After Facebook’s News Ban in Australia, Media Organizations Must Start Owning Their Audiences

In what was perhaps one of Facebook’s most aggressive moves so far, the social media giant last week blocked all news content and links from its platform in Australia. All news pages, and even some government pages, were wiped clean and news organizations were unable to deliver critical information to millions of Facebook’s users. 

Facebook’s decision to ban news came after Australia’s government proposed to make big tech giants legally obligated to pay news companies for the content they host.

And while there has been some reconciliation between Facebook and the Australian government resulting in the recent restoration of news content, there’s a greater issue at hand: Big tech giants could abandon countries at any time, without any notice. 

In fact, a similar event happened back in 2014, when Google closed its news aggregation services in Spain

If there’s one takeaway we can learn from this issue, it’s that news media companies need to stop relying on big tech platforms to engage their audience and start building thriving, digital communities of their own. If they don’t, they risk losing the bulk of their traffic overnight.

The Dangers of Not Owning Your Audience

By allowing a third-party platform, like Facebook, to act as a middleman between your brand and its followers, you have no direct ownership over your audience. This scenario creates several challenges for your company.

First off, if you don’t own your audience members, you have limited access to their data. Having access to this first-party data will be the single most important thing for media brands in the coming months and years. Not to mention you can’t prevent your content from showing up near misinformation or falling prey to trolls on other platforms — and that can significantly damage your brand’s reputation.

Don't outsource traffic to social media

Meanwhile, you’re at the unpredictable whims and algorithms of a third party, which can disconnect you from your audience in the blink of an eye. That was certainly the case for Australian media companies when Facebook wiped news from its platform without hesitation.

Web traffic to Australian news sites began to drop significantly just hours after the ban,” reports Business Insider.

Media companies that initially thrived on the platform and had most of their website traffic travel through Facebook can no longer tap into that audience. 

With news making up only 4% of Facebook’s content, it doesn’t make sense for media business leaders to put their trust in a platform that has no loyalty to news companies.

Where Media Organizations Need To Go From Here

There’s no question that news companies need to stop relying on Facebook for growth and revenue. So what can shell-shocked publishers that depended on Facebook for traffic, or other big tech platforms for that matter, do to become self-sufficient?

The answer is surprisingly simple: They need to start rebuilding their communities on their own digital properties, where they have complete ownership over their visitors, their data and their revenue. Organizations that take control of their audiences can also encourage visitors to depend on their digital properties instead of social media for trusted content. 

“The long-term task for news [organizations] and journalists is to convince the public – especially young people – that it’s worthwhile to actively seek out professional news and journalism as part of their daily online lives, rather than simply reading whatever comes across their feed,” states Diana Bossio, a lecturer for media and communications at the Swinburne University of Technology.

If media companies can form strong, direct relationships with their digital community members on their own properties, they’ll be well on their way toward generating sustainable revenue.

Why On-Site Engagement Tools Can Help Media Companies Reclaim Their Independence

Between 2019 and 2020, consumers worldwide spent an average of 145 minutes on social media each day being, well, social. 

And this isn’t surprising: Engaging social experiences encourage people to connect and participate in ongoing digital conversations. But that doesn’t mean you need to rely on social media to engage your audiences socially.  

To encourage loyal audiences to form a direct path to your website or app, you can adopt moderated social engagement tools right on your digital properties. From built-in conversation and live chat widgets to live blog tools and personalized social feeds, there are several ways media organizations can embed social experiences into their websites or apps. 

Viafoura data reveals how social engagement tools help media companies activate and retain their audiences. Not only do engagement tools drive between 30% and 50% of all user registrations on Viafoura’s customer sites, but engaged users spend three times longer on media websites compared to unengaged users as well.

audience engagement tools increase ROI

With the help of Viafoura’s audience engagement solution, media organizations even saw up to a 50% retention rate for engaged users after two months of visiting a site.

audience engagement increases ROI

Conversation-based tools give users the addictive experiences of social platforms without sacrificing any of your company’s data, revenue or reputation to a third party. 

Facebook’s ban on news in Australia had countless media organizations feeling betrayed and abandoned by the tech giant. And just as this wasn’t the first time a big tech company trampled over media organizations, it certainly won’t be the last. 

By investing in building communities on your owned and operated digital properties, you can help your media company rise above the whims of tech giants and take control of your most valuable asset — your audience.

Why a Temporary Facebook Boycott Isn’t Enough

With over 2.7 billion active monthly users, Facebook has become a popular destination for media companies hoping to approach new audiences. 


