Facebook launches Facebook News locally and A$15 million news fund

Facebook today launched a A$15 million news fund and the expansion of its Facebook News product to Australia, although only to a small number of users for the time being.

The Facebook Australian News Fund will invest in public-interest journalism, and support regional and digital newsroom innovation and economic sustainability. The support will be provided in the form of two funds, the Newsroom Sustainability Fund and the Public Interest Journalism Fund.

The Newsroom Sustainability Fund will allocate A$2.5 million per year over three years, in grants of up to A$250,000 to fund regional newsrooms and digital-first publications. Funding will go towards revenue-generating projects, such as subscription paywalls and membership program development.

The Public Interest Journalism Fund will also allocate A$2.5 million per year over three years, providing grants of up to A$120,000, to small, regional publishers and independent journalists to fund news projects of public interest value and to encourage media diversity. Facebook are particularly focused on how the fund could provide support for underserved communities – such as Indigenous Australians, LGBTQI+ community, youth and women’s issues, rural affairs and local civic journalism.

Expressions of Interest is open for both funds, and newsrooms, journalists and publishers to register their interest and be notified when applications are open.

This investment are designed to assist publishers and independent journalists producing news of public interest value across Australia. It will also support smaller, regional, rural and digital newsrooms  develop new products and strategies to expand reach and revenue.

Facebook News will also begin to roll out to a small number of Australians. This phased launch will ensure the product works in a way that provides benefit to Australian audiences and publishers. Facebook is planning to expand Facebook News to more Australians through the coming months.

Earlier in the year Facebook and the Australian Government came to loggerheads over the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, which saw Facebook remove all news site posts from its platform for Australian users. The ban was short lived but led to amendments to the code which was later passed by parliament. Since then Facebook has signed deals with Australian publishers and news outlets worth multimillions of dollars for news sharing on the platform.

In the past three years, Facebook has partnered with the news industry including a A$1.5 million investment in the 2019-20 reader revenue accelerator supporting 11 Australian and New Zealand news publishers; the A$1 million COVID-19 relief fund that went to 17 rural, regional and community newsrooms across Australia and the newly awarded Accelerator Alumni Grants.

These programs and investments are in addition to the value from referral traffic and revenue programs Facebook provide to Australian publishers according to Facebook, which in 2020, was valued at an estimated A$407 million.


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