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Facebook Connect and the future of news

“If the news is that important, it will find me.” -college student quoted in New York Times, March 2008

What my Facebook friends are reading on the Huffington Post

What my Facebook friends are reading on the Huffington Post

This excellent post by Bill Wyman has had me thinking about the traditional (though not yet entirely historical) role of newspapers in serving as “windows to the world” for their readers. Today, savvy news consumers are still looking to those windows for news, but through the lens of what of their friends, colleagues and family members are reading. That’s a phenomenon with potentially huge and as yet unrecognized impact on PR professionals seeking the greatest impressions for their brands.

Enter HuffPost Social News, a Facebook Connect-enabled project which helps the news site’s users see what their friends are reading. While the stated goal of Facebook Connect, launched last year, is to enable other social sites to “implement and offer even more features of Facebook Platform off of Facebook”, up to this point that has meant little other than the ability to punch your Facebook login information into Digg and a few other sites and see which of your Facebook friends also belong to those networks. Facebook Connect has been most often likened to OpenID, a project to help people consolidate usernames and passwords.

But the HuffPost Social News project, launched on Monday, represents a new level of integration between Facebook and a news site. After signing up, log in to the Huffington Post and you immediately receive updates about which of your friends have read which HuffPost stories. It seems like a simple feature, but if other sites adopt the approach, Facebook users will begin to influence each other’s choices about what to read and watch. That could become a very important factor in which stories on the Web are most popular on a given day, just as inbound links from a group of bloggers can cause a blog post to percolate. 

As we increasingly view news content through social filters, those filters may become essential in determining what’s generating buzz and what’s not.

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