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More than a logo – Facebook needs to rise to occasion

Appearing at the INFORM News Media Summit in Sydney last week, Fairfax Media managing director of Australian Metro Publishing Chris Janz and News Corp Australia chief digital officer Nicole Sheffield discussed news media business models and called for improvements at Facebook.

With both News Corp Australia and Fairfax Media rolling back their commitments to Facebook’s Instant Articles, publishers are demanding the social media platform improve its services and make more meaningful commitments to foster journalism, according to Nicole Sheffield Chris Janz.

It has been nine months since Facebook launched its journalism project. Since then, the digital platform has attempted to rectify some of the key issues identified by publishers.

The key changes included improvements to Instant Articles, allowing publishers to better monetise content and push subscriptions, the introduction of call-to-action buttons and news advertising opportunities. Other changes include video advertisements and more newsroom initiatives.

However, Mr Janz believes the model that Facebook created “doesn’t stack up”.

“The kind of revenue that Facebook Instant Articles generates major news publishers won’t pay half a journalist’s wage for half a week. It’s just not an interesting platform for me, and for Fairfax.”

Agreeing with this point, Ms Sheffield said that the changes just would not be enough to substantiate long-lasting structural change that leads to monetisation for news publishers.

In an exercise in publisher branding, Facebook has said it will improve the visibility of news media publisher logos on the site “to make it easier for publishers to extend their brand identity on Facebook – to enhance people’s awareness of the source of content they see on Facebook, so they can better decide what to read and share”.

Ms Sheffield said there are more important issues at hand than a logo.

“For us there’s a lot more than the size of a logo. Our content is very valuable and I get that the revenue of the model might take a little bit of time; we are, for example, quite active on Snapchat. That revenue model is taking a little bit of time, but it’s a new audience and we are allowed to customise it,” Ms Sheffield said.

“But everything about your brand [on Facebook] is the same as everyone else’s. There is no revenue stream, to be honest, and there are no traffic referrals. At the end of the day, there has to be at least traffic referrals back to the core creator so we can monetise it somewhere. If I’m not getting traffic referrals I’m giving the first click free to Google. On any level it’s not enough.”

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