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Facebook wants to boost your local newspaper's subscriptions

Facebook unveils a $3 million test program to help metro newspapers' digital subscriptions, but it follows News Feed changes that hurt some news outlets.

Mark Zuckerberg earlier this year said that Facebook would emphasize local news. 
Claudia Cruz/CNET

Facebook on Tuesday unveiled a $3 million, three-month pilot program in the US to help metropolitan newspapers with digital subscriptions. 

Called the Local News Subscriptions Accelerator, the program will work with 10 to 15 metro newspapers, and it will include some unspecified funding grants. Mostly, it seems the program will focus on training publishers about digital subscriptions, not only on Facebook but also off its platform. The participants will convene in person once a month with program coaches to design individual projects. 

With more than 2 billion monthly users, Facebook is the world's biggest social network, but over the last year and a half it has reckoned with criticism that it wields its power irresponsibly. Much of the criticism has stemmed from the company's failures to identify and halt Russian interference in US elections via its platform. But it has also provoked exasperation from news outlets following its decision to demote news in its all-important News Feed rankings. Publishers have complained that Facebook's interest in journalism extends only as far it suits the company's engagement goals.

Earlier this year, Facebook said that its new focus on "time well spent" and elevating posts from friends and family has meant users are spending roughly 50 million fewer hours daily on Facebook. At the same time, Facebook indicated that local news would get renewed focus, saying it would start to emphasize news stories from local publishers in an area where a person lives.

Axios earlier reported the Local News Subscriptions Accelerator plan. 

Facebook said that Tim Griggs, a digital-media consultant who previously was an executive at The New York Times, will spearhead the program's curriculum. 

Currently enrolled publishers 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.

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