Facebook. Has it become the master of the news universe?

FACEBOOK may have been set up with social interaction in mind, but it's emergence as a dominant supplier of news makes it a powerful resource for any publisher.

Which was why I was drawn to this piece on Monday Note flagged up to me by Scott Douglas as we recorded this week's Quiet News Day podcast.

It boldly states:

"Over the next twelve months, the media industry is likely to be split between those who master the Facebook system and those who don't."

The article is laden with all sorts of facts about how Facebook is growing at a rate of 30% a year; of how the average online news site is viewed by people around 30 minutes a month compared to the four or five hours they will spend on Facebook; or how half of all FB users – 250 million – log on to the network for an average 34 minutes every day.

Impressive enough on a global stage, but work it down to a UK footing, and you learn from Experian Hitwise how Facebook now accounts for 55% of all social media traffic on the island. 

To put that in some context, while Twitter has chirped up 20 billion plus Tweets globally, it still accounts for just 2.08% of all social media traffic in the UK. YouTube accounts for 16.47%, still a long way off the leader.

That's a huge potential audience across all three platforms for news channels to exploit or, rather, to harness.

But clearly Facebook is the one which must currently be worth cultivating, especially when you consider a piece on Cyberjournalist which tells how 22 per cent of newspaper readers admit they wouldn't miss their print edition, far less Rupert Murdoch's online ambitions through the iPad.

It makes sense to look at how it can be utilised.

Even in my day job at an Edinburgh news agency, we've taken to trying out our on Facebook page, and from small acorns are slowly building up a community. There's words, video, photograph, discussions.

But most heartening of all hasn't been the way the journalists have responded in populating it, but those reading it. We've already had people on asking if we'd publicise events, offering story tips, and hitting the all important like button.

Not a week after it was first set up, along came a fantastic resource for it at facebook.com/media which has become essential reading for its tips, notes and tutorials on how to extract the best from our content which will continually be a work in progress.

Beautifully, the only cost to us has been time and content. So you can only imagine the success some of the big players could have if they really stopped and concentrated their fire on developing it for themselves.

Now that really could be something worth liking.

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Shaun Milne is a UK based journalist. Follow him on Twitter @milnemedia

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