News blackouts to return to social media
04.07.2024

Written by Victoria O’Neill

Everything you need to know about Meta’s threat to ban news on Australian platforms.  

Remember back in 2021 when we all had a giggle at Facebook blocking satirical website The Betoota Advocate as part of its ‘news’ ban?  

The weeklong outage (or tantrum) blocked genuine news sites, government pages and even the BOM from sharing articles on Facebook, as Meta raged against proposed content licencing legislation.  

At the time, Australia’s then Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was proud to announce the success of his discussions with Mark Zuckerberg, claiming Facebook had “re-friended Australia” and ‘the news’ was back in our feeds. 

Three years later it seems the Morrison Government’s deal with the tech giant was short lived, and once again our ‘friendship’ status with Meta is in question.  

Here’s what you need to know for your business or brand.  

What’s behind Meta’s threats to ban news on its platforms in Australia?  

As was the case in 2021, Meta doesn’t want to pay licensing fees to publish news content.  

Last month, Meta’s regional policy director, Mia Garlick, told Australian lawmakers “all options are on the table” when asked about how the company would respond to the introduction of mandatory fees.  

As far as Meta is concerned, ‘news’ isn’t a priority for their members, with Garlick declaring “there’s a large number of channels that people can get news content from”.  

Is Meta serious?  

The short answer is ‘yes’.   

Similar attempts to introduce mandatory payments for news content in Canada resulted in a total news ban on Meta-owned platforms. This has been in place since August 2023.  

Does it really matter if Australians can’t read the news on Facebook?   

According to ACMA, one in five Australians used social media as their main source of news in 2023, up from 17 per cent in 2022. The trend is being driven by Gen Z who prefer to get their updates from social media platforms and apps over websites. 

The learning from Canada is that the ban has had a considerable impact on the number of visitors clicking through the platforms to local news sites. For Australia, reduced site traffic could see the pool of news providers in the country shrink even further.  

In fact, it’s already started. Sweeping job cuts at Seven West Media (150 roles) and Nine (200) are reported to have taken place in anticipation of Meta’s planned news block (in addition to a weak advertising market).  

How would a news ban on Facebook impact your brand or business?  

Simply, you won’t be sharing any media coverage you receive with your brand’s Facebook or Instagram followers. If a ban is introduced, all individuals and companies in Australia will be barred from sharing news links with their followers or subscribers. 

While some users in Canada have attempted to ‘game’ the block by sharing screengrabs of articles, using complex links or simply describing coverage received – it’s obviously not the same. 

It also means if you needed to share news with your audience or customers, a regulatory change for example, you won’t be able to use a news link to inform them.  

Will a social media ban on news impact the effectiveness of earned coverage? 

While a Facebook freeze on news will have a material impact on Australia’s media landscape – it won’t challenge the effectiveness of earned media for your brand, provided you work with a partner to adjust your distribution strategy. 

All earned campaigns today rely on having credibility (secured through the high editorial standards of a news house) and a robust distribution strategy to ensure your audience see it! 

We work with clients to think beyond Meta as a distribution channel. 

Some of the tactics we deploy: 

  • Draft blog posts that expand on the insights featured in media articles and provide additional value and context for the target audience.  
  • Create social media posts to promote the blog posts and share (and boost) across social channels 
  • Create targeted email campaigns featuring the media article and blog post (and segmenting the client’s database to reach the most relevant prospects and customers) 
  • Collect data and analyse to measure the impact of earned media on website traffic, engagement, lead generation, and sales pipeline (and share contacts, who have engaged with the content, with sales teams so they can be approached to have personalised conversations) 

We work hard (really hard) to generate media coverage for our clients, we are not going to let a little temper tantrum from Mark Zuckerberg stop us in our tracks. 

If you’d like to know more about IMPACT Multiplied, our earned model, then please drop me a line @victoria@impactagency.com.au 

 


 

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