Today, we’re excited to announce an additional $4.5 million investment in programs that support news publishers.
- We’re extending the $3.5 million Facebook Journalism Project: Local News Subscriptions Accelerator pilot program that launched earlier this year, based on overwhelming support and feedback from the industry. We are going to continue to coach the group of metro news publishers from the pilot program through the end of this year, and we will reconvene with them in 2019 to focus on subscriber retention.
- We will launch the Facebook Membership Accelerator, a $3.5 million, three-month pilot program designed to help news organizations with membership models take a bold step forward in their membership approach and execution.
- Finally, we are contributing $1 million to the 2018
campaign which matches individual donations to more than 100 non-profit newsrooms around the country. Last year NewsMatch helped make 2017 a record breaking year for giving to non-profit journalism and we are excited to help NewsMatch expand in 2018.
Expanding the Local Subscriptions Accelerator
The Local News Subscriptions Accelerator was designed to test strategies focused on growing digital subscription acquisitions for local publishers. During a 12-week intensive pilot program, 14 metro newspapers tested digital subscriptions strategies, both on- and off-Facebook, documenting their work so other local publishers can learn from their experiments. Funded by The Facebook Journalism Project, the Accelerator included collaborative in-person sessions where publishers worked through challenges together, with hands-on workshops led by news industry veteran Tim Griggs and a grant-making program organized by Facebook and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Since finishing the program, participating publishers have been working one-on-one with coaches to tackle specific goals they set during the program. Each publisher is using grant money to fuel their efforts.
We’re encouraged by the early successes of this program, and proud of the tangible business results that publishers have accomplished so far. Bill Reynolds, Senior Vice President of Circulation and Operations at The Denver Post said: “We didn’t learn just one thing. We learned many things from everyone here. This program accelerated so much for us, from the company culture to our benchmarking. The Denver Post is going to move faster as a result of this program.”
Piloting a New Memberships Accelerator
The new Facebook Membership Accelerator will pilot a $3.5 million program designed to help non-profit news organizations and local, independent publishers with membership models build sustainable businesses by providing supporters access to exclusive content and experiences through memberships. The bootcamp-style curriculum will focus on acquisition marketing designed to convert and retain paying supporters. As in the Subscriptions pilot, publishers will collaborate in-person once a month, work 1-on-1 with coaches on a regular basis, participate in weekly trainings, and receive grant funding to tackle projects tailored to their specific business needs— all while documenting their work to be shared with publishers around the world. Tim Griggs, a former New York Times and Texas Tribune executive and leading digital media consultant, will again helm the curriculum, and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, which oversaw the grant program for the first program, along with providing coaching to participating publishers, and tracking and reporting on the results, will continue in this role for this group as well. We see this work as complementing the important ongoing efforts by leaders like the Institute for Nonprofit News, Local Independent Online News Publishers and the News Revenue Hub and will work with them and other stakeholders to identify a representative group of non-profit news organizations and local publishers that will best represent the needs of this cohort.
$1 Million to Support NewsMatch
The Facebook Journalism Project will also make a $1 million donation to NewsMatch, a national matching campaign that doubles donations to non-profit newsrooms and promotes giving to journalism among US donors. The campaign pools funds from local and national funders, including Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, to match donations to non-profit newsrooms across the country. The NewsMatch fund is housed at The Miami Foundation and in 2017 it became the largest grassroots fundraising campaign for non-profit news, raising more than $4.8 million in three months. Knight Foundation launched the inaugural NewsMatch in 2016, helping 57 nonprofit news organizations raise more than $1.2 million in matching donations. In addition to expanding funding for non-profit journalism NewsMatch partners with the Institute for Nonprofit News and the News Revenue Hub to offer hundreds of hours of fundraising training. In the past Facebook has played a small part as a donor, and this year we’re significantly increasing that support.
“NewsMatch was founded as a way to highlight and support the critical role of journalism in our democracy,” said Josh Stearns, Director of the Public Square Program at Democracy Fund, one of the NewsMatch partners. “By doubling donations to quality reporting, NewsMatch 2018 will help people invest in powerful stories from around the country that would otherwise go untold. We are glad to have Facebook join this effort.”
Updates on Other Ongoing Efforts
Simultaneously, we’ve been working with publishers across the US and Europe to test support for subscriptions in Instant Articles. Results so far are promising: in May, people who saw Instant Articles from publishers in our test group were 17% more likely on average to subscribe to those publications directly from Facebook than people who saw standard web links. Moving forward, we’ll also be exploring ways to support emerging models like membership directly on Facebook.
In addition, starting today we will pilot a Digital Video Accelerator in Argentina, a six-week program designed to help news publishers develop and execute holistic digital video strategies to connect with their audiences in new ways. Furthermore, The Digital News Innovation Challenge (DNIC), a partnership between Ryerson University’s DMZ, Ryerson School of Journalism (RSJ) and the Facebook Journalism Project, is giving Canada’s top media startups training, funding, and expert assistance over five months to drive new innovation in the sector.
As always, the suite of Accelerator pilot programs is borne out of our commitment to trusted, informative, and local journalism. We look forward to these next steps in ensuring our platform connects people to the news and information that is most important to them as part of the Facebook Journalism Project. We will continue to make investments to support newsrooms and journalists around the world, and we’ll have more to share soon.