Facebook is investing $3 million into a pilot program, called the Local News Subscriptions Accelerator, to help local newspapers increase digital subscriptions.
The three-month program is part of Facebook’s announcement last month that the platform is moving to prioritize local news in users’ News Feeds.
The Local News Subscriptions Accelerator comes out of the Facebook Journalism Project, which launched this time last year with the goal of collaborating directly with the news industry and local news organizations to offer resources to journalists.
“We often talk to publishers about what the future of journalism looks like and local news publishers tell us that digital subscribers are critical to the long-term sustainability of their business. We know Facebook is one part of the strategy to engage readers and ultimately drive paid subscriptions,” Campbell Brown, Facebook's head of news partnerships, wrote on Facebook’s company blog.
The Accelerator will team with 10-15 local news organizations to help them learn how to build digital subscribers both on and off Facebook.
They 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, The Tennessean and Newsday.
Advertising dollars aren’t easy to come by for publishers, as they compete with Google and Facebook.
“Providing a venue for metro news organizations to collaboratively develop audience and subscriber acquisition strategies is a smart way to tackle what’s been a vexing problem for most publishers,” stated Christian Hendricks, president of the Local Media Consortium.
The Local Media Consortium is one of the groups Facebook will work with, via The Lenfest Institute, to distribute learnings and case studies from this pilot group.
Publishers will meet once a month with “subscription experts” to get advice, as well as participate in weekly trainings on “digital subscriptions marketing activities,” all provided by Facebook.
Tim Griggs, a former New York Times executive and digital media consultant, will lead the program's curriculum on “understanding digital audiences and building marketing plans for digital subscriber acquisition,” per Brown.
Publishers will be required to share findings from the project with Facebook.