The TNKR Media team offer their suggestions to get around news blocking
Canada’s 0nline New$ @ct (Bill C-Eight33n) is leading to some pretty strange, desperate publishing trends… especially on F—book and the Gram, two networks whose parent company quickly blocked Canadian news to avoid the federal government’s forthcoming 4% link tax.
If you’re wondering why communicators are hesitant to even use certain keywords relating to Canadian news it’s because we assume those keywords are also being blocked by the social networking giant, or at least deprioritized or “shadow-banned.” For this reason, we’re sabotaging our SEO on this post!
How did we get to this silly place? Follow our co-founder Dan Delmar on LinkedIn or the social network formerly known as Twitter for more thoughts on that: “…an awful law constructed by populists who are either too incompetent to understand how to modernize #cdnmedia or actively attempting to harm journalism ahead of an anticipated election.”
In the meantime, Canadian organizations need to share current events and information on this country’s two most popular social networks. While overall interactions on social media continue to rise overall, meaningful interactions with objective, verified information will only continue to decline.
“It’s only been a few months now since Meta started blocking Canadian news content from their platforms, but it was only a matter of days before you could see the impacts. And by ‘impact’, I mean a disaster-shaped crater for media companies and marketing agencies that are especially social media-focused,” said Content Lead Christopher Paré. “Our dependence on social media for news content is laid bare, F—book and Insta are now completely devoid of substance. This is tragic, not just for consumers but also the news outlets we rely on at a time when live updates and verifiable information are more important than ever. This is beyond mere inconvenience, it is dangerous.”
Here are our favourite methods (so far) for sharing Canadian news on M3t@-owned platforms, ranked.
1. The Screenshot
The most practical and popular way of circumventing the block. Without tagging or naming any news organizations or news personalities, publish a screenshot of the headline and first few lines of the article you want to promote, and readers can find the rest from the source if they so choose.Some crop out the news organization’s logo, which may be above the headline or in various locations on the page. It’s entirely possible that image-analyzing AI tools in the platform’s back end can already identify and deprioritize posts featuring news logos or other visual cues.
Is the screenshot method working for news personalities we follow? No, not really, and their engagement is down but at the moment it’s the option of least resistance.
“Take reports of rising social media interactions with a grain of salt. This has no bearing on the value, real or perceived, of Canadian news,” Delmar said. “On my own feed in recent weeks, I see a desperate push to jam highly-targeted content into my face in an attempt, I am speculating, to overcompensate for the absence of news and reinforce the position that the news holds no significant value. The strategy is working. My time scrolling has risen a bit due to this intense influx of stuff the algorithm thinks I can’t get enough of: Home renovations, nature scenes… but the ethics of eliminating news merits more scrutiny.”
2. Double Down on Your Content
Our content heads have been emphasizing this point quite a bit in recent weeks: there has been no better time over the past decade or so for Canadian organizations to invest in their own content for social media.
The absence of news content does not mean that demand for the themes or topics more broadly go away. Organizations or experts with no direct connection to mainstream news are still able to post unimpeded. It is possible that the networks may increase censorship of certain current events topics, but none of our experts in the professional services have reported disruptions of this sort so long as no news links are included.
Written commentary is seeing a certain resurgence while video content remains a strong driver of traffic. For many of our clients, who are often governed by regulatory bodies, semi-private channels like newsletters, podcast series or webinars may also bear fruit.
The downside of course is that producing one’s own content, even with the help of agencies like TNKR Media, can be somewhat time-consuming and costly for small businesses or independent creators. Our most effective plans, for example, may require a leader’s presence for two to five hours per month, plus production time. Content creation, however, should now be a staple in every organization’s marketing plan.
3. The Esoteric Visual + Thought Leadership Rant
We’re all about the mechanics of ‘Thought Leadership’-style marketing, and so we will never discourage a good esoteric rant — especially if accompanied by a calming nature scene. It really cleans up the timeline!
This goes double for those with at least some following and industry-specific clout. Thoughtful and well-researched commentary can be a strong genre on social media, but keep dwindling attention spans in mind: your rant should be brief, or better yet encourage people to read the full piece on your own website, linked within the post (or the comments if you see blocking or deprioritizing affecting your engagement).
But this format also comes with its own challenges: toned-down visuals mean fewer chances of going viral; text-heavy posts also discourage engagement; headlines or the first few words become primordial for the success of the post, so choose them carefully.
4. Recycled Ephemeral Content
We could have nestled this tactic under the “Your Content” banner but ultimately we can distinguish two types of content: ephemeral and permanent.
Your permanent content, described above — PR, writing, podcasts, webinars, etc. — requires an in-depth preparation, distribution and evaluation strategy; ephemeral content — short form videos, Snaps, Insta stories and other crude, often app-based broadcasting can help content creators circumvent online news blocking. But keep in mind that there is significantly less value in content that either disappears after a short period of time or is otherwise housed on servers or social networks that are some distance away from a brand’s own properties.
The style of ephemeral video stories is inescapably casuual and not necessarily appropriate for all brands, especially those we serve that have strict guidelines that are either self-imposed or tightly-regulated by professional orders.
Aesthetically, we’d also note that a recent YouTube report analyzing its highest-profile creator contains a warning for those who love the casual video format: “YouTube’s A/B thumbnail testing helped MrBeast find that a closed mouth led to longer watch times,” reported The Verge.
As a general rule, if the platform does not permit you to control every aspect of your image, including avoiding thumbnails of mouths agape, then it is an unprofessional platform.
5. Giving Up
Don’t give up on the news. Current events and politics are connected to our everyday lives, livelihoods and cultures. We are all connected to the news somehow, even when we are technically disconnected or being manipulated by algorithms whose parameters are largely unknown.
Play around with the above techniques to keep important societal conversations going in light of this important policy standoff between the federal government and the social networks. Though physical links may be disabled, there is no stopping debate in a free society. What’s important is that both parties get back to the bargaining table before communication problems turn into deeper economic and democratic problems.