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Facebook drops Trending topics section, tests other ‘news experiences’

Facebook will be scrapping its Trending feature in favour of other “news experiences” on the platform. The feature was first launched in 2014 to help users discover news topics which were popular in the Facebook community.

“However, it was only available in five countries and accounted for less than 1.5% of clicks to news publishers on average. From research we found that over time people found the product to be less and less useful,” the social media giant said in a blog post.

Trending will cease from the platform from next week onwards, along with products and third-party partner integrations which rely on its Trends API, the statement added. Instead, Facebook will roll out new features called Breaking News Label, Today In and News Video in Watch.

The move comes as Facebook observes a change of how its users are consuming news on its platform – primarily on mobile and increasingly through news video. The move hence allows it to explore new ways to help people stay informed about timely, breaking news, while ensuring the news is from trustworthy and quality sources.

“Breaking News Label” is a test Facebook is currently running with 80 publishers across North America, South America, Europe, India and Australia. It allows publishers to put a “breaking news” indicator on their posts in News Feed. Breaking news notifications are also being tested.

Facebook is also testing “Today In”, which is a dedicated section on Facebook that serves to connect people to the latest breaking and important news from local publishers in their city. This includes updates from local officials and organisations. Meanwhile, “News Video in Watch” is a dedicated section on Facebook Watch in the US where people can view live coverage, daily news briefings and weekly deep dives that are exclusive to Watch.

In January this year, Facebook updated its News Feed to prioritise local news. This is to ensure users can view topics that directly impact them and their community, as well as discover the latest happenings in their neighbourhoods. It was also a bid by the social media giant to emphasise high-quality news.

Most recently, it also scrapped its idea of splitting the news feed in two; one for posts from friends, and one – dubbed ‘explore’ – for publishers and brands. When news about the split news feed first surfaced, it sparked concerns about the growing power of the social media giant, and how publishers would be affected.

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