The fall of Facebook

The recent news of Facebook’s lack of news for Australians has sent people across the country into a spin. Many people have been using the platform as their source of news more than they used it for social engagement for a long time. Those people are now wondering what is even the point of having an account with the big blue F’er – are we all just addicted to a glorified digital noticeboard? It seems all that people are still hanging on for is the utility of event planning, second-hand selling and streams of baby photos.

Is this the death of Facebook? And where do we go for news now?

Now it is left to the individual to find their news. One major worry in this conversation is that the move away from the sharing of multiple sources on one popular platform is a move towards monopolisation of the media by Australia’s biggest players. Rupert Murdoch holds a huge amount of power in Australia, even rivalling our own government in the influence his media has on people’s feelings about current events. 

What has happened to the news?

Last Thursday, we woke up to the complete stripping of all news from our feeds. News publications’ pages were suddenly devoid of all activity or even evidence that they ever existed. This big move by Zuckerberg is a giant stamping of the foot in the face of the Australian Government’s proposal to make tech giants pay for the news content shared on their platforms.

The media bargaining code was intended to push tech giants and media publications into negotiations about a fair price to pay for the sharing of their content. Journalists have admittedly lost a lot in the evolution of media from print to online, and now their content is spread for free which is a main pull of a huge online social platform. Is it fair to ask the tech giants to pay for what their users want to see? Facebook argues that they provide huge benefit to news outlets, even having supplied them with grants and funding in some cases.

This powerplay between government, media and Zuck is scary on more than one level. It is a reminder that for us regular Joes, our freedom of information is dictated by whoever has the most money to throw around. Zuckerberg doesn’t care that Australians have lost a balance of information, our news input barely makes a dint in their overall revenue. Rupert Murdoch stands to gain either way this goes, either he’ll have the biggest bargaining chip in the buy-in negotiations or Australians, having lost their news feeds, will just default to the websites of his major news outlets without seeking any other balancing information. An accidental monopoly on the news.

At the risk of getting too political – our current government tends to be painted in a very optimistic light by Murdoch’s publications, so there’s no real incentive there for a fair national media solution. So the pawn that’s cowering at the centre of this powerplay really is democracy. The Australian Government has already cut so much away from our regulated media, that was responsible for holding our government to account as unbiased truthsayers, the journalism industry doesn’t really stand a chance. That’s not to say that Australian media has stayed true to the unbiased ideals of journalism either. Unbiased news is a hard thing to find these days, you’re better off looking for two extreme opinions and working out where the middle ground is.

How do people stay informed?

People are having to turn to other platforms to receive their news. News websites and curation apps have been a thing for a long time, but people have chosen to stick to the convenience of Facebook for their news. It has shown them the news that is popular with their friends, and so builds on future real-life conversations –or divides the friends from the traitors.

The interesting thing in all this, as we watch our media landscape evolve and transform with the digital age, is that a lot of our hardline truthsayer journalists have already opted out of the mainstream media publications. Mediums such as Youtube videos/channels, podcasts and other social platforms have given a soapbox to niche, investigative and long-form journalism. Take Friendly Jordies – ultimately a citizen journalist/comedian who has taken great joy in calling out politicians, the media and other public figures through thorough research and strong opinions. He has a massive following and would be a major source of news for a particular social demographic. Michael West is another who has gone off on his own – a reputable journalist who decided he’d had enough of working the broad story and wanted to go deeper. He created a niche investigative journalism publication online “covering the rising power of corporations over democracy.

The people who are most interested in these niche media outlets are probably already seeking them out, but the important thing to note is that if you are genuinely interested in finding out the truth on a matter - you need to seek it out. It does exist. With the internet at your fingertips, everything exists. It’s just up to you to find it. There are still incredible journalists who are dedicated to ensuring that the public is informed on the matters of the world that affect how they operate within it. If it’s important to you to live in a world where our governments are held to account, with the best interests of the majority population put at the forefront of our policymaking – it’s your responsibility to source your news properly so you get a full overview.

Is Facebook the new MySpace?

All of this leads to the glaring realisation that maybe Facebook just isn’t really relevant to current society’s needs anymore. Once we break the habit of opening that blue square for our morning news dose, we’ll realise that the regular scroll that took up so much of our time, is really quite boring and a waste of our precious time. The younger generations have already figured it out. There are so many more niche platforms that they can actively engage in – why would they spend time on a platform that’s just old news (excuse the pun).

It’s just the generations that were around when Facebook first appeared that are still hooked in its grasp. We’re addicted to a mindless scroll that is not giving us anything anymore. The things that you do want from Facebook are available in many other more focused platforms. If you’re after news, there are curation apps like Flipboard or smaller companies like inkl, where you can pay one subscription to get past a whole number of paywalls or pay as you go if you’re just there for the headlines (10c per article currently). If you’re there for the funny videos, meet TikTok or even Instagram where that kind of viewing is tailored to how you want to see it. If you’re after lifestyle tips and tricks, Pinterest has it all. If you want to keep up to date with your cousin’s kids growth and changes – Instagram, or even a dedicated family album app (for which there are plenty of options).  Whatever you want from Facebook – there’s a better, more satisfying way to get it. Zuck got you hooked with putting everything all in the one place, but then took all the things you learned to love away. But now that you know what you want, you can just hone in on that.

More and more people are getting off Facebook realising it’s time-sucking irrelevance. 

What about for business?

For businesses who have come to rely on Facebook for its cheap and focused advertising, it’s time to start diversifying your playbook. Figure out where your niche is heading, what they actually want to see from you and hone in on that. Spread your game across different platforms, be more personal, build your community. After all, that’s what Facebook was supposed to be for, wasn’t it?