But funneling time and money into Facebook feeds a growing list of problems. Most recently, a series of nonprofit groups asked companies all over the world to temporarily pull their advertisements from the big tech company. This “Hate for Profit” boycott was meant to pressure Facebook to take action against hate speech and misinformation on the platform. 

Since then, the social media platform has taken some small steps to better itself, like promising to hire a new VP of civil rights and removing more posts that suppress voting — yet, it isn’t nearly enough. 

The boycott showcased the seriousness of Facebook’s flaws, but it was also temporary, meaning that the social giant expected its advertisers to come back.

In Mark Zuckerberg’s words, “all these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough.”

But the disadvantages of using Facebook extend beyond advertising. Media companies that use the platform organically, without investing any advertising dollars, also face a series of consequences. And Facebook isn’t taking action to resolve these issues. 

Clearly, a temporary boycott of the platform won’t cut it anymore. Here’s why you may want to consider making your boycott or disuse of the platform a little more permanent.

The Ongoing Spread of Incivility and Misinformation

Facebook is notorious for enabling the spread of misinformation, racism and voter manipulation. Unfortunately, the social media giant relies on a moderation system that can’t effectively sift through and block all offensive posts and fake news. 

Not to mention that its algorithms will amplify the reach of content and groups with high engagement rates, regardless of its nature. In many cases, hate groups are even allowed to exist and are recommended to other users on the platform.

“From the monetization of hate speech to discrimination in their algorithms to the proliferation of voter suppression to the silencing of Black voices, Facebook has refused to take responsibility for hate, bias, and discrimination growing on their platforms,” Color of Change, a racial justice organization, writes on its website

Now imagine what happens when your content is thrown into the mix of misinformation, trolls, bots and discrimination. 

Ultimately, your brand’s credibility is significantly reduced on Facebook since so many people don’t trust the content they come across on the platform.

Whether it be due to the Cambridge Analytica data scandal or the ongoing incivility, many people have already lost trust in the social platform. So how can you possibly nurture an audience that trusts your brand in such a volatile environment? A month-long or even year-long boycott isn’t going to help regain the trust of Facebook users.

No Audience Ownership

Facebook poses more challenges to media companies than just fake news and offensive comments. It also acts as a barrier between businesses and audiences, often preventing brands from accessing the proper data needed to form close connections with users. 

If you use the platform as a primary way to attract and nurture consumers, you’re stuck with the limited insights Facebook provides. In other words, you can forget about getting in-depth first-party data or engagement data on your community members. 

On Facebook, the only company that gets ownership over your community and its data is Facebook

And here’s the problem with that: By missing out on consumer data, the opportunity to understand your consumers to improve and monetize their experiences with your brand is slipping through your fingers. 

Actionable first-party data can be used to build valuable, personalized consumer experiences. 

“Our ability to capture interaction data at scale, turn it to insight and leverage it broadly across our organization will define our success,” states Troy Young, Hearst Magazines’ president.

Limited Control Over Your Content

Facebook’s algorithm is constantly changing. Businesses have been disrupted time and time again as the platform changes how content’s prioritized in the News Feeds. 

According to Hootsuite, a social media management platform, posts by brands on Facebook during late 2019 were seen by around 5.5% of their social media followers. 

This means that 94.5% of their Facebook followers would never even see posts from brands in the News Feed. 

Additionally, media companies are powerless to where their content is displayed to users. Your precious articles could even be sandwiched between fake news or offensive user posts in someone’s Feed. 

Media companies simply don’t have enough control over how their content is showcased and who can see it on Facebook. 

In fact, Facebook hid potentially live-saving information related to COVID-19 from users during the early stages of the pandemic. 

Whether or not the social media platform can solve its misinformation and incivility challenges, it will always hold all of the cards when it comes to displaying your content — and that might not be in your company’s best interest. 

A temporary boycott simply isn’t effective enough to convince the social media giant to renounce its power over your content.

Loss of Revenue

Pew Research Center notes that Facebook owned 42% of all digital display advertising revenue in 2019. 

By using Facebook as an advertising platform, not only are you helping to fund the site, but you’re also losing a cut of your advertising revenue to them.

Instead of giving a share of your ad revenue to Facebook, you can make the most of your company’s digital properties by running your in-house and third-party ads right on your platform. 

Consider leveraging the social spaces within your own website or app to run advertisements to maximize the engagement around your ads

At the end of the day, Facebook presents issues far beyond damaging the reputation and revenue earnings of your company — it also stands in the way of keeping people informed, safe and aware of deep-rooted prejudices. 

