Oct 3, 2023 - Economy

Scoop: Meta news leader Campbell Brown exits company, marking end of era

Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Peabody

Campbell Brown, the veteran TV anchor who led Meta's foray into news, is leaving the company, according to an internal note obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: Her departure marks the end of an era for Meta, and the tech sector writ large, as it looks to mostly back away from elevating news content and instead focus on entertainment and viral trends.

  • Google, which said it plans to launch its News Showcase product in the U.S., is an exception.

Details: In a note to staff, Brown said she will be stepping down from her current role leading media partnerships for Meta later this fall.

  • She plans to share more details in the coming weeks about her next role, but she'll "remain affiliated with Meta in a new consultant capacity."
  • Brown commended her team for the lasting impact it made on curation efforts and fact-checking partnerships at the company over the past seven years while navigating changes and challenges within the industry.

Catch up quick: Brown joined Meta, then Facebook, in 2017 to lead its inaugural news partnerships team after spending 14 years as an anchor and correspondent with CNN and NBC News.

  • At that time, nearly half of the country said it was getting its news on Facebook. Publishers were beginning to grow skeptical of the way Facebook prioritized certain outlets in the News Feed.

Under Brown's leadership, Facebook made a massive push into news, committing hundreds of millions of dollars to publishing partners on its platform.

  • It launched a dedicated News Tab to feature content from select publishers in 2019. It doubled down on those efforts in 2021.
  • It also invested heavily in various news accelerator programs to help outlets, particularly at the local level, beef up their subscription strategies.
  • Brown also oversaw the expansion of Meta's global fact-checking network, which the company still relies on today for content moderation and to train Meta's AI models.

Yes, but: Regulatory pressure and criticism around censorship over the past three years has pushed tech giants, especially Meta, to abandon efforts to elevate news content.

  • Meta started cutting funding for U.S. news publishers last year. It said last month that it would deprecate the Facebook News Tab in Europe.
  • Last year, Brown was promoted to oversee a new global media partnerships team at the company, broadening her role to oversee the company's relationships with leagues, film studios, streamers and more as Meta began to exit the news business.

Be smart: Brown served as the face of Meta's complicated, and at times contentious, relationship with the news industry.

  • Internally, she served as an advocate for the news community, even when the company began to shift its priorities away from news.
  • Externally, she and the company were often blamed for the company's constant product pivots, which made it hard for news publishers to manage their resources.

The big picture: Many news publishers today cite their experience with Meta as the reason they no longer rely on a single, third-party platform to support their businesses.

  • In the wake of Meta's retreat from news, traffic referrals to publishers from social media have cratered.

What to watch: Brown's legacy will live on at Meta in two key areas.

  1. Curation: Brown and Anne Kornblut, Meta's vice president of global product content operations, built a curation team, originally for news content, that today powers the company's recommendations strategy.
  2. Fact-checking: Like the curation team, Meta's fact-checking program works to help train Meta's AI.

What's next: In her departure note, Brown said Meta's head of content partnerships Nick Grudin "will be sharing more detail on organizational changes later today to help ensure that our momentum remains strong."

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to reflect that Nick Grudin, Meta's head of content partnerships, will provide additional information (not Nick Clegg).

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