Stuff boycotting Facebook

Facebook taking advertising has been a big problem for media companies that were already struggling to adapt to an online orientated world. Many news outlets decided to feed Facebook with content to try to keep some crumbs for themselves.

But the newly owned Stuff is cutting off their connections with Facebook.

Stuff: Stuff stops all activity on Facebook in trial ‘inspired by principle’

New Zealand publisher Stuff is hitting pause on all Facebook activity as it reassesses its relationship with the under fire social media giant.

An internal email sent to Stuff editorial managers on Monday said it was trialling ceasing all activity on Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram effective immediately.

The trial would apply across all titles owned by Stuff. Nearly 953,000 people follow the Stuff news Facebook page and 134,000 follow its Instagram account. It has dozens of other Facebook pages for its various titles and brands.

Stuff is New Zealand’s largest media company and was recently bought for $1 by its chief executive Sinead Boucher from its previous owner, Australian media company Nine.

The email said Stuff stopped advertising on Facebook soon after the 2019 mosque attacks in Christchurch, as the company did not want to contribute financially to a platform that profited from publishing hate speech and violence.

The latest experiment was in the context of an international boycott Facebook movement, and applied until further notice, the email said.

“It is an experiment though, and we’ll monitor the results closely,” it said.

Large international brands such as Coca-Cola, Unilever, Verizon and Starbucks are boycotting spending their advertising dollar with Facebook over accusations the tech company hasn’t done enough to curb hate-speech and disinformation.

It’s a risky experiment for a company trying to find a way to survive.

They will lose some readership of their articles, but they won’t get much revenue from being on Facebook.

(I rarely see or link to news on Facebook but may not be a typical news reader).

The Spinoff:  Stuff has taken the sword to Facebook. Is it the start of a media revolution?

While Stuff’s “experiment” in pulling news from Facebook may seem like just another sign-up to the global advertising boycott that began as a reaction to hate speech on the platform, it’s in keeping with an independent trend for NZ’s biggest news site.

It’s also symbolically important, with a news company putting its money where its mouth has been and foregoing significant traffic. Since 2018, Facebook has increasingly been the whipping boy of columnists all over the world, but publishers have continued to post their content on the platform.

Unfortunately we may never find out whether I am right in that guess, because Stuff have pulled out of the monthly measurement tool that allowed NZ news sites to be ranked by audience size.

Since at least 2016 – that’s as far as my records go back – Stuff have dominated the Nielsen news rankings. Now they are no longer part of the system, they don’t have to worry about nemesis NZ Herald claiming victory. The usual margin between these arch-rivals has been roughly 10%.

In its unilateral action, Stuff has partially made real a threat doing the rounds in media: a news boycott of Facebook and Google. Facebook has responded – in the face of impending regulation in Australia – stating it doesn’t need news and that its business wouldn’t skip a beat without it. While I think it may have underestimated the social capital of accurate news, I believe it about the business. Most people in news think Facebook is either bluffing or deluded.

I don’t think we’ll ever find out. The Stuff experiment will probably end when the struggle for audience becomes even more acute than it is now.

Maybe, maybe not.

RNZ Mediawatch: Stuff’s fighting talk on Facebook

Not long before striking a $1 deal to buy the company last month, Stuff chief executive Sinead Boucher made it clear she was no fan of Facebook.

“They have built businesses off the quality content others have created,” she told Mediawatch in April.

“News companies like us haven’t seen any of the benefits.

“We stand opposite to them in a lot of ways and it is good for us to keep them at arm’s length – because the work we produce, the code of ethics we adhere to and the fact that we produce journalism that is fair and balanced is at odds to Facebook and the fact it permitted massacres to be live-streamed, and personal data to be misused to manipulate elections.”

She also told Mediawatch she objected to Facebook propagating conspiracy theories that Covid-19 was caused by 5G technology.

“Those things are damaging and we need to stand in opposition to that.”

Now she has.

