Regional newspapers have a tough time of it. Their funding models have been ravaged by the inscrutable advance of the digital alternative and lately by social media.
The ongoing skirmishes between the Australian Government, Facebook and Google over who should pay whom for content seem to resolve themselves.
News that Facebook will contribute money to a fund to support 170 regional newspapers across Australia must be welcome news for everyone.
It will, hopefully, help those regional newspapers survive, thrive and possibly invest in digital innovation.
Yet there is always a cynical view of almost everything that Facebook does.
Recently it has got into all sorts of new areas, from dating to cryptocurrency (well, almost) and most recently a local community version of Facebook, Nextdoor. And now regional newspapers.
Faced with ever more pressure from regulators, tax authorities and data protection departments, Facebook and others are constantly looking for new ways of getting hold of data to sell to advertisers without falling foul of the evolving rules.
And regional newspapers do seem an excellent way of leveraging relevant adverts for the Nextdoor project. Very good.
It also seems that the Nextdoor project is not going well. So funding regional newspapers as a way of supporting that initiative makes sense.
As Google knows only too well, the beauty of search is, well, search. Someone looking for a hairdresser and then seeing an advert for a hairdresser will not get annoyed. It is relevant.
Local advertising is always more welcome than other forms because you feel you are supporting your community as a viewer of the adverts. Regional newspapers fill that role and, with proper funding, will, in turn, support the rising trend of local community, local shops and local services.
Whether or not we should put the cynic’s hat on with the news that Facebook is supporting regional newspapers is almost irrelevant. If Facebook can find ways of serving advertising that is appreciated and relevant, then that must be good news, whatever the motive.
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