Facebook’s news media deals doomed

Mark Zuckerberg has made it pretty clear that news is not an investment priority for him anymore.

But if the media industry was still unconvinced, the job losses across Facebook’s parent Meta last week would kill any remaining hopes that the $US297 billion tech giant has plans to continue to spend millions on content deals with news publications.

Meta’s director of international news partnerships, Jesper Doub, was among the 11,000 people made redundant in a global cull designed to reduce costs last week, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke anonymously. The cuts to Doub’s division were felt in other markets, including Australia.

Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg confirmed mass layoffs of workers earlier this month. Among the losses were executives from the news division.Credit:AP

“A number of roles in Australia’s news team were recently impacted by Meta’s global restructure,” Meta Australia’s managing director Will Easton said in a statement provided to this masthead.

“This is not a reflection of the great work these groups have done, but what we need going forward as we shift our resources onto a smaller number of high-priority growth areas. While we have maintained news partnerships resources in Australia, user preferences have shifted to creator-driven content in products such as Watch and Reels, and this is where we will focus moving forward.”

Easton’s comments are telling: this is the second time in a matter of weeks Meta has told the local media industry that it is shifting resources to “high-priority growth areas”. It has made it clear that news is not one of them and informed local media companies that it cannot “afford” to spend large amounts of money in areas its users aren’t interested in.

And while Asia Pacific’s director of news partnerships, Andrew Hunter, remains in his role, he will work without news partnerships’ strategic manager, Jen Ryall, and a direct report, who both lost their jobs. This isn’t surprising.

Hunter’s role is tenable because of the millions of dollars locked up in deals with media outlets in Australia. These deals were put in place after the introduction of a news media bargaining code, a piece of legislation that threatened to force Meta and Google into commercial talks with media companies if they did not effectively negotiate for use of content in the newsfeed and search.

The problem is these contracts, according to multiple media companies, only run for three years.

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