A Publisher’s Guide for Responding to Bill C-18

5 strategies to help your publication thrive beyond Big Tech.
Facebook and Meta icons. how publishers can respond to bill c-18.
Photo by Dima Solomin on Unsplash.

As you’ve likely heard, last month Meta permanently ended news availability on its platforms in Canada in response to government legislation. Pivot co-founder Gabrielle Brassard-Lecours wrote about how this ban has affected independent media. You can read the full English version here or the original French version here

We’ve been working hard with Canadian publishers, both within the Indiegraf network and beyond, on how best to respond. All publishers should think about long-term resilience and distribution independence — we will work to continue implementing these strategies for publishers that enlist our Indie Audience services. Keep reading for recommendations and actions that you can take today, plus examples of how publishers are already integrating these strategies. 

Build direct relationships with your audience

  • Encourage your audience to subscribe to your newsletter and update them frequently. Generate an automated newsletter after every article is published.
  • Improve circulation on your site with features like push notifications and recirculation blocks. These notifications are small message alerts that are triggered in the reader’s browser when you publish new content. We use the free tier of the OneSignal service.
  • Take it all offline! Print posters directing to your newsletter sign-up page or homepage, table for sign ups at community events, and host events that bring the community out to you. IndigiNews created a printable poster which featured a QR code that linked to its newsletter sign-up page. The publication also shared social media graphics and encouraged the audience to post across social media to show their support for IndigiNews. 

Grow your audience through new distribution channels

  • We don’t know how other distribution channels will be impacted by these legislative changes. For now, let’s cast a wide net and see what sticks.
  • Set up news aggregators like Flipboard, Apple News, Ground News and Newsbreak. Keep an eye on Google News in case the Canadian government is able to broker a deal with them.
  • As old fashioned as it sounds, link to your RSS feed on your website. For Indie Tech publishers, your RSS feed can be found at yoursite.com/feed, e.g., indiegraf.com/feed. For example, we love this explainer from The Narwhal.
  • Try focusing on different social channels like LinkedIn, Reddit, and Twitter. Energeticcity shared its new social strategy with their audience, which includes converting a few stories daily into videos that will be posted on TikTok and YouTube
  • Consider testing out newer platforms like Mastodon and Bluesky.
  • Connect with other publishers for newsletter swaps, content sharing and ad space swaps. For example, IndigiNews partnered with The Conversation’s anti-racist news podcast Don’t Call Me Resilient. They did a newsletter ad swap and co-produced the episode, “Why preserving Indigenous languages is so critical to culture.” 
  • Encourage sponsors and advertisers to promote their partnership with your publication on social channels and in their newsletters. 

Respond to audience need

  • Rethink how you are approaching news. Use social media as a relationship builder instead of a link pusher.
  • Invest in short video content to engage readers via TikTok, Reels, and YouTube Shorts. This will also help you reach the younger demographic, which primarily consumes news through video. For example, Quebec outlet Pivot has been growing its TikTok account and its videos have garnered over 14,000 likes and counting. Kansas City Defender has built up its Instagram following to over 32,000 followers by taking inspiration from outside the industry to reach their target audience. 
  • Become a more centralized source of news.
    • Explore aggregated curated newsletters. 
    • Add a section to your website highlighting external links to news. 
    • Explore content sharing between publishers. 
    • Subscribe to CP or AP RSS feeds to increase frequency and become more of a destination for news. For example, The Flatlander, an independent online journalism project that covers Manitoba and Saskatchewan, incorporates stories from The Canadian Press to supplement its coverage of the region. 

Educate your existing audience about C-18 and offer alternatives

  • Add an automated CTA at the bottom of your articles with quick ways to connect with your publication, like subscribing to RSS feeds, following on other social channels or distribution channels. 
  • Keep your audience informed about these changes and how it’s impacting your publication. For example, Newfoundland and Labrador’s The Independent produced this video addressing how its readers will be affected and what they can do about it. The Breach publisher Dru Oja Jay wrote this article breaking down the flaws in Bill C-18. 
  • Take interviews with radio stations and newspapers to get the word out about how Bill C-18 is affecting independent publishers. For example, The Independent editor Justin Brake has done interviews with a local radio station and the CBC. Publishers have also been taking interviews, like this article in the New York Times with Matthew DiMera (The Resolve), this article in the Toronto Star with Eden Fineday and this article by NBC with Anna McKenzie (both IndigiNews). 

Leverage this moment as a campaign opportunity for audience and revenue growth

  • Get aggressive with popups or other CTAs on your website to sign-up for your newsletter.
  • Contact your past and current sponsors/writers/board members, etc. and ask them to sign-up and forward to friends, family, colleagues.
  • Continue to run lead generation ads on Meta to keep reaching your audience and move them to other platforms.
  • Encourage readers to bookmark your website so they can access news and information in one click.
  • Create shareable templates for socials, asking readers to share them with friends. You can distribute these through email and put the newsletter sign-up link in the graphic itself.
  • Focus on selling newsletter, in-person event and content sponsorships.

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