The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s ABC News app shot to the top of Apple’s App Store charts in Australia over the course of the last few days, not long after Facebook banned Australian news sources on its platform. As Financial Times’ Uma Patel suggests in a tweet thread, that’s possibly because ABC capitalized on Facebook’s news ban with an ad sending users to its app.
ABC News currently sits at No. 2 in the App Store’s overall app rankings in Australia, according to the analytics firm App Annie, and No. 1 in the news app charts. When Patel noticed the change, the app was also briefly No. 1 overall, ahead of Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and the Facebook app itself.
ABC has used facebook's ban to prompt visitors to download its app.. it became the most downloaded app in Australia.... although the next four are all owned by Facebook and the 6th is a company fb tried to buy pic.twitter.com/jGxeXYxv6x— Uma Patel (@umabp) February 19, 2021
Facebook’s ban was in response to an expansive Australian regulatory measure that will force tech platforms to pay Australian media companies for the content users share (and that platforms earn ad revenue from). Facebook took issue with the change and prohibited Australian news and media organizations from sharing news posts, and Australian users from seeing news from international sources as well. The ban also seemed to accidentally wipe out the posts from government pages and some other sites.
Facebook’s ban dramatically shrunk the audience for some Australian news outlets, sending traffic down 93 percent the day after the ban was put in place, according to NiemanLab. But ABC News responded by adding a banner to its home page. “Missing our news on Facebook? — Get the latest news and live notifications with the ABC News app,” it reads. Since then, the app has risen from the high 400s to its current spot at No. 2.
Whatever the reason, readers heading directly to news sources over the social media sites that cannibalize them seems like a positive, and other news organizations could potentially take advantage of the ban in similar ways. It’s an unintended effect of Facebook’s hardline approach compared to its competitor Google, which struck a partnership deal with three of Australia’s largest media companies — Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment, and NewsCorp — for its News Showcase.