Oct 25, 2019

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

📺 Next on "Axios on HBO": An exclusive interview with Iraq's President Barham Salih (sneak preview), the head of the IMF Kristalina Georgieva talks socialism and taxes, and Sen. Kamala Harris gives her take on 2020. Plus, explore the only offshore wind farm in the U.S., and more. Tune in Sunday at 6pm on HBO. 

Today's login is 1,291 words, a 5 minute read.

1 big thing: Zuckerberg's news pitch

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Facebook, which has long resisted both hiring journalists and paying publishers, will do both as part of a new News section being announced today. In an interview with Axios, CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that "the internet has been very disruptive to the news industry."

The big picture: News organizations have long complained that Facebook and Google benefit by appropriating their content. It's unclear, though, whether Facebook's new move will generate significant revenue for any but the largest publishers.

Speaking with Axios' Mike Allen, Zuckerberg outlined a few of the things that distinguish the new tab from past efforts.

  1. Facebook is hiring journalists. "We've hired a diverse group who have different backgrounds and views and different nationalities. And this isn't going to be just a set of employees at a tech company who are choosing the news. I mean, this is something that requires real skill, and that’s why we're investing in people who have deep experience in this space."
  2. News will have a dedicated tab on Facebook. "Even if the majority of people don’t use any given tab, even if only 10 or 20% of people use them ... that's very meaningful for a lot of people."
  3. Facebook will help direct traffic from the News tab to publishers so "they can build up their own subscription bases. We’re not taking a cut of the revenue from any of that because we want to make sure that as much as possible goes towards funding journalism."
  4. Last year Facebook dialed back news on users' main feeds. That, Zuckerberg says, is because "Our community consistently tells us that they view Facebook primarily as a social place." Now the company is trying to build news a new home on its platform.
"In terms of giving people a voice, it's not enough to just let people share their opinions.... There needs to be good journalism in order for people having a voice to matter."
— Mark Zuckerberg

How it works:

  • Facebook editors will pick stories for a Today's Stories section based on four key criteria: "prevalence, impact, interest and diversity."
  • Elsewhere Facebook will use an algorithm that uses what you're reading, sharing and following to personalize which stories you see.
  • Content will be organized into general news, topical news (for specific areas like sports or entertainment), diverse news (aimed at specific communities), and local news.

Who's in:

  • The Financial Times confirmed last week that Condé Nast, BuzzFeed and Dow Jones are in. It's also been reported that the Washington Post will participate.
  • The New York Times said Friday morning that it is participating as well.
  • Reports suggest that Facebook will launch with up to 200 news partners in total. Not all partners will be paid. 

By the numbers:

  • Sources tell Axios that Facebook plans to spend roughly $90 million in total funding news efforts on Facebook, which includes news shows on its video tab "Watch" as well as the new news tab. 
  • Larger news organizations like Bloomberg and Dow Jones will be paid seven-figures, per FT. 
  • Smaller publishers, particularly digital-only publishers, will be paid in the hundreds of thousands, sources tell Axios. 
  • Vox Media reported Thursday that some news partners will be paid as much as $3 million per year.

The big picture: This is a significant reversal from Facebook's policy just last year.

  • In May 2018, Zuckerberg said he "wasn't sure if it made sense" to pay publishers for their content.
  • COO Sheryl Sandberg told Mike in October 2017 that Facebook is a tech company because it hires "no journalists."
  • Pressure from regulators, activists and politicians on Facebook to take responsibility for the troves of misinformation on its platform has pushed the company to reconsider its long-standing policy. 

Yes, but: We've seen this before, and there are many skeptics about Facebook's intentions. 

  • Publishers say Facebook has repeatedly played bait-and-switch with them.
  • The company has repeatedly paid them upfront to get products off the ground, then pulled back.
  • It happened with Facebook projects like Instant Articles, Facebook Live and Facebook Watch.

Facebook News will be available today to a small number of U.S. users, then will roll out more widely in the months ahead.

