Facebook hires Liz Heron to cultivate news partnerships

Former WSJ reporter Heron will help Facebook partner with journalists and media organizations

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
March 12, 2014
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Content is a big, and sometimes overlooked, factor when it comes to which social media sites people choose to go onto. Facebook may be the biggest network out there, but it knows that it lags behind some other big social media sites, most notablyTwitter, when it comes to delivering timely content.

That is why it has spent the last few months, at least, beefing up the news side of its business. That has meant highlighting news over memes, and creating a separate reader app that gives them news. Now the company has gone one step further and hired a well-known reporter to the fold to help it create relationships with journalists and news sources.

Former Wall Street Journal reporter Liz Heron has joined the company, she revealed in a Facebook post on Wednesday. Heron has also previously worked with the Washington Post and the New York Times.

"I'm thrilled to announce that I'm taking a new job at Facebook centered around the news. In this new role, I'll have the opportunity to work directly on how Facebook partners with journalists and media organizations, at a time when Facebook is putting a big emphasis on news and mobile, two things close to my professional heart,” Heron wrote.

Journalism has changed a lot because of technology, including the Web and social media, she said and, "It will be fascinating for me to approach news-gathering and storytelling from a new vantage point."

It will be interesting to see what exactly comes out of Facebook having deeper relationships with new sources, rather than just being a place where users can pick and choose which stories they find most interesting and sharing them.

Does this mean that Facebook will begin promoting certain stories with those organizations that it has a connection to? Neither Heron, nor Facebook, were available for further comment at this time.

Not that giving people more news is a bad thing. A report in October that found that a full 30% of adults in the United States get their news from Facebook, so this could actually turn out to be a good thing in the long run.

Facebook has also been trying to highlight better news for its readers up by updating its algorithm on December to give people more, and more relevant, news articles to read. It said it wanted to highlight "high quality content," while pushing down other kinds of content, like memes.

It also added features to give people content that they will more likely to be interested in, including related articles that appear underneath the one that the person just clicked on. 

In January, Facebook released its long-awaited reader app, called Paper, which displays stories based on themes, which allows the user to follow their specific interests. Its first section is the user's News Feed, which will feature not only stories, but also photos, videos and longer written posts. 

Obviously Facebook cares a lot about content now, and the relationships it cultivates with news organizations through Heron will no doubt continue to bolster those efforts.

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