Australia is currently making plenty of noise with its truly awful new link tax, but there’s something potentially more interesting happening in New Zealand. Stuff, a media organization that includes stuff.co.nz, the local news hub Neighbourly, and nearly a dozen other news sites, stopped publishing to Facebook last July; and they don’t really miss Big Blue. Stuff’s CEO, Sinead Boucher, from a symposium hosted by the Reuters Institute at the University of Oxford:
In July 2020, Sinead decided Stuff would walk away from its audience of over a million followers on Facebook and Instagram. This followed a move to stop advertising on the platform the year before. It was meant to be a quiet, internal experiment, but word of the decision was leaked to the public.
There are several interesting aspect to this story. The first is they stopped advertising on all Facebook properties back in 2019, following the Christchurch terror attack that was broadcast live on Facebook. Boucher says she was dissatisfied with Facebook’s response after the attack, essentially making a moral argument against supporting the social network.
Traffic to Stuff’s network is roughly flat over the past seven months — Boucher predicts being off Facebook has cost them 5-10% in traffic. This is certainly a measurable impact, but by no means existential, and it also means homepage and search traffic are up. There is a concern that Stuff isn’t able to serve some communities, particularly indigenous people, as well by being off Facebook, though. When they reached out to Facebook to see how they could work together, Facebook basically responded with an offer to help them use their paid marketing tools better.
All of this is coming as Stuff, and other media organizations, are dealing with how to build more trustworthy, self-sustaining organizations. Certainly seems like Facebook doesn’t need to be a part of the solution.