When Facebook kicked news websites off its platform last month, in response to a government plan to make social media giants pay for news, it arguably sent a shudder through some television shows.
Some shows, more than others, rely heavily on social media engagement, especially those that invite a conversation with their audience.
The Feed has screened on SBS (and SBS VICELAND) since 2013. With its predominantly young viewers and a limited promotion budget, social media has enabled it to ‘cut through.’ Indeed, the show has previously noted its target audience was online not through linear.
But a Facebook ‘ban’ (it has since been overturned, albeit temporarily) changes all that.
Presenter Marc Fennell tells TV Tonight, The Feed thankfully shifted its focus in recent years.
“When Facebook changed their video algorithms to de-emphasise video about two years ago, we decided to move away from focusing on Facebook views as our metric. That’s also a big part of why the show was moved from the secondary channel to the main channel. It’s also why we started doing more long-form stuff, more grown-up stuff. Because at that point, we recognised that we weren’t going to get the numbers on that platform that we once thought we were,” he says.
“Some things still performed, and still do perform really well on social.. the Comedy stuff still absolutely kills it on social platforms. In terms of long-form interviews and stories, we are now making them for the linear and on demand audience.”
Last week the show drew 67,000 metro viewers in its 10pm linear broadcast, but Fennell maintains that’s still bigger than when it was on VICELAND.
So far only Seven and Nine have forged a broadcaster deal with Facebook, but Fennell believes Facebook’s action is a wake-up call to not rely on third parties.
“I think what it does do is force everyone to invest in their news brands more heavily, so that people know to go to their website, and On Demand. I think that is a challenge for everybody,” he continues.
“It’s clear that places like the ABC and Nine -together with the SMH and The Age, are in a very strong position. When I say Nine, they have a very strong, well-regarded presence as a news brand. That isn’t necessarily true for every other media brand out there.
“I actually think that will now need to be a renewed focus, because if we are now putting the the onus on the viewers and news consumers to go to a website, download an app, tune in a certain point- then all of the different media brands that have new services really need to message their value to consumers again.
“I think that’s going to be something that SBS and everybody in this marketplace will now need to do.”
In late February Facebook reached an agreement with the Australian government that would see news returning to Australian users. As part of this agreement, Facebook and Google can avoid the News Media Bargaining Code adopted on February 25 if they “reach a commercial bargain with a news business outside the Code”.
“I think long term, it’s probably not a not a disaster,” Fennell suggests, “because it’ll force us to retake our relationship with the public, as opposed to relying on a third party mediator who, as we discovered, can change that algorithm in a heartbeat without consultation.”