Facebook Pledged $100 Million To Help News Outlets Hit By The Coronavirus Crisis

Despite a spike in readership during the coronavirus outbreak, news organizations haven't been successful in converting the surge in traffic to revenue.

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Facebook is pledging $100 million to help a struggling news industry that has been starved of advertising revenue amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the company announced on Monday.

“Right now journalists are working under very difficult conditions to keep their communities informed, and many news organizations are struggling due to the economic impact of the outbreak,” wrote Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the website. “Local news is especially hard hit, so we're committing $25 million for emergency grant funding through the Facebook Journalism Project, and another $75 million in marketing spend to support journalists and news organizations covering the crisis."

News organizations around the world — especially local newsrooms — have been hit hard by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Major global brands, for instance, have been blocking the number of digital ads placed on news websites. Earlier this month, Digiday reported that 88% of legacy and digital publishers it surveyed would miss business targets this year.

Analysts said that the coronavirus pandemic could be worse for the news industry than the 2008 financial crisis, when newspapers saw advertising revenues decline by 19%. “[Newspaper] advertising revenue is just getting wiped out,” Ken Doctor, a news industry analyst, told BuzzFeed News last week.

Indeed, publishers around the world have already started cutting back. Alternative weeklies in the US and Canada have laid off staff and stopped publishing print editions; the Rutland Herald, Vermont’s oldest daily newspaper, laid off 20 of its 42 staffers; and the New York Times warned in early March that its ad revenue would suffer.

“At a time when journalism is needed more than ever, ad revenues are declining due to the economic impact of the virus,” wrote Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president for global news partnerships, in a statement. “Local journalists are being hit especially hard, even as people turn to them for critical information to keep their friends, families and communities safe.”

If people needed more proof that local journalism is a vital public service, Brown added, they're getting it now. “[While] almost all businesses are facing adverse financial effects from this crisis, we recognize we're in a more privileged position than most, and we want to help.”

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