Tuesday 26 January 2021 10:33 am

Facebook launches UK news service in boost for publishers

Facebook will today start rolling out its dedicated news feed, marking a major boost for publishers in a long-running tussle over online advertising revenue.

Facebook News will offer users a selection of curated stories alongside news personalised to their interests from hundreds of national, local and lifestyle outlets.

The social media site today said it had signed deals with the Daily Mail, Financial Times, Telegraph, Sky News and Channel 4 News.

This is in addition to previously-announced partnerships with the Guardian, Economist and Independent, as well as local titles owned by Reach and JPI Media and lifestyle favourites such as GQ, Cosmopolitan and Vogue. 

Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, which owns the Times and Sun titles, has not yet signed up to the programme.

News offering

Facebook News, which first launched in the US in 2019, is expected to bring millions in new revenue to top publishers.

Facebook said the feature marked the beginning of a series of international investments that will see it pump substantial amounts of money into news. 

But the launch of Facebook News also marks the tech giant’s efforts to stave off tough new regulation amid concerns about its dominance of the advertising market.

Facebook and Google have faced criticism for cashing in on ad revenue from news publishers’ content while also denying that it should take on the responsibilities of a publisher.

A report published by the competition watchdog last year found that the so-called duopoly had built up an “unassailable market position”, taking roughly 80 per cent of all digital advertising spend in the UK.

A House of Lords committee described the online ad market as “dysfunctional” and called for new laws forcing social media firms to pay news publishers for their content.

While Facebook has signed lucrative deals with some major publishers, the majority of outlets will not be paid up front, instead earning revenue from traffic referrals and advertising.

The platform said its news feed would include some articles behind paywalls, which would be made available for 24 hours. It said it hoped this would help drive subscriptions to paywalled titles.