Journalism is vital to a healthy democracy. From breaking news and local coverage to investigative reporting, news plays an important function in society, helping people make informed decisions. But in recent decades the news industry has been tested by the digitisation of society and the economy.
There is now a widely recognised need for news organisations to adapt their business models to discover new audiences and digital revenue streams. As they do, we have worked with the Australian government to develop frameworks that promote transparency and accountability in the distribution of news online, as well as protect countervailing benefits of the internet.
We continue to support rules in Australia that ensure the primacy of market-driven models for cross-industry collaboration, encourage innovation, provide certainty for tech investment, and ensure consumer interests are safeguarded.
Based on conversations with Australian news companies, the Australian Government, and the ACCC, we believe a workable Code is achievable. It would allow news publishers and digital platforms that distribute news to continue building on existing commercial arrangements and support the development of a Digital News Council to advance cross-industry collaboration. It would also encourage more transparency for significant changes to the ranking of news content in News Feed and guarantee to publishers we’ll continue to share measurement data on how their content performs on Facebook as well as insights on their audiences, without sharing personal user information.
The Code should help news organisations seize the opportunities mobile and digital present. This approach is more likely to succeed than introducing excessive penalties on tech companies; that will not help news organisations promote viable journalism, build new audiences or develop sustainable monetisation strategies. Nor should the Code prescribe terms that favour large, powerful media corporations over small, regional, and community news or emerging digital publishers.
News organisations already have significant control over how they unlock value from Facebook. We do not directly share publishers’ content — it’s either posted by media corporations, their journalists or their readers, or we can pay for it through commercial agreements. We allow news organisations of all sizes, not just the big ones, to post links, raise awareness of their brands and drive monetizable traffic to their websites, free of charge.
Every day, Australians discover local and international articles on Facebook from friends or news companies they follow. News organisations post links to articles on Facebook, and followers can share those posts with others who might otherwise have missed them. Around 20 percent of views on Australian news organisations’ Page posts happen this way, with friends and family re-sharing stories. The opportunity to discover new content and reach new audiences clearly creates considerable development opportunities for Australian news organisations. We provide this for free.
Traffic from Facebook — people clicking on or sharing news content — delivers value for news organisations by helping them connect with new audiences. News organisations can make money from the stories they put on our platform. Products that provide new revenue include video advertising and a paywall tool to help drive subscription acquisitions where news organisations keep 100% of the proceeds.
Between January and May this year, Facebook’s News Feed sent 2.3 billion clicks back to Australian news organisations – for free. These referrals were worth approximately AU$195.8 million for publishers, based on what the average costs would be for similar activity through our paid advertising tools. In all, we delivered billions of opportunities for publishers to monetise their stories, gain new paying subscribers, serve ads, and keep Australians on their websites.
We’ve also invested millions of dollars locally to support Australian publishers through COVID-19 relief funds, paying publishers directly for content, coaching and grant programs, and industry sponsorships. With an effective Code, we’d like to continue to collaborate and increase our partnerships and investments in Australia.
We will keep working with the ACCC and industry on a Code that follows best practice regulatory principles and sets a framework for both platforms and publishers. While Facebook can’t solve all the financial challenges faced by the news industry, we can help news organisations build sustainable digital business models and increase readership. With this Code in place, we hope to build upon our partnerships and investments in Australia and become a stronger partner to support journalism in this country.
Facebook’s submission can be read in full here.