Facebook is not quite the news provider that people thought it was—at least, not according to Facebook.
Less than “three percent of what people around the world see in their Facebook Feeds are posts with links to news,” writes Jeffrey A. Eisenach in a heavily detailed new paper, “Meta and the News: Assessing the Value of the Bargain.”
The paper argues that there is “no economic foundation for news publishers’ contentions that Facebook is a ‘must have’ platform for publishers or that it possesses an ‘imbalance of bargaining power’ that would allow it to extract an unreasonable share of the value of the bargain.”
It continues, “The fact that Meta derives little economic value from the sharing of news content on Facebook explains why its willingness to pay for news content is, in most cases, zero.”
Meanwhile, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) have reintroduced The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), a bill that would allow publishers and broadcasters to jointly negotiate with large online platforms like Google and Facebook.
It is not clear if this paper will have any impact on the legislation, or if the reintroduced JCPA has a chance of passage this time around. But Facebook clearly is getting its arguments into place.
Eisenach cites a Content Report showing that “the most popular content on Facebook is seen by only a small fraction of Facebook users.
Specifically, “the top 20 Facebook Pages, ranked by number of viewers, accounted for just 1.2 percent of all US content views, while the top 20 posts accounted for just 0.04 percent of all content views,” Eisenach writes.
He adds Facebook’s argument that “the content seen by the most people... comprise[s] only a small portion of the total number of content views, because, given the customized nature of Feed, most of what people see on Facebook is uniquely personalized.”
In addition, publishers widely advertise on Facebook. As of February data shows that “the vast majority of major news publishers are active advertisers on Meta’s platforms,” Eisenach writes.
For example, “seven of the top ten newspapers (by circulation) in the UK were running ads that included links to online content.,” it continues. “The same was true for eight of the top ten in Canada, eight of the top ten in France and all ten of the top ten in the US.”
From all this, Eisenach concludes, “Proposed government interventions designed to force Meta to provide monetary compensation to publishers based on allegations of market power or disproportionate bargaining power are thus not justified by the available evidence.”
The full paper can be accessed here.