Projects funded through Facebook’s Local News Accelerator program have led to new digital and email subscribers, plus an estimated $5 million value boost across the 14 participating newspapers, a news outlet reported on Thursday (Aug. 1).
“We want to make it a place where a cohort learns together, but then we share those learnings, those lessons out to the industry [so that everyone benefits] more broadly,” said Facebook’s Partnerships Lead Josh Mabry.
When inquiring about the program, the first thing most publishers want to know is if Facebook is doing this to benefit its own products. But David Grant, the Accelerator’s program manager, said that about 99 percent of the program has nothing to do with Facebook.
“It’s not about Facebook tools and services,” Grant noted. “Really, the focus is on building the right type of community. We’re trying to solve problems; we’re not trying to adopt products.”
Tim Griggs, a former executive at the Texas Tribune and The New York Times, is Accelerator’s executive director. Grants are being administered by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
“The Lenfest Institute’s mission is to develop and support sustainable business models for local journalism,” said the institute’s Director of Operations Ken Herts. “We strongly believe that digital subscriptions are part of the solution.”
Facebook said in January that it was investing $300 million in local news, and would support newsrooms’ information gathering efforts and help local news organizations build sustainable business models. Facebook aims to also foster civic engagement, which is directly related to people consuming local news. The company has said that part of its mission is to fight fake news, misinformation and low-quality news on its platform.
Also in January, the social media giant opened a 130,000-square-foot office in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Headquartered in Menlo Park, California, Facebook has other offices in cities all around the country, including Washington, D.C., Seattle, Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Atlanta, Austin, Chicago and Dallas, in addition to 40 locations around the world.