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Facebook Gives Publishers New Tools, Hopes They'll Use Them to Give Facebook More Stuff

Facebook wants your stuff on their site. This is one way to make that happen, and there are more ways to come.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Facebook has been courting content companies for years because it wants content companies to bring more of their content to Facebook. Here’s a new example: A set of tools that will make it easier for publishers to share their stuff with the social network’s 1.3 billion users.

Most of these tools are fairly straightforward, like a new analytics dashboard that provides more detailed information about the way stories perform on the site. A new “smart publishing” option is a little more interesting, because it lets Facebook — with pre-approval from publishers — automatically push out stories that are hot on the site, even if a publisher hasn’t shared them on Facebook itself.

But what is most interesting about today’s news isn’t the news, but the context. Facebook’s announcement comes as part of a concerted effort to encourage publishers to move more of their content to the site.

It started last year when Facebook began directing more traffic to sites that worked with it, which made it an even more important traffic source for many publishers. It has ramped up this year, as Facebook conducted a “listening tour” with publishers; Facebook product executives say today’s tools came out of those meetings.

What will (probably) be far more consequential are the meetings Facebook is still having with publishers about ways to connect them even more directly with the site.

As the New York Times’ David Carr reported in October, Facebook has talked about getting publishers to run their stuff on Facebook itself, and sharing revenue with the creators. I don’t know if anyone is sold on that model, but the fact that’s it’s even come up in discussions indicates how serious Facebook is about getting more of this content in its system.

Publishers are unsurprisingly cautious, and worried about becoming dependent on Mark Zuckerberg’s platform. Then again, many of them already are dependent.

It’s also worth noting that today’s announcement comes from Chief Product Officer Chris Cox, who oversees Facebook’s News Feed and many other crucial elements of the machine. He’s an early Facebook employee who is very important within the org chart, but he has been fairly quiet until now. That could change.

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