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Pay publishers for their content: Murdoch’s response to FB’s new newsfeed algorithm

Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced big changes in the platform’s Newsfeed algorithm, which would essentially show less content from brands and publishers and more content from friends. This has been done in keeping with Facebook’s move to feature ‘trusted’ media sources to combat fake news. 

Reacting strongly to this move by Facebook, Rupert Murdoch, Chairman, News Corp, in a statement appearing on the News Corp website, wrote, “If Facebook wants to recognise ‘trusted’ publishers then it should pay those publishers a carriage fee similar to the model adopted by cable companies. The publishers are obviously enhancing the value and integrity of Facebook through their news and content but are not being adequately rewarded for those services.” 

He was of the view that carriage payments would have a minor impact on Facebook’s profits, but a major impact on the prospects for publishers and journalists. 

While Murdoch acknowledge the move by Facebook and Google to do away with scurrilous news sources through algorithms, he slammed the remedial measures that both companies had so far proposed, calling them “inadequate, commercially, socially and journalistically”. He further stated, “There has been much discussion about subscription models, but I have yet to see a proposal that truly recognises the investment in and the social value of professional journalism.” 

“I have no doubt that Mark Zuckerberg is a sincere person, but there is still a serious lack of transparency that should concern publishers and those wary of political bias at these powerful platforms,” he added. 

As per PEW Research of 2016, nearly 60 per cent people check Facebook or other social media platforms for news. While the proposed solution looks brilliant, there are a number of hurdles to overcome. For starters, Facebook has been struggling for more than a year to address mounting criticism of its role in the dissemination of misinformation and propaganda, and determining who exactly qualifies as a ‘trusted’ news source would be a difficult task, with many likely disagreeing with whichever media outlets get picked. 

Additionally, in the traditional cable model, viewers decide what they want to view, and pay substantial fees to access that content – which puts cable companies in a much better position to ‘share’ the revenue with publishers and channels, while social media and Facebook users are monetised more passively through ads once they visit the publisher’s site.


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