About online access to news

Jeff Burgar

You may have seen TV ads about how Google and Facebook are turning off access to Canadian news sites.

This ‘access’ thing is due to the Canadian government and its C-18 bill, intended to help Canadian news providers get some kind of ‘fair share’ deal from the two companies.

Our own newspaper industry in Canada has different ideas about the best way to do this. Of course, as independent weeklies (such as this one) are concerned, our own ideas don’t get listened to much.

Google so far has not seemed to be doing much. But the actual government law does not go into effect until the end of 2023. Even so, Facebook, or Meta, has already started restricting access to Canadian news producers of all kinds. If you are a FB or Instagram user, you might be seeing message such as: “There are no posts available,” or something like that on news Facebook pages.

Down the road, you might see some kind of similar message from Google, or just simply see a radio, TV or newspaper site not show up at all.

In the meantime, so far as we can tell, there hasn’t been any real effect from the Facebook/Meta changes. Depending on who is doing the counting, traffic on our newspaper sites is up anywhere from five to 24 per cent over the same period last year.

Again, depending on who is doing the counting, our numbers range from 22,000 unique visitors to just under 60,000 per month at southpeacenews.com. The smokyriverexpress.com range is between 10,000 to 24,000 per month. This is the high and low out of five different independent services counting traffic we used. The rest of the counts from the other services are in between those numbers.

This ‘who is counting’ thing is something we have been hassling our newspaper associations about for a long time.

Website analytics are all over the place as far as methods are concerned. We would like to see them standardized so everybody, including you if you have a website, is on the same page as far as counting traffic.

As far as Bill C-18 is concerned, Google and Facebook/Meta between them get over 85 per cent of the ad business in Canada. Not surprising, since they now own almost all the digital ad agencies in the world.

Hardly a level playing field!

Along the lines of more ways to get news, this newspaper will be soon offering an improved version of what is called an e-edition of the newspaper.

This is an online version of the entire print copy of each week’s newspaper. It is different from our website, in that it is a direct copy of the actual newspaper and has all the advertising and all the stories and pictures.

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