In 2018, Australia experienced a major shift in how news is consumed thanks to Facebook’s ban on news content. The ban caused major disruption online with many outlets scrambling to adjust their strategies to survive the changes. Here we look at how Australia’s ABC News was affected and how they benefited from the changes.
An estimated seven million Australians visited Facebook every day before the news ban, and millions more accessed its other social media platforms such as Messenger and Instagram. This made it a powerful platform for news organisations of all sizes, including ABC News. However, when Facebook’s changes came into effect in late 2018, ABC News saw its traffic drop significantly.
While this may have been alarming initially, it opened up opportunities for ABC News to rethink its approach and rebuild its online presence without relying on third-party platforms like Facebook. It switched focus from trying to draw viewers away from other sites using ads or sponsored posts, instead concentrating on strengthening relationships with current followers by providing quality content that would encourage engagement with users organically.
What was the news ban?
In February 2021, Facebook attempted to restrict news distribution on its platform when it announced that it would block “all news content” in Australia.
This news ban, focused on content in regards to Australian and international news, caused media organisations like Australia’s ABC News to start looking for other ways to reach their audience.
This news ban resulted in unexpected success for the ABC News mobile app.
Overview of Facebook’s news ban
In 2021, Facebook temporarily banned news content from its platform worldwide, starting in Australia and New Zealand. This ban was prompted by two proposed laws in Australia that would have made digital platforms such as Facebook responsible for content posted to their sites. In addition, the laws required digital platforms to negotiate with media outlets over how much they should be compensated for hosting their news content.
Facebook’s ban initially included all news-related posts and pages on its platform, and organisations could not share any news-related content or post links to related websites. The ban’s goal was to pressure government agencies into creating laws that were more favourable to digital platforms such as Facebook, while giving them further control over what was shared on the site.
After negotiations with the Australian government and members of parliament, Facebook agreed to allow certain exceptions where it allowed news channels such as ABC News (Australia) access to their platform within 48 hours of implementation. This enabled ABC News (Australia) and other exempted media organisations across Australia to continue distributing news on its platform without being subject to fees or payment charges by third parties, allowing it to broaden its reach and promote important topics within Australia and beyond.
Impact of the news ban on Australia’s ABC News
In early 2021, Facebook decided to implement a news ban in Australia. This ban resulted from payment disputes with the federal government and an inability to come to terms with legislation aimed at regulating tech giants. The news ban meant that all Australian news outlets, including big broadcasters like ABC News, were barred from sharing stories on the platform.
This news ban seriously affected ABC News’ ability to reach audiences across Australia. This is because much of its reach relied heavily on Facebook’s algorithms which surface content depending on user behaviour and interests. With the news being blocked from the platform, ABC News had to shift focus to other digital streams including search engine optimization (SEO) techniques such as Google News and other social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram for their stories to be seen by readers.
For ABC, it had to work harder than ever to remain competitive in the digital landscape. It included a thorough audit of its content strategy, developing strategies for improving search engine optimization techniques including text optimization and optimising website speed amongst other methods to hold its own against competing outlets.
Australia’s ABC News shot to the top of the App Store charts following Facebook’s news ban
Australia’s ABC News benefited significantly from Facebook’s news ban in February 2021. Following the news ban, ABC News shot to the top of the App Store charts and saw a surge in subscriptions.
This article will detail how ABC News benefited from the ban, and examine how other news outlets can use similar strategies to increase their visibility.
Increased downloads of the ABC News app
In the wake of Facebook’s decision to ban news from its platform in Australia, ABC News saw a surge in downloads of its app. In addition, the news ban resulted in more people turning to the ABC News app for news updates, with downloads up by more than 400% in the first week after the ban was announced.
This increase was largely driven by users searching for alternative news sources on digital platforms. Compared to other media outlets, ABC News experienced one of the most dramatic surges as it is a reliable source of quality journalism for many Australians.