Dealing with toxic comments online

Stuff also decided it was time to civilise the often unpleasant space “below the line”.

It stopped publishing online comments on news stories about the topics that got readers the most wound-up – including the mosque shootings, 1080, climate change, suicide and even transport.

Many other local media outlets had already abandoned comments for similar reasons (including RNZ, which dropped them just a year after introducing them, after it didn’t act quickly enough when unpleasant and extreme comments appeared on Checkpoint’s Facebook page).

“In an era when many media outlets simply outsource comments to the unmoderated wilds of Facebook, we continue to see value in a curated conversation,” Stuff’s chief editor, Patrick Crewdson, said at the time.

But online engagement with the audience is vital to any media company operating in the online era, so why would Stuff cut off such a critical conduit?

“We get 7000 comments a day from a daily audience of 1.2 million unique browsers. It’s actually a drop in the bucket,” Crewdson previously told Mediawatch.

On Monday, Crewdson told RNZ readers could still share Stuff stories from their own Facebook feeds, but the plethora of accounts for Stuff’s various sections’ and mastheads became officially “dormant” from Monday morning.

“Seven hundred and 50 large companies around the world are boycotting Facebook in terms of ads because is is not doing enough on fake news and hate speech,” Crewdson said.

Less online traffic back to Stuff’s site means less income per advert placed on the site, so pulling content altogether will come at a cost, though Crewdson is not sure what that will be.

“We’re going to measure the impact of this but we have a large loyal audience that comes directly to us each day. Some which come via Facebook will come directly,” he said.

Wee will see if Stuff holds out, or goes back to feeding the DFacebook monster.

 

 

Leave a comment

22 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  7th July 2020

    Only thing I agree with Lindsey Perigo about…’Faeces book’.

    Reply
  2. NOEL

     /  7th July 2020

    Don’t have Facebook. Went to Suff after the Herald put those yellow bars above a big percentage of their articles. Fail to understand how letters to the editor are premium content.

    Anyway asked the wife who has Facebook and said she access Stuff from Google not Facebook.

    Reply
    • Ditto, the odd time I do. I didn’t know it was on FB and wouldn’t have looked there for it.

      I was put off FB by a troll who sent me the most obscene messages I have ever read, and there’s not much that surprises me. I had done nothing to provoke this revolting behaviour and it was totally unnerving to have this filth appearing in my inbox.

      Tangent; beware of Neighbourly who give out email addresses and names to all and sundry so that personal emails can be sent to members.

      Reply
      • This is on their website but not, I think, on the application, or wasn’t. It was buried among a lot of blahblahblah, needless to say.

        I unsubscribed as soon as I discovered this and why I was being sent these things, and so did a few other people who were annoyed to discover that Neighbourly was sending out their names and email addresses to various bods.

        Reply
        • But if you don’t see anything wrong with your name and email being given out by Neighbourly, then join by all means, and accept that personal emails will then be sent to you.

          Reply
  3. Grumpy

     /  7th July 2020

    Who would have thought……far Left Stuff (who don’t allow dissent on their opinion pages for blue ribbon leftist causes like Global Warming), boycotting Facebook for allowing too much conservative content.
    The real reason they want to leave Facebook is the abuse they suffer there from ordinary people objecting to their constant far left, praise the PM drivel.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  7th July 2020

      Not surprising then. Criticism’s one thing, but most sensible folk prefer to avoid abuse.

      Reply
  4. David

     /  7th July 2020

    I dont understand why Stuff and NZherald dont whitelist their pages from ad blockers. Surely with 1.2 million unique visitors they could profitably monetize that.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  7th July 2020

      Online ads only get a small fraction of the revenue that ads in newsprint get. Its just a fact.
      They dont use much popup ads. I dont see any in desktop but they do happen on phone
      The real issue is their regular audience like you and me is older, and always has been. Advertisers want young readers – under 40 and facebook delivers that

      Reply
      • David

         /  7th July 2020

        The cost of getting the ad to the consumer is a fraction of the cost as well but it seems dumb practice to ask for micro donations and then close yourself off from a revenue source.
        Its just so backward here that you wouldnt want to advertise to me at 52 years old, I am loaded and spend an eye wateringly large amount each year through business and personally. I have friends who make me look parsimonious.
        Advertising agencies are stacked with 30 year olds who imagine past 50 you are at home saving for your pensions. Stuff should hook up with the Herald and start their own agency or portal to advertise easily on both sites like they radio industry does.

