There has been a lot to update in February…

… the Media Code has been amended and passed, Google and media publishers came to the table to negotiate around News Showcase, and Facebook and the Australian government played chicken with the fate of news on social media, with Facebook banning Australians from seeing and sharing local and international news. 

Facebook news is back on now but why did it happen and what happens next?

The Code

See Datisan’s summary of the proposed code, opinions on the code and the events leading up to the Facebook Australian news ban on this page here.

Many people were more worried about Google turning off its local services than worrying about Facebook, based on communication in the market prior to February 17 2021, even though Facebook had released statements over the past six months that made it clear they didn’t think the code was workable.

But the social media company caused alarm with what was seen as a sudden decision in mid-February to block news on its platform across Australia after the House of Representatives passed the draft law. 

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Facebook News Blackout

Facebook restricted access to news in Australia the same day as the announcement, as they wanted the change in place prior to the code being passed.

They advised that news makes up less than four per cent of what people see in their feeds, but you’d likely notice a difference when logging into the social network.

Will Easton, Managing Director, Facebook ANZ said,

There is a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between Facebook and news publishers.

And mistakenly, the blackout also cut access, at least temporarily, to government pandemic, public health and emergency services, fueling outrage. Facebook’s justification for including non-news pages was that the proposed law has a broad definition of news.

Easton also said,

As the law does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted.

You can read more of that initial statement here.

Facebook’s victory came at the cost of a public relations disaster. Either accidentally or otherwise, its news ban had a chaotic public effect, blocking access to important information on emergency services pages in the midst of bushfires in Western Australia and flooding in Queensland.

After a week of what we suppose was furious negotiation and Google Meet or Zoom calls, Facebook advised that the platform would reinstate news pages, as it also deals with media outlets to come to agreements.

Facebook said it would continue to negotiate deals with Australian publishers, as mentioned in many media reports, like this one from The Guardian.

Easton mentions in regards to the negotiations,

We are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognize the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The Verge describes the outpouring of public comment rather well, saying,

Of course, many critics were apoplectic that Facebook had taken this move, calling it a vile act of censorship, unchecked greed, and destruction of the public sphere.

Certainly the execution of the ban left something to be desired. Rather than building a blacklist of news sites to restrict, Facebook tried using its machine learning systems to identify news publishers, and the systems went predictably haywire.

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What was negotiated?

The amendments to the code which were negotiated between Facebook and the Australian government were outlined in a release from the Australian government.

Frydenberg and Facebook confirmed that the two sides agreed to amendments to the proposed legislation. The changes would give digital platforms one month’s notice before they are formally designated under the code. That would give those involved more time to broker agreements before they are forced to enter binding arbitration arrangements.

The New York Times notes that this appears to give Facebook more time to strike deals, similar to those reached by Google in the last couple of weeks. Campbell Brown, Facebook vice president for news partnerships said,

The  government has clarified we will retain the ability to decide if news appears on Facebook so that we won’t automatically be subject to a forced negotiation.

So who won?

In the public forum, Facebook maybe didn’t realise how this would look and impact, you know, the users of its platform. Many went on to say that Facebook was implementing ‘bully tactics’.

The ABC noted that both sides think they won, as they both gained concessions.

Josh Frydenberg, the Liberal party’s deputy leader who spearheaded the new law, said this was a significant milestone.

This legislation will help level the playing field and see Australian news media businesses paid for generating original content.

Source: abc.net.au

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says the law will address a significant bargaining power imbalance between Australian news media businesses and Google and Facebook.

According to Frydenburg, the amendments will strengthen the hand of regional and small publishers in obtaining appropriate remuneration for the use of their content by the digital platforms.

The ABC did well promoting its news app in the wake of uncertainty about the flow of news, becoming the number one downloaded free app in the Apple Store within 48 hours of the blackout

But the ABC also noted that it might be harder for small digital players to start news websites. Gathering an audience will be more expensive and take longer without Facebook. Read more here

Jeff Jarvis, a journalism expert from the City University of New York, said media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, who owns most of Australia’s major newspapers through his U.S-based News Corp, is the biggest winner while smaller titles and new media startups would suffer most.

Murdoch’s media empire was seen as a driving force behind the Australian legislation, which he noted includes a requirement for media companies to earn at least $150,000 AUD in revenue to be eligible.

Where was Google in all of this?

Google also suggested initially that it would have to pull its search engine from the country if the law came into force, but it later walked back its plans. Instead, Google chose to ink deals with media organisations to pay them for news content via News Showcase.

Source Giphy

Read Datisan’s summary of the News Showcase launch here.

Melanie Silva, Managing Director of Google Australia published a new open letter addressing the issue, which can be viewed here.

Our consistent ask has been that we avoid legislative proposals that would break the fundamental principle of the web – that it should be free and easy to link to websites. By establishing a program to pay news publishers, News Showcase offers a constructive path forward.

Having mounted a strong PR and communication strategy about the potential withdrawal of services, Google was able to successfully negotiate with many additional publishers post-launch, while also being able to leverage and enjoy the concessions Facebook as negotiated.

