As you’ve probably heard, Facebook and Instagram will lean heavily into AI-curated creator content going forward, and the News Tab project Facebook launched a few years ago doesn’t seem to be a big part of that. As reported by Axios and confirming earlier rumors, Facebook’s parent company Meta is telling publishers it no longer plans to pay for the content it has been aggregating in the news tab.
According to the report, Meta spent about $105 million in three-year content deals for news (plus another $90 million for news videos), including $10 million for the Wall Street Journal, $20 million for the New York Times, and $3 million for CNN in arrangements that sometimes included unlocked access to paywalled content. The Wall Street Journal previously reported that the rise of regulation forcing Facebook and other internet giants to pay for news caused the company’s waning enthusiasm and cited a source today saying the paid news push was an “experiment that ultimately didn’t pay off.”
While the News tab itself will remain — you can read about how it works right here — the overall initiative follows podcasts, Novi cryptocurrency, the “Campus” reboot of classic Facebook, and the HouseParty clone Bonfire as projects that came and went in the last few years.
A statement from an unspecified Facebook spokesperson given to Axios said, “a lot has changed since we signed deals three years ago to test bringing additional news links to Facebook News in the U.S. Most people do not come to Facebook for news, and as a business it doesn’t make sense to over-invest in areas that don’t align with user preference.”
The response to Instagram’s attempt at a TikTok impression — and its shocking retreat — shows that the definition of user preference can vary depending on who you ask, but it certainly doesn’t seem like there’s been a massive impact from Facebook’s paid aggregation push in the News tab since it launched in 2019.
When Facebook introduced the News tab in 2019, it talked up the potential of a section with daily top stories “chosen by a team of journalists” that could avoid the pitfalls of other News Feed adventures that sometimes boosted fake news, the Instant Articles that publishers didn’t appreciate, or its infamous “pivot to video.” For me, it was just another section of Facebook that I visited once and never went back to.