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News publishers get a ‘friend request’ from Facebook

The perennial conflict of interests between a section of online news publishers and Facebook is a well-known fact. It may sound ironical that the social networking giant itself has come up with a strategy to help news publishers garner paid subscription on and off its platform.

The noble but unexpected gesture which came in the form of Local News Subscriptions Accelerator, under the network’s Journalism Project, involves a pilot program for a limited number of local news publishers. They will be imparted training for over a period of three months on how to increase digital subscription.

Picture for representation (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

“We often talk to publishers what the future of journalism looks like and they tell us that digital subscribers are critical to the long-term sustainability of their business,” stated Facebook’s Head of News Partnerships, Campbell Brown, in a blog post.

While outlining initiatives to ensure easy access to local news and other location-specific information a few weeks ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had said, “local news helps build community and plays a vital role in ensuring time spent on Facebook is valuable.”

 

News publishers will be imparted training for over a period of three months on how to increase digital subscription

Initially, 13 local news publishers including The San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The Dallas Morning News and The Seattle Times will be enrolled in the news accelerator program. Digital subscription experts will interact with the participants in person once every month and teach them the required skills, besides holding weekly sessions on digital subscriptions marketing.

The initiative is expected to bring more transparency into the online news arena by discouraging dissemination of fake news. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how publishers who are peeved by Facebook’s earlier strategy to sideline news articles would respond to the program.

It is evident that Facebook is looking for a win-win deal that would increase ‘Instant Articles‘ subscription among the newspapers , in the wake of several publishers including The Chicago Tribune abandoning Instant Articles  and some others staying away from Facebook altogether.

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