Facebook’s ban on News in Australia is still just days old but the effects on both Facebook users and Facebook page owners are already clear, and the real beneficiary is Facebook who stand to make more money from something which at first looked like a bargaining tactic.
For the average Facebook user, logging into the site or opening the App in recent days has meant they’re seeing more posts, videos, photos and content from friends and family than ever before. In some ways, it’s a return to the Facebook of old for which it always seemed a great platform for that “family” sharing.
But at the same time, without the thousands of news pages around the world appearing in the “Facebook Newsfeeds” (ironic name now really) of Aussies, there’s also much more space for the smaller pages on Facebook not caught up in this ban, and the tens of thousands of Facebook “Groups” to have their content pop up into they eyes of average Aussies.
What this means is, many pages will likely see an increase in exposure, a higher reach for their posts, and potentially higher engagement.
With that will also come a more likely probability that businesses using Facebook to “Boost” or pay to promote their content into the feeds of their existing users and to new audiences will grow.
Will that growth offset the reduction in “boosts” from those companies either banned by Facebook or abandoning their spending in protest? We’ll never really know, but the likely hood is it will, and Facebook will actually make more money than ever.
Facebook making more money, while avoiding the need to negotiate and pay news media organisations in Australia under the Government’s Media Bargaining code – that’s the perfect outcome for the tech giant.
That does not necessarily mean a win for Facebook, but it certainly isn’t a win for the Government’s code, nor for the Media.
If the ban stays in place, people will quickly adapt and find new ways or rekindle old ways of discovering news. But it’s what takes its place that matters most. If fake news, false information and conspiracies increase – then we’ve got a bigger problem on our hands.
Facebook Controls Information
As a flow on from this ban and the battle between the Government, Facebook and Media, the public have been exposed to a very important fact which we may otherwise have not realised. Facebook controls the distribution of information in Australia.
Now that may not be a shock to some, but the extent of the control reaches far beyond Facebook’s ability to turn on or off a page.
Many users are unaware that a Facebook “Page” with 100,000 “likes” that posts information, be that text, a photo, video or a link, will only reach 10% of their own audience – likely less.
Posting a photo to those 100,000 likers will result in less than 10,000 of them seeing it. Unless it meets the rules of Facebooks algorithm. That is to say, it gets lots of comments, shares and reactions. This is why viral videos of unfortunate “fails” or silly animal videos reach millions. Facebook sees people like it, and show it to more people.
While Google’s search algorithm has been the centre of much debate, it is in fact Facebooks Algorithm which is more troubling. That the company can choose to tweak that calculation at any time means audience reach is restricted further and further from any small business, big business or media company working to reach their Facebook audience.
This is how they make money, teasing you to “boost” your post each and every time, with one of the first options after choosing “boost” being to boost (that means pay Facebook to show it to more people) to “People who like your page”.
You have to pay Facebook to reach the people who have already chosen to like your page, and in many cases, that’s businesses paying Facebook to reach people they paid Facebook to obtain as a member of their audience.
It’s a business model that is making them rich. Facebook made a profit of $69.273 billion last full year of reporting, so in the words of Jerry Seinfeld “They’re doing very well”.
Time for a rethink of our reliance on that business model, let alone their control over the information we’re all accessing or trying to share.