Facebook buys social sharing startup to create new "Conversations" unit

|About: Facebook (FB)|By:, SA News Editor

Facebook (FB -0.9%) has acquired Branch Media, a startup that provides an app (Potluck) that pushes news snippets to users with the goal of enabling conversations with friends, as well as a link-sharing site (Branch) meant to host private discussions on news topics. Sources tell The Verge the price tag is around $15M.

Though Branch's products will (for now) remain in place, its team will now focus on developing products for Facebook (via a new Conversations group) that "[help] people connect with others around their interests." CEO Josh Miller says Facebook wants his company to "build Branch at Facebook scale."

Facebook has its eyes set on becoming a primary source for sharing and discussing news stories; the company recently tweaked its news feed algorithm to show more "high-quality" stories, and Mark Zuckerberg has said he wants Facebook to be "the best personalized newspaper in the world."

But (as noted in a December AllThingsD report) a disconnect currently exists between Facebook's goal and actual user activity. "Low-quality" viral content posted on Facebook often receives far more clicks and comments than "high-quality" news content.

Twitter (TWTR) has arguably seen more success (albeit with a much smaller base) at developing into a news sharing/discussion hub.