How TV news outlets are using Facebook’s new Timeline layout

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In February, Facebook started giving companies, organizations and brands the option of applying the “Timeline” format to their pages. While many users didn’t like the Timeline layout for their personal pages and are still resistant to the change, the format nonetheless seems to the direction Facebook is heading, and it does provide some excellent branding opportunities as well as a cohesive experience across the site as more and more people make the switch.

Facebook has set March 30 as the date when all pages will automatically be switched to Timeline, giving page admins a chance to make the transition on their own schedule until that date.

One of the most prominent changes includes the ability to use a “cover photo,” the large photo that spans the top of the page.

MSNBC, shown above, has made the switch and uses a large photo of the newsroom. MSNBC added a nice touch by adding a Facebook-blue band across the bottom along with a simple white version of its own logo.

One thing to keep in mind, however, when picking a cover photo, is that users with smaller screens will only see the bottom 100 pixels or so of cover photos by default, but can scroll up to see the entire image.

This view is approximated here:


This shortfall can be accommodated by strategically placing elements in that area to allow the lower portion of the cover photo to work as a standalone element, as MSNBC has done with its logo. Seeing just a part of the newsroom staffers also could pique users’ curiosity and encourage them to scroll up.

Facebook, however, doesn’t seem overly concerned with this and doesn’t warn page owners of the fact and, given that screen sizes continue to get larger, it may not be a huge issue for your organization.

WESH-TV, the NBC affiliate in Orlando, Fla., meanwhile, has opted for a black and white photo of its studio as its cover photo. This approach not only gives users a behind-the-scenes look into a familiar environment, but also allows the station’s logo to stand out a bit more than if the photo was full color.

One strategy WESH-TV could have taken to accomodate smaller screen sizes is to use, for example, some elements from its graphic package in the lower portion of the set photo and subtly blend it into the photo, creating a cover photo that works well on both large and small screens.

Fox News, meanwhile, cleverly uses its profile icon and cover photo to create a single, cohesive look. Notice how the searchlights in the logo continue upward into the cover photo. One possible issue with this cover photo, however, is that the “Fair & Balanced” line could be cut off awkwardly on smaller screens.

“The Today Show” has opted to use a large talent photo as its cover photo. ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “This Week” use this concept as well:


One thing to note about ABC’s photos is that they could probably benefit from a bit of color enhancement to help them “pop” a bit better.

“NBC Nightly News” also uses a talent photo of anchor Brian Williams, but includes a graphical background behind him that matches the show’s graphics package, another good strategy for emphasizing its brand.

NBC’s “Meet the Press,” meanwhile, uses its cover photo as a promotional vehicle, spotlighting upcoming guests. Presumably the photo will be changed every week.

While this certainly is a great use of the cover photo, it could run afoul with Facebook.

Before uploading a cover photo for the first time, Facebook page admins are warned: “This space is not meant for promotions, coupons, or advertisements. Your cover photo should not be primarily text-based or infringe on anyone else’s copyright.”

That said, that warning certainly leaves a bit of room for interpretation and the overall strategy for regularly updating your cover photo for station events, special reports, holidays and more is certainly worth considering.

It’s also interesting to note some of the TV news outlets that haven’t switched to the Timeline look yet (as of this writing). Among them are: “ABC World News Now,” CNN, “CBS Evening News,” “Rock Center with Brian Williams,” “PBS NewsHour” and “Face the Nation.”

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