Facebook (FB) could be courting new partners for news content in the near future.
The move would mark a shift in strategy for the social media power toward curating news rather than utilizing a simple trending tab and would also guarantee payment from trusted third parties for their contributions. The effort could well pay off if it can keep the company away from the "fake news" that has plagued its PR department.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company is considering a dedicated tab for news that would pay third parties for their content in a conversation with Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer (SPR) , the largest digital publisher in Europe.
"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 in the sit-down published to his public Facebook page. "I think there's real opportunity within a separate news surface to have better monetization for publishers than we have today in News Feed."
He said that the program, which will remain free for Facebook users, will focus on "high quality, trustworthy" content. A rubric or measurement system for assessing reliability and quality was brought up as a question by Döpfner but was left noticeably unanswered.
Zuckerberg also stated his interest in promoting local news, an industry that social media has been criticized for helping to crush.
"Local journalism is having a hard time transitioning to the internet in general, 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 commented.
Investigating the Impetus
For more cynical minds, the move by Zuckerberg could be another instance of him heading off the advances of the European Commission which recently passed controversial copyright laws under articles 11 and 13.
"The wide availability of press publications online has given rise to the emergence of new online services, such as news aggregators or media monitoring services, for which the reuse of press publications constitutes an important part of their business models and a source of revenues," subsection 31 of Article 11 reads. "Publishers of press publications are facing problems in licensing the online use of their publications to the providers of these kind of services, making it more difficult for them to recoup their investments. In the absence of recognition of publishers of press publications as right holders, licensing and enforcement of rights in press publications regarding online uses by information society service providers in the digital environment are often complex and inefficient."
In order to remedy the predicament, the copyright law would require payment of journalistic content providers by aggregators and hosts.
"Authors whose works are incorporated in a press publication should be entitled to an appropriate share of the revenues press publishers receive for the uses of their press publications by information society service providers," subsection 35 explains.
Such regulation clearly takes direct aim at news aggregators such as Facebook, Twitter (TWTR) , and Apple (AAPL) and would necessitate the steps that Zuckerberg is hinting at and Apple's new news product already promises.
Döpfner acknowledged the action and noted its necessity for businesses like his.
"With reach you cannot pay your rent and you also do not get your breakfast," he said. "Quality journalism can only exist if there is a paid element."
So, while the move may be a step in the right direction for many journalists looking to monetize their exposure on Facebook, the motivation may not be as noble as it initially appears.
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