The newspaper industry is working with Facebook to launch a new project called the Local News Subscriptions Accelerator to help local newspapers beef up their digital subscription efforts, Axios has learned. But that doesn't mean they've made peace.
In fact, the News Media Alliance — a newspaper trade group that's working with Facebook on the project — is simultaneously launching a political action committee for the first time in its history to help reward members of Congress for elevating their goals, one of which includes asking Congress for an antitrust safe harbor to better compete against Facebook and Google for audience and ad dollars.
How can both be happening at the same time? While the News Media Alliance wants to work with Facebook to bolster subscriptions, its President David Chavern argues that Facebook (and Google) has a long way to go before presenting a sustainable model for news on platforms, so it needs a two-pronged approach of working with platforms and advocating for greater economic change through Congress. "We're saying, 'Thank you, but we're not there yet," says Chavern, in response to Facebook's efforts.
- While it's unlikely members of Congress will take swift action, if any, on a safe harbor, the current administration generally supports deregulating legacy industries (broadcast, telecom) to empower them to compete with tech firms that have traditionally avoided regulation.
- Increased calls for regulation to curb the dominance of Google and Facebook make it easier for NMA to argue for repealing existing media competition laws that prevent news organizations from working together to negotiate better deals with major internet platforms.
Our thought bubble: Part of this disparity comes from the split between the way local newspapers and national newspapers work with tech companies. The News Media Alliance, which represents some of the larger national newspapers, feels less dependent on Facebook for its technology tools than some of its local counterparts, which empowers it to take more formalized action against Google and Facebook.