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Facebook launches program to help local news outlets boost digital subscriptions

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The Facebook Journalism Project has announced a new program today called Local News Subscriptions Accelerator that will work with several local US outlets over the next three months to help bolster their subscription efforts.

The pilot program has $3 million in funding and will work with 10 to 15 news organizations in order to help boost their digital customer base, both on the Facebook platform and off. Confirmed outlets that are participating include The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, The Denver Post, The Miami Herald, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Omaha World-Herald, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Newsday.

Outlets that partake in the program will meet in person once a month to get training from digital subscription experts, and have weekly sessions that cover marketing and digital subscriptions. Along with coaches, the outlets will then design projects that help solve their individual needs as it relates to digital subscriptions. As Facebook is footing the bill, these outlets will have to share any findings they learn of with the Accelerator.

The Facebook Journalism Project was launched in January of last year. Its intention is to connect directly with the news industry, collaborating with local news organizations to offer tools for journalists and examine the different ways news is delivered to readers on Facebook. Last month, Facebook announced a change in the News Feed to prioritize posts from local news in the US. So, if you follow a local publisher’s page or a friend shares a story from that outlet, the story will appear higher in your feed.

Local news outlets have had a divided outlook on Facebook over the past year, with concerns over putting attention toward a platform that offers a lack of revenue and reach. Many, like The Chicago Tribune, have abandoned Instant Articles after several changes deprioritized Instant Articles and dampened reach, and others, like Brazil’s largest newspaper, Folha de Sao Paolo, decided to stop publishing on Facebook altogether. Recently, onstage at Code Media, Facebook’s head of news partnerships Campbell Brown spoke on the platform’s relationship with journalism and news delivery. “We’re going to have to experiment,” Brown said. “We have to be way more transparent and candid with publishers going in that this may not work out.”