As lockdowns and stay-in-place orders continue to be extended in countries around the world, millions of people are spending their days frequenting online publications to find out the latest about the COVID-19 pandemic. While websites find the extra traffic boost a welcome, they also have to struggle with companies reducing their ad spend because of the economic effects of the pandemic.
That’s part of the reason Facebook has announced it will spend an additional $100 million to support the news industry during the crisis. Announcing the new initiative, Facebook said:
The news industry is working under extraordinary conditions to keep people informed during the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when journalism is needed more than ever, ad revenues are declining due to the economic impact of the virus. Local journalists are being hit especially hard, even as people turn to them for critical information to keep their friends, families and communities safe.
As part of the $100 million package, $25 million will go to directly funding local news organizations through emergency grants via the Facebook Journalism Project. Though the $25 million will be distributed globally, the first round of the emergency grants will be distributed to 50 local newsrooms in the U.S. and Canada.
One such example of the use of the grant comes from The Post and Courier of South Carolina. It took down its paywall for all coronavirus stories so everyone could have access to the latest information about the pandemic. The Post and Courier will use Facebook’s grant to extend its coverage to rural and underreported-on sectors of the state. Facebook’s funds will also be used to cover travel costs and remote work capabilities of the publication’s journalists.
But the largest chunk of Facebook’s $100 million pledge comes in the form of additional marketing spend. Facebook will spend an additional $75 million above its existing marketing spend on advertising on news organization websites around the world.
As Facebook points out in its blog post announcing the initiative: “If people needed more proof that local journalism is a vital public service, they’re getting it now. And while almost all businesses are facing adverse financial effects from this crisis, we recognize we’re in a more privileged position than most, and we want to help.”