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Why Meta’s withdrawal from journalism will hurt local media companies

LMA Innovation Mission visit 2016
LMA Innovation Mission visit 2016
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Re-published (with permission) from LinkedIn

Last week was tough as we watched our partners at the Meta Journalism Project get laid off. It marked the end of many industry initiatives that often included direct funding for local media organizations.

Since 2019, we distributed over $16.8 million to local media companies in North America through a variety of initiatives funded by Facebook/Meta. That’s just LMA; many other industry organizations also distributed Facebook/Meta funds. 

Most of the $16.8 million ($12+ million) was distributed through the COVID 19 relief fund. This went to publishers who were hardest hit by the pandemic. Nearly 80 percent of recipients were family or independently owned; more than half were published by or for communities of color; nearly 40% were digitally native publishers; and over 1/3 were nonprofits. 82% used the grants to expand their local reporting on COVID 19 issues. 23% said the funding outright saved their newsrooms from extinction. 

Another $4.13 million was distributed through the Meta Accelerators – three focused on reader revenue and one on video. The average distribution was $50,000 per publisher for the reader revenue program. Over 100 publishers participated, with nearly half of them owned or led by people of color. 

About $280,000 was distributed as grants through the Branded Content Project, which helped large and small media organizations develop their strategy. To date, more than $50 million has been generated by the media companies who went through the various labs, bootcamps and certification program. 

Finally, nearly $200,000 was or will be distributed through the Crosstown project, in collaboration with the University of Southern California. Those funds paid for half of a data journalist’s salary in the participating newsrooms. 

There’s not enough room in this blog post to share the impact on local media companies who went through the various programs funded by Meta Journalism Project. My favorite is Chris Bennett, publisher of The Seattle Medium and LMA digital sales innovator of the year. After Chris went through the Branded Content Project bootcamp, he sold over $500,000 in campaigns. For a small publisher, this was game changing. I could share dozens and dozens of these kinds of stories.  

Looking beyond LMA, any guesses on who is the largest funder of Report for America? That’s right. The Meta Journalism Project donated $6.5 million. I believe that’s a little more than 40% of the total raised to date. That means 120 reporters could go away if other funders don’t step up. 

Contributions to other industry organizations have been significant as well. In 2021, the LION-Meta Revenue Growth Fellowship program received $1 million over two years to support selected LION member organizations who are ready to design or bolster their revenue strategy. Much of the funding went directly back to the newsrooms to hire revenue-focused employees. 

Meta’s investment in local journalism has had high impact. Their withdrawal will hurt in many ways. As my colleague Frank Mungeam, LMA chief innovation officer, recently said, “Whatever you think about Facebook's macro impact on news and civic discourse, the disbanding of the Facebook Journalism Project team is a loss for local news.”

The silver lining is that Meta showed us the way. They were one of the first to invest in business sustainability efforts for local media organizations. Many other funders have followed in their footsteps. 

I want to personally thank Josh Mabry, Jason White, Campbell Brown, David Grant and Dorrine Mendoza for their support over the last four years. The long term sustainability of local media is in better shape thanks to all of you. Thanks also for challenging us to think differently – like a startup! We’re all better for it. 

Click here to see original LinkedIn post

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  • enigma58

    >>...Since 2019, we distributed over $16.8 million to local media companies in North America through a variety of initiatives funded by Facebook/Meta...<<

    Paying off newspapers for favorable coverage, either explicitly, through quid-pro-quo support, or implicitly, by becoming media's benefactor, is not new, nor is it ever in the public interest. While those connected to the Facebook Journalism Project team may not perceive themselves as such, they are compromised. If the news business is to be sustainable, it must be sustainable by its own resources, not through corporate or government hand-outs.

    Wednesday, November 16 Report this


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