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January 26, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 9:58am

Facebook’s cash-for-content News scheme launches in the UK with most publishers on board

By Charlotte Tobitt

Today marks a milestone for online publishers in the UK as Facebook begins paying to use their content on its News tab.

The Facebook News section of the platform’s app will feature a “today’s stories” section. A team of journalists will choose the top breaking articles throughout the day with a focus on highlighting “original and authoritative reporting”.

Press Gazette understands that Facebook is paying publishers a flat licensing fee for the use of their content, unlike its Instant Articles – where it offers publishers a share of the advertising.

In the US, the licensing fees have been substantial – with payments to larger publishers believed to run into the millions of dollars annually. Some have seen it mainly as a way for Facebook to win friends among news publishers at a time when it faces the threat of new regulation.

The tab, which will roll out this afternoon (Tuesday 26 January) in the UK, will also feature personalised news suggestions based on what publishers a user has previously read, shared and followed – and will also suggest new topics and outlets they might not have read before.

Category sections will let users delve into business, entertainment, health, science and technology, and sports news, while people will be able to hide any topics or publishers they have no interest in.

The social media platform said Facebook News would provide publishers with more advertising and subscription opportunities “to build sustainable businesses for the future”.

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Newly signed-up publishers include Channel 4 News, the Daily Mail group, Scottish regional publisher DC Thomson, the Financial Times, Sky News, and the Telegraph.

The biggest exception appears to be Sun and Times publisher News UK. (Scroll down for the full list of publishers that are involved).

Jesper Doub, Facebook’s director of news partnerships in Europe, said: “Facebook News was built to bring people closer to the stories that impact their lives and the community around them. Our aim is to build on our efforts to sustain great national and local journalism and create more value for publishers.

“We’ll continue to learn, listen and improve Facebook News as it rolls out across the UK and into other markets, including France and Germany, where we are in active negotiations with partners.

“In order to bring Facebook News and other news products that help publishers transition in the digital age to more countries, it is critical that regulatory environments invite this kind of investment and innovation.”

The Facebook News tab does not change how news articles appear in the platform’s default News Feed, where they can continue to be shared by people and pages in the same way.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Authoritative journalism is a cornerstone of democracy and the antidote to dangerous misinformation.

“We want to help the news industry adapt in the digital age, which is why we have cut VAT for online news subscriptions and accepted the CMA’s recommendation for a code of conduct between publishers and platforms.

“UK publishers are seeking a fair business relationship with online platforms so it’s good to see Facebook working to promote their output alongside recent Government action.”

[Read more: US publishers happy with Facebook News cash for content – but say project is a ‘PR move’]

Facebook News launched in the US just over a year ago and the tech giant claims 95% of traffic delivered to publishers through the scheme came from new readers who had not interacted with them in the past.

A senior source at a large US metropolitan news outlet told Press Gazette last month the scheme was a “no-brainer” and that Facebook had offered $500,000 for a three-year deal to license some of their content. The size of the deal depends on the size of the publisher.

The source added, though, that their outlet gains little from the relationship beyond the $500,000-a-year licensing payment. Their presence on Facebook News, they said, has made little difference to website traffic.

[Read more: Government to create competition regime tackling ‘fundamental imbalance of power’ between platforms and publishers]

The full list of publishers announced ahead of launch:

National newsbrands:
  • Daily Mail Group (Mail Online, Metro, i)
  • Financial Times
  • The Telegraph
  • The Guardian
  • ESI Media (The Independent and Evening Standard)
  • Reach (Mirror, Express and Star)
Regional news:
  • Reach (inc. Liverpool Echo and Manchester Evening News)
  • Newsquest
  • Archant
  • Iliffe
  • JPI Media (inc. Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman)
  • DC Thomson
  • Midlands News Association
Broadcasters:
  • Channel 4 News
  • Sky News
  • STV
Magazines:
  • The Economist
  • Conde Nast (inc. Cosmopolitan, Wired, GQ, Glamour, Tatler and Vogue)
  • Hearst (inc. Red)

Pictures: Facebook

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