Media Insider: Facebook Creating News Tool, Local News Outlets Boost Digital Subscriptions, Tiny News Collective Launches

Welcome to Media Insider, PR Newswire’s round-up of media stories from the week.

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Facebook Is Reportedly Building a Tool That Will Read and Summarize News Articles for You

Facebook is working on a tool that will automatically read news articles for users and generate brief summaries. The feature was announced during an end-of-year company all-hands meeting. Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer presented the tool, which will be called “TLDR” (Too Long Didn’t Read, an acronym commonly used online). TLDR will be an AI-assistant tool that will automatically generate bullet-point summaries of articles. Schroepfer said it would also be voice-enabled, meaning users will be able to have it read summaries out loud to them. BuzzFeed’s Ryan Mac, who live-tweeted Facebook’s end-of-year meeting, said TLDR will be built to answer questions about news stories. “For example, you could ask ‘Hey Facebook, how many people will this vaccine help’ and it supposedly would spit out an answer,” Mac said.

Facebook also told employees it’s planning a neural sensor to detect people’s thoughts and translate them into action.

Local News Outlets Boost Digital Subscriptions by About 50% in a Year

The pandemic and other major news events have helped boost digital subscriptions dramatically at local news outlets in 2020, with a new industry analysis putting the overall increase at about 50% in a year’s time. Mather Economics, an Atlanta-based consulting firm that handles subscription data for major North American news chains, conducted an analysis of news outlets in 138 media markets of various sizes. It found that digital circulation was up 51.2% from November 2019 to November 2020 while print circulation was down 12.9%. Mather also found that 25.6% of all subscription starts in 2020 were digital. This year’s increase in digital subscriptions is greater than in previous years, Mather said.

Read next: Why news publishers are eagerly bundling their subscriptions with brands.

Rolling Stone, Billboard and Vibe Merge Business Sides Amid DOJ Probe

Penske Media Corp. is planning to merge the backend functions of three of the top music news publishers in the U.S., according to two sources familiar with the company’s plans. The day-to-day operations of the joint venture, called PMRC, would be led by Penske Media Corp. The merging of operations includes business functions like ad sales, marketing, and brand partnerships. The Justice Department is still investigating the deal between Penske Media Corp. and rival MRC to create a joint venture that houses most of the country’s biggest music and entertainment news brands. Sources say the DOJ is specifically eyeing the anti-competitive nature between owning two of the biggest entertainment-focused properties, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. 

Also from Axios: Sports podcast company Blue Wire raises $5 million Series A.

Collaborative Between Journalism Groups Seeks to Start 500 Local Newsrooms in Three Years

In a time when each passing week seems to bring with it another local newspaper closure, two groups are trying to buck the trend. Dubbed the Tiny News Collective, the initiative from LION Publishers and News Catalyst is an attempt to lower the barrier to starting a local news organization by providing the necessary resources, training, and technology. The initial goal is 10 new local outlets throughout the country by April and then 490 more over the next three years. Applications to be part of the first cohort of newsroom founders will open in January, and no background in entrepreneurship or even journalism is required. The project will guide each founder through the process of starting their own company.

Google News Initiative recently announced funding for 33 projects to tackle diversity, equity, and inclusion in local news.

Publishers Ready for Rocketing Ad Spending From Streamers in 2021

After the year we’ve just gone through, it seems dangerous to count on anything going into 2021. But publishers that cover pop culture and entertainment are already licking their chops at the prospect of more advertising and affiliate revenues coming their way next year, as services like HBO Max and Disney+ keep racing to reach ambitious subscriber targets (and keep subscriber churn under control). This past year, the entertainment pop culture site Fandom, which reaches 315 million monthly unique users globally, saw revenue from streamers rise 63%. Ranker, which covers entertainment among other pop culture and lifestyle topics, saw streaming services become the number one advertising category for its sites this year, and expects even more growth in the category in 2021.

ICYMI: An analysis by WWD found that Hearst reduced the frequency of more than half of its major print titles this year.

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Maria Perez is Director, Web Experience & Operations at Cision. In her spare time, she runs Bags of Love Foundation, a local nonprofit that provides cancer patients with care packages aimed at making their treatment more comfortable. She also enjoys kickboxing, baking, and cuddling with her dog Toody, who thinks he rules the world.

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