Media Moves

Facebook launches news section

October 28, 2019

Posted by Mariam Ahmed

Since its launch 15 years ago, Facebook has continued to eat a big chunk of news organizations advertising revenue. Also, the tech giant has courted these organizations for video projects and then pulled back while simultaneously cutting their stories out of its newsfeed.

Now, the company wants to pay these news organizations for news headlines. For example, News Corp CEO Robert Thomson spent the last few years attacking Mark Zuckerberg for using news publishers’ work without paying for it.

Now, coming Friday, Thomson will be praising the Facebook CEO as the two men share a stage in New York City. Thomson and his boss, News Corp founder Rupert Murdoch, have been insisting that Facebook and other tech platforms should pay them for access to their work. Now Zuckerberg is giving them what they want.

“We should all be sending Robert Thomson and Rupert Murdoch thank you notes,” says an executive at another publisher that’s participating in the new initiative.

The move comes with the launch of the “News Tab”, a new section in the Facebook mobile application that will feature headlines and nothing else.

According to reports, headlines will come from the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, BuzzFeed News, Business Insider, NBC, USA Today and the Los Angeles Times, among others. Local stories from several of the largest U.S. cities will also make it to the News Tab section.

“Headlines from smaller towns are on their way,” says Facebook.

Tapping on those headlines will take you directly to publisher websites or apps, if you have any installed.

Although it’s a big step for a platform that has long struggled with both stamping out misinformation and making nice with struggling purveyors of news, media watchers remain skeptical that Facebook is really committed to helping sustain the news industry.

Just last year, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he wasn’t sure it “makes sense “to pay news outlets for their material.

But now, as Zuckerberg told The Associated Press in an interview, “there’s an opportunity to set up new long term, stable financial relationships with publishers.”

“It’s a good direction that they’re willing for the first time to value and pay for news content,” said David Chavern, head of the News Media Alliance, a publisher trade group. “The trouble is that most publishers aren’t included.”

“We think that this is an opportunity to build something quite meaningful here,” Zuckerberg said. “We’re going to have journalists curating this, we are really focused on provenance and branding and where the stories come from.”

Facebook says a small team of “seasoned” journalists it employs will choose the headlines for the “Today’s Story” section of the tab, designed to “catch you up” on the day’s news. This is something similar to what Apple News was offering.

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