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Facebook sucker-punch the Australian government. What it means for independent journalists and social media users

Facebook has sucker-punched the Australian government, yet the treasurer Josh Frydenberg has claimed a win with Facebook announcing on Tuesday (23-2-21) that it will reverse the ban, that started last Thursday (18-2-21), it put on links to news articles on Facebook.

But Facebook has reserved the right to implement the ban again if they see fit which could be as soon as 2 or 3 months from now so it’s important we prepare in case the news ban on Facebook happens again.

The SMH reported today:

But the truth is that the last minute deal which has restored news to the social media giant in Australia is not the clear cut, agenda-setting, new era-defining reset of relations between tech power and political power in the 21st century. That may come later.

For now, we merely have a détente. The amendment to the Australian bill which would have forced Facebook to make blanket payments for news content it features kicks the can down the road for a couple more months. (Click here to read more)

Other media also pointed out the governments deal within Facebook is a Claytons deal and it will be at least a couple of months before there is any true indication of what will and won’t happen with Facebook and its relationship Australia’s media.

What we can say with some certainty is those small publishers who said they lost a lot of traffic since last Thursday and also said they would struggle to survive without the traffic they received from Facebook have about 2 to 3 months to prepare in case Facebook again ban links to media websites in Australia. And there is only one way to prepare and that is to diversify their marketing strategy so they receive more traffic from emails followers and other social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube etc.

Independent journalists

Almost all news websites, big and small, rely on Facebook users sharing links to their websites and almost all news websites also have Facebook pages that drive traffic back to their websites and all the websites lost traffic when Facebook banned news links last Thursday.

One small independent news website is Michael West News and Mr West said, in the below video which was recorded the day of the Facebook ban, that he relies on Facebook for 30% of his traffic and that he will ramp up his YouTube channel and produce more videos to try and cover the lost traffic to his website. That’s what all small and independent media websites need to do, diversify so no one traffic source is relied on and if one stops working like Facebook did, they can quickly adapt and focus on other traffic sources.

Some of the smaller websites said they would not survive because they relied so heavily on traffic from Facebook but while I lost traffic I would have survived because the foundation of this website is the email followers who are the biggest drivers of traffic to this website. Not only that but I have invested time and money since the start of this year to drive the growth of email followers which is looking very promising. The stress felt by many small news websites when the Facebook ban started was avoided by me because I had already started the diversification plan.

Google and Facebook will give priority to media companies they have deals with

The deals Google has done with the big media companies in the last few days doesn’t help media diversity but helps prolong the lives of dying media companies like News Corp. Crikey wrote:

Old media got what they wanted: free money, with almost 90% of the cash destined to line the pockets of News Corp, Seven West Media and Nine.

Based on published figures, these three stand to gain about $110 million of the $125 million on offer to private media from Google. Expect a similar split in the Facebook deals.

This free money will undermine media diversity by subsidising old media and by prioritising their content on the web, making almost uncrossable the gap between their resources and the resources of start-ups. It threatens to hurry on the death of printed papers. (Click here to read more)

Already shadow banned by Google and Facebook’s threat last year 

The main driver for this website to start focusing on growing the email followers was driven by Google in effect shadow banning this website at the end of last year by pushing it way down the search results for many key terms which I previously on the first page which caused this website to lose traffic. I also considered what might happen if Facebook followed through with the threat they made last year to ban news links, which they did last week, and I knew I had to prepare in case it did happen.

With Google already doing deals in the last few days with major media companies and Facebook also possibly doing deals then it’s obvious they will give those media companies priority in search and on their news pages which means that smaller players need to take action to make up for the lost traffic.

How small media, independent journalists and social media users can fight back

Way too many people underestimate the power of social media and independent journalists especially when they work together. A lot of stories in the old media now come from independent journalists or social media users so we aren’t powerless.

The key 3 things that need to happen are:

  1. Independent journalists should focus on building email followers as their base and diversify to as many platforms as is reasonably manageable. For example, I have a website, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube which is enough, although I need to do more videos.
  2. Social media followers should not only look to other social media sites for news but should also follow the websites of independent journalists via email which is often free and it also helps the independent journalist grow their reach which ultimately helps them survive long-term as independent journalists.
  3. Given that Google has done deals with the major media companies and will almost certainly favour them in the search results, which they are already doing, then everyone should try and use search engines that are more independent and that give independent journalists a fair go such as DuckDuckGo, Bing, Ecosia.org and Yahoo etc

Social media users have the power to be kingmakers in the media industry so make sure you support the independent journalists that you believe are doing a good job speaking truth to power and exposing corruption.

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Categories: Facebook, Google, Josh Frydenberg

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6 replies »

  1. Thank you … I have never used FB … I always saw it as a word + image “selfie” driven platform … Oooo look at me!!!

  2. Facebook has been an important Social Media platform for me. I founded a FB group in 2016 and have over 20,000 members. The very annoying thing is that during this FB block apart from Australian news content, I cannot see or post articles from overseas news media organisations. I don’t see how that relates to Australian news. To me it screams of discrimination against Australians full stop. I’m disgusted.

  3. I’m actually a fan on the ban, although people like you Shane are collateral damage.
    Big media shouldn’t look to Facebook for free revenue.
    If anything big media should be paying Facebook, Twitter ect for the ease of distributing news fast to wide audiences.
    The ban proves that traffic will drop if Facebook bans them. less traffic = less revenue

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