Facebook hasn’t had the best reputation as far as news is concerned. The social media giant has overtaken news sites’ advertising revenue, and used its algorithm to show users posts from friends instead of breaking news. But all that’s about to change. Facebook is creating a “News Tab” on its mobile app that will display headlines from popular news organizations — and pay them millions for it.
This change is something publishers have been asking for from Facebook for years. Now, clicking on a headline in the News Tab will take a user directly to the publisher’s website or their individual app. That way, news sites can gain back some of their own ad revenue and site visits on top of Facebook’s pay.
Featured publishers will include the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, BuzzFeed News, Business Insider, NBC, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times. Headlines from several of the largest US cities will appear as well, with small-town news coming soon.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview last year he wasn’t “sure it makes sense” to pay news outlets for their material, but he seems to have had a change of heart. Recently, he told the Associated Press he now sees an “opportunity to set up new, long-term, stable financial relationships with publishers.”
Facebook didn’t mention in the announcement how much publishers are getting paid, but there are rumors it could be in the millions for certain news outlets. This could change its relationship to the news industry, which has been mostly unhappy with Facebook’s behavior when it comes to news.
Facebook has struggled to stamp out misinformation and has used news stories without giving the publisher credit or financial compensation. But the majority of publishers still aren’t included in this new venture. Zuckerberg told the AP Facebook aims to set up partnerships with a “wide range” of publishers, but currently is only paying a select few publishers for their content.
When asked about this choice at an event on Friday, Zuckerberg replied his primary focus was building content, figuring out how to compensate publishers with paywalls, then adding local and international sources later. “We’re going to have journalists curating this, we are really focused on provenance and branding and where the stories come from,” he said.
Among the chosen publishers is Breitbart News, which has come under fire several times for running racist news stories. When asked why Breitbart was included in the first wave of paid publishers, Zuckerberg responded Facebook wants a “breadth of content.”
According to Facebook’s announcement, a small team of “seasoned journalists” will choose the headlines for the “Today’s Story” section of the News Tab, with the rest of the section filled up by Facebook’s algorithm based on user interests.
But this same method hasn’t worked in Facebook’s favor in the past. In 2018, the website had to shut down its “Trending Topics” section after receiving complaints about political bias. Facebook removed its human news editors from the job, leaving it to the algorithm, which quickly began to circulate false stories.
If these same methods are used for the News Tab, fake and biased stories could be even more prominent on your Facebook feed.