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Facebook admits 'giving people a voice is not enough' as it monetises Instant Articles

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By Jessica Goodfellow | Media Reporter

August 24, 2017 | 4 min read

Facebook has confirmed after months of anticipation that it will add subscriptions to its publisher platform, Instant Articles, while it won’t take a cut from the money earned as it looks to prove to publishers it is committed to supporting - rather than undercutting - journalism.

Facebook is testing paid subscriptions on Instant Articles

Facebook is testing paid subscriptions on Instant Articles

In a Facebook post announcing the news, founder Mark Zuckerberg admitted that “giving people a voice is not enough”, without having organizations “dedicated to uncovering new information and analyzing it”.

“As part of this, we're going to test new ways to help news organizations grow their subscriptions. If people subscribe after seeing news stories on Facebook, the money will go directly to publishers who work hard to uncover the truth, and Facebook won't take a cut,” he wrote.

The subscription test will start with a small group of U.S. and European publishers later this year who will provide feedback on the product, Zuckerberg said.

Facebook will also let publishers put logos next to articles they publish on the platform, responding to complaints from publishers that social networks strip them of their branding and identity, making it harder for them to build brand affinity with readers.

Allowing publishers to carry their branding on Facebook is something Matt Tee, the chief executive of press regulator Ipso, suggested could help readers discern between legitimate and fake news on the platform.

“Newsbrands still inspire trust and that is important in the way they are presented on the internet,” he said at Westminster Media Forum in July.

Zuckerberg said: “Eventually, our goal is to put a publisher's logo next to every news article on Facebook so everyone can understand more about what they're reading.”

Facebook has faced mounting criticism from publishers in the last year for failing to develop a fair revenue share model. In February Channel 4 News editor Ben de Pear told The Drum that Facebook paid the broadcaster a “tiny, minuscule amount of money” for the over 2bn video views it registered to its page last year.

His comments were echoed by presenter Jon Snow last night (23 August) at Edinburgh TV Festival: "While the reach of Facebook video exceeds that of conventional broadcasting, the revenue provided doesn’t even come close. And Facebook themselves have provided publishers with the most nominal of sums and certainly not the rate for the job."

In June Financial Times Group chief executive John Ridding said he was in talks with both Facebook and Google about creating a model that allows publishers with paywalls to charge for content on those platforms, believing this is essential in sustaining newsrooms and quality journalism.

Zuckerberg confirmed he had spent a lot of time over the last year meeting with news organizations “to talk about how we can work better together”.

“As more people get more of their news from places like Facebook, we have a responsibility to create an informed community and help build common understanding,” he wrote. “We can't do that without journalists, but we also know that new technologies can make it harder for publishers to fund the journalism we all rely on.”

“We're going to keep experimenting with different ways to support the news industry and make sure reporters and publishers everywhere can keep doing their important work,” he concluded.

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