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OPINION: What’s the deal with Meta and who should really pay for local news?

OPINION: What’s the deal with Meta and who should really pay for local news?

March 15, 2024 | Our Industry

OPINION: Facebook walks away from news deals in Australia

By Lucie Peart, President Country Press NSW Inc

A big challenge with running a newspaper these days is that many people don’t want to pay for news. And now Meta, the owner of Facebook, doesn't either. Meta claims that news makes up less than three per cent of what people around the world see in their Facebook feed and that news is a small part of the Facebook experience for the vast majority of users.

This three per cent figure is impossible to believe. It may be that Facebook only serves up three per cent of news content to users because they control the algorithms, and the content people see.

And this three per cent is now the basis for Meta not renewing agreements for Australian news media businesses like mine. By contrast, two recent studies found that 45-50 per cent of Facebook users go to Facebook to access news. Go figure. It is clear that Facebook doesn’t want you to see trusted and credible news on its platform.

News isn’t free to produce or distribute, and it’s only getting more expensive. So, who pays for that?

Newspaper publishers can’t charge $10 per weekly edition because few would buy the product, but that amount is quickly becoming a fair assessment of the costs involved.

Print is still the preferred product in regional areas. Something held dearly by communities - it’s their paper - we are just the caretakers.

But here’s the catch, more and more it seems to be someone else’s responsibility to support the newspaper through paid advertising. But whose fault is that?

The reader because they can only value a weekly digest at a few dollars, the small local business who is also suffering from increased costs and consumer downturn, or the big businesses and governments who have walked away from local print media…??

Or is it the publisher's fault for not 'moving with the times' - except that multiple sources and surveys say our audiences don’t actually want us to.

Now we have a situation where the online audience frequents a small handful of social platforms, such as Facebook, that drive traffic to hyper local news sites and mine users’ data for advertising gain.

The rivers of gold that were the classifieds have flowed to social media and quickly following is the dissemination of free advertising dressed up as ‘news’ and ‘community service announcements’.

Former newspaper giants also let community advertising move into the ambiguous position of being ‘native’ or mentioned in the editorial text. Seemingly newspaper readers are confused - why should I have to pay to promote my community event when other titles used to or still do give the promotion away for free?


We are still the lucky country and I know our audiences and the people will back the under-dog in the fight for setting a precedent with Meta. Otherwise, what have we got legislation for if it can’t be enforced?

Somebody’s still got to pay for news, maybe the answer is that we all need to.

 Lucie Peart is the managing editor and publisher of: The Gilgandra Weekly, The Nyngan Weekly, Narromine Star, and Warren Star. She is also the president of Country Press NSW Inc and a member of the Country Press Australia board.