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BOTW: How the platforms ghosted news; Say it ain't so, Joe; Media companies see 40% decline
Welcome to Best of the Week, written on a beautiful morning back home in Sisters Beach, Tasmania, after two days of being rained on in Melbourne.
I blame Qantas for my soaking. If my flight in hadn’t been so late getting in, I wouldn’t have needed to run into the Qantas lounge to record the TV Blackbox podcast. If I hadn’t been in the lounge, I wouldn’t have been kicked out halfway through because they were closing for the night. If I hadn’t been mid-podcast, I might have noticed I was leaving my raincoat behind.
Today: How the platforms turned off the tap for news; The Unmade Index hits the floor; In praise of Joe Aston.
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How the platforms have ghosted news
Tim Burrowes writes:
The thing about the pendulum swing of media trends is that it eventually comes back in the other direction. For the sake of the publishing world, I hope so.
The rise of social media - with Facebook the key player - drove traffic to digital publishers based on the shareability of the content. Businesses were built on the back of it.
But then came a couple of opposing forces.
In Australia, the News Media Bargaining Code shakedown attempted to codify the principle that platforms should pay for the privilege of linking to content.
And more widely, the social platforms began to resent any leakage of users from their own ecosystem. Why send someone else traffic if you can keep it within the walled garden? So the algorithms began to penalise external links.
Axios published a fascinating graph this week. Based on Similarweb data, it showed how Facebook and Twitter have turned off the tap for publishers over the last three years.
From 120m referrals from Facebook back in August 2021, the number dropped to 21.4m in August this year.
Digiday dug a little deeper, revealing that Facebook referral traffic to the top 30 news sites is down 62% over that period. It also spoke to publishing execs who said that more recently Facebook referral traffic is “off a cliff”, down by a further 80% in a few weeks. Those same publishers also said they had been told by Facebook that some of the fall was a bug which might eventually be fixed.
But it comes at a time when Facebook appears to be losing interest in supporting news locally, and globally.
How we wrote about the situation on Tuesday:
Media commentator Jeff Jarvis was even more pessimistic this week, flagging Tuesday’s exit of Campbell Brown who led Facebook and parent company Meta’s global news relationships.
“Then came the Murdoch-led war on Facebook in Australia, driving the company to take down news for a few days. That is how Facebook tested the proposition that it could do without news. It could, just fine. Next came Canada and its horrible C-18, driving Facebook to take down all news links. Along the way, Facebook eliminated its journalism programs and the staff that ran them.
“I have no inside information to this effect, but I would not be surprised if Facebook got rid of news everywhere. News is a pain, causing controversy. News people are even more of a pain, acting as lobbyists to get the pols in their pockets to pass protectionist legislation.”
Might Facebook exit the news game altogether? In Australia, for sure.
Eventually that leaves room for another swing of the pendulum. Some consumers - many of them, hopefully - will still have an appetite to discover new stuff outside the walled garden. A platform that helps them do that deserves to succeed.
Unmade Index finally drops below 600
Tim Burrowes and Seja Al Zaidi write:
The Unmade Index finally fell below the 600-point mark on Friday. It lost another 0.56%, pushing the Index down to 599.7 points.
The index represents the market value of Australia’s listed media and marketing companies.
The milestone means that their combined value is 40% down since the start of last year when the Index began on a nominal 1000-points.
The index has previously only spent a handful of days below 600 points - for six days during June last year. Its all time low was 587.1 points. So we’re not far off that.
The index was finally dragged back below 600 thanks to a fall in the biggest stock, Nine, which lost 2.28% yesterday.
This was despite a better end to the week for several others. Seven rose 3.51%, while Enero rose 2.86%. ARN Media jumped 2.50%, Ooh Media 1.50% and Domain 1.31%.
The smaller end of the Index also dropped. Sports Entertainment Group fell 4.08%, and Pureprofile 3.57%. Southern Cross Austereo fell 0.69%.
Farewell to the risk-taking, trouble-making, defamation-baiting Joe Aston
Tim Burrowes writes:
It was a Friday afternoon announcement that sucked.
Joe Aston, the daily habit of the business community, is giving up his diarist slot at the Australian’s Financial Review’s Rear Window.
His column was a reason to subscribe to the publication. Funny and fearless, but also consequential. The absurd Alex Malley and the avaricious Alan Joyce can attest to that.
Writing anything but press releases about Australia’s glass jawed business class is psyche-sapping stuff.
Dealing with thin skinned media and agency execs I’ve not even experienced 1% of the hostility Aston will have received. But it’s enough to understand how draining it can be.
How he kept it up for 12 years is unknowable.
Dr Spin: A risky press release headline?
Dr Spin writes:
Turn off ads. Except here.
If Dr Spin was in charge of Nine’s programmatic advertising, he’d instruct Google not to serve ads for ad blockers
Too close to the bone?
Ping! The following press release arrived in Dr Spin’s inbox this morning.
Dr Spin would love to know more about the behind-the-scenes approval process for the headline.
Campaign of The Week: Yes23 x Clemenger BBDO
In each edition of BOTW, our friends at Little Black Book Online highlight their most interesting advertising campaign of the week.
LBB’s ANZ reporter Casey Martin writes:
As the referendum vote approaches, Clemenger BBDO and Yes23 have produced a spot that showcases the issues in which The Voice aims to address. It's emotive and powerful in ensuring that the message of "a no vote means no progress," comes across to audiences easily.
In case you missed it:
On Tuesday, we examined the prospects for the next round of the News Media Bargaining Code if Facebook pulls out:
On Wednesday, we took a look at what the SMI numbers tell us about the state of adspend:
On Thursday, we heard from press freedom icon Peter Greste about his proposals for a new media law:
On Friday, we updated the state of play in retail media as we hit the final countdown before REmade:
Time to leave you to your weekend. There was a good postscript on that damp Melbourne trip, by the way. On the way back out, I stopped by the lost luggage window to see whether they had my coat. I was in luck. It’s warmer than I recall, and a different colour. It also contained a strange note in the pocket.
And finally, a quick question: Do you have a favourite book that changed the way you think about media and marketing? My colleague Seja Al Zaidi is writing a piece about that for next week’s Tuesdata column. We’ve already had some great recommendations. If you can add a book suggestion, please drop her line, with a paragraph or two explaining why, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great weekend.
Publisher - Unmade