Sheep Central’s response to Facebook’s ban on news

Sheep Central, February 22, 2021

FACEBOOK’S arrogant and unconscionable decision last week to block Australian news sites from its pages will hurt a lot of information providers, including some rural and regional media.

In terms of Sheep Central’s own position, we have always been cautious not to become too reliant on a single digital source like Facebook for our digital traffic – mainly out of concern that any change of algorithm or policy could mean our audience disappears overnight.

We do post a few news items to our Facebook page, but our core strategy has always been to focus heavily on building our own audience through email subscribers, and direct-to-website traffic.

From a readership perspective, Facebook views represent less than five percent of our monthly audience. So for our readers – and equally importantly, our advertisers – our message is that Facebook’s ban makes little to no difference to us. In fact comparisons of site traffic generated over the past week (since the Facebook news ban), compared with the same week last year, show our site traffic figures have increased significantly.

This means that despite the ban, advertisers on Sheep Central last week were getting their product or service in front of more eyeballs than during the same week last year.

Nevertheless last week’s decision does highlight the arrogance that comes with monopolies, and why competition in any marketplace is healthy and desirable.

The other message we would point out is that for advertisers who think Facebook is the way to go, just step back and look at what has happened in the past week.

In trying to block news sites, Facebook also managed to block a wide suite or other information-providers. It has also claimed in the past it can block and deal with fake news and posts deliberately spreading misinformation, yet it has clearly failed to be able to do that.

That reflects poorly on Facebook’s claims of being able to provide ‘highly-targeted’ advertising, If it can’t differentiate a news site from the Bureau of Meteorology, how successful is it really likely to be in differentiating actual farmers from millions of other Facebook users in the ads it serves up for advertisers?

While Facebook advertising inevitably generates large numbers of ‘views’, there has been mounting scepticism within professional digital media and advertising circles about the accuracy of the platform’s algorithms for advertisements.

Is this a channel you would be happy to advertise on, or associate your brand with?

Check this comment piece from Saturday’s The Australian: “No-news Facebook left with cat memes and conspiracy theories”

Our advice to companies operating in the meat and livestock industries is to direct your advertising towards rural media channels with which you are sure your customers are engaged – not a soulless, US corporate giant which cannot do what it claims, clearly does not have its readers’ or advertisers’ interests at heart, and where you advertising is likely to be compromised by appearing next to reams of misinformation.


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