Facebook News is crossing the Atlantic to give British users access to the social network’s dedicated current affairs content. The UK is the second market to host the platform following its launch in the United States last year and will include content provided by established publishers such as Channel 4, Sky News and The Guardian.
OK, why does it matter?
The content licensing deal is worth millions to publishing partners, providing a timely financial boost at a time of famine as Facebook hoovers up an ever-increasing share of the ad market.
Facebook is heralding the new initiative as a way to ’support the industry in building sustainable business models’.
Reading between the lines, however, the move is as likely to be a public relations drive designed to persuade regulators that it is capable of supporting local publishers without the need for government intervention.
Facebook News comprises daily news articles curated by a dedicated team of journalists.
Individuals will be presented with personalised stories based on browsing history and contacts, with new interests, topics and outlets deliberately encouraged.
Key priorities for coverage will include areas such as business, entertainment, health, science and tech, and sport.
Users will also be handed the power to control what they see by enabling the ability to hide specific articles, topics or publishers.
Major publishers have already signed seven-figure deals to participate in the new service, but smaller publishers will receive no cash payout, instead only benefiting indirectly through referral traffic and ad views via Facebook’s Instant Articles.
The launch coincides with a period of intense global scrutiny into the affairs of Silicon Valley tech giants – a situation thrown into sharp relief in Australia where Facebook last year vowed to block news publishers and sharing news on its platforms if forced by law to share its revenues among publishers.
Facebook will also do everything in its power to avoid such an eventuality, preferring to take matters into its own hands with a voluntary system.
Communicating the new stance in a blog post, Jesper Doub, its director news partnerships in Europe, said: “As we invest more in news and pay publishers for more content in more countries, we will work with them to support the long term viability of newsrooms.“
As part of its charm offensive, Facebook has also pledged to extend its Community News Project for another year. The £2.25m annual training fund is run in partnership with the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).
Doub added: “Our aim is to build on our efforts to sustain great national and local journalism and create more value for publishers.“
Facebook News will continue to roll-out internationally, with active negotiations already underway to bring the service to France and Germany.