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Scoop: Facebook aiming to launch News for Watch this summer

Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook is getting ready to launch a news section for its Watch platform and it's testing different video partnerships with roughly 10 publishers, Axios has learned. 

Why it matters: This would be the first standalone news product for national news in Watch. The tech company previously launched several products, like Instant Articles and Facebook Live, with an array of publishers which included but was not limited to news companies.

Facebook is in touch with both legacy and digital-first news publishers to test a daily video feature that would run for at least a year, according to multiple sources familiar with the effort.

  • The content needs to be a minimum of three minutes.
  • Facebook plans on launching the feature this summer and testing what works best. 
  • Sources say Facebook is working strategically with publishers to understand budget needs and monetization opportunities on the platform. 

The big picture: Facebook is trying to create more meaningful engagement on its platform. While executives have said they don’t know exactly how they will measure meaningful engagement through comments and shares, creating a news product that’s native to the platform and includes content from vetted publishers will hopefully drive less passive engagement and curb the spread of misinformation on its platform. 

“Timely news video is the latest step in our strategy to make targeted investments in new types of programming on Facebook Watch... As part of our broader effort to support quality news on Facebook, we plan to meet with a wide-range of potential partners to develop, learn and innovate on news programming tailored to succeed in a social environment. Our early conversations have been encouraging, and we're excited about the possibilities ahead.”
— Campbell Brown, Head of News Partnerships for Facebook, in a statement to Axios responding to a request for comment

The backstory: 2017 was a year of reckoning for Facebook, from both a fake news and publisher relations perspective. The company has since taken steps to combat the spread of misinformation on its platform and to improve its relationship with publishers, including being more transparent and collaborative around product testing. 

Our thought bubble: Creating a standalone destination for news is an opportunity to guide readers to credible sources its platform, especially during breaking news, when misinformation tends to spread faster. It also gives the company a chance to work more strategically with publishers on achieving their branding and monetization goals. 

Mike Allen 3 hours ago
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A huge clue about Mueller's endgame

Robert Mueller testifies before Congress in 2013. Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

Axios has learned that special counsel Robert Mueller has focused on events since the election — not during the campaign — in his conversations with President Trump's lawyers. The top two topics that Mueller has expressed interest in so far: the firings of FBI director James Comey and national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Why it matters: That suggests a focus on obstruction of justice while in office, rather than collusion with Russia during the campaign. But both sagas are interwoven with Russia: Trump himself has linked Comey's firing to Russia, and Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador during the transition.

Amy Harder 5 hours ago
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Column / Harder Line

The swamp’s tug-o-war over America’s ethanol mandate

American eagle with corn in its claws
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

A biofuels standard Congress passed more than a decade ago in the name of rural development, energy security and climate change has devolved into an arcane fight over market share that has nothing to do with those initial three goals.

Why it matters: The law — called the renewable fuel standard that requires refineries to blend biofuels into gasoline — is a textbook example of how regulations create winners, losers and unintended consequences.