Facebook seeks ‘fair compensation’ for publishers — and promises new place for news too.

Behind Local News
Jun 16 · 5 min read

Facebook and publishers need to work on a ‘fair compensation and value exchange’ to help journalism survive, the company’s European director of news partnerships told a conference.

Jesper Doub said the company was committed to journalism — and said he wanted the company to ensure that news was available to everyone, not just those who could afford it.

He also said the company was committed to the discovery of journalism on the platform beyond what people just share amongst their friends.

Speaking during a ‘fireside chat’ with Archant’s chief content officer Matt Kelly at the Global Editors Network conference in Athens, Jesper said: “We definitely believe that having access to journalism ,independent strong journalism, is important. The [Facebook] mission is to connect people in the world and make sure that they have a voice.

“And if you want to have a voice we think you should be educated and have access to this [journalism]. There are publishers that I sit down with that feel like if people can pay pay for their bread they should be able to pay for their news. I think that’s wrong.

“I think it is important that people who can not afford to buy and pay for news should have access to news and then it might be on us if we are the platform they are using to fund the arrangement with the publishers for the compensation because you need to be able to pay a journalist to do so.”

Asked if that meant Facebook would directly compensate news organisations for content, Jesper replied: “What we are looking at at the moment is in how we can do this best and I personally think that the best way of doing this is allow publishers to have a business on Facebook because everything else always ends up being a kind of subsidy.

“If you go down the way of licensing you have to start choosing because how would you have a licence with everyone on this planet doing journalism?

“So I think what is on us, and working with the industry, is making sure that publishers — media companies — can have a better business on the platform.

“There was a time when publishers actually had a business working with Facebook. So I think we need to get back to that place without doing the same things we did then. But I think we need to have a fair compensation and value exchange.”

Publishers in the UK have been demanding a greater share of revenue from the big two digital giants — Facebook and Google — for several years, and the role of the platforms in journalism was a heavy focus of the Cairncross Review into Journalism which was published earlier this year.

At the moment, publishers make money from Facebook in several ways, including adverts on Instant Articles — where Facebook receives content from publishers, serves it up in the Facebook app and shares the revenue from the ads on those pages. As one of the major referrers of traffic to the UK’s regional and local news sites, Facebook also helps drive revenue created on the sites of publishers.

Publishers receive no direct revenue when their content appears in the main Facebook feed, unless someone clicks on the link. Facebook says news content accounts for between 4 and 5% of Newsfeed content.

Other revenue sources such as video revenue remain experimental, while the company’s push to support subscriptions to journalism have yet to take off in the UK.

Publishers and the News Media Association point to the migration of advertising revenue to Google and Facebook as a primary factor behind the immediate problems facing publishers.

Asked how soon publishers might see more help, Jesper said: “We are currently working on a couple of ideas.

“When you look on products that we’re building we’ve just built and released publicly the option to build subscriptions on Facebook and we developed this with the industry.

“This is publicly available for every legitimate news outlet you can have that subscription feature, all the data, the whole pricing process and contract the contract relationship is between the publisher and the reader not through Facebook. Facebook does not keep a share, 100 percent of the revenue goes to the publisher.”

The company is also investing in how people can discover news on Facebook. At the moment, the Facebook News Feed is powered by algorithm which choose content based on thousands of factors including which pages you like, what your friends are sharing and what you’ve engaged with recently.

Jesper said: “If you look at the algorithm, the algorithm does not necessarily support the view that a publisher would have on what an audience should read.

“The algorithm is a ranking mechanism that helps you sift through all the potential posts. The algorithm ranks from your perspective as a user — so what are you most likely to want to read.

“As media, everyone knows what the story is that a user wants to read but then the journalist says this is the thing that you ought to read. A ranking mechanism that is ranked to looking after your potential posts does not reflect that.

“This is one of the problems that media companies working with Facebook have because the philosophies are so different.

“Mark [Zuckerberg] announced just recently that we want to try to build a place on Facebook where news actually can live and be from trustworthy sources only.

“You can go in [to this place] and say I want to know what’s going on now whereas in News Feed, you’ll have to wait for news to show up because and the news that might show up in your News Feed might not be the top story of the day because of your behaviour or your friends sharing behaviour of whatever it is.

“It’s not an editing process we’re creating, it’s a new place. It’s so early in the process we don’t even know what it’s going to look like. It would be something where you could go to and say I want to know what’s top news for me and from the sources that are trustworthy on the platform. But again it’s early days.”

Jesper added: “Everyone [at Facebook] wants journalism to be on the platform and everyone wants to help journalism find its way through the transition.

“There is a clear commitment to our responsibility to help journalism find its way. We’re not going to be the solution and we shouldn’t be the solution. We can be part of it. We have a responsibility for it.”

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