While Facebook must continue improving itself, don’t let the success of your brand and safety of internet users be tied to the social media giant. This is the time to stop focusing on investing in a company that’s bringing yours down. Instead, focus on building up your own brand outside of Facebook’s influence.

Trust in Facebook is at an all-time low: Here’s how media companies can use that to their advantage

Facebook is addictive — for both consumers and advertisers. With over 1.5 billion users accessing Facebook on a daily basis, the social media giant has become a major source of advertising for brands worldwide. However, little by little, the community standards of Facebook have been dropping — and people are noticing.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal, where Facebook leaked data from millions of people to a company that used it to promote political ads, was only the beginning of the platform’s trust fall. Netflix’s documentary, The Great Hack, offers an in-depth view into the scandal.

The social media giant’s sudden and strict algorithm changes have also affected businesses in a negative way. These changes drastically reduced the reach of Facebook posts from publishers, which dropped to as little as two percent of followers.

Even as Facebook races to protect its users, their moderation solution still leaves a lot to be desired. And let’s not forget that one of Facebook’s co-founders penned an article about everything wrong with the company

Tips to capitalize on Facebook’s trust deficit

To help your brand use this mistrust between Facebook and its users as an opportunity to gain loyal community members, we put together a few of our top tips.

Invest in your own platform

With trust in Facebook at such a visible low, there’s never been a better time to start building your brand’s reputation as a trusted media source… on your own domains.

Sure, Facebook can be used to promote content and events —  but only to an extent. You don’t want to be stuck relying entirely on a platform that decides how to promote your content without your input. Thankfully, you have other options. Better options.

Instead of struggling to build your brand on Facebook, invest in tools and strategies that bring engagement back to your domains. You don’t need to stop using Facebook completely. But you also don’t need to give a portion of your revenue away to a platform that doesn’t give you enough exposure for your content. After all, Facebook prioritizes posts from family and friends over posts from advertisers.

Infographic: Americans Do Not Trust Facebook with Personal Info | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

If you can invest in building a safe and engaging environment on your own domains, individuals will no longer associate your content or brand with the abundance of misinformation on Facebook.

Give the people what they want

Have you ever wondered what it is about Facebook that seems so attractive to users?

People are social creatures. Consumers continue to use Facebook despite our trust issues with the platform simply because we crave socialization and engagement. In fact, an analysis of the media industry has found that engagement is key when it comes to building loyal brand followers.

A report by Salesforce also found that “84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.”

Facebook, along with other social media platforms, offers many opportunities for users to engage with one another as well as with publishers and their content. However, attaching this immersive social experience to a brand is no longer exclusive to social media platforms.

Consider integrating tools directly on your platform that allow your users to discuss your content, chat with one another, follow their favourite authors and receive content-related notifications based on their preferences.

By generating engagement on your domains, your visitors will want to stick around and subscribe. 

Nurture safe conversations, not toxic comments

Many media professionals find commenting counterproductive to a brand’s development — especially with the rise of trolls, harassment, bullying, misinformation and spam in the digital world. At the end of the day, it’s probably more effective to avoid commenting altogether, right?


To foster a good relationship with your digital community away from social media, you need to craft a solid set of community guidelines and enforce them. According to a new study by the Center for Media Engagement, individuals are more likely to have a negative impression of a domain when 75% of its comments are uncivil.

While it is important to engage your visitors in a social experience, they will only enjoy the experience in a toxic-free environment. This means that on top of providing a social layer for your community, it is also essential that comments are thoroughly moderated and that user data is completely secure.

Enforcing a safe environment will help your community members feel comfortable engaging in, and returning to, your domains.

Produce targeted, reliable content

In the digital age, knowledge is always power. Capturing data on your own domain is, therefore, crucial to your success. More specifically, you can leverage data insights from your community to inform your content strategy. By understanding your community members’ interests as you learn about and track their behavior, you can predict what types of content will perform best.

If you are able to create valuable content that maintains a consistent tone and is highly relevant to your readers, they will start looking to your brand as a reputable source for trusted media.

While Facebook can target content based on people’s interests, your posts are hidden behind the noise of fake news and algorithms in a potentially unpleasant environment. Even as Facebook moves to license news content from publishers, we must be cognizant of the fact that Facebook will still own part of your community. 

Other publishers are also beginning to realize that success in the media is no longer just about directing visitors to your domains — it’s also about keeping them. For too long, publishers and consumers have flocked to Facebook in search of content and community. Unfortunately, both have become problematic on the platform. So, the time is right to create a protected social space around quality content and reclaim your community.

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