First Facebook bans news, then ignores us, then wipes our page, then puts it back!

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The Lean Hackman dishes it on The Facebook

It’s been a weird week in media land.

Fellow WA startups, we know startups are hard. (That’s part of the attraction.) We’re trying to disrupt an industry, an incumbent, anybody. It’s what we do.

When Facebook, or The Facebook as it was originally called (and how I prefer it), came along in the mid-2000s, I was already on Friendster, and didn’t know why I needed another social network. I never got into MySpace, but I did think Flickr was cool.

But I was sucked in like everybody else, and soon I was checking in, photographing my (un)social life and tagging my photos. It was fun while it lasted.

Advertising Pow-ah!

I discovered Facebook ads and realised you could send them to people’s pages when they were logged in, irrespective of what page they were on, and determine your audience by age, location, gender, likes, dislikes and many more things besides.

I experimented with these, comparing them to some Google ads, a cinema ad I had in the Innaloo Multiplex (now called ‘Events Cinemas’) and some actual billboard ads I had running at the time along Stirling Highway.

Everyone I bumped into told me they had seen my Facebook ads. I was getting thousands and thousands of views a day, for a pittance. I was getting click thrus and comments and sign ups. At about 10x the rate of Google Ads. As for my vanity cinema and billboards? Barely a whisper.

And so Facebook and Google went on to carve up the media ad spend market between themselves over the next decade. Today, in Australia they collect 60% of ALL marketing dollars (and upwards of 90% of online), leaving every other media company (Print, TV, radio, cinema, outdoor, digital, display ads….) to pick up the table scraps.

In so doing, the business model for journalism had been shafted. Journalist jobs went. In their thousands. Media got loud, bad and polarised.

So some of you would be thinking: Hey well done Zuckers and Sergey. Nice conquering son. Good on ya.

And part of me nods sagely over my malt whiskey, impressed at the destruction and disruption wot they have wrought.

But I doubt even Marky Mark and LarrynSergey would have guessed at the tumultuous effects they would have on the spreading of fake news, the election of politicians who made bare-faced lying shamelessly normal activity on a nuclear scale and allowed conspiracies to run mainstream.

For in democracies – and for all their issues, they are still the best way to organise countries – the importance of a strong (and regulated) free press is paramount. They dig into dark corners and expose corruption, among the powerful. They check statements, search for facts, and yes, may pronounce a few opinions of their own.

Here at Startup News, we are a humble little (one of the littlest) media organisation, whose purpose is to shine a light on WA startups. Maybe celebrate the odd fundraise, the occasional exit, provide advice along the way, a podcast or three, some inspiration maybe, an events calendar, annual awards, an event down in Freo, and such things that little media orgs like us do.

So it was always going to be interesting when a government would try to reverse the collapse in journalism, and get The Facebook and Almighty Google to pay something (just something) towards the journalists that they had not paid a cent for, yet earnt a poultice from on their platforms.

Media laws

A couple of weeks ago, after much humming and harring, including threatening to leave Australia in the altogether, the Almighty G won some concessions from the government on the new laws and went about making individual agreements to pay various publishers something.

Aghast at this, Zuck spat the dummy. He wiped The Facebook pages of various news sites in Australia last Thursday, catching other non-media sites in the process (for whit, he got majorly knocked down… that’s just not cool, Mark – you can’t take away our weather.)

Weirdly, Startup News’ Facebook page carried on. It’s like we were not a media site. ‘Oyyy! the Zuckster – we take that personal, mate. We’re media!’ I could hear us scream.

Then, five days go by, with people on The Facebook (why are there any people still there?) rather enjoying a total absence of news infiltrating the peaceful stream of friends’ idle news, another concession from the government and The Facebook relents. News will be back on The Facebook by the weekend.

Except, by an even weirder turn of events, Startup News’ FB page had now been wiped. On the very day The Big F caved. It’s like they took 5 days to realise who we were, or got around to wiping all the posts from our page.

Then, as if by magic – or maybe in response to my pending tirade – they restored our page. So, if they now want to strike a deal with Startup News, I am happy to act as a mediator by which to do the dirty deed. It’s only what an 8-year old media company deserves.

Weird times indeed. Happy Labor long weekend everyone. Up the workers!

Startup News’s FB page. Wiped clean.