Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took a cue from Reddit’s Ask Me Anything on Thursday afternoon and opened himself up to a “Townhall Q&A” where he answered questions from Arianna Huffington, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Stephen Hawking, along with a few hundred other less famous people.
Many people asked Zuckerberg to speculate on the future of Facebook, offered up gripes (there’s no “dislike” button, certain posts don’t get enough attention, etc.), or, in Schwarzenegger’s case, asked Zuckerberg about his weight-training regimen.
But he talked a bit about news, too. From Jeff Jarvis:
What do you think Facebook’s role is in news? I’m delighted to see Instant Articles and that it includes a business model to help support good journalism. What’s next?
People discover and read a lot of news content on Facebook, so we spend a lot of time making this experience as good as possible.
One of the biggest issues today is just that reading news is slow. If you’re using our mobile app and you tap on a photo, it typically loads immediately. But if you tap on a news link, since that content isn’t stored on Facebook and you have to download it from elsewhere, it can take 10+ seconds to load. People don’t want to wait that long, so a lot of people abandon news before it has loaded or just don’t even bother tapping on things in the first place, even if they wanted to read them.
That’s easy to solve, and we’re working on it with Instant Articles. When news is as fast as everything else on Facebook, people will naturally read a lot more news. That will be good for helping people be more informed about the world, and it will be good for the news ecosystem because it will deliver more traffic.
It’s important to keep in mind that Instant Articles isn’t a change we make by ourselves. We can release the format, but it will take a while for most publishers to adopt it. So when you ask about the “next thing”, it really is getting Instant Articles fully rolled out and making it the primary news experience people have.
From Arianna Huffington:
Facebook has played a huge role in the digital publishing industry over the past few years. Based on everything you’ve learned, how do you think the way journalists and news organizations present their stories online will evolve over the next few years? And what types of products are you focused on in this space?
I think there will be a couple of trends towards richness and speed / frequency.
On richness, we’re seeing more and more rich content online. Instead of just text and photos, we’re now seeing more and more videos. This will continue into the future and we’ll see more immersive content like VR. For now though, making sure news organizations are delivering increasingly rich content is important and it’s what people want.
On speed / frequency, traditional news is thoroughly vetted but this model has a hard time keeping us with important things happening constantly. There’s an important place for news organizations that can deliver smaller bits of news faster and more frequently in pieces. This won’t replace the longer and more researched work, and I’m not sure anyone has fully nailed this yet.