Jan 28, 2020

Exclusive: Facebook awards $700,000 in local news grants

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Facebook on Tuesday will announce a new round of investment worth $700,000 in various news organizations across the country, executives tell Axios. Many of the new commitments focus on newsrooms that cover diversity.

Why it matters: The investment is part of a greater than $300 million commitment from Facebook to invest in the news, especially local news.

  • The tech giant said last year that it wants to provide its users with more local news, but research shows that there aren't enough local news outlets across the U.S. to do so.
  • Publishers have been frustrated with Facebook and rival Google for years, in part because they blame the two tech giants for gobbling up their ad businesses.

The big picture: Facebook has invested millions of dollars to repair its relationship with the news industry.

  • In October, CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat down with News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson to tout the beginning of a new partnership in which Facebook would pay publishers. Thomson, until that point, had been one of Facebook's loudest critics,
  • Other publishers Axios has spoken to say that the money they're receiving from Facebook doesn't erase their history with the tech giant, but is a big step in the right direction.

Driving the news: Tuesday's announcement will include the recipients of 30 new grants as a part of the "Facebook Journalism Project Community Network," a network of news outlets that are receiving grants from Facebook. Facebook is partnering with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism to distribute the grants.

  • In total, the network has awarded 76 grants to various newsroom across the country since July. Recipients can request mentorship on specific programs and goals.
  • This round of grants includes projects that range from The Advocate in Dallas, Texas — which prioritizes the stories, needs and interests of Black and Latinx communities in South and West Dallas — Afro-American Newspapers in Baltimore, Maryland, and Esperanza, an outlet that serves the North Philadelphia Hispanic community.

Facebook will also announce other updates surrounding the Facebook Journalism Project, led by veteran news anchor Campbell Brown. Most updates include a global expansion of its efforts to bolster local journalism.

  • Facebook will expand its Accelerator" program this year to help local newsrooms connect and learn from each other will grow further overseas. The company says it will bring together more than 500 newsroom leaders in over a dozen countries, bringing the total number of participants to over 1,000 in 2020. Its newest accelerator in the U.S. will focus on video business models for local news. Previous U.S. accelerators have focused on subscriptions and membership.
  • Facebook will also host its 2nd Local News Summit with the Knight Foundation and the Online News Association in Detroit in March following a pilot convening in Denver last year. The company will hold several News Summits in Amsterdam, Latin America and the Asian Pacific.
  • It will also expand its Instagram news partnership to almost 20 newsrooms this summer, including the Amsterdam News, The Charlotte Observer, KQED in San Fransisco, 100 Days in Appalachia and The Salt Lake Tribune.

Be smart: The events and projects funded by the Facebook Journalism Project are meant to be unique to local news outlets because they are not competing with each other for an audience. Often, the Project brings newsrooms together to mentor one another.

  • "With the local news membership accelerator, each organization received different resources like guidance from expert coaches," says Brown.
  • "In total, of the 17 news publications that participated, 13 publications have reported results generating over $3.5 million in lifetime value for those organizations. Seven say they saw double the amount of membership revenue or paying supporters or both during that grant period."

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