Murdoch papers slam Facebook for ‘audience tax’ publisher deals

30/10/2014

News UK, the publisher behind The Times and The Sun, has criticised Facebook’s plans to encourage papers to publish their articles direct to the social network’s mobile app, branding the move an ‘audience tax’.

Facebook’s reasoning is that, with its 654 million daily mobile users and the fact more than half of its ad revenue comes from mobile, it can help publishers make the experience of reading their content on mobile less clunky.

Online media sites could in future use Facebook as a distribution platform to directly send articles to mobile users through the app, according to the New York Times.

The deal would see traditional media outlets partner with the social media giant which now claims 654 million daily mobile users.

Chris Cox, chief product officer of Facebook, told the New York Times: “We are at the very beginning of a conversation and it’s very important that we get this right.

“Because we play an increasingly important role in how people discover the news that they read every day, we feel a responsibility to work with publishers to come up with as good an experience as we can for consumers. And we want and need that to be a good experience for publishers as well.”

However, the plan was attacked by News UK, a branch of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, as publishers such as the Sun and the Times already have a presence on the site and full editorial control of what lands on users’ timelines.
Furthermore, both publications have a pay wall limiting the usefulness of such a partnership with Facebook, according to Chris Duncan, the chief marketing officer of News UK, who spoke to Business Insider.

Duncan, who branded the proposal as a tax on “audience” and “navigation” said: “It’s like handing over the keys to all the things digital publishers are good at. We’d lose visibility of our usage and visibility of our audience.

"There are more than one million advertisers now and lots more competition for timeline space. Every trend you can extrapolate, it’s become an internet ad platform, not a publishing platform.”
He added that smaller titles could consider entering the scheme in a bid to expand their audiences but he wondered what price they would have to pay for such a service.

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