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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. 

Erica Pandey 1 hour ago
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How China became a powerhouse of espionage

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

As China’s influence spreads to every corner of the globe under President Xi Jinping, so do its spies.

Why it matters: China has the money and the ambition to build a vast foreign intelligence network, including inside the United States. Meanwhile, American intelligence-gathering on China is falling short, Chris Johnson, a former senior China analyst for the CIA who's now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, tells Axios: "We have to at least live up to [China's] expectations. And we aren't doing that."

Caitlin Owens 1 hour ago
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Congress doesn't love the spending bill, but it passed anyway

Congressional leaders
Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. (Photo: Matt McClain / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

House Speaker Paul Ryan touted the defense spending increase, Sen. Rand Paul angrily tweeted about arcane government spending, and Democrats shook their head at the lack of gun control measures. But most members of Congress accepted the omnibus spending bill for what it is: A giant collection of what has to get done to keep the government functioning, while mustering enough votes to pass.

Why it matters: This is a $1.3 trillion dollar bill affecting every branch of government that passed mostly because it had to. Members voted on it without really reading it, as it was released Wednesday night and passed the Senate shortly after midnight Friday.