News content, Messaging app rumors swirl ahead of Facebook's F8

Facebook's developer conference is creating headlines the day before it kicks off

zuck f8 old
Brian Solis

A day before Facebook kicks off it annual F8 developers conference, rumors are swirling about the social network testing a phone app, using Messenger as a platform and hosting news content.

"I think Facebook has a lot to talk about at F8 and these "leaks" are intended to get the conversations going early," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy.

Over the last few days, there have been reports that Facebook is working on an app dubbed "Phone," for Android that shows information about who is calling and automatically blocks certain numbers.

There are also reports circulating that Facebook plans to turn its Messenger app into a platform that developers can use to publish their own features and content.

For instance, if users are chatting on Messenger about meeting at a restaurant, they might be able to use a search feature, map tools or other travel functions without leaving Messenger.

In another report, the social network is said to be in talks with media companies to host their news content on Facebook, rather than the media companies posting comments and links back to full stories on the news organization's website.

Such a move would be a way to keep more users on Facebook for longer periods of time. However, it also would mean that those news outlets would lose those readers on their own websites, along with their user data.

Facebook is reported to be aware of these concerns and is working on options that would be more attractive to news organizations. One possibility is a revenue-sharing model in which publishers would display a single ad in each article on Facebook.

"Facebook has the potential to be a user's single news source," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. "Since people are already in Facebook, the ability to stay in there, can be a real boon for Facebook. Well, it's another revenue source and with Facebook's lofty market cap, they certainly need to continue to find new sources."

Many Facebook users get news updates by following their favorite newspapers, TV news stations and blogs via Facebook.

"I think this is a great idea for Facebook, but I don't think this is a good long-term solution for the news outlets," Moorhead said. "It just reinforces that consumers should go to Facebook first and not news outlets. I think many people depend on Facebook for their news but are siphoned off the Facebook experience once they follow the link to the story and start reading."

Persuading news organizations to buy into this concept could be a challenge but may be part of the conversation that will start at F8 on Wednesday.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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