The Independent’s Facebook innovation


The Independent newspaper has introduced a fascinating new feature on the site that allows users to follow articles by individual writers and news about specific football teams via Facebook.

It’s one of those ideas so simple you wonder why no one else appears to have done it before*: instead of just ‘liking’ individual articles, or having to trudge off to Facebook to see if there’s a relevant page you can become a fan of, the Indie have applied the technology behind the ‘Like’ button to make the process of following specific news feeds more intuitive.

To that end, you can pick your favourite football team from this page or click on the ‘Like’ button at the head of any commentator’s homepage. The Independent’s Jack Riley says that the feature will be rolled out to columnists next, followed by public figures, places, political parties, and countries.

The move is likely to pour extra fuel on the overblown ‘RSS is dying‘ discussion that has been taking place recently. The Guardian’s hugely impressive hackable RSS feeds (with full content) are somewhat put in the shade by this move – but then the Guardian have generated enormous goodwill in the development community for that, and continue to innovate. Both strategies have benefits.

At the moment the Independent’s new Facebook feature is plugged at the end of each article by the relevant commentator or about a particular club. It’s not the best place to put given how many people read articles through to the end, nor the best designed to catch the eye, and it will be interesting to see whether the placement and design changes as the feature is rolled out.

It will also be interesting to see how quickly other news organisations copy the innovation.

*If I told you I said this deliberately in the hope someone would point me to a previous example – would you believe me? Martin Stabe in the comments points to The Sporting News as one organisation that got here first. And David Moynihan points out that NME have ‘Like’ buttons for each artist on their site.

More coverage at Read Write Web and Future of Media.

20 thoughts on “The Independent’s Facebook innovation

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  2. Martin Stabe

    Actually, it has been done before.

    The Sporting News has been allowing users to follow particular tags on its site via Facebook Likes for some time, and has claimed massive success from this. In practice, this means that users of the US sports site can personalise their feeds to their favourite clubs and players.

    What’s really surprising is that this good idea isn’t more widespread on news sites.

  3. Lloyd Shepherd

    It’s nice – but presumably somebody somewhere could just build this for the Guardian using their full-fat feeds. Hence the joy of an open network. Not sure a major newspaper putting its distribution strategy so much in the hands of a Big Bad American Megacorp is quite the way to go. Open Standards!

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  11. Alfred Cassis

    This is a good initiative I believe
    Why not have everywhere this possibility?
    I would suggest though three (3) buttons:- (/) Like ; () Dislike ; (=) Follow .
    The choice to follow should be available, not obligatory; &/but in some [highly important] cases maybe also the choice of NOT to follow ( _ ) could be a necessity. { _(not only a “Rate This”) choice_ }

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