Facebook is training journalists through online courses. What does this mean for publishers and content creators?

Facebook is joining the likes of Khan Academy and Coursera with “e-learning courses for journalists”. Four courses are offered so that reporters can learn how to use Facebook’s products and services to enhance their content. 
We decided to try out them out. Beyond the material itself, the lessons reveal insights about how Facebook sees the future of publishing and content. The current selection of courses goes over how journalists can:

  • best utilize Facebook and Instagram,
  • engage their audience with Facebook Live,
  • create immersive storytelling through virtual reality (360) content,
  • and produce Instant Articles

Facebook e-learning courses

Each of the four courses takes about 15 minutes to complete, making it quick and painless for reporters to become more Facebook savvy. The courses are interspersed with tips and case studies from journalists and publishers already using Facebook to further their content.
Today, social distribution is critical to not only publishers, but PR professionals and brands too. Facebook has fast become a media company, as many are coming to acknowledge.

Facebook learning course one

The first course teaches you how to discover content, tell your story, and engage with your audience, all on Facebook and Instagram.
As we said, these guides can give us insight into what Facebook has planned for publishers. All of these initiatives seem to come down to the same overarching principles:

  • A seamless relationship between reporter/publisher and their audience
  • Authentic, genuine news (no clickbait)
  • Readers can and should be sources of on-the-ground news
  • News and interactions between reader and reporter can happen in real time
  • Immersive experiences, fully connected and engaging for the reader
  • Content should be consumable by everyone, even on mobile or on a slow connection

This idea of ‘no walls’ reporting comes down to what social media like Facebook is essentially all about. A place of community, a sense of connection, creation from all, and uniquely curated content for the individual. 
In the first guide, Facebook directs journalists to creating their own Facebook Pages. Through Pages, reporters can create a community or ‘town square’ feeling that fosters different perspectives and healthy debate.
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Nicholas Kristoff, a columnist at the New York Times, regularly takes to his Facebook page to discuss current events with readers, even bringing in other experts or relevant people.
This is in line with what we’ve seen around their emphasis on organic, peer-to-peer sharing. Publishers like Odyssey and INSIDER are already encouraging their reporters to do this. On the above video with Nicholas Kristoff, the New York Times page even commented on the video with a link to further content. 
Facebook also suggests publishers tag their authors in the bylines of posts, so that users can click the author name for more content or to subscribe to that author specifically.
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An example from Vox, of tagging the author in the article byline on their Facebook post. Curious readers can continue to Matthew Yglesias’s Facebook page for more content. 
Facebook’s focus is still strong on Live video. Apart from the guide on Live itself, Facebook also suggests using their Live Map as a way to gather news. This leads to the idea of very on-the-ground, user-generated reporting.

Live Map Facebook Video Taiwan

This screenshot of the Live Map shows a live broadcast from Taiwan. Over 760 viewers were watching when the screenshot was taken, indicated by the lines going to the video across the map. 
They also promote this way of gathering news from users through the Facebook search bar, and through groups.
The content of these courses reveal Facebook is interested in breaking down walls between publisher and audience. Social media publishing is already eons more casual and interactive that former mediums.
Facebook advocates deepening your stories on social media by sharing behind-the-scenes to garner attention. Or, write the the story behind the story, how it came to be or what it connects to. And, of course, bring your readers into the conversation.
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Facebook lists a myriad of ways to use Live video whether it’s breaking news, a suspenseful event, wild weather, letting local journalists connect with their audiences, or compelling Q&As. Doesn’t sound too different from what we’ve seen from successful publishers

Want to power up your content? Try our Fall Guide to Facebook Publishing

The idea is that Facebook Live, 360, and news publishing in general is for everyone. No matter your focus (as they list examples of Live video from performers, sports, and general news reporters).
360 is the next step in bringing fully immersive, interactive and explorative experiences. Users can experience different points of view, engage with and be surprised by what they find.
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Instant Articles, meanwhile, supports their initiative to create the best possible experience for users, in terms of performance and interactivity. The idea is that publishers with audiences that might not have 4G or better connections, can still provide enjoyable content.
Instant Articles lend back toward Facebook’s drive to create relationships between publisher/reporter and reader, since the stories are made for liking, reacting, sharing, commenting.
Much of Facebook’s advice has to do with best practices already, such as writing clearly and including visuals. Even content intelligence makes an appearance, as Facebook encourages reports to pay attention to which posts get the most engagement to inform content strategy.
For reporters looking to get into the intricacies of how to produce Live video, 360 content, Instant Articles, and stay ahead of Facebook’s latest initiatives, the courses are worth the time.