NEW YORK – The just-launched Facebook News tab — which includes The Inquirer and about 200 other trusted news outlets — could reach 20 million to 30 million users within a few years, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Friday.
Zuckerberg also said that Facebook plans to extend Facebook News and its licensing fees to more local newspapers.
The social media giant announced on Friday its first-ever plans to pay for journalism through licensing fees to provide content for Facebook News. Industry experts heralded the announcement as overdue, while Zuckerberg also confirmed in a press event at the Paley Center for Media in New York that the former alt-right publication Breitbart Media Network is among the trusted publications for Facebook News.
Zuckerberg said that the news tab “needs to have a diversity of views.” But he also said that independent Facebook editors will decide whether to feature Breitbart’s work as leading stories.
Zuckerberg — who was grilled during a hearing in Washington earlier this week — faced a mostly friendly audience of about 200 Facebook and News Corp. employees and journalists on Friday. Robert Thomson, chief executive of News Corp., publisher of the Wall Street Journal and New York Post, moderated a conversation with Zuckerberg, asking first off, “What took you so long?”
Thomson said that publishers and journalists “need to be held accountable for flawed strategies” of the past, but Facebook’s decision to pay for content could lead to new business models that could support journalism.
Zuckerberg said that Facebook waited to launch a news tab because its users engage on the social media platform with friends and family. Only in recent years, with the development of tabs for video and selling, did the company look into developing one for news. Critics also say that Facebook disseminates disinformation and hate online.
Some news organizations were skeptical of Facebook’s project, fearing that the social media giant could hijack their traffic. But Facebook has developed the tab so that headlines and a thumbnail of the stories display on Facebook. When readers click on the story, they will be directed to the news organization’s website, such as Inquirer.com, instead of staying on Facebook.
Facebook is launching Facebook News as it faces a storm of scrutiny in Washington and states over its business and privacy practices. This week, 47 state attorneys general disclosed an anti-trust investigation into Facebook, focusing on whether it has improperly disclosed consumer data to advertisers and has hiked Facebook advertising prices.
Washington lawmakers also sniped at Zuckerberg in a hearing on Wednesday over Facebook’s decision to not fact-check political ads.