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The California Journalism Preservation Act would do more harm than good. Here’s how the state might better help news
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April 3, 2023, 12:16 p.m.
Audience & Social
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   April 3, 2023

People haven’t seen much news on Facebook for years now. The company’s algorithm has changed over time, as has people’s desire to see news on Facebook. And news is now an even tinier sliver of what people worldwide see in their Facebook News Feeds, according to a new paper, “Meta and the News: Assessing the Value of the Bargain” (h/t Press Gazette).

I’ll note right up front that this paper is funded by Meta and written in response to proposed legislation in Canada and the U.K. that would make platforms pay publishers for linking to their content (similar to legislation that has already passed in Australia). The platforms’ position is that they send traffic to the publishers by linking to their content and shouldn’t have to pay them. The paper’s author, economist and consultant Jeffrey Eisenach, says up front that “The evidence presented here indicates that publishers reap considerable economic benefits from their use of Facebook.” But whether you support or oppose the legislation, there are a few interesting facts here about news on the platform, using data provided by Meta that as far as I know hasn’t been published elsewhere.

— News accounts for “less than 3% of what users see in their Facebook Feeds,” Eisenach writes, noting, “News publisher content plays an economically small and diminishing role on the Facebook platform.” The 3% figure is worldwide and “based on Meta internal data for the last 90 days ending August 2022.” Facebook had said in 2018 that news made up about 4% of the feed.

— In the fourth quarter of 2022, just 7.5% of posts shared on Facebook in the U.S. contained any links, to news or otherwise. That figure is decreasing over time; in the fourth quarter of 2021, 14.6% of posts shared on Facebook in the U.S. contained a link.

— “The vast majority of news content shared on Facebook comes from the publishers’ own Facebook pages,” Eisenach writes: For the 90-day period ending August 2022, “Meta reports that more than 90% of organic views on article links from news publishers globally were on links posted by the publishers, not by Facebook users. In other words, Facebook users who view news publisher content on Facebook are primarily viewing content selected and posted by the publishers themselves.”

The full paper is here.

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