Facebook plans to make a significant investment in local news over the next three years, with $300 million going to a variety of initiatives and organizations.
The company has had a rocky relationship with news publishers recently. While it’s funded programming from partners like CNN and Fox News, it’s also played a role in some of the industry’s most dispiriting trends, like the so-called “pivot to video” — and several of the digital publishers that bet big on the platform have been struggling (to say the least).
So initiatives like this one (and a similar investment that Google announced last year) can seem like attempts to ameliorate the damage that the big digital platforms have already done to the news ecosystem. Or perhaps they’re simply protecting an important content source at a time when the local news business is under tremendous pressure.
Regardless of motivation, if it helps, it helps.
As for why Facebook is focusing on local news specifically, Vice President of Global News Partnerships Campbell Brown said in a blog post that after examining “what kind of news people want to see on Facebook” and talking to industry partners, “We heard one consistent answer: people want more local news, and local newsrooms are looking for more support.”
Brown said the investments will go into two broad areas — supporting journalists and newsrooms in the newsgathering process, and helping them build sustainable business models. More specifically, the company says it will invest:
- $5 million in the Pulitzer Center (with a $5 million matching gift from Emily Rauh Pulitzer) to launch “Bringing Stories Home,” an initiative offering reporting grants to cover topics that affect local communities.
- $2 million in Report for America, an initiative to place 1,000 journalists in local newsrooms across America over the next five years.
- $1 million for the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund, which is trying to create a hub for evaluating and improving how technology is used in U.S. newsrooms.
- a $1 million investment in the Local Media Association and the Local Media Consortium, to helping their 2,000-plus member newsrooms develop branded content revenue streams (both on and off Facebook).
- a $1 million commitment to the American Journalism Project, which is using “venture philanthropy” to support local news organizations.
- $6 million for the Community News Project, which is partnering with U.K. publishers to recruit trainee “community journalists” and place them in local newsrooms over a two-year period.
- More than $20 million to expand Facebook’s Accelerator program to help local publishers with their membership and subscription models.
“We are grateful for Facebook’s commitment to helping us meet the challenges of today’s journalism, especially in smaller cities where the survival of news outlets depends on new models of reporting and community engagement,” said Pulitzer Center founder and executive director Jon Sawyer in a statement. “We also applaud Facebook’s commitment to the editorial independence that is absolutely essential to our success.”