Facebook says it will spend $5 million paying local journalists on a new publishing platform. Reuters reported the news on Thursday, saying independent journalists could begin applying for the program today. The company is prioritizing reporters in areas without an existing news source — sometimes called “news deserts” — who plan to cover “Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian or other audiences of color.”
Facebook announced its news platform last month. The platform includes a self-publishing tool that lets reporters launch newsletters and charge for subscriptions, as well as integration with existing features like Facebook pages and groups. Reuters reports that Facebook will strike multiyear deals with selected journalists, who can earn more money through subscriptions.
In a statement, Facebook described local news as one piece of a larger self-publishing strategy. “We’re launching a platform to help independent writers, experts, journalists, and authoritative voices reach new audiences on Facebook,” a spokesperson told The Verge. “As part of our commitment to include local writers at launch, we’re opening up an application today for US writers creating public interest journalism in their communities looking to gain access to this new platform and the services we are offering to build an independent business.”
Facebook is also competing with other self-publishing platforms — particularly newsletter provider Substack. Substack launched a $1 million initiative called Substack Local in mid-April, saying it would select up to 30 local news reporters to receive one-year advances of up to $100,000. (Like higher-profile Substack Pro writers, these reporters will give up most of their subscription revenue for that year.) Applications for Substack Local close today.
Facebook announced a $5 million investment in local news last year. It’s also paid national news outlets to publish content on its social network. But with this effort, it’s building something closer to an in-house news platform, rather than working with big outlets that have an often ambivalent relationship to the company.