Can online journalism become a social network? With legacy newspapers continuing to look for new ways to reinvent themselves, transforming into online blogs was just the first step. As a result of the Huffington Post's collaboration with Facebook, the next phase in the morphing process appears to be news blog sites melding into social media networks.
On August 17, Arianna Huffington's public announcement about the new HuffPost Social News network and partnership with Facebook was posted.
In detailing her new relationship with Zuckerberg et al, her rationale appears to be based on the 'if-you-can't-beat-it-gotta-join-them' mentality.
- "The explosive growth of online social networking has fundamentally changed our relationship with news. It's no longer something we passively take in. We now engage with news, react to news, and share news. News has become an important element of community -- something around which we gather, connect, and converse. And we can all become part of the evolution of a story now -- expanding it with comments and links to relevant information, adding facts and differing points of view."
Describing it as "HuffPost's new digital water cooler," the mechanics of the collaboration will combine Facebook Connect and a Social News module that will appear on every page of the HuffPost. Your activity on the site will then be transferred to your Facebook timeline and in the process will also find your Facebook friends that are also reading the HuffPost.
Facebook - HuffPost timeline
For those concerned about privacy, Arianna is quick to provide a caveat: "What you read on HuffPost Social News will not appear on Facebook unless you hit the "Like" button or the "Facebook Share" button. If you don't want people to see a story you have viewed, you can remove it from your list of recent activity. You can also place yourself in 'Stealth Mode' before you read it."
According to Chadwick Matlin from Slate's The Big Money, he is concerned that while "this may be the future of journalism, it doesn’t mean it’s going to save it. Empowering Facebook is good for now, but can it be trusted in the future?"... when the company places its own interests first. "A Facebook-led journalistic future is fraught with just as much uncertainty as one led by the mainstream media," he adds.
While one can agree with Matlin to a point, allowing commentary from the 'wisdom of crowds' in open discussion and debates with the news media is not such a bad idea. I think more time is needed to test this new formula to see if indeed journalism and social networks are strange bedfellows... that can perhaps work together!