In the wake of dropping engagement and rousing calls for better oversight on fake news, Facebook has announced the launch of Facebook News, which will feature content from “trusted news partners.” And many of those news publishers will actually be paid for their content.
It’s an effort to make amends for the social giant’s admitted role in the disruption of the news industry, according to Mike Isaac and Marc Tracy in The New York Times.
“Facebook on Friday unveiled Facebook News, its latest foray into digital publishing,” the article explains. “The product is a new section of the social network’s mobile app that is dedicated entirely to news content, which the company is betting will bring users back to the site regularly to consume news on sports, entertainment, politics and tech.”
So far they’ve announced that The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Buzzfeed and Business Insider will be among the publishers featured in the news section.
“Facebook will pay for a range of content from dozens of publishers — including striking some deals well into the millions of dollars — and get local news from smaller publishers in metropolitan markets like Dallas-Fort Worth, Miami and Atlanta,” the article continues.
Zuckerberg was uncharacteristically contrite about his company’s role in the current publisher mess, where publisher engagement plummeted, media brands were forced to pay for coverage, fake news ran amok, and a huge number of consumers began to feel entitled to free content online.
“We feel acute responsibility because there’s obviously an awareness that the internet has disrupted the news industry business model,” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said in an interview. “We’ve figured out a different way to do this that we think is going to be better and more sustainable.”
Not everyone is thrilled with the news. Alt-right publishers Breitbart, whose owners were also owners of Cambridge Analytic, will be included on Facebook News as a “trusted publisher,” although they reportedly will not be paid.
“This scandal writes itself,” said digital watchdog monitor Sleeping Giants on Twitter.
I knew things were bound to get interesting in the post-Facebook world for publishers, when the company announced over a year ago they would “de-emphasize news in the news feed” and start ranking news outlets for trust. The moved forced many news brands to reconsider their reliance on third-party distribution and strengthen their own paid content models.
This was reinforced earlier this year when Facebook’s Campbell Brown announced they were not there to save publishers or the news industry in general. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg continues to vigorously defend free speech on Facebook, even to the point of deciding not to fact-check political ads (Have we learned nothing from 2016? I digress.)
This new move has two positives in its corner: 1) select publishing partners will receive payment for the content they provide; and 2) much of the content will be overseen by professional journalists, with veteran TV journalist Campbell Brown at the helm.
Still, I remain skeptical. Is this just one more way to cement the “need” these publishers have for a social entity that changes algorithms at will and sets the barometer for what’s trusted?
The chorus rang out last summer that Zuckerberg either doesn’t understand journalism or just doesn’t care. In this uneasy truce he’s drawn, perhaps he’s growing up and realizing his responsibility. Or maybe he’s just laying the groundwork for the next billion-dollar idea.