Facebook has confirmed it will be launching a “news tab” in the US following reports it has begun to contact media companies to license their stories, but the company remains a competitor to most of them.
The confirmation follows a report in The Wall Street Journal that Facebook was offering news executives up to $3m (£2.48m) a year to license their publications’ headlines and previews of their articles in a new tab for its users.
Such licenses stand in stark contrast to the headlines and article previews visible on Google Search’s news tab, which has been criticised for replicating news publications work without repaying them – to the point of being banned in Spain.
According to the Journal, publishers including itself, ABC News, The Washington Post and Bloomberg have been contacted as part of the project.
The social media giant declined to tell Sky News which publications it was discussing licenses with or whether the news tab would be launched in the UK, but confirmed that the tab was to be launched in the US by the end of the year.
But the move will be viewed sceptically by many in the news industry, which has seen vast amounts of the advertising revenue which funds it flood to Facebook and Google over the past decade.
A review commissioned by the government and published in February found that Facebook and Google had a detrimental impact on British news media because they captured so much of the share of online advertising revenue.
Earlier this year, Sky News technology correspondent Rowland Manthorpe reported on how news media organisations were being put out of business by Facebook and Google.
Figures produced for Sky News research firm eMarketer revealed 61% of UK media advertising was going to either Facebook or Google.
Then European competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager described the pair as “a de facto duopoly” but fell short of promising regulatory action, merely saying it was something her office was following.
Ms Vestager said the dwindling number of funded journalistic organisations was concerning: “It concerns me, because we will have no free journalism, no free press, no criticism of those in power, if we don’t have media that is well funded, that can employ qualified journalists.
“With fake news, the role is getting bigger, but the risk is there are fewer people to do it,” Ms Vestager added.
“From a European perspective, the fact that we have a number of different national markets complicates matters, because then you have strong players in the national markets, it’s not Google and Facebook.
“But the pattern, the general pattern is a clear trend towards Google and Facebook taking all the advertising revenue.”