For years, Facebook has faced the heat from news organisations all over the world to pay them for their content on its 2.6-billion user strong platform. On Wednesday, the Mark Zuckerberg-led social media company took the first step in that direction by expanding its dedicated News section beyond the US market. With an aim to pay news publishers for content and original reporting, Facebook plans to expand the News Tab section to other countries including India, the UK, Germany, France, and Brazil.
What is Facebook News?
Facebook News is a separate section on the world’s most popular social platform that will help users find and read news articles from participating news publications. In late 2019, Facebook began testing its news section with a few thousand US users. In June 2020, Facebook News was rolled out to US consumers. And in August 2020, Facebook has said it is “considering” to expand its News Tab to countries like India, the UK, Canada, France, Germany, and Brazil. The launch won’t happen immediately, Facebook said in a blog post. Instead, the expansion would happen “within the next six months to a year.”
Which publications are on Facebook News?
Facebook said it has 200 publications on board for its News tab initiative. Some of the biggest names in the news publication industry are on Facebook News, including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, BuzzFeed, Bloomberg, and ABC News. The social media giant will reportedly pay some publishers $1 million to $3 million a year to feature their stories, according to Bloomberg. At the moment, Facebook has not disclosed the names of local Indian publications that are willing to partner with the social media company on this initiative.
How does Facebook News work?
Facebook News is different from its past initiatives like Instant Articles, where news articles were uploaded directly to the social platform. However, in the case of Facebook News, whenever a user opens a news article it will take the reader directly to publishers’ sites. Facebook users can read the entire story for free. And in the case of those publications who are behind the paywall, readers will be allowed to read a free article after which they will be asked to subscribe to the publication. The stories featured in Facebook News will be curated by journalists and algorithms.
Why is Facebook interested in news?
Facebook has for over a decade been a leading distributor of news on its platform but it never made an effort to pay news publishers their share of profits from its earnings. News publishers – both big and small – have always complained about the lack of a level playing field in how their content is being shared on the platform that has billions of users.
The pressure is mounting on Facebook and Google to pay news outlets for their content. Australian regulators recently drafted legislation that would allow publishers in the country to negotiate compensation with both Facebook and Google sharing or displaying their stories on their respective platforms.
In a way, the Facebook News tab, a dedicated section of the social network that will show users a personalised selection of news stories, aims to address the issue. The initiative is important also because Facebook will pay news publishers for their content.
By promoting quality journalism on its platform, which Facebook is aiming with the News Tab, the company also addresses the big elephant in the room: fake news. Facebook has been criticised for how it handles fake news and misinformation on its platform. The move to compensate publishers for their work and encouraging trusted news articles on its platform ahead of the November presidential election will only help Facebook clean its image.
Tech giants like Facebook have traditionally struggled to sustain deals with publishers. In the case of Facebook’s Instant Articles, announced in 2015 to enable faster load times of articles and improved presentation options, publications like The Guardian and The New York Times pulled out within two years of launch. The same year, The Guardian also stopped publishing its content on Apple News. Earlier this year, The New York Times ended its partnership with Apple News. The publication said that Apple’s news service didn’t help The Times achieving the newspaper’s subscription and business goals.