I've no idea ultimately how I'm going to manage the growing pile of news and information out there that I I'd like to plug into my brain. I guess the way I manage it will evolve as the way it's being delivered does.