Facebook is already boosting posts in its feed from news organizations rated through user surveys as more trusted, and ranking lower the posts from organizations rated as less trusted, and will “dial up the intensity of that over time,” Mark Zuckerberg told attendees yesterday during a meeting with news executives in Menlo Park, California. (The user survey consists of two questions: (1) Do you recognize the following websites and (2) How much do you trust each of these domains?)
The meeting was part of the second convening of OTR (“Off-the-Record”), an annual conference for newsroom leaders from media organizations put together by Jessica Lessin of The Information, with Kevin Delaney from Quartz and Ben Smith from BuzzFeed (in her roundup of the event, Lessin clarified she invited Zuckerberg). Zuckerberg agreed to allow his remarks there to be on the record, rather than off, as initially intended.
What else noteworthy came out of the meeting?
— Zuckerberg dismissed a suggestion that’s been floating around that Facebook pay news publishers an annual fee to run their content on its platform: “I’m not sure that makes sense,” he said. “People come to Facebook primarily not to consume news but to communicate with people. The way we can help out the most with that is by helping out with a business model that is profitable and sustainable for news organizations.”
— He’s “disappointed” in the company’s pace of getting out products to help news organizations sell subscriptions on Facebook: We “moved too slowly on getting the subscription product to perform really well.”
— He really appreciates journalism, or at least says he does. He called investigative journalism “sacred.” “We view ourselves as having a responsibility to support the institution of journalism,” he told news execs. “We want to make sure that across all of the areas, including ones that have been traditionally less funded, like local news and some areas internationally, that we do our part to support funding of more of that.” But as Adrienne LaFrance of the Atlantic and others have pointed out, Zuckerberg’s statements were full of contradictions:
Zuckerberg runs a media company that distributes news, but doesn’t have a proper newsroom. He runs a media company that has — with Google’s help — dominated the vast majority of digital ad dollars and eviscerated the journalism industry’s business model, all while preaching about the importance of journalism. He runs a media company that, he says, believes deeply in the need to sustain independent journalism, but won’t pay publishers to license journalistic content. And he runs a media company that has decided to show its users less news from professional outlets — it’s really not what people want to see, he says — in favor of more individual opinions.
— Facebook will spend “billions and billions of dollars” to address the problem of fake news, misinformation, and hate speech on its platform. On top of the “tens of thousands of people” Facebook will bring on to moderate content, the technologies it’s developing will take about “five to 10 years” to really be effective, Zuckerberg said.
— Is Facebook a media company? Zuckerberg: [Chuckles].