Facebook pledges US$300 mln to support local newsrooms

January 17, 2019 16:51
Facebook, led by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is giving US$300 million in grants to various organizations that are trying to help local journalism thrive in today’s difficult media market. Photo: Reuters

Facebook has announced that will spend US$300 million over the next three years to provide grants to various organizations across the world that are helping the cause of local journalism.

The cash commitment will be used to invest in "news programs, partnerships, and content," with some of the funds going directly to nonprofit organizations like the Pulitzer Center and Report for America.

It will also expand Facebook’s program to help local newsrooms survive with viable business models, and support other news initiatives such as news literacy programs and third-party fact-checking.

Amid the digital revolution, Facebook, along with search engine Google, has been snagging billions of dollars in revenue from advertisers, while hastening the decline of traditional media’s business.

In its most recent quarter, the social media giant posted US$5.1 billion in profit.

The company has been blamed for its power to control what users see in their News Feeds, which displays a computer-curated selection of posts from other users and Facebook pages and publishers.

Facebook has changed the news feed algorithm multiple times, subtly altering the media’s reach and engagement with the audience through the social network.

According to the company, some of the US$300 million commitment will be allotted to support the programs under the Facebook Journalism Project launched two years ago.

With an aim to support the sharing of accurate information, the Project consists of programs t0 explore areas like the membership models for newsrooms.

"We don't want publishers to be dependent on us, but we do want to support them," Campbell Brown, Facebook's Vice President of global news partnerships, told CNN in an interview, adding that the idea behind the investments is to look ”holistically at how a given publisher can define a business model.”

Major news outlets such as CNN, Fox and BBC will also receive funding to produce special video programming for the Facebook Watch section within the platform.

Launched last year, Facebook Watch is supporting publishers and video content creators by helping them make money from their videos on Facebook with Ad Breaks, and understand how their content is performing with Creator Studio, the company claims.

The push to support local journalism comes as tech giants have been contending with scandals around user privacy, misinformation, and elections-meddling through their online platforms.

Google announced last March US$300 million spending in a three-year commitment for "Google News Initiative" to fight misinformation and bolster journalism.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 17

Translation by Ben Ng with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal