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Facebook promises $300 million to help local news

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Facebook has pledged $300 million to help local news.
Facebook has pledged $300 million to help local news.

Image: Thibault Camus/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Facebook is once again cozying up to local journalists as part of its ongoing commitment to supporting “high quality journalism.” 

The company will invest $300 million into “news programs, partnerships and content,” that benefit local news organizations in the United States and Europe, Facebook announced

The investment, which will be paid out over the next three years, covers a range of programs aimed at helping local news organizations. 

Some of the money will go to groups that work directly with local newsrooms, like the nonprofit Pulitzer Center and Report for America. Facebook is also investing a sizable chunk to its own Accelerator pilot, which helps local newsrooms create new subscription services and other “sustainable” business models.

The investment comes at a time when the social network’s relationship with the media has been strained. A News Feed algorithm change last year de-emphasized content from some publishers, cratering the referral traffic many media companies rely on. At the same time, the social network, which has repeatedly denied that it’s a media company, has also invested cash into original news programming for its video platform, Facebook Watch, as well as partnerships with fact-checking organizations to fight fake news. (Both these efforts are still ongoing, though some Watch partners have reportedly seen funding cut.)

Meanwhile, the newspaper industry has seen declining advertising revenue for years. According to the Pew Research Center, newspaper revenue has fallen industry-wide from more than $49 billion in 2006 to about $16.5 billion in 2017 — a trend Facebook’s $300 million is unlikely to reverse on its own.

But Facebook says it has an eye on both the short and longterm future for local news orgs. The goal of the $300 million investment, according to Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president of global news, is to help news organizations with “newsgathering needs in the immediate future,” and provide more longterm support as they “build sustainable business models.”

“We don’t want publishers to be dependent on us, but we do want to support them,” Brown told CNN’s Brian Stelter

Though the $300 million is the company’s biggest commitment yet to local news, it has also looked at other way to boost local journalism. Facebook has also experimented with a feature called “today in,” which pushes local news to directly to users in specific cities, and has invested in programs to support local journalism in the UK

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