Facebook Nixes Trending Feature

Illustrating Facebook’s troubled news strategy, the social network is shuttering its Trending feature after just four years.

In place of the fated feature, Facebook says it’s currently developing better ways to share news with its more than 2.1 billion users. “We’re working on several new products to help people stay informed about timely, breaking news,” a company spokeswoman said on Friday.

Among other experiments, more than 80 publishers around the world are now testing a “breaking news” tag.

“We’ve seen a 4% lift in click through rate, 7% lift in likes, 4% lift in comments, and 11% lift in shares during the alpha phase of the product,” she said.

Per the test, Instant Articles, mobile and web links, and Facebook Live can be labelled as “breaking news.”

In 33 U.S. cities, Facebook is also testing Today In -- a dedicated section designed to connect users to news and information about their community. Publishers participating in Today In are seeing on average an 8% incremental increase in distribution -- or outbound clicks -- according to Facebook.



The social network is also helping about 12 domestic publishers launch news shows on its Watch video platform, including live coverage of breaking events, daily shows and weekly shows. 

Trending was never fully embraced by Facebook or critical mass of users. Since its launch, it was only available in five countries, and accounted for less than 1.5% of clicks to news publishers.

“From research we found that over time, people didn’t continue find [Trending] very useful or valuable,” Alex Hardiman, head of news products at Facebook, notes in a new blog post.

Despite several tweaks, Trending consistently drew criticism from users, publishers and politicians.

In 2016, conservative critics accused Facebook of favoring left-leaning news stories in Trending topics. Following an internal investigation, the tech titan essentially acknowledged its Trending feature was, for a time, influenced by liberal bias.

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