Things got a little crazy in Australia in February 2021 when Facebook decided to pull all news articles from the platform and restrict the access of users wishing to view news-related content on their platform. Although it was a shock to most media outlets, we cannot say that it didn’t come without warning. This is because the social media giant made good on numerous threats following the announcement of a proposed Media Bargaining Code from the Australian Government.
Although the ban from start to finish lasted less than a week, the captivating days in between served up a wealth of valuable lessons for marketers.
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Many people have become reliant on social media for their news. So much so that I’m positive some people didn’t know the ban ever existed, as the announcement wouldn’t have made it to their Facebook feed. According to a Reuters Institute report, up to 40% of Australians used Facebook for news between 2018 and 2020, making it the most popular social media platform for news. Meanwhile, in the U.S., about a third of Americans regularly get their news from Facebook.
The University of Canberra Digital News Report for 2020 found that 6% of Australians use Facebook as their only platform for news and about a third of the population bumped into news, rather than seeking it out.
It’s easy to see that the way we consume news has changed drastically over the last decade. Printed newspaper circulation is undergoing a continued decline because of the rise and dominance of digital media. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, social media outpaced print newspapers as a news source for Americans in 2018.
How we subscribe to this digital news could now be changing in the wake of the decisions made by the Australian Government. Shortly after Facebook had announced their ban, Google was swift to make their own announcement for ‘Google News Showcase’ in Australia. According to Google, News Showcase is “designed to bring value to both publishers and readers by providing a licensing program that pays publishers to curate content for story panels across Google services, and gives readers more insights into the stories that matter.”
Facebook has added a similar feature to the Facebook app, proving a ‘news’ tab. As a marketer, I’m interested to see how these news services develop and what marketing opportunities arise as a result.
Following the ban, the ABC News App shot to the top of Apple’s app store, suggesting that people were quickly finding new ways of accessing the news since it was no longer available on their Facebook feeds.
Sharing news articles is a great way to encourage engagement on your personal or corporate Facebook page. However, having your own stories to share can be even better. Many of our foodservice clients distribute newsletters regularly, which are then featured on their Facebook pages. Having these articles available during the ban was important for our clients, as they are looked to as thought leaders within the industry.
Capturing the attention of people eager for relevant industry news, tips and insights becomes a lot easier if you own the content. In addition to newsletters, consider other types of content like infographics, podcast recordings, e-books, blogs, best practices articles and more.
The Facebook news ban was arguably a public relations nightmare in many ways. From the moment the company made their big announcement, things quickly became very ugly. Their removal of news was perhaps too effective, as many essential government Facebook pages, such as Fire and Emergency services, were wiped of their content and notices. This didn’t sit well with the public in the midst of a global pandemic. They were swift to reinstate these pages, however the damage may have already been done.
With media outlets already outraged by the actions Facebook had taken in removing their content, this was just the type of ammunition they needed to deliver a counter blow. The lesson here is, if you’re going to make a bold move, be sure you leave no stone unturned with your preparation.
Understanding social media news consumption should always be a consideration for marketers. The media landscape is continuously changing and if you’re not aware of what news people are interested in or which platforms they frequent to read their news, then you might be missing out on opportunities to reach target audiences. The Australian news ban implemented by Facebook was short, sharp and somewhat messy. But most of all, it made for an especially interesting news week.
Does your brand need support creating relevant content and news for social media? Contact Mulberry to learn how we can help.
Campbell Brown is a Digital and Social Account Executive at Mulberry Marketing Communications, an award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in Chicago, London and Australia. His enthusiasm lies in creating strong social content and building positive relationships with clients.