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Facebook journalism project is nothing but a PR stunt

Facebook recently made two significant announcements related to its news media posture. The first one came on January 6th with the hiring of Campbell Brown, a former NBC and CNN anchor, as a news partnerships manager. The second one, on January 11th, was unveiling the Facebook Journalism Project.

Announcing the Facebook Journalism project carried much more weight. As explained in a post by Fidji Simo, Facebook director of product, the project is built on three pillars:
“(1) Collaborative development of news products”, such as new storytelling formats, initiatives for local news and business models, and hackathons
“(2) “Training & Tools for Journalists”
“(3) “Training & Tools for Everyone”, which includes an unspecified set of measures against fake news.

Well. Collaboration, journalists training, tools… Sounds familiar? It is, almost to the word, the Google’s Digital News Initiative mission statement . The DNI was launched two years ago by the search giant and eight European publishers. As a representative for one such publisher, I was closely involved — see my disclosure at the end of this post.

Thanks to the DNI, Google has been able to weave (and sometimes restore) good relationships with many publishers around the world. Obviously, Facebook Journalism project is a response to Google, on both tactical and political (read: geo-political) levels. Facebook mentions a close relationship with several German publishers that have been at odds with Google for quite some time. Axel Springer and others keep feeding the European commission with negative information on Google’s deeds in their field).

Beyond perception, a question lingers: To which extent Facebook’s move could actually help the battered news ecosystem?  Probably not much….

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