Bill C-18 and access to local news: what it means for readers

I’ve seen some great grudge matches in my life, but we’re looking at an all-timer here with the Online News Act.

When Bill C-18 passed in June, multinational tech company Meta Platforms wasted little, if any, time in telling anyone who would listen that social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, both of which they own, would prevent users from sharing or viewing news articles in the future.

At stake is online ad revenue, which has plummeted for Canadian media companies. In 2014, roughly 23 per cent of online advertising went to local media. Now, it’s down to less than six per cent.

Bill C-18 requires that digital companies adhere to a new revenue sharing model where they pay news organizations when someone clicks a link to a web story through one of their social media products. The tech companies have protested this decision, arguing the bill doesn’t recognize just how much traffic social media sites send to their local newspaper, radio station, or online website.

There’s a whole other column to be written on whether Bill C-18 is a good or bad idea, and whether tech companies are valiantly defending their turf or just being greedy. But this column isn’t about either of those things. It’s about you, the reader, and how this will affect you should you decide to share one of our stories, photos, or videos on one of your social media accounts. It’s also about the Daily Herald, and how we plan to move forward once our social media presence takes a big hit.

First, the good news, at least for our supporters: we’re not going anywhere. The Daily Herald website will remain online. You can still read it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and twice when the Raiders thrash the Blades at some undetermined date in the future. However, Meta will block the posting or sharing of links to our news articles, and Google News will remove links to our online articles.

That means you’ll have to change how you access our coverage. First, you can follow us on Twitter. Whether you love Twitter owner Elon Musk or hate him, the site is one of the few that won’t block or restrict our links and your ability to share them. If social media is an important part of your news consumption, following us on Twitter is the way to go.

Second, bookmark our homepage on your computer. We need readers to take the initiative and visit our website without being directed there by a third party. Bookmarking is the best way to do that.

Third, scan the QR codes found on this page for help subscribing, advertising, or visiting our homepage. Fourth, and most crucially, if you value local news from local sources, consider purchasing an ad in a media outlet like ours.

There is a lot of misinformation on the internet. Local news outlets aren’t perfect, but we do our best to get the story right. We don’t print rumours. We correct mistakes. We make sure you hear all sides, but we can’t do it without your support, and your support is more important than ever.

Jason Kerr is the editor of the Prince Albert Daily Herald.