Professor Leaver, Curtin University, speaking to the ABC confirms this by saying,

Google comes out of the Facebook news ban looking good.

 

What about public opinion?

The question regarding whether this will have long-term adverse impacts to Google or Facebook is yet to be seen but a number of opinions were published about this in the past two weeks, even though the issue has left the main news cycle for the moment.

Facebook’s decision to block access to pages like 1800Respect, the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services and the Bureau of Meteorology was unnecessary, heavy-handed and will damage its reputation, according to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Michael Tibbles, digital media manager, MediaSmiths, as quoted in AdNews, said

While the move by Facebook to remove Australian news is a highly risky PR move, it is unlikely to result in a loss of significant ad revenue in the short term.

Rebecca Wilson, CEO of Starts at 60, wrote a widely-shared opinion piece for Mumbrella that highlighted her worry that the over 60s voice has been silenced by this brinkmanship between the government and the media platforms.

The Urban List founder and CEO Susannah George welcomed the news of a restored Facebook and felt that the intent from Facebook to support small and local publishers was heartening, when speaking with AdNews.

Diversity of voices is vital to Australia’s cultural fabric – diversity driven by the home-grown, digital-first publishers that champion our small businesses, events, tourism and arts scene.

Pedestrian.tv had a strong reaction to losing the opportunity to share their news on the social platform (some swearing here). But thankfully the Betoota Advocate wasn’t caught up in the chaos.

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I still have questions…

So do we. Some of which are:

  • Do the last minute concessions mean the code may never be used?
  • Are the big end of town the real winners? Did regional and independent media organisations miss out?
  • Could the news get blocked again?
  • Should media regulation be rethought completely? 
  • Why not just increase tax requirements on international digital businesses?

As we have said in our summary of the code at the beginning of February (which you can read here) , there are a lot of moving parts to this story. Datisan is keeping tabs on it and will update our blog as more information comes to hand.

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TLDR: Facebook bans news in response to negotiations breaking down around the News Media Bargaining Code, then turns the news back on once the code is amended. Google and Facebook negotiate with publishers and no one is sure what the code will look like in practice yet.


We are always looking and listening to current news and information with the view to share it with our clients and followers. If you don’t already, sign up for our monthly enewsletter, the Datisan Download, to be in the know.

Google News Showcase launches in Australia.

Australia got its first look at Google News Showcase this week (4 Feb).

The release, first announced in mid-2020, has gain a lot of attention in Australia in recent weeks, as Google highlighted News Showcase as an alternative option to current format of the proposed News Media Bargaining Code.

Google News Showcase is a new news experience that launched in some global markets in late 2020. Google has previously withheld bringing the News Showcase product to Australia over disagreement about the Australian government’s proposed news media code.

Alongside a considerable investment (AU $1.3b), Google has been bringing on more and more publishers and content. There are currently over 450 publications across a dozen countries including the UK, Germany, Brazil, and Canada.

Google’s intention with this experience is to let readers dive deeper into more complex stories and stay informed on the issues and events that local, national, and global newsrooms highlight through their Google News Showcase panels. 

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Why should I care?

If, like us, you’ve been watching the media coverage surrounding the News Media Bargaining Code with interest over the month, the launch of News Showcase in Australia could be very important.

You can read our summary of the code and the media coverage on it here.

Google has said that the initial version will have a focus on local, regional and independent publishers, given the “importance of local information and the role it will play in people’s everyday lives”.

The roll-out of News Showcase comes off the back of Senators recently advising in parliamentary hearings that they couldn’t tell if it would be a suitable solution or compromise to the News Media Bargaining Code for fairly financially supporting news publishers, as the product was not yet tested in Australia.

Source: Media Watch, Google News war

At the beginning of Febraury, Nine (the parent company for publications like the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age) initially dismissed Google’s offer to pay media organisations with the launch of Showcase – stating it wouldn’t negotiate with Google prior to the code coming into effect. Read more

But two weeks later, we were reading that it was all sorted, with Nine and Google striking a $30m news deal.

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How does it work?

Australian publishers will be paid to provide content for News Showcase. The initial publishers featured in the February 4 launch were among the first globally to sign up, providing early feedback and input on how the product could help bring their journalism to the fore for readers.

As this early version of News Showcase rolls out, the partnerships will provide financial support for some of the country’s independent, local and regional publications including The Canberra TimesThe Illawarra MercuryThe Saturday PaperCrikeyThe New Daily,  InDaily, InQueensland and The Conversation.

Showcase is an opportunity for our 14 daily titles to curate their trusted local journalism for Google News users and we are working constructively with Google to explore the exciting potential of this product to engage mobile audiences.

– Tony Kendall, CEO of Australian Community Media

Panels on News Showcase display an enhanced view of an article or articles, giving participating publishers more ways to bring important news to readers and explain it in their own voice, along with more direct control of presentation and branding. The panels will appear across Google News on Android, iOS and the mobile web, and in Discover on iOS, bringing high-value traffic to a publisher’s site.

