Facebook Said to Be in Talks with Publishers on News Effort


SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook is pitching a new media initiative to license articles from some of the largest American news publishers and display that content inside the social network’s mobile app, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.

The project involves the social network striking deals potentially worth millions of dollars to publishers including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Dow Jones, parent company of The Wall Street Journal, among others, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

The agreements would let Facebook pull in headlines and previews of the articles from partner publications for display inside a “News” tab in the Facebook app, they said. The talks with news organizations are ongoing, they added, and it is unclear if any deals are close. Facebook hopes to introduce the effort by the end of the year.

Representatives for Dow Jones, The Times and The Post declined to comment. A Facebook spokeswoman confirmed the company was aiming to include a “News” tab inside its app by the end of the year, but declined to comment further. News of the talks was first reported by The Journal.

Facebook’s pitch is the latest move by a major tech platform into the digital news and entertainment space, as companies like Facebook and Google vie for people’s attention. In a partnership with publishers, Google has developed “Accelerated Mobile Pages,” or AMP, to load articles faster on smartphones. Snapchat has also locked in revenue-sharing deals with publishers on its “Discover” tab inside its app.

In the past, Facebook secured deals with publishers — including The Times — that sucked entire articles into its app for them to load faster and provide what the company called a “better user experience.” But that project, called “Instant Articles,” fizzled shortly after its debut.

As Silicon Valley players have continued courting the news business, publishers have grown wary for fear of tech companies’ luring audience loyalty away from publishers’ sites and to the tech giants’ platforms.

Facebook is trying to differentiate its new product from past offerings. In its pitch, the company said its “News” tab would not display the main text of articles inside Facebook’s app. Instead, it would link to publisher’s sites or apps and direct users elsewhere to read whole articles, said the people familiar with the plans.

That has proved more enticing to some publishers, compared with a deal proposed by Apple earlier this year. The Apple News app, which costs subscribers $10 a month, pulls in entire articles from partner publishers, which include Vice Media and New York magazine. Apple takes half the overall revenue, while the publishers split the remaining 50 percent, paid to each outlet on a per-view basis depending on which articles are read.

Publishers including The Journal joined the Apple News effort. Others, like The Times and The Post, declined.

“We tend to be quite leery about the idea of almost habituating people to find our journalism somewhere else,” Mark Thompson, chief executive of The New York Times Company, told Reuters in an interview this year. “We’re also generically worried about our journalism being scrambled in a kind of Magimix with everyone else’s journalism.”

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