For years, Facebook has tried, and failed, to find a business model that rewards news publishers for distributing their content on the social network.
Instant Articles, news stories that were hosted and monetized by Facebook, flopped. Deals in which Facebook paid publishers to create live video content led to lots of live video content — but not the kind of stuff that was very good, and eventually, once Facebook stopped footing the bill, the publishers stopped going live.
Now Facebook is trying again. On Wednesday, it formally announced a slate of original news programs that will live inside Facebook’s video section, Watch. (Facebook first talked about this at Recode Media back in February, and the Wall Street Journal scooped some of the details last week.) The business strategy behind the new deals is similar to the previous live video partnerships. Facebook will pay media companies to produce the shows, and some of them will run mid-roll ads, a.k.a. commercials, to help publishers (and Facebook) make some extra money. It’s the same strategy Facebook is already trying with other Watch shows, most of which have been entertainment-focused, and it’s not totally clear how well it’s working.
Facebook is probably paying handsomely on the news front, considering a few of their early partners: CNN’s Anderson Cooper will do a regular show, and so will Fox News’ Shep Smith, plus other shows from ABC News, Univision and Mic.
The question now becomes: Can these shows succeed where previous efforts failed?
The problem historically is that none of Facebook’s efforts have delivered enough revenue to publishers to counterbalance the time and effort that goes into producing the work. Facebook won’t pay these news publishers out of pocket forever, which means they’ll eventually need to establish consistent audiences big enough to generate ad revenue that will pay for the production costs (and then some) on their own.
So far, we haven’t seen evidence that this is possible on Facebook, which isn’t yet a proven video destination in the way that YouTube or Netflix are. With Facebook trying to figure that out, and news publishers desperate to keep pace, we’re in for another experiment. Facebook, of course, will be fine. Whether or not news publishers come out the other side of this tunnel feeling pleased or not is the question.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.