NEW YORK: Facebook announced Tuesday that it will invest $300 million dollars in various projects related to journalism, especially to promote local news, which has been hit hard in the digital age.
“Over the next three years, we will invest $300 million in news programs, partnerships and content,” Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president in charge of global news partnerships, said in a message posted on the social media site.
The move came at a difficult time for the news industry, which is facing falling profits and print readership. Facebook, like Google, has also been partly blamed for the decline in newspapers’ share of advertising dollars as people and advertisers moved online.
Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of global news partnerships, acknowledged the company “can’t uninvent the internet”, but said it wants to work with publishers to help them succeed on and off the social network.
“The industry is going through a massive transition that has been underway for a long time,” she said. “None of us have quite figured out ultimately what the future of journalism is going to look like but we want to be part of helping find a solution.”
Facebook has increased its focus on local news in the past year after starting off 2018 with the announcement that it was generally de-emphasising news stories and videos in people’s feeds on the social network in favour of posts from their friends.
At the same time, though, the company has been testing ways to boost local news stories users are interested in and initiatives to support the broader industry. It launched a feature called “Today In” that shows people local news and information, including missing-person alerts, road closures, crime reports and school announcements, expanding it to hundreds of cities around the US and a few in Australia.
The US$300 million investment includes a US$5 million grant to the charity Pulitzer Centre to launch “Bringing Stories Home”, a fund that will provide local US newsrooms with reporting grants to support coverage of local issues. There’s also a US$2 million investment in Report for America as part of a partnership aiming to place 1,000 journalists in local newsrooms across the country over the next five years.
The idea behind the investments, Brown said, is to look “holistically at how a given publisher can define a business model”.
“Facebook can’t be the only answer, the only solution,” she said. “We don’t want the publisher to be dependent on Facebook.”
Fran Wills, CEO of the Local Media Consortium, which is receiving US$1 million together with the Local Media Association to help their member newsrooms develop new revenue streams, said she is optimistic the investment will help.
“I think they are recognising that trusted, credible content is of benefit not only to local publishers but to them,” she said.