OPINION: Don’t be a stranger, news still exists without Facebook

The Australian news industry was dumped on its head this week when Facebook prevented newsrooms from sharing content on the platform.

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Journalists, media companies and social media managers quickly tried to get their head around what had happened and how it was going to affect their hits.

Everyone logged on to see what their profiles looked like after the news first broke that Facebook was going to shutdown Australian news pages.

Were only the giants of the industry silenced on the social media platform, or was everyone logging on to see that dreaded ‘no posts yet’ banner on their page?

Well let’s just say it wasn’t only the big guys.

We have all been affected, even small, independent news outlets like Good News Fraser Coast that are based here within our community – not some fancy office in Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne.

On what started off as a normal Thursday morning became a day spent on the phone.

‘Why are they down, but those guys aren’t’ became a regular debate. But as the day progressed, media outlets that churn out a constant supply of online news slowly had their Facebook feeds turned off.

I’m going to avoid the conflict between Facebook and Government, but will try and explain how important Facebook is to journalists and media outlets.

My career as a journalist has been characterised by the silencing of the telephone.

Journalists still have phones (or some kind of digitally integrated phone system) on their desks but they’re more often than not there for the journalists to call out on or receive a message from a regular contact.

Tip-offs generally come from social media. The phone hardly ever rings.

It’s far quicker and easier to send a newsroom a message on Facebook and say there’s a fire at this building or share a photo of police activity at the local mall and say – ‘somethings up at the shops.’

Because news consumers are always on their phones – news outlets have been using Facebook and other social media platforms to share their content.

A post on Facebook drops links to your stories literally right in front of the people who have chosen to read your website.

As newsrooms continue to move to a more digitally oriented set-up (journalists, how often are you told web first, radio / TV / print second?) social media has evolved too.

The merits of whichever side you’re on in this conflict (Facebook vs Government) is irrelevant. News outlets have become fully reliant on social media to receive tip-offs, monitor reaction to stories and share content.

So when Facebook turned off Australian news pages on its platform – mind blown. How am I going to get my stories in front of the people who matter the most, the audience?

The modern newsroom’s work cycle goes a little like this:

  • Receive story tip-off on social media (could be a message about that fire I spoke about earlier or information about little Susan’s success at the local swimming carnival).
  • Journalist replies to original message saying they’re interested in the story and requests a phone number.
  • Journalist conducts interview over the phone or in person. Photographer (if your newsroom is still lucky enough to actually have one) goes out and gets the photo.
  • Journalist writes story and submits to editor.
  • Story is checked and posted online either immediately or according to some agreed upon schedule.
  • As soon as story is live, it’s shared on social media and perhaps on numerous other occasions to increase its chances of being seen by the people who count.
  • Really important breaking news might live on social media first, with web content coming later.

So, in many cases, the news cycle goes full circle. It’s starts on social media and it ends with a social media post.

This week has seen the media industry panic but also start thinking outside the blue F.

The industry has been successful for decades without social media – it’s just a matter of figuring out what works today. For many journalists and media professionals, social media is older than their careers and is ‘how we do things’.

We don’t know how long this conflict is going to go on for.

But what we do know is that the industry – and all the people who work in it – require the audience to continue consuming their content.

While newsrooms try figure out the best way to get their content in front of you, continue to read, watch or listen to the news.

News hasn’t disappeared, one of its primary marketing tools has (or had at the time of writing).

If you regularly read news websites, for example, continue to read them. Make a point of clicking over and seeing what is online. Bookmark the website. Hey, you could even make Good News Fraser Coast your homepage!

Continue to talk about news articles you’ve read, watched or listened to.

You need newsrooms for reliable, accurate news just as much as newsrooms need you to consume it.

Small media companies (like Good News Fraser Coast) don’t have the budget to put up billboards on the side of the road to attract you to their websites.

They don’t have the budget to run TV or radio ads or put on major public promotions.

But they do have you – loyal news consumers who have read their websites before. Who have liked and shared their posts on Facebook before.

Don’t be a stranger.

Bookmark Good News Fraser Coast. Make it a conscious effort to have a look at the website and see what’s going on.

Don’t be a stranger.

Just because stories can’t be shared on Facebook for now (hopefully there will be a resolution sometime soon) doesn’t mean the Good News Fraser Coast website is down and the journalist is sleeping on the couch.

Don’t be a stranger.

You can still submit story ideas to Good News Fraser Coast via the website.

Don’t be a stranger.

We’re also on Twitter and Instagram.

Again, don’t be a stranger.

More opinion pieces from Good News Fraser Coast:
OPINION: Weekend racing more than just a triathlon
OPINION: Taking it one step at a time
OPINION: Missioning on the Fraser Coast

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