What the Australian Facebook Media Blackout Means for Creatives

It’s been an extremely rough 24 hours for a lot of people in Australia since the application of the news ban on Facebook. I’m currently living and working in New Zealand, so the ban didn’t directly apply, however it still has a far-reaching impact beyond Australia.

It’s not just mainstream news outlets in Australia that have been affected by this ban. In the past 24 hours I’ve seen posts on Facebook and Twitter from blogs, charities and even clothing companies who have immediately felt the impact of this. It’s an absolute gut-punch. I highly suggest you read this article from Andrew F. Peirce at The Curb that explains the extent of the impact and also peers unflinchingly at our societal reliance on Facebook. As he says in the article:

It’s not hard to see that all we want is to gain an audience and readership and to inform our readers of what culture is worthwhile paying attention to. The majority of the traffic for The Curb comes from Facebook clicks. The same goes for countless other organisations, websites, community services, charities, and more. People open up Facebook, plug in what they’re looking for, and find it that way. If not, a post will appear in their newsfeed and they might click on it. 

As I stated before, I’m living and working in New Zealand, but this ban has an impact beyond Australia for me and many of my peers and colleagues. Many of the articles I’ve written about social media marketing and self-promotion for The Big Idea have very kindly been syndicated by the Australian website ArtsHub. While it’s easy to click on the website and read the articles, I’ve constantly shared to Facebook as I have many Australian colleagues in the film industry who may or may not be interested in the content. As I’m moving away from publicity and social media marketing and towards film production and producing trans-Tasman collaborations (either shorts or features), it was a way to say: “here I am, this is what I do, this is what I know.”

What could this potentially mean from a publicity and social media marketing POV for creatives? Facebook is a natural default when it comes to social media. When you have a project you want to promote (whether it’s a film, a band or a book), it’s easier to build your audience on Facebook in a shorter amount of time than Instagram or Twitter. Many people I’ve talked to over the years about social media marketing for films have told me that they don’t have a website for their film (which is expensive, labour-intensive and costs money for domain names, etc) but have a Facebook page. Even if they don’t have any other social media, Facebook is there. Thus it becomes a place to showcase your work and build your audience, which includes sharing links to reviews and articles. And those reviews and articles become important social proof to your audience. But if you’re in Australia, chances are you won’t see those articles on Facebook.

It’s not the be-all end-all for creatives. Not by a long shot. It affects the way we naturally use social media, however. In the past 24 hours I’ve seen creatives, writers, reviewers and website owners weighing up their options and it’s been heartbreaking (read Andrew’s article on The Curb for further insight).

Perhaps it means that we do need to re-think the current model. I feel like we’re so conditioned to hop onto Facebook because it’s like the neighbourhood water cooler. I’ve used my personal Facebook in the past few years to connect with filmmaking colleagues that I might not get the chance to see on a daily basis, as well as people I would like to collaborate with in the future. I’ve also amplified the signal for many projects in Australia and New Zealand as I have a passion for Australasian cinema. And these weren’t Sprites clients- these were filmmakers and films I’ve ardently supported. In addition, I relied on Australasian film and culture sites to keep up to date not only with upcoming releases, but to find out about conferences and other initiatives. I have admired and appreciated the work that these sites continue to offer, and I’m frustrated that they will be affected by this.

So what can we do?

Obviously, I’m one person and I don’t have all the answers. However, I do have this platform and I’m going to use it. Here’s a few ways to help support Australian creatives beyond Facebook:

  • The first and most obvious way is to follow their other social media handles. That way you can stay up to date with their happenings and share their content.
  • Andrew at The Curb has an excellent idea: set up an RSS feed account so you can follow any Australasian film websites you regularly follow.
  • See if your favourite creative/website has a Patreon and consider subscribing. Patreon is awesome and even the smallest donation on the smallest tier can help. I actually worked out that if I cut back on my terrible weekly takeout coffee habit (which worked out to $25 a week!) I could support at least five creatives per month.
  • Subscribe to their website newsletter if they have it.

While I’m here, I wanted to also amplify the signal of some of my favourite Australasian culture websites. I hope that you’ll subscribe to their newsletters, follow their social media on other platforms and support the continued excellent quality work they provide:

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