Facebook’s Fresh Context Feature Could Be Good News For US Publishers

After initial tests in locations across the US, Facebook announced yesterday that it is ready to roll-out its “context features” to all Facebook users in the country.

Created to push back against the tide of fake news and misinformation on the platform, Facebook hopes the feature will empower users to “decide for themselves what to read, trust and share.”

Four new signals for US publishers

When the tests began back in October we explored what the context button might mean for publishers. At that time the key benefits were stronger branding and credit, as well as a prominent “subscribe” button.

We now have more information about the final key signals that this full roll-out brings with it. These signals are explained in detail in this post on the Facebook Design Blog from Jeff Smith, the Product Designer for Facebook’s News Feed.

The four signals are:

Page information
Sometimes people don’t know the source of an article in their News Feed. Showing information about the Page that published the original article lets people get further context on who the publisher is. They can then follow or unfollow the publisher directly from this surface.

Wikipedia information
Providing context from external experts or third-party organizations is helpful. Wikipedia is a generally trusted encyclopedia with a robust, community-maintained revision process. It also has global recognition, so is a particularly useful feature internationally. Referencing the Wikipedia section about a publisher within the unit gives users a way of getting quick consensus or history on a publisher. Likewise, in our research, the absence of a Wikipedia page was an important credibility cue for users.

Related articles or more from the publisher
People want to compare information from the same source to see what style of language/wording or selection of topics a publisher covers. Similarly, people can compare the reporting of one publisher to others on a particular event. Much like how we use Related Articles in News Feed, this unit give users another angle on a story and a way to pivot into similar content if they’re interested.

Share distribution from friends and the Facebook community
Who and how many people share an article — especially when they’re your friends — can be insightful into the background (or bias) of an article. We’ve included the number of shares from across Facebook and which of your friends have shared an article. We’ve also included a map showing where the article was shared to break up an otherwise text-heavy surface and in some cases gives a sense of where the article got the most traction.


Since those initial tests began, Facebook made another change to its News Feed that means it now prioritizes posts from friends and family over those from pages and businesses. The context feature means that when publishers do appear in the News Feed, they will maximize their brand impact.

What about international publishers?

Facebook appears to have a desire to make this a global feature. Based on Jeff Smith’s post on the Facebook Design Blog, though, it appears that the team is being prudent in considering how different international readers interact with news.

Jeff Smith explains that as Facebook explores this feature internationally, it has found “some interesting insights”. Aside from national tastes and UX habits, Facebook identified that “people wanted to gain more opportunities—and more confidence—in being able to determine the credibility of information they encountered on their own, and this was true on any side of the political spectrum in every single country we visited.”

Both publishers in the US and abroad should monitor what impact the context button has, because it certainly seems that an international version is imminent.

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