Monday, March 1, 2021
Tech

Relying on Facebook for news

Relying on Facebook for news
2views


Fortunato hasn’t really engaged with what’s been happening with the code and she knows that she could go to news outlets’ websites for news.

Her problem is that she doesn’t want to have to pay for news and enjoys being able to use Facebook as a news aggregator, allowing her to access news from different sources in one place.

“Facebook is like my newspaper – every day when I wake up, the first place I look it’s my Facebook news feed,” she says. “I find it interesting how other people comment and getting in discussions with other people about it, it’s entertaining to see what other people think.”

Fortunato is not alone in relying on Facebook. The University of Canberra’s 2020 Digital News Report found 29 per cent of Australians use Facebook for general news and 49 per cent for news about COVID-19.

Public Interest Journalism Initiative chief executive Anna Draffin says social media as a whole has become incredibly important as a news source for Australians.

Loading

“There’s no denying that across the younger generations, social media is used as an aggregator by which people can get their news on their family and friends but equally scattered amongst the reported news of each day.”

Draffin says the University of Canberra research shows that for younger generations, switching off news on social media has potentially devastating consequences unless they adapt their behaviour and start going directly to news sources, a step that takes more effort.

“Younger generations who are accustomed to consuming their news online and by aggregator platforms, how they adapt remains to be seen,” she says.

Draffin is concerned about the potential for disinformation across Facebook’s platform with credible news sources removed.

“The question of tech regulation is far broader than the news media bargaining code,” she says. “We’re all aware of that but it is interesting timing, as Australia looks to introduce a disinformation code following the European Union’s lead.”

Traffic analyst Chartbeat has been tracking what has happened since Facebook traffic dropped off on Thursday and found Australian traffic has not shifted to other platforms.

Chartbeat’s chief technology officer, Josh Schwartz, says Australian news outlets are particularly reliant on Facebook, with 15 per cent of visits to Australian publishers driven by Facebook compared to 12 per cent of visits to publishers globally.

“This drop has been seen most dramatically in traffic to Australian sites from readers outside of Australia: because that readership was so driven by Facebook, overall this outside-Australia traffic has fallen day-over-day by over 20 per cent,” he says.

Chartbeat also recorded a large drop in traffic from readers in Australia, falling from 15 per cent of visitors from within Australia to less than 5 per cent of visits.

Loading

“Naturally when the percentage of traffic from Facebook decreases, Google search increases, [but] we did not see an absolute increase in Google search traffic,” he says. “We are not yet seeing a shift to other platforms.”

Technology investor James Cameron, a partner at venture capital firm Airtree Ventures, says Facebook’s extreme action makes sense when you consider that it is less reliant on news for its business in comparison to Google.

“On the one hand I’m not at all surprised that they’ve blocked news publishers in Australia rather than come to the negotiating table like Google has – the proposed laws have a much smaller impact on Facebook than Google, because news makes up less than 4 per cent of the content people see in their Facebook News Feed,” he says. “But the way they have gone about blocking sites feels ham-fisted.”

Facebook said in a statement that it apologised for inadvertently blocking access to non-news sites, however the social media giant declined to comment on whether it was concerned some people would find it more difficult to access news as a result of its actions.

“The actions we’re taking are focused on restricting publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content,” Facebook chief executive Will Easton said.

Facebook says it will continue to engage with the government on amendments to the media bargaining code with the aim of achieving a stable, fair path for both Facebook and publishers.

The impact for Fortunato and many like her has been an immediate change in her Facebook feed, which is considerably emptier.

Fortunato thinks this may reduce the time she spends on the social network.

“There’s nothing,” she said. “I follow a lot of cooking pages so I can still see them on my feed but that’s mainly it. I haven’t been on it as much because I feel like I am just scrolling the same thing.”

Start your day informed

Our Morning Edition newsletter is a curated guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up to The Sydney Morning Herald’s newsletter here, The Age’s here, Brisbane Timeshere, and WAtoday’s here.

Most Viewed in Technology

Loading



Source link

Leave a Response