New Facebook search tool designed to help journalists, marketers

News organizations can display real-time Facebook activity

This week, Facebook announced a new search tool designed to help two types of searchers: Marketers interested in what people are talking about on TV and journalists interested in what Facebookers are saying about a particular topic of the moment.

Marketers can see what people are talking about in real time, whether it's their product or service, or one they want to partner with or advertise. Mass Relevance has a website with some examples of how you could use this data to see some broad demographics of who's watching and commenting. It's not earth-shattering by any means, but I imagine over time the data will get more detailed.

News organizations can display Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) conversations in real time on their shows to get a pulse of general thinking on a particular subject. It could have some utility for news channels like a CNN or Fox, but it really depends where the people are talking and if they are just getting echo chamber kinds of responses or a real cross section of people's thoughts.

If you're wondering how your content will appear in these feeds, you need to allow the public to view your thoughts in your security setting. If you're locked down, your content shouldn't appear in these streams, but according to a blog post on Facebook, it could appear in the form of anonymous aggregated data.

One example of using this type of data is What's Trending on The Today Show on NBC. It gives hosts a peg to discuss what people find interesting or important on Facebook, and it mainstreams Facebook into television, which is important for them--and also an interesting phenomenon in itself.

For now, this is a very limited beta including just Buzzfeed, CNN, NBC's Today Show, BSkyB and Slate. Obviously, Facebook is looking not just for news alone, but also popular destinations. Buzzfeed is not a hard news source by any means, but it is immensely popular.

I did email Facebook public relations and ask for a demo account, but was told that it was only available to a "limited number of partners." I guess that means I'll have to wait to test it.

For now, it's an attempt to commercialize the content and the underlying data, and package it in a way that's useful to marketers and television news shows (along with online sources). It's also clearly an attempt by Facebook to wrestle the commercial aspects of social conversations around television events from Twitter, where a lot of this conversation currently happens.

It seems to me there's probably room for both, as marketers and news stations look for new ways to leverage the information on online social media.

For more information:
- see the Facebook blog post on the new search tools

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