Danish media start-up stops Facebook ads, increases membership

By L. Carol Christopher


Pleasant Hill, California, USA


After several tumultuous weeks on the front between news media publishers and digital platforms, it was relatively quiet this week. In the news, one small news publisher in Denmark is seeing membership success despite a departure from Facebook, while commentary offered a cautionary note to Canadian publishers about efforts to establish a link tax. 

Danish publisher stops Facebook ads, increases membership 

When Danish news media publisher Zetland decided to stop using Facebook and Instagram advertising during July, it wasn’t sure what to expect, according to Digiday. Its initial plan was to put some of the money into podcasts. By July 9, it had met 50% of its membership target — with 20% of that number deriving from podcast sponsorship. 

Prior to July, Zetland invested 98% of its marketing budget in Facebook.
Prior to July, Zetland invested 98% of its marketing budget in Facebook.

Prior to the move, Zetland put 98% of its marketing budget into Facebook, with a customer acquisition cost of about US$45.67. Now that money is going to hire more journalists. 

Zetland has 16,000 paying members, 30 staffers, a standard monthly membership fee of US$19.61, and publishes up to four long-form news stories daily. In good months, Facebook generates about one-third of its new members, so it was no small step to disengage.

“This was no easy decision. We felt our hands shaking when we made it,” said CEO Tav Klitgaard. 

Zetland may be better positioned for a move of this nature than many publishers:

  1. It’s small and specialised.
  2. It is reliant on “reader recurring revenue rather than driving ad money through clicks,” DIgiday said

Further, although it has reduced its dependence on Facebook, it continues to publish organic links to articles on Facebook and Instagram “to drive new readers and generate chatter about its pieces. Nearly 29% of its referral traffic comes from social media, 85% of that is from Facebook,” the article reported

Zetland joins a few other publishers who are staying away from Facebook for the time being, such as New Zealand publisher Stuff, the article said.

Canadian link tax on news content proposed, challenged 

As things heat up between many Canadian news media publishers and the digital platforms that distribute their content, not everyone is on board with the idea that a link tax is the right way to go, according to iPolitics.

The idea of a link tax is getting mixed reviews in Canada.
The idea of a link tax is getting mixed reviews in Canada.

While industry representatives and some government officials are pushing for legislative endorsement of news licensing fees, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who is also a Canada Research Chair in Internet and e-commerce law, Michael Geist, has suggested that the platforms might simply replace the content with that written in another country that had no such fees.

Meanwhile, the article quoted John Hinds, CEO of industry association News Media Canada, as saying that he is “excited” at the prospect of a link tax: “If you want a sustainable media industry, you have to create the market conditions where that will happen and the [link tax] is one of the ways that will do that.”

Banner image courtesy of Gerd Altmann, Csaba Nagy, and Steve Buissinne from Pixabay.

About L. Carol Christopher

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