The way in which we access news on Facebook in Australia is set to change, with the social media site’s Facebook News product set to finally launch in Australia.
While the debate around whether or not tech giants like Facebook and Google should pay for news has continued for the past two years, Facebook has been advocating its Facebook News product as a way to reimburse publishers for news content without the need for government regulation.
Back in 2019, when Facebook was dealing with issues around the spread of misinformation on the site, Mark Zuckerberg sat alongside News Corp’s chief executive Robert Thomsen and said “I think every internet platform has a responsibility to help fund and support news. Hopefully others will follow the model we are helping to set up.”
There are now 200 outlets signed up for Facebook News in the US.
After establishing the new product in the US, Facebook introduced Facebook News to the UK in January this year, with the likes of Channel 4 News, Daily Mail Group, DC Thomson, Financial Times, Sky News and Telegraph Media Group all signing on.
Facebook News creates a separate tab for news on the Facebook app and compiles personalised stories as well as top stories chosen by a team of journalists.
Facebook News looks at a number of key factors when it comes to how it promotes news. Things such as factually accurate stories and headlines, diversity of voices, original reporting, on-the-record sourcing and timeliness all come into consideration when choosing top topics.
“The team is transparent about the following guidelines and will make curatorial choices independently, not at the direction of Facebook, publishers or advertisers,” a company FAQ explains. “They will apply the same guidelines and criteria to our coverage about Facebook as we would to any other company or industry.”
Why has it taken so long in Australia?
Facebook effectively confirmed Facebook News would be coming to Australia on Tuesday, when it announced a new three-year deal with News Corp in Australia.
A similar deal with Nine is expected to be announced soon.
With Facebook having already signed a Letter of Intent with Seven West Media around payments for news content and similar deals with smaller publishers such as Private Media, Schwartz Media and Solstice Media, Facebook News looks set to take shape in Australia.
Facebook has also been investing in local news capabilities ahead of the launch, hiring former Pedestrian head of editorial Jen Ryall as a strategic partnership manager in its Australian and New Zealand news partnerships team last year.
And while Facebook News now appears to be ready to go, it has not been without some delay.
While the government and local media businesses pushed for the introduction of the News Media Bargaining Code in Australia, Facebook proposed the use of Facebook News as a way to pay publishers.
“We already invest millions of dollars in Australian news businesses and, during discussions over this legislation, we offered to invest millions more. We had also hoped to bring Facebook News to Australia, a feature on our platform exclusively for news, where we pay publishers for their content,” Facebook Australia & New Zealand managing director Will Easton said last year, amid the controversy.
There are clear similarities between Facebook News and Google’s News Showcase product.
Like Facebook, Google launched the Google News Showcase as a global initiative to financially support quality journalism around the world.
The News Showcase is a $US1 billion program that curates editorial content for readers while also paying publishers.
In February, when Google was still heavily campaigning against the News Media Bargaining Code, it was revealed Google was approaching local publishers with deals to be part of the News Showcase.
And while Google pushed to pay publishers through the News Showcase as part of the News Media Bargaining Code, some opposed the move.
“This is what monopolies do, they put an offer, in the form of Google Showcase, but not offer to negotiate. It has to be all on their terms and that is not an approach we will participate in, we support the legislation the Government is proposing as the best way to secure a fair payment for our content,” said a spokesperson from Nine.
Nine has since signed a deal with Google to join the News Showcase initiative, believed to be worth around $30 million a year.