Indiegraf discusses implications of Bill C-18 with Canadian network publishers

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On July 10, Indiegraf held a meeting for all Canadian publishers in the network to contribute their perspectives on the passing of the Online News Act, or Bill C-18, by the Canadian government earlier this month. Seven publishers from across the country were present: Sun Peaks Independent News, The Flatlander, Peterborough Currents, Energeticcity, The Discourse, The Resolve and The Breach. Indiegraf co-founders Erin Millar and Caitlin Havlak moderated the hour-long discussion, which included the latest responses from the government and tech companies, Q&A and an open brainstorm for innovative, equitable alternative approaches to growing audience. 

Here’s a summary of Indiegraf’s Bill C-18 discussion: 

  • The future remains unclear: While it has been passed as a law, the Online News Act has not yet been implemented. Regulations need to be established, and that process can take up to 6 months and include additional consultation and input on how this should be implemented. There’s some uncertainty on the timing and when this will happen, but we’re already weeks into the six-month maximum period for legal approval. 
  • Facebook is starting to remove content: We expect that Facebook will pull content across the board. They have already started to do so in an inconsistent manner. We hope to get more clarity on Facebook’s intended reactions to this law in the coming days. 
  • Google’s interpretation of the legislation: Google confirmed they are taking a broad interpretation of what can be removed. Essentially, anybody who’s publishing and sharing journalism could be likely to be removed from the Google platform, including Search and Discovery. This will also ban paid promotions, we learned.
  • The possibility of a government bailout: Government bailout could be a possibility via programs that provide emergency funding similar those created during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • How the Canadian journalism industry is organizing: Village Media and Local News Collective are working with several Canadian news organizations. Press Forward put out a statement on behalf of its members and plans to prioritize this issue. The board will meet to advocate for reallocating the government’s ads budget to indie outlets and to get involved in the regulations process. “We can’t really guarantee how effective it will be, but we’re really going to try and have a say in what’s happening there,” said Brandi Schier, publisher of Sun Peak News and a member of Press Forward’s Board of Directors. “Long term, we’re really thinking about how to successfully get deals for smaller indies if Facebook and Google are subject to this law and they actually have to pay to use this content.” Press Forward has also been in talks with a labour lawyer to form a bargaining unit to strike deals with platforms collectively. One issue is the lack of transparency around what these deals actually look like for different  groups. If you’d like to join Press Forward’s work, check out the membership criteria
  • Ideas and innovations to persevere: We also discussed a few solutions for driving audience without social and search referrals:
    • Consumers will miss the spontaneity of receiving news and will be forced to seek out news, presenting an opportunity to build direct relationships with readers
    • Launch a mobile app, saw uptick in email subscribers and downloads
    • Run SMS/text message campaigns 
    • Use social media as a relationship builder instead of a link pusher
    • Aggregated news in your newsletter
    • Figure out what your audience wants and what your capacity allows
    • Start a referral program to reach new audience
    • Indiegraf is putting together assets to help support some of those campaign efforts 

Indiegraf’s response to Bill C-18 will be ongoing. We’ll continue to provide updates from us and our partner publishers in the newsletter. If you have any questions or ideas, don’t hesitate to reach out to us

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