Reposted from Global Health & Marketing Communications Network, August 23, 2023
The recent decision by Meta to remove all news content from Facebook and Instagram for Canadian users has sent shockwaves through the marketing and communications industry, presenting both challenges and opportunities for businesses and organizations.
The Canadian Online News Act or Bill C-18 mandates that Facebook, Instagram (and even Google!) must compensate Canadian news publishers for using their content on their platforms. In response, Facebook decided to pre-emptively remove all news articles and links from its platforms for Canadian users. While this move was aimed at avoiding potential liabilities, it has also resulted in Canadian users losing access to valuable news content, impacting the spread of information, and the public’s access to reliable sources.
To a certain degree, Bill C-18 might be as drastic a measure as Meta’s removal of news content from Facebook and Instagram and something bound to cause a significant shift in the social media landscape. With millions of Canadian users losing access to news articles, videos, and other content, the information ecosystem is set to undergo a transformation. While Meta claims this decision is a response to the Online News Act, it has sparked concerns over user experience and the credibility of the platform.
For those that rely on social media for marketing and communications, this poses definite challenges. Facebook and Instagram have been valuable channels for reaching and engaging with target audiences. The absence of news content might result in a decline in user engagement, leaving businesses to rethink their content strategies.
Can we anticipate that removing fact-based news, created by reputable journalists will diminish the platform’s credibility? How will this impact Facebook’s ability to deliver reliable content and, indeed how will this impact advertising on the platform? We will have to wait and see.
On the flip side, this new context creates opportunities for businesses to adapt their communication strategies. As users turn to alternative sources for news, there is an opening to focus on creating and sharing bonafide authentic content directly on their platforms. Businesses can differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded digital space by emphasizing the importance of credible information and building trust with their audiences.
If anything, Bill C-18 should be encouraging us, as communicators to recognize and explore diversifying communication channels. This means looking at other ways to reach key audiences. Social media platforms with a focus on news and information sharing may gain traction as we venture beyond traditional giants like Facebook and Instagram.
The transition is happening as we speak. Facebook is explaining itself and media outlets, including one of our national TV networks are running ads to drive visitors to their live coverage and online news channels. Get the news from the source.
As news evaporates from the social media landscape in Canada, public relations professionals will also need to re-evaluate their media relations strategies. Press releases and news updates that once relied on Facebook and Instagram as primary distribution channels may need to find new avenues to reach the intended audiences promptly. Developing strong relationships with journalists and media outlets will become even more critical to remain visible in a shifting media landscape.
Is this the beginning or the end? The Online News Act’s implementation has been met with both support and skepticism. While our government is trying to level the playing field and support the struggling national news industry, the move has raised concerns from tech giants like Meta. There is a delicate balance to be struck between fostering a free and open internet and ensuring a sustainable and independent press.
The removal of news content from Facebook and Instagram for Canadians is a pivotal moment for the marketing and communications industry in Canada. As professional communicators, we need to be closely monitoring how this decision will play out and adapt our strategies accordingly. Emphasizing credibility, authenticity, and diverse communication channels will be paramount in maintaining effective communication with target audiences.
The Online News Act raises numerous questions, and we should not expect its impact to be limited to social media. There are broader issues to consider that are not outside the realm of possibility such as media regulation and the evolving digital landscape. Tech giants, media outlets, and the government will be challenged to find an intersection that will strike a balance that can support a thriving media industry while preserving the principles of a free and open internet. Going forward the Canadian marketing and communications industry will need to find its footing as an advocate for solutions that can benefit all parties in this dynamic and fast-moving media ecosystem.