There aren’t many companies that can say they’ve poured hundreds of millions into journalism in the last few years. Facebook has — $600 million over since 2018 — and it is promising another $1 billion in the next three years.
By ANTOINETTE SIU
Yet when surveying those around the journalism and media world, the jury is still out on whether and how much Facebook’s funding is helping its stakeholders — or merely buying good PR.
A Wrap inquiry into the details of the $600 million found that many of those dollars are hard to track, except in the most general terms. When broken down into the main categories mostly based in the U.S., TheWrap could only specifically verify the expenditure of roughly $122 million — barely one-quarter of the pledged sum — begging the question: Where is the money going?
In addition to donating heavily to nonprofits and paying small grants to local newspapers (see graphic), Facebook pays rich licensing fees to a handful of premium publishers, like The New York Times, The Washington Post, News Corp, Bloomberg and BuzzFeed. Those deal terms are not publicly disclosed, but TheWrap has obtained documents of one agreement with a leading U.S. publisher for $5 million over five years.
An executive who was involved with making the deal said the agreement felt more like a PR move and less a business deal. “It always seemed about pacifying publishers, and less about granular tactics about how we help engage our audience. It was more about trying to quiet the storm around very serious audience losses at newspapers,” the individual said.
And in a recent interview, former New York Times CEO Mark Thompson said the paper is getting “far, far more” than $3 million a year from Facebook, in response to a reporter’s misimpression. (The Wall Street Journal reported that the agreements were worth as much as $3 million a year.)
Facebook also recently signed deals with hundreds of publishers across the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany and Canada. Again, a Facebook spokesperson said the company does not disclose the terms of those deals.
When asked approximately how many of these content deals exist,