Jul 28, 2022 - Technology

Scoop: Meta officially cuts funding for U.S. news publishers

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Meta on Tuesday began telling its news partners in the U.S. that the company no longer plans to pay publishers for their content to run on Facebook's News Tab, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As the company moves forward with sweeping changes to the Facebook experience, news has become less of a priority.

  • Meta's VP of media partnerships, Campbell Brown, told staffers the company was shifting resources away from its news products to support more creative initiatives, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Catch up quick: Facebook brokered a slew of three-year deals with publishers in 2019. At the time, the company was ramping up its investment in news and hired journalists to help direct publisher traffic to its new tab for news.

  • The deals were worth roughly $105 million in the U.S., sources told Axios. In addition to that, the company spent around $90 million on news videos for the company's video tab called "Watch."

What they're saying: "A lot has changed since we signed deals three years ago to test bringing additional news links to Facebook News in the U.S. Most people do not come to Facebook for news, and as a business it doesn't make sense to over-invest in areas that don't align with user preferences," a Facebook spokesperson told Axios.

Be smart: The $105 million spent on additional news content for the News Tab was for incremental links. News companies could still publish content to the Facebook platform at will.

  • Although hundreds of news publishers are still eligible to have their content included in the News Tab, the funding to roughly 50 publishers for their content will not be renewed.
  • Meta spent more than $10 million on its news partnership with the Wall Street Journal, more than $3 million on its deal with CNN, and more than $20 million on its partnership with the New York Times, sources told Axios. In some cases, the partnerships also unlocked paywalled content.

The big picture: Facebook has gone back and forth about the role news should play on its platform for years, which sometimes frustrated news partners.

  • Before the introduction of the News Tab in 2019, the company had made a decision to change its algorithm to prioritize content from friends over brands, including publishers.
  • Last year, Meta's president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said fewer than one in every 25 posts in the News Feed contained links to a news story.

Between the lines: The regulatory pressure that prompted some of these news deals continues around the globe.

  • Facebook launched a news fund for content in Australia last year, after a lengthy debate with regulators over funding content.
  • Earlier this year, Canada said it would force Facebook and rival Google to pay for news content.

What's next: As Meta shifts its focus to short-form video, other investments in projects such as audio are being sunsetted.

Go deeper