October 29, 2019
Facebook, which has had a mixed relationship with news media, debuted Facebook News, a section devoted to news stories from a range of publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed and Business Insider. Most notably, Facebook is paying for use of the content, inking some deals that top $1 million, and letting professional journalists choose some of the stories to be published. Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg urged all online platforms to support professional news outlets.
NYT reports that Zuckerberg stated, “We feel acute responsibility because there’s obviously an awareness that the Internet has disrupted the news industry business model.” At News Corp, chief executive Robert Thomson said that Zuckerberg “seems personally and professionally committed to ensuring that high-quality journalism has a viable, valued future.”
The inclusion of content from Breitbart, which will not be paid, provoked a strong reaction from some political activists. Digital watchdog Sleeping Giants tweeted that the outlet’s “owner and former president were OWNERS of Cambridge Analytica,” a data mining company that spawned an on-going Facebook scandal.
Zuckerberg responded to the brouhaha by stating that he wants “content that represents different perspectives, but doing so in a way that complies with the standards that we have.”
Google is also taking steps to promote journalism, saying it would “give priority to articles that broke news or that had invested considerable resources into reporting over imitative aggregation.” Apple also debuted Apple News Plus, a $10 per month subscription product that offers articles from traditional outlets.
WSJ notes that BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith responded positively to Facebook’s move into news. Google stated that its search engine generates 24+ billion clicks each month for news outlets. “Publishers around the world can use Google tools for monetizing their content, and when they do, they receive over 70 percent of the ad revenue,” said the company in a statement.
WSJ also reports, “Facebook has said it plans to include news from as many as 200 publications, although many won’t receive licensing fees.”
VentureBeat reports that, in a public conversation between Zuckerberg and Thomson about “the role of news media in informing conversation on Facebook’s platform,” Zuckerberg predicted that Facebook News will reach 20 million to 30 million people “in the next few years” and will expand to international markets.
Zuckerberg stated that Facebook won’t provide data to advertisers but he is open to “the idea of providing publishers insights into the engagement behavior of their paying subscribers.”