In addition to increased app downloads, ABC News saw increased reader engagement across its digital platforms, including its website and social media accounts. This included increased content views, comments, and shares on social media posts. These increases show that users were looking to connect with the trusted Australian broadcaster during the disruption caused by Facebook’s news ban.
The increased engagement seen across ABC News’ digital platforms reflects how Australians turned to ABC News to stay up-to-date with current affairs and stay connected to quality local journalism during a time when access to other international sources had been blocked.
Increased traffic to the ABC News website
As Facebook implemented a ban on news content, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), the country’s largest news provider, was one of the most affected. As other media outlets scrambled to find new outlets for their content, ABC was forced to look for ways to make up for the lost audience from Facebook.
The ABC News team quickly shifted its focus from Facebook’s Newsfeed to its website and managed to successfully increase traffic on their website with a series of new strategies, including:
- Optimising headlines and content that had resonated best with audiences on social media platforms and giving them additional prominence;
- Streamlining the digital interface of its projects — making it more user friendly;
- Utilising industry digital marketing tools such as SEO (Search Engine Optimization) & SEM (Search Engine Marketing);
- Introducing different membership packages designed to bring in recurring subscriber revenue;
- Creating new initiatives that allowed users free access to select stories by signing up with just an email address, while offering additional benefits such as promotional offers, discounts or exclusive content if they upgrade their package.
These changes resulted in many returning visitors daily and generated 25 percent more revenue within months than before. Furthermore, real time analytics presented opportunities for ABC News staff to further improve engagement via constant review and modification of existing campaigns or by launching new initiatives.
When Facebook announced its news ban in Australia in early 2021, the ABC News app shot to the top of the App Store charts and received significant download growth.
This section will discuss the implications of this and how Australia’s ABC News has been able to take advantage of the news ban and benefit from it.
The role of social media in news consumption
Today, social media has become an integral part of a news source’s ability to reach large audiences across the globe. Many outlets rely on platforms like Facebook and Twitter to distribute their content, resulting in direct engagement with readers. As a result, how news is presented is often heavily influenced by the news outlet’s use of these platforms.
However, in recent months, this reliance on social media platforms has been challenged due to Facebook’s controversial decision to ban certain types of news in Australia. This included banning ABC News from providing content in Australia—a move met with backlash from journalists and the public alike.
The ban highlighted social media’s impact on traditional news outlets, such as ABC News. However, it also raised questions regarding how other outlets would make up for this massive hit to distribution and how they would reach their audiences without services like Facebook and Twitter.
In short, this illustration demonstrated how powerful social media can be when used effectively: its ability to reach larger audiences quickly while allowing for targeted notifications directly from the platform itself has enabled it to become a powerful tool for news outlets around the world – including those which have been affected by recent decisions made by tech giants such as Facebook.
The importance of SEO for news outlets
The recent ban of news content, images, and videos from Facebook in Australia caused a major disruption to publishers affected by the ban. This digital development highlights yet again the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for news outlets in Australia and beyond.
For the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), finding new ways to ensure their stories appear high up on the list of search results was essential in maintaining online readership. As such, ABC quickly rose to the challenge, with all its websites implementing an overhaul in their SEO strategies. This initial effort included comprehensive keyword research into topics related to each story and using these terms strategically throughout the text for maximum visibility on Google’s search engine results page (SERP).
To establish further presence and reach on Google, ABC tapped into its many social media platforms. To increase user engagement with stories shared through social media channels such as Twitter and LinkedIn, ABC tailored content headlines to optimise click-through rates, ensuring they gain traction with readers while considering appropriate keyword inclusion within posts. This built up ABC’s reputation within its community as a quality news outlet and helped them regain some of expected lost traffic volumes that may have come through Facebook had it not been banned.
Establishing a devoted SEO practice has become increasingly important for all news outlets to remain competitive amongst other outlets seeking user traffic attention or vital information that reveals true value for an audience who rely heavily on search engine results whenever looking for breaking news or evaluated research pieces from traditional sources like ABC News or The Guardian.