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Facebook to pay publishers for hosting ‘high-quality’ content, on a dedicated news tab

As a part of a series of discussions he is hosting about the future of technology and society, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat down with Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer—the largest publisher in Europe—to discuss the role of Facebook and technology in the media industry.

“It’s important to me that we help people get trustworthy news and find solutions that help journalists around the world do their important work,” Zuckerberg said.

During the discussion—filmed in Berlin and broadcast on Facebook—Zuckerberg mentioned that he was thinking about creating a dedicated tab for news on Facebook, featuring “high-quality, trustworthy content.”

To ensure that this new section on Facebook would feature only the highest quality content, he considered the idea of paying publishers to feature their content, and it would be available to all users for free.

There is a real opportunity to have better monetization for publishers than we have today.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook

Zuckerberg emphasized that he still sees Facebook’s News Feed as a place where people primarily go to connect with friends and family. The separate tab with aggregated content from news publishers would be beneficial for those “who have a demand to want more news.” He estimated that around 10-20% of Facebook’s audience would be interested in this new section.

“We’re coming to this from a very different perspective than I think some of the other players in the space who view news as a way that they want to maximize their revenue,” he said, in an apparent dig at Apple, which charges users $10/month for their “Netflix for magazines” offer, and publishers 50% of the revenue.

“Local journalism is having a hard time transitioning to the internet in general,” Zuckerberg said, “and I would hope that we can be one of the ways that we can support and make [that] more sustainable from a distribution and monetization perspective.”

Zuckerberg posted the discussion with Mathias Döpfner on Facebook, and the video has already garnered ~400K views.

While the Facebook CEO didn’t go into specific details about how this model might work, he said that having a “direct relationship” with publishers would help, and that the company was still figuring out how to balance curation with aggregation of sources a user was already following.

“The relationship between us and publishers is different in a surface where we’re showing the content on the basis of us believing that it’s high-quality, trustworthy content,” Zuckerberg said to Döpfner.

They also discussed the principles Facebook should use for building a news tab to surface more high-quality news, the business model and ecosystem to support it, and whether Facebook might hire a dedicated team of editors and journalists to manage the content.

“We’re not going to have journalists making news,” he clarified. “What we want to do is make sure that this is a product that can get people high-quality news.”

This is not just an off-the-cuff idea, according to The Guardian’s sources at Facebook, who suggest the news product has been in development for some time and should be ready to launch by the end of this year.

“We know there’s more we can do to help people connect with quality news and to support journalism,” wrote Facebook’s Head of News Partnerships, Campbell Brown, referring to “Mark’s latest challenge video.”

We’ll build out this tab with input from experts in journalism, to create something that works for both people and publishers. And monetization for publishers will be built into this surface from the start.

Campbell Brown, Facebook’s Head of News Partnerships

“We want to foster an ecosystem where new forms of journalism, including independent journalism, can thrive,” concluded Campbell. “I can’t wait to connect with publishers large and small, local and international as we kick off these discussions.”

Watch the full 1-hour discussion between Zuckerberg and Döpfner here:

This year I'm hosting a series of discussions about the future of technology and society. This time I sat down with Mathias Döpfner in Berlin. He started his career as a journalist and he's now the CEO of Axel Springer, the largest publisher in Europe. We talked about the role quality journalism plays in building informed communities and the principles Facebook should use for building a news tab to surface more high quality news, including the business model and ecosystem to support it. We also discussed the privacy-focused vision I laid out for the future of social networking and the four ideas for internet regulation I published this weekend. These are important topics and I could have spent hours talking to Mathias about them. It's important to me that we help people get trustworthy news and find solutions that help journalists around the world do their important work.

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Monday, April 1, 2019

Download WNIP’s comprehensive new report—50 Ways to Make Media Pay—an essential read for publishers looking at the multiple revenue opportunities available, whether it’s to reach new audiences or double down on existing super-users. The report is free and can be downloaded here.

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