Facebook needs news. So why shouldn’t it pay for it?

Social media Media ownership Advertising Journalism Great Britain

Advertising is falling. Paywalls push readers away. But a big endowment from the tech moguls, to be shared among all papers, could work in everyone’s interests.

One basic truth is stark enough as newsrooms around Britain – and around the world – contract or close. The advertising money that used to underpin journalism isn’t there any longer. It is going, going, gone … into the maw of the internet in general, but Facebook and Google in particular. And without that revenue, journalism itself is at risk.

Two expert writers in the current Stanford Social Innovation Review sum up the whole problem of the last 20 media years in a single paragraph: “1) A radically diminished funding base for print media, 2) increasingly fragmented audiences, 3) an accelerating pattern of random and instantaneous digital dissemination of information, 4) video’s increasing displacement of the written and spoken word, and 5) diminishing amounts and lower quality of civic education, and related declines in knowledge of public affairs.”

Individually, say Bruce Sievers and Patrice Schneider, “these trends are problematic; together they pose a severe threat to democracy”. They are, among other things, the barren, shifting sands where only fake news grows.

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