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Illustration: Axios Visuals

Facebook's announced Monday that it would begin prioritizing local news content in the News Feed. The news follows Google's confirmation last week that it's testing a hyper-local news app called Bulletin. Chief executives from local publishing groups have responded well to both efforts in statements to Axios.

Why it matters: Local and national news outlets have for months been split on the way they view their publishing relationships with Google and Facebook.

  • National news outlets have generally been more critical of Facebook's efforts to fairly compensate publishers, provide them with data and elevate their brands.
  • Local news outlets share these concerns, but see Facebook and Google as important technology partners that help them compete with national outlets for eyeballs and subscriptions.

Recent changes and product updates on both platforms have highlighted how different publishers view their relationship with Google and Facebook depending on their resources, reputations and sizes.

  • "This feels like the missing piece — or one missing piece that's crucial, anyway — in Facebook's previous algorithm announcements that caused so much anxiety among local publishers," Matt DeRienzo, executive director of Local Independent Online News Publishers, says of Facebook's latest news.
  • "I think the decision shows that Zuckerberg and Facebook are serious about following through on their commitment to support meaningful interactions that build community," says Patch CEO Warren St. John.
  • "I see it (the Google local news app) potentially as a very good thing," says Rusty Coats, CEO of the Local Media Consortium, which represents dozens of local papers and media companies, like The Seattle Times, The McClatchy Company and Cox Media Group. "It can actually be helpful data."

National news outlets, on the other hand, continue to have a more contentious relationship with the platforms. When it comes to Facebook specifically, three of the biggest industry heavyweights seem bearish on the platform's ability to make nice with mainstream publishers.

  • NBC News Chairman Andy Lack Monday at NYU: "It's not so good to be in business (say) with Facebook. They're a fake book. They are not Facebook ... They don't value having a relationship with news organizations."
  • HBO CEO Richard Plepler Monday at NYU: "Never sell them short. I listened to Andy (Lack) carefully I think h'es 100% right on the news side ... What I hope is happening there ... There's an awful lot of smart people in there — The question is: Are they smart and wise? Those things are not always the same."
  • News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch last week in a statement: "Facebook and Google have popularized scurrilous news sources through algorithms that are profitable for these platforms but inherently unreliable. Recognition of a problem is one step on the pathway to cure, but the remedial measures that both companies have so far proposed are inadequate, commercially, socially and journalistically."

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan group of senators seeks coronavirus stimulus deal

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

At least eight Republican and Democratic senators have formed an informal working group aimed at securing new coronavirus spending during the lame-duck session, a move favored by President-elect Biden, two sources familiar with the group tell Axios.

Why it matters: It may be the most significant bipartisan step toward COVID relief in months.

FCC chairman to depart in January

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Ajit Pai will leave his post as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on Jan. 20, the agency said today.

Why it matters: Pai's Inauguration Day departure is in keeping with agency tradition, and could set up the Biden administration with a 2-1 Democratic majority at the FCC if the Senate fails to confirm another Trump nominee during the lame-duck period.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

GM's shrinking deal with Nikola

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

General Motors will no longer take an equity stake in Nikola Corp. or build its pickup truck, under a revised deal that still envisions GM as a key tech supplier for Nikola's planned line of electric and fuel cell heavy trucks.

Driving the news: The revised agreement Monday is smaller in scope than a draft partnership rolled out in September that had included a $2 billion stake in the startup and an agreement to build its Badger pickup.