Last week social media giant Facebook announced The Facebook Journalism Project. It exciting to have Facebook recognize its role in the media and share a desire to move forward in tandem with publishers.
Facebook’s announcement launches a collaboration with the news industry, to improve how to better inform readers in the digital age. It is a 3-pronged program to develop new products, train journalists and provide tools for all.
And it’s about time! Facebook has to live up to its role as a media gatekeeper. In many ways, Facebook serves as the front page for millions of viewers. It is time we treat this front page with the seriousness editors have applied to A1 for hundreds of years.
Before throwing Facebook a parade, let’s take a moment to pause and think about how previous relationships with the corporation have gone. Instant Article metrics were overinflated, live streaming will soon no longer be monetized and organic reach is all but impossible to attain.
This is a step in the right direction, but the plan is a little too vague.
Take the paragraph about Emerging Business Models, which states, “We’ll also keep working on monetization options for partners, such as expanding our live ad break test to a wider group of partners, and exploring ad breaks in regular videos.” It sounds helpful, but really doesn’t tell us much.
This raises a lot of questions. What is the balance between publisher monetization and the seamless user experience? How and when will the projects commence and can we trust that results will be reported with transparency?
Publishers need details. For example, how does it plan to identify news sources as “real and trusted sources” in the oceans of unfiltered content? We’ve seen them roll out a filter in Germany, but when can we expect to be safe from Fake News trending in the US?
We have a long way to go until Facebook is a viable source of revenue for publishers. But each step of the way, the Alliance will continue to engage with Facebook and represent our members.
Michael is former Vice President of Innovation & Communications at the News Media Alliance.