Facebook on Tuesday announced a $3 million pilot project aimed at helping US newspapers boost paid digital subscriptions.
The move was the latest by the huge social network to respond to concerns that it and other online platforms have hurt news organisations by dominating Internet advertising.
The “local news subscriptions accelerator,” part of the Facebook Journalism Project, will work with a small group of metro news organisations “to unlock strategies that help publishers build digital customer acquisitions on and off our platform,” said a statement from Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships.
Facebook recently took steps to enable publishers to encourage paid subscriptions directly from the social network, moving away from requirements that news organisations offer free content in links from Facebook.
The new initiative builds on that effort by offering guidance to publishers to help their digital initiatives. “We know Facebook is one part of the strategy to engage readers and ultimately drive paid subscriptions,” Brown said.
Facebook will offer “coaching from digital subscription experts” to help build reader engagement, she added.
The effort by Facebook comes amid ongoing woes of legacy news organisations which have had trouble replacing revenues lost from print advertising in the digital space, with many outlets implementing new or revised “paywalls.”
Facebook said it is working in the project with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, Denver Post, Miami Herald, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Omaha World-Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer, Seattle Times, San Francisco Chronicle, The Tennessean and Newsday.
Brown said Facebook would coordinate with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism to share findings through the Local Media Consortium, Local Media Association, and the News Media Alliance.