More Details Emerge About Facebook’s Upcoming News Tab

Facebook is slated to launch a News Tab as early as the end of October, but according to sources only a few of the publishers whose headlines appear there will get paid. The News Tab, which will appear on the toolbar at the bottom of the Facebook mobile app, will feature links for up to 200 publications, but sources say the social media giant never intended to pay all those news outlets. Sources note that it is similar to how Facebook built its Watch section, which includes videos it doesn’t pay for.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, “taking into account companies that own multiple publications, Facebook will pay fees to about one-quarter of the organizations that will be involved at launch … [and] is still negotiating with several big publishers,” mainly about how many stories Facebook would be allowed to post.

Some publications are only allowing limited access, although Facebook wants all-access. According to sources, the news outlets in conversation with Facebook include “Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Business Insider, BuzzFeed, HuffPost and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Licensing fees range from “several hundred thousand dollars for regional publications” to $3 million a year, for a three-year deal.

Over time, said sources, the number of publishers is expected to expand and “the feed will become more customizable and individually targeted.” The News Tab will also “eventually include links from Facebook’s local-news project ‘Today In’.”

Editors (rather than an algorithm) will pick the 10 headlines for the Top News section and sometimes choose other headlines. An algorithm will choose news in the sub-sections, including the customizable “suggested for you.” Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anne Kornblut heads up the team of curators, set to expand to about 25 people, some of them based in London.

“We’ve been working closely with news organizations to get this right by emphasizing original reporting and making it much easier to find the most relevant news on Facebook,” said Facebook’s vice president of global news partnerships Campbell Brown. In response to charges of bias from conservatives, Facebook is now “mindful to include a diversity of viewpoints among the outlets that will be featured,” said a source.

All the digital giants are reacting in response to legal and regulatory scrutiny. Google, which has resisted paying publishers, will now focus on promoting original content. Facebook has stated it will “highlight only publishers that meet the criteria of its news page index, which requires sites to focus on news reporting and bars those that repeatedly share misinformation and bombard readers with advertising.”

Bad News: Facebook Leads in News Consumption Among Social Feeds, But Most Don’t Trust It, Says Pew, TechCrunch, 10/2/19