Media mogul and longtime internet adversary Rupert Murdoch today released a statement calling on Facebook to begin paying trusted publishers. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
The memo calls on Facebook to begin paying a carriage fee, much like the model used by cable companies for networks like CNN and ESPN. “Trusted” publishers would receive a take of overall revenue in exchange for increasing user trust on the platform.
Facebook and Google have popularized scurrilous news sources through algorithms that are profitable for these platforms but inherently unreliable. Recognition of a problem is one step on the pathway to cure, but the remedial measures that both companies have so far proposed are inadequate, commercially, socially and journalistically.
There has been much discussion about subscription models but I have yet to see a proposal that truly recognizes the investment in and the social value of professional journalism. We will closely follow the latest shift in Facebook’s strategy, and 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.
The time has come to consider a different route. If Facebook wants to recognize ‘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. Carriage payments would have a minor impact on Facebook’s profits but a major impact on the prospects for publishers and journalists.
After CEO Mark Zuckerberg publicly declared war on misinformation and sensationalism after the 2016 US Presidential Election, he echoed those sentiments with the social network’s most recent statement last Friday. The statement outlined Zuckerberg’s plans to use member surveys to find “trustworthy” outlets, a move many journalists are criticizing.
Gizmodo’s headline read: “I can’t fucking believe how dumb Facebook’s News Feed update is.”
It’s ironic, really. Facebook admits there’s a problem in trying to educate the public about trustworthy news sources. But at the same time, it’s trying to place the power of deciding which outlets are legitimate into the hands of the users. The users with the problem discerning the difference between The New York Times and InfoWars.
Murdoch’s plan isn’t half as crazy as Zuckerberg’s.