Aug 25, 2020 - Economy

Facebook accelerates News tab launch abroad

Illustration of the facebook logo as a newspaper covered in visa stamps

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facebook is expediting the launch of its Facebook News tab in countries beyond the U.S., the company will announce Tuesday. Sources tell Axios that Facebook is working out deals to pay publishers in several countries to include their content in the News tab, just as the firm does in the U.S.

Yes, but: One notable absence from the list of countries is Australia. A source confirms that the company likely won't be launching Facebook News there for the foreseeable future, because of a battle Facebook is fighting with Australian regulators who intend to require the platform to pay news companies on the regulators' terms.

  • Facebook is still in discussions with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission about what a payout framework to publishers could look like.
  • Until the new law is officially passed, things could change, but statements from regulators suggest frustration in their negotiations with tech companies so far.

Details: Facebook is looking to accelerate the launch of Facebook News in multiple countries within the next 6-12 months, including the U.K., Germany, France, India and Brazil.

  • The tech giant is working closely with publishers in those regions to discuss the best ways to shape its news offerings based on the traffic and news consumption habits unique to each region.
  • Facebook plans to work with publishers of different sizes and scope. The idea is to help them reach more readers on the platform through the News tab, which could help support their businesses more broadly over the long term.
  • As is true in the U.S., not all participating publishers will necessarily be paid, and publishers that produce more content will likely receive bigger payouts.

Be smart: It's notable that Facebook is in the early stages of launching a News tab in France, given that regulators in that country were the first to ratify a new EU copyright law last year that requires tech firms to negotiate paying publishers for their content or risk being regulated.

  • While Google has been publicly fighting with regulators in France over the provision for the past year, Facebook's discussions with regulators have been less visible.
  • Germany will also be required to ratify the EU's copyright directive in the next year or so.
  • By starting to negotiate payout deals with publishers now, Facebook could avoid having regulators in those countries establish terms that might be less favorable.

The big picture: The News tab expansion is the latest effort by Facebook to pay news organizations for their work. The company has come a long way from its initial stance of refusing to pay publishers or hire human editors just two years ago.

  • But as regulatory scrutiny intensifies, the company has pushed more aggressively to develop stronger relationships with the news industry.
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