Just because Facebook is downplaying the publishers that are seen in the News Feed of their users does not mean that it is already uninterested in offering media outlets with a helping hand. The Journalism Project of the social network is introducing a Local News Subscriptions Accelerator that will help the “metro newspapers” to improve their reader bases. The $3 million pilot that will run for three months will have around 10 to 15 publishers participate in once-a-month meetings and weekly training in order to grow their digital subscription marketing both on and off of the social media platform, including the formulation of tailor-made projects with funding.
13 major publishers are involved in the said pilot, including the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, and Seattle Times.
It is no secret as to why Facebook would be willing to introduce this campaign. It could help increase Instant Articles subscriptions among the newspapers that are still involved in the service. It may also reassure publishers that the company still supports them. And of course, nurturing the growth of established and respected news outlets could help in the fight against fake news. The question is whether or not the project will be able to teach publishers enough to actually make a difference — and, for that matter, whether or not the program will bring back publishers that were burned by the past decisions of Facebook to downplay news stories. Facebook has been prompt to acknowledge that it has not always been cooperative with publishers. However, it said that education by itself might only do so much.