OPINION: Get Facebook out of the news business

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By Nick Seebruch
OPINION: Get Facebook out of the news business

First Australia, and now Canada have began moving towards making Facebook pay to host news on its platform.
The goal of this would not only mean financial support for news outlets, but it would also help fight propaganda (fake news) which under this model would not receive funding as they would not be listed as news organizations.

In response, Facebook has banned all news links from being shared on its platform in Australia. We have yet to see how Facebook will react to the Canadian government’s expression of interest in following in the footsteps of the Land Down Under.

I think either of these outcomes, Facebook paying to host news, or banning news from its platform all together are both good options. Either way, the news, and the communities served by news outlets win.

The goal of news is to hold government officials to account, to push for justice, and tell the stories of their community. Like all industries, news needs to make money, but telling stories, pushing for justice, and holding government officials to account are not activities that directly generate revenue.

Since the ascendancy of the internet over the past 20 years, all news organizations have had to shift their revenue models, and many have tried different things.

Some outlets are subscription based, others have put some of their contents behind pay walls. At Seaway News we rely on our local advertisers. The more ads we have, the more pages we have in our paper. We are fortunate that we have so many businesses in our community who understand the importance of community news and the value we bring to them and our readers.

When it comes to our online product, things are a little different. Our advertisers who appear on our website understand that the value we bring them are the clicks we have to our website. We get a high volume of clicks thanks to having an interesting product that readers want to see.

A part of our online value does come from Facebook. Facebook is a driver to our website and we would be missing out and so would our readers if we weren’t on the platform. That being said, this relationship with Facebook works both ways, all news outlets including Seaway News drive traffic to that platform by virtue of us being on it. Facebook gets this benefit for free, and it is time that they paid for it. The pandemic has hit all industries and having this new source of revenue would help secure news outlets financially into the future, for the benefit of everyone.

I don’t see Facebook picking the option of paying for news to appear on its platform. I think it is likely we will see Facebook pressuring Canada the way it is trying to pressure Australia, by banning news from its platform in that country. I think that governments of all countries should call their bluff, instead of making Facebook pay for news, I think that they should ban Facebook from sharing news all together, which like I’ve said will go a long way to fighting fake news.

The demand for news will not change, but by getting off of social media, readers will instead go to news websites directly and we as news outlets will have to find new and better ways to connect with our readers.

In the coming weeks Seaway News will be taking a big step to cut out the middle man and connect more directly to our readers directly by introducing a new exciting reader friendly product. Stay tuned for more details, and if you want to support your local news, then go directly to cornwallseawaynews.com for the latest news on Cornwall and the United Counties of SD&G.

Major challenges that the news industry has faced over the past few years have been revenue, and propaganda masquerading as news being disseminated on social media. This will help solve both of these problems, so I say, let’s do it. Pull the trigger Canada and do your worst Facebook. We don’t need you anyway.

What do you think readers? Should Facebook be cut out of the news game? Email me a Letter to the Editor at nseebruch@seawaynews.media

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