Disclosure: Axios is a News Tab launch partner.

2. Tinder still a challenge for transgender daters

Screenshot: Tinder Support's Twitter feed

On Tinder's support account on Twitter, one of the biggest complaints about the dating site remains transgender users saying their accounts have been improperly suspended.

Why it matters: Tinder has taken a number of steps to improve the experience for LGBTQ users, including adding more sexuality options earlier this year and, back in 2016, offering more gender options and taking steps to better protect transgender users from having their accounts improperly banned.

Clearly, though, the problem remains significant.

"We recognize the transgender community faces challenges on Tinder, including being unfairly reported by potential matches more often than our cisgender members," Tinder said in a statement to Axios. "This is a multifaceted, complex issue and we are working to continuously improve their experience."

Between the lines: Tinder made the choice not to give an option for daters to exclude transgender people. Offering that option would have limited dating options for transgender users and gone against the company's values, it says.

However. Tinder believes that taking that stand, while the right thing to do, may lead some users to unfairly flag trans accounts as having broken the rules.

What's next: The company says it is committed to continuing to improve the experience for transgender daters and will look at ways it can reduce the number of accounts being unfairly banned or suspended. Tinder also tells Axios that the team that works on its new Swipe Life video show will release a series on dating in the transgender community this November.

3. One-day shipping is denting Amazon profits

An Amazon warehouse outside Paris. Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP via Getty Images

Amazon shares fell more than 6% Thursday after the company's quarterly earnings fell for the first time in two years, coming in below analysts' expectations.

Between the lines: Amazon had been posting record profits in recent quarters, but its move to offer one-day shipping to Prime customers is clearly denting the bottom line. Last quarter, the company spent nearly $10 billion on shipping.

Yes, but: Amazon has long been willing to sacrifice short-term profitability to make moves that are popular with consumers and are hard for rivals to match.

Meanwhile: America's librarians are taking issue with Amazon, saying the company is making it hard for libraries to acquire e-books at reasonable prices (or sometimes at all), Axios' Margaret Harding McGill reports.

Plus: More than 200 independent musicians are boycotting Amazon over the company's work for ICE.

4. Senators seek national security probe of TikTok

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) asked U.S. intelligence officials on Wednesday to determine whether TikTok, a Chinese-owned social media app that has seen a massive spike in popularity among young people, poses any "national security risks," Axios' Michael Sykes reports.

Why it matters: The app already has more than 110 million downloads in the U.S. alone, and lawmakers fear it could become a vacuum for Chins to collect coveted American data as tensions between the countries continue to escalate.

Details: In a letter sent to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, the senators questioned TikTok's data collection practices and whether the app adheres to censorship rules imposed by the Chinese government.

  • Schumer and Cotton believe the app could be a target for "foreign influence campaigns" like those carried out in the 2016 election.

The big picture: This is the second congressional request to investigate TikTok. Earlier this month, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) asked the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to review a 2017 deal allowing TikTok to expand into the U.S. market.

Go deeper:

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • It's Friday. Really. Not even kidding this time.

Trading Places...

  • ... was a fun 1980s movie starring Eddie Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis and Dan Aykroyd. However, it's cringeworthy when you watch it with today's sensibilities.


  • Microsoft's has lured another top streaming gamer to its Mixer platform. Michael "Shroud" Grzesiek announced Thursday he was moving over to Mixer from Amazon-owned Twitch, following in the footsteps of Tyler "Ninja" Blevins. (The Verge)
  • AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint said they will work together to bring cross-carrier rich messaging to Android phones by next year. (9to5Google)
  • Verizon beat analysts' expectations for the third quarter, with $32.9 billion, compared to the expected $32.7 billion. (Yahoo)
  • Tesla also had a strong Q3, with $6.3 billion in revenue. (CNBC)
6. After you Login

This pitcher has really great form. Even more so when you consider he's 71. And a Nobel laureate in chemistry.

Ina Fried