        Reply
        • Some people must buy things from online ads, but I never have. The ones that I saw before I discovered AdBlock seemed to be largely American, anyway. Thank goodness Microsoft finally realised that people don’t want part of the screen hogged by ads for things they don’t want; even the grey strip was better than the ads, especially the distracting and intrusive moving ones. But then that disappeared, too.

          Reply
        • Blazer

           /  7th July 2020

          ‘ I am loaded ‘…well all we need do to do is fire you into the Tasman Sea…..you’re so inflated ,I’m sure you’ll float…back.

          Reply
  5. Pink David

     /  7th July 2020

    Will Facebook notice?

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  7th July 2020

      Who cares? I avoid Facebook. It’s a behemoth that can’t be trusted with too much information constantly pushing content & services & people I might like to be friends with that I don’t want. It’s gone from a good idea to a monster.

      Reply
      • Pink David

         /  7th July 2020

        Stuff cares. Why else would the word ‘boycotting’ be used? I don’t use it, I never make any claim that I am boycotting it.

        Again;

        “The latest experiment was in the context of an international boycott Facebook movement, and applied until further notice, the email said.”

        It’s a commercial move, I would guess primary for publicity. Stuff has moved to the donation model for revenue, it likely believes it will collect more money from donations on the back of it’s ‘boycott’ than it receives from Facebook revenue.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  7th July 2020

          Tbh I read the Stuff article last night & smiled when it said they are doing this as a trial. Sounded like they’re trialling whether their principles are affordable or not.

          Reply
  6. Tom Hunter

     /  7th July 2020

    “They have built businesses off the quality content others have created,”

    See, that I laughed at.

    I advise everybody to get off Facebook since it’s selling information about you to everybody and it has issues with censorship, having booted numerous centre-right groups off its platform.

    But that doesn’t mean people will return to the likes of Stuff.co.nz either. They’re hopeless, althougn the demise of things like NZ Woman’s Weekly will give them a breathing space for a while.

    Die MSM, Die.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  7th July 2020

      Journalists are now pack animals so they exhibit group think which is killing their media. The future must be in some kind of aggregator that make original thinkers and commentators accessible. Problem is that the current versions (Google, FB etc.) select via the perceived biases of the customers and reinforce those, often with dubious regard to source quality and reliability. Hard to see a solution.

      Reply
  7. Duker

     /  7th July 2020

    The new look fromt page Stuff revealed last week also meant changes behind the scenes. Im always interested in the cookies web sites are linked to and Stuff is now going big with something called Demdex and its cookies from Adobe Software while ditching facebook cookies
    This seems to allow Stuff to control some of the personalisation that Facebook would use to send targeted ads. My knowledge is rudimentary but no surprise that they dont need Facebook any more when they can build their own database of the viewers likes and digital profile.
    Stuff used to send its news stories as feeds on various ways for Facebook users. When Facebook added adds to the feed, Stuff got a small %. Plus if the reader clicked on the story it went back to stuffs website and increased the the page views for that item and its surrounding ads.
    The tone of the Stuff frontpage is now more serious and genuine compared the Herald with its headlines and crap stories designed for Facebook feeds.
    One might suceed where the other goes more into fake news and rubbish everyday

    Reply
  8. I wonder how many people even knew that Stuff was on FB. Or used FB to look for it. Or looked up Stuff AS Stuff rather than getting it by default when they looked up a story or clicked on a link to one.

    Reply

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