This article originally appeared in The Drum on August 5, 2018.
Facebook announced the launch of a $4.5m investment to help local journalism become better equipped for today’s digital-first news environment.
“At the end of the day, big players lose when too many smaller players go under. One can say that Facebook is preserving its topline by nurturing existing and future customers. Equally important, they are also nurturing journalism at a time when it’s under assault and the public increasingly views journalism with suspicion.”
Announced in a post on its media blog by Facebook’s head of news (and former news anchor) Campbell Brown, Facebook announced that $3.5m has been earmarked for a membership accelerator that it said will help news orgs build new membership models for themselves. It has also announced the expansion of its local subscription accelerator to give tools to local journalists and outlets to help retain and build their subscriber counts.
The local subscription accelerator has already assisted 14 news outlets in the US build their bases on and off the platform through testing new digital subscription strategies. Case studies from that work have been documented so other local publishers may benefit.
Bill Reynolds, who oversees operations and memberships for The Denver Post was quoted in the blog to say: “We didn’t learn just one thing. We learned many things from everyone here. This program accelerated so much for us, from the company culture to our benchmarking. The Denver Post is going to move faster as a result of this program.”
The other million has been donated to nonprofit Newsmatch, that doubles donations to help assist non-profit journalism.
The Media Trust’s chief executive Chris Olson, provided commentary on the announcement, saying: “The Facebook Journalism Project underscores the growing importance — or inevitable alliances — between businesses and the platforms their audiences use. In the publishing world, these relationships are crucial for audience reach, security, consumer privacy, etc. This project is simply one among a rising number of initiatives led by the platform giants like the Data Transport Project initiated by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter.
He added: “At the end of the day, big players lose when too many smaller players go under. One can say that Facebook is preserving its topline by nurturing existing and future customers. Equally important, they are also nurturing journalism at a time when it’s under assault and the public increasingly views journalism with suspicion.”
Some of these ‘big players’ have made themselves known in recent weeks, including national publishers like Tronc, which cut out half of the New York Daily News’ editorial team and a third of the Chicago Tribune’s writers in recent months. Facebook, for its part, has announced that it’s worked with publishers to help drive subscriptions through its platform, saying a test group was 17% more likely to subscribe via the Facebook app.