Stories from news outlets including the Guardian, the Daily Mail and the Financial Times will appear in a dedicated Facebook feed from today.

The UK launch of the Facebook News service is the first outside the US. In addition to already-inked deals involving the Guardian, the Economist and hundreds of local sites, Facebook on Tuesday announced new partnerships with Channel 4 News, Daily Mail Group, DC Thomson, Financial Times, Sky News and Telegraph Media Group.

The deal, which will earn leading publishers millions, will be a financial boost as they face a bleak economic landscape, in part because such a large proportion of the ad market is now controlled by the social network.

Facebook said the investment was intended to “support the industry in building sustainable business models”.

However, it will also be seen as a strategic play by the company aimed at discouraging wider international regulation of the news media market – by showing that it is prepared to support local publishers without government intervention.

It comes as Australia moves ahead with a proposed “news media bargaining code”, which would force tech companies to enter into negotiations for payment for content or face third party arbitration if they cannot reach a deal.

Meanwhile, the EU copyright directive threatens a similar scenario across Europe. Last week Google agreed a deal to pay news publishers for online content in France, the first such deal on the continent.

Facebook said that the deal in the UK, where the EU copyright directive does not apply, was “the beginning of a series of international investments in news” that “puts original journalism in front of new audiences as well as providing publishers with more advertising and subscription opportunities to build sustainable businesses for the future”.

READ  Jeremy Darroch steps down as Sky chief executive

Contracted news editors – working for news aggregator Upday but overseen by Facebook’s curation team – will select stories of the day, while other stories algorithmically selected according to a user’s interests will also appear.

Facebook said that the product would provide curated “news digests” covering the most important reporting on the stories of the day, giving an example of a collection of coronavirus-related stories to coincide with the launch.

Although some publishers have signed seven-figure deals, others are not paid upfront and will rely on a boost to referral traffic or views of ads on Facebook’s Instant Articles format.

Besides its regulatory concerns, Facebook will also hope that by giving news a separate feed it can bolster its reputation as a responsible platform in an era of unreliable sources.

It may also hope that by giving news a feed of its own it can eventually separate highly controversial stories from the more palatable pets-and-family content which remains the most powerful draw for most users – although a post by Jesper Doub, director of news partnerships in Europe, said that “news articles shared by people and pages will continue to appear in News Feed [Facebook’s main feed], just as they do today”.

Of the UK’s national news publishers, News UK – which publishes the Times, the Sunday Times, and the Sun – is the most significant holdout. It already has a deal with Apple News.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here