Rather than trust your friends and favorite Pages to post interesting stuff, Facebook is taking news discovery into its own hands with “Articles Related To…”. This special feed story shows you popular links that lead to content mentioning Pages you Like. It could be the next step in Facebook’s master plan to take on apps like Flipboard, Pulse, and Zite, keep you on site and make publishers pay.
Say you Like rapper Lil Wayne. You might see a feed story titled “Articles Related To Lil Wayne” followed by a preview blurb and link to an post about him on music site that’s getting shared a lot on Facebook but that none of your friends posted.
At the very least, the story type could become Facebook’s personalized version of Twitter’s Trending Topics. About a year ago Facebook was frequently showing a “Trending Articles” block in the news feed. However, those links could be about anything and were mostly sensational stories auto-shared by your friends via Open Graph news reader apps. Articles Related To instead relies on the wisdom of the Facebook crowd, and notes the total number of times the article’s been posted.
It could also lay the groundwork for a “Sponsored Articles Related To” ad unit.
But the real reason this new way to find links is so fascinating is because it could foreshadow a dedicated news-only feed on Facebook. Devoid of random status updates and pics of your friends’ children, it could use the habits of Facebook’s 1 billion users and everything it knows about you to deliver a super-relevant personalized newspaper. That could be a real challenger to news-discovery services from Flipboard all the way to Twitter.
The one problem is that while Facebook wants to help you discover content, it doesn’t like pushing traffic off-site. That’s what links do…normally. But lately some apps like RockMelt have built special fast-loading, pop-up reader views that recreate off-site content within their apps so people never leave. By striking revenue share deals with news publishers, Facebook could show ads on reader views of their content and earn a fee for delivering eyeballs while keeping you firmly planted in its walled garden.
[Image Credit: The Get Smart Blog]