Facebook wants to host the news, not just share it

Facebook may be a major source of eyeballs for online news, but the social site is reportedly hoping to not only direct readers to stories but host those articles too, as it tries to keep surfers on its site and happy. Mark Zuckerberg & Co. are said to be in negotiations with a number of high-profile publishers, including BuzzFeed and National Geographic, to host content on Facebook's own servers rather than direct shared links externally. The strategy would help cut loading times, which are said to be a key concern at Facebook as it tries to ensure its users stick around, particularly on mobile devices.

According to insiders familiar with the discussions between Facebook and publishers, speaking to the New York Times, talks have been underway for some time now, with early trials potentially beginning in "the next several months."

For those taking part – a list which is said to also include The New York Times – the promise is a share of Facebook's advertising revenue on any commercials shown next to hosted content.

Nonetheless, there's said to be skepticism among content creators, particularly given that Facebook's attitude to third-party sites and businesses has varied in recent months. Changes to how Facebook fan pages and business pages are shown to users, seemingly designed to encourage paid promotion rather than relying on organic reach, have left many frustrated and uncertain about the value of investing in the social network.

Actually hosting news on Facebook's own servers isn't the only approach apparently under consideration. One of the primary targets of the scheme is cutting load time, it's said – in part on the understanding that mobile users have incredibly low patience, and aren't willing to wait for stories to open up if they take more than a few seconds – and Facebook is believed to also be discussing alternative ways to trim that down.

It's not the first time Facebook has tried to massage its place in the news distribution cycle. Facebook Paper, for instance, was released for iOS back in early 2014, a speed-focused newsreader app that was built around sharing and custom news from a selection of curated sources.

Earlier this year, meanwhile, Facebook and Flipboard parted ways over what the newsreader app developer claimed were changes in permissions around social sharing.