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Facebook Launches Effort To Help Boost Newspaper Subscriptions

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Facebook Launches Effort To Help Boost Newspaper Subscriptions

Washington: The Facebook Journalism Project has announced a new program today called Local News Subscriptions Accelerator that will work with several local US outlets over the next three months to help bolster their subscription efforts.

Facebook on Tuesday announced a $3 million pilot project aimed at helping US newspapers boost paid digital subscriptions.

The move was the latest by the huge social network to respond to concerns that it and other online platforms have hurt news organizations by dominating internet advertising.
Confirmed outlets that are participating include The Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, The Denver Post, The Miami Herald, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Omaha World-Herald, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Newsday.

The local news subscriptions accelerator, part of the Facebook Journalism Project, will work with a small group of metro news organisations to unlock strategies that help publishers build digital customer acquisitions on and off our platform, said a statement from Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships.
Outlets that partake in the program will meet in person once a month to get training from digital subscription experts, and have weekly sessions that cover marketing and digital subscriptions. Along with coaches, the outlets will then design projects that help solve their individual needs as it relates to digital subscriptions. As Facebook is footing the bill, these outlets will have to share any findings they learn of with the Accelerator.

Facebook recently took steps to enable publishers to encourage paid subscriptions directly from the social network, moving away from requirements that news organisations offer free content in links from Facebook.

The new initiative builds on that effort by offering guidance to publishers to help their digital initiatives.

We know Facebook is one part of the strategy to engage readers and ultimately drive paid subscriptions, Brown said.

Facebook will offer coaching from digital subscription experts to help build reader engagement, she added.

The effort by Facebook comes amid ongoing woes of legacy news organisations which have had trouble replacing revenues lost from print advertising in the digital space, with many outlets implementing new or revised paywalls.

The Facebook Journalism Project was launched in January of last year. Its intention is to connect directly with the news industry, collaborating with local news organizations to offer tools for journalists and examine the different ways news is delivered to readers on Facebook. Last month, Facebook announced a change in the News Feed to prioritize posts from local news in the US. So, if you follow a local publisher’s page or a friend shares a story from that outlet, the story will appear higher in your feed.

Facebook said it is working in the project with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, Denver Post, Miami Herald, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Omaha World-Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer, Seattle Times, San Francisco Chronicle, The Tennessean and Newsday.

Brown said Facebook would coordinate with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism to share findings through the Local Media Consortium, Local Media Association, and the News Media Alliance.

Local news outlets have had a divided outlook on Facebook over the past year, with concerns over putting attention toward a platform that offers a lack of revenue and reach. Many, like The Chicago Tribune, have abandoned Instant Articles after several changes deprioritized Instant Articles and dampened reach, and others, like Brazil’s largest newspaper, Folha de Sao Paolo, decided to stop publishing on Facebook altogether. Recently, onstage at Code Media, Facebook’s head of news partnerships Campbell Brown spoke on the platform’s relationship with journalism and news delivery. We’re going to have to experiment, Brown said. We have to be way more transparent and candid with publishers going in that this may not work out.