Where available, Google will also offer to pay for free access for users to read paywalled articles on a publisher’s site. This will let paywalled publishers grow their audiences and open an opportunity for people to read content they might not ordinarily see.

The expectation is that Google will bring more Australian media partners on board in the coming weeks and months as they further build out the experience for publishers and users, as well as use this as a compromise for some of the components of the News Media Bargaining Code. 

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The final word

The Sydney Morning Herald has since said that the federal government has signalled that it may consider amendments to its digital media code if Google can convince large media companies to sign up, sparking a rush of last ditch negotiations.

As we have said in our summary of the code at the beginning of February(which you can read here) , there are a lot of moving parts to this story. Datisan is keeping tabs on it and will update our blog as more information comes to hand.

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TLDR: Google has announced a new, curated news landing page that could provide the break in the stalemate around the News Media Bargaining code.

Source: Release / Google

We are always looking and listening to current news and information with the view to share it with our clients and followers. If you don’t already, why not sign up for our monthly enewsletter, the Datisan Download, to be in the know.

If you want to know more or have questions, you can talk to Datisan through our Contact page.

Google announces Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics has introduced a new property type that enables exciting new functionality, including enhanced cross device visitor stitching (how’s that different to GA3?) ), which is a huge leap forward for out of the box marketing attribution and single view of users across devices. In the world of complex customer journeys, user centricity represents a key to success.

The release, announced in mid October 2020, is an expansion and rebranding of what was known as the App+ Web update that was launched last July. The announcement of Google Analytics 4 (or GA4) marks a definitive future direction for Google’s Analytics product designed to bridge the gap between traditional websites, web apps and mobile apps, and to enhance the ways we can access more meaningful and actionable insight from our data.

Why should I care?

GA4 will be the default option when you set up a new non-enterprise property. The previous iteration (Universal Analytics) will continue to remain available for now (how long?). Google and Datisan recommend that site owners set up both property types and run them in parallel. Any new feature development coming to analytics will be focused on GA4.

The new features available in the ‘new’ Google Analytics can be grouped into four themes:

Google aims to provide a more complete cross-channel view of the customer lifecycle and puts that information to use with predictive marketing features. This will provide more information to marketers and efficient ways to act on those insights. 

With all the talk about the death of third party cookies, it’s important to note that GA4 is privacy-centric by design, so you can rely on Analytics as the changes on restrictions to cookies and other identifiers create potential gaps in your data.

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Smarter insights

By applying Google’s advanced machine learning models, the new Analytics can automatically alert you to significant trends in your data – like products seeing rising demand because of new customer needs. Conversely, it can also alert you to drops in your key metrics.

It calculates churn probability so you can more efficiently invest in retaining customers at a time when marketing budgets are under pressure

Churn probability in the new Analysis module

A more complete understanding

GA4 will provide a more complete understanding of how customers interact with your business. The new Analytics gives you customer centric measurement, instead of measurement fragmented by device or by platform.

You’ll also get a better understanding of your customers across their entire lifecycle, from acquisition to conversion and retention. 

Based on user feedback, Google simplified and re-organised reporting so it’s easier to find marketing insights based on the part of the customer journey you’re interested in.

For example, you can see what channels are driving new customers in the user acquisition report, then use the engagement and retention reports to understand the actions these customers take, and whether they stick around after converting.

New reporting structure organised by the user lifecycle

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What should I do now?

Set up a new property to run in parallel to your Universal Analytics or dual tag your pages. This will allow you to collect data across both properties simultaneously (What happens to my year on year analysis in the new property?).  It is expected that over time any new functionality and features will only appear in the GA4 property type.

The reason to begin dual tagging now, even if you’re not ready to start utilising these new features, is that it gives you historical data to analyse when you are ready to make GA4 your primary property type. 

Google has provided examples of recommended event types and naming conventions. Datisan also has a recommended approach designed to minimise the impact to your existing reporting processes. The aim is that these recommended naming conventions will make your set up future proof as new features roll out and take advantage of these predetermined structures.

Google is also launching a property migration tool to help you nominate a primary GA3 property that you wish to migrate setup configuration for GA4. This should save some time configuring and making the transition in GA4 easier.

If you want to know more or have questions, you can talk to Datisan or click through to our contact form below.

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The final word

We believe not much will change in the short term, but as mentioned, it’s expected that any future updates will only occur in GA4, so it’s worth setting up that new property.

What isn’t known yet in much detail is what this announcement means long-term for users of Google Analytics and the enterprise level Analytics 360, but Datisan will keep you in the know with all the latest updates and releases.

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You probably have questions!

The initial ones that have come up include things like:

We are in the process of getting to the bottom of these questions and many others and we are keen to share our findings! If you’d like to be kept up to date then sign up for our upcoming GA4 content series below.

Source: Release / Google

TLDR: There is a new property type announced for Google Analytics, that will give you smarter insights to improve marketing decisions and get better ROI, as well as a more complete understanding of how customers interact with your business. Set up a GA4 property type to run alongside your current analytics.