Facebook's fix for journalism involves digests and subscriptions

But is this a real solution, or just a Band-Aid on a bullet wound?


Facebook's efforts to mend fences with journalists just got a formal name. The social network just launched the Facebook Journalism Project, an initiative meant to "establish stronger ties" with the news world. The program will have it working with journalists on new business models, offering journo-friendly tools and encouraging everyone to both read critically and fight fake news.

The collaborations will not only include refining existing news options (such as creating digests of multiple Instant Articles), but exploring new business strategies. As an example, it's about to run a test with Germany's Bild that will let Instant Article readers start a trial subscription from inside a story -- ideally, this shows that a Facebook piece can lead to paying customers. Facebook is also promising to foster local journalism and run news-oriented hackathons.

As far as training and tools? It's offering online courses to help master its products, and its recent acquisition CrowdTangle will be free to help news outlets both bring their stories to the surface and track their success. Facebook is also boosting its support for the First Draft Partner Network (which helps discover news from social sources) and working with third parties that promote news literacy, such as the News Literacy Project and Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The company is quick to say that this is "just the beginning" of the project, and that there's more it will do. With that said, the news industry might just see this as a half-hearted measure. After all, journalists have spent years complaining that Facebook hurts journalism by keeping users off their websites (where they'd make significant ad revenue) and giving legitimacy to dodgy sources. This only partly addresses the issue -- digests and subscription offers help, but they're not going to turn Facebook into a profit center for media outlets.