Facebook Journalism Project Aims to Improve Ties with Media

Facebook’s Journalism Project is creating stronger connections to media companies, the result of the company’s unwelcomed limelight regarding fake news, and founder Mark Zuckerberg’s reluctant admission that the company is, at least in part, a media company. Facebook is also reaching out to support local news and making more efforts to educate users about hoaxes. Facebook plans to offer training for journalists and keep media updated on its efforts. This is the latest chapter in a historically complicated relationship.

Bloomberg reports that the media industry holds Facebook responsible “for disrupting its business model and helping promote viral content over articles of substance.” The debate reached a fevered pitch during the U.S. presidential campaign, in which Facebook “was criticized for not doing more to curb the spread of misinformation on its site.”

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Facebook recently hired former CNN host Campbell Brown to head up the news partnership team. “There are a lot of unknowns in the way that we create and produce journalism today,” said Vox Media publisher Melissa Bell. “We’re in a period of real experimentation when it comes to how we monetize, how we produce, how we distribute, how we build trust with our audience.”

Meeting in January, Facebook’s executive leaders prioritized its relationship with media, and “will work with news organizations on emerging business models, train journalists on Facebook products and tools via online courses, and visit newsrooms to discuss best practices.” With regard to educating the public about fake news, Facebook will work with the News Literacy Project, run public service ads, and “is open to making financial grants where necessary.”

The New York Times notes that all this means that, “Facebook is increasingly owning up to its role as one of the world’s largest distributors of information by taking more responsibility for the millions of stories that flow through its site.” It reports that the Journalism Project, which will launch in “coming weeks,” involves initial partners that include The Washington Post and Vox Media.

NYT suggests that media consider Facebook to be a “frenemy,” since publishers rely on the social media network to disseminate their stories — and Facebook, which regularly changes its algorithms, can “make of break a publisher’s traffic and revenue.”

Facebook has also thrown the advertising model into disarray, as ad dollars flow to them and Google rather than directly to publishers. The Interactive Advertising Bureau reports that Google and Facebook “accounted for nearly all the growth in the United States digital advertising market in the first half of 2016.”

Another Facebook olive branch to the media industry is free use of CrowdTangle, a popular analytics tool that publishers and journalists use to search for Facebook data. Facebook admitted these are early days in the new relationship. “As an industry, we have a lot to learn collaboratively,” said Facebook director of product Fidji Simo. “What you’re seeing is an increased commitment to that.”

Related:
Facebook to Roll Out Fake News Tools in Germany, BBC News, 1/15/17