Meta abandons news (again)

AI trips up Wonka fans, social media has fun with Kellogg's and Wendy's, and more...

Happy Monday!

I graduated from university 20 years ago with a communication degree, specializing in journalism. I thought the media landscape was tough back then for new graduates, so I ended up working in Tokyo teaching English for a while. If only I had known then how bad it was really going to get! It’s probably hyperbolic to claim the news industry is in its death throes, but it’s certainly being transformed into a different beast with many players being lost along the way. The role of social media in this transformation is once again in sharp focus as a result of recent announcements from Meta and several news organizations.

Hit reply to this email and let me know - where do you get your news from nowadays?

P.S. Read to the end to find out how two different food company CEOs became social media roadkill last week, and all the best reporting and resources from last week!

For anyone with us for the first time, welcome to Inbound News! Just 10-15 minutes every Monday to catch up on the previous week. I cover the stories that matter with smart analysis and resources to help make sense of all the noise. But always with a healthy dose of skepticism and self-awareness. 😉 

👍️ Social media

Meta stops pretending they care about the news

What’s happening: Meta announced they will be removing the Facebook News tab from the bookmarks section in Australia and the US in April. It came after a similar announcement last September for the removal of Facebook News in the UK, France and Germany. They also confirmed they will not be entering into “new commercial deals for traditional news content” with any country once existing ones expire. There are still existing Facebook News agreements with publishers in Australia, France and Germany, while they have already let the agreements expire in the US and UK.

Why it’s happening: They stated it’s part of their goal to “better align our investments to our products and services people value the most.” (Just don’t mention the metaverse!) Meta asserted they need to focus their time and energy on what their users want, such as short-form video (presumably of the non-news variety). To support this idea, they claimed there has been a more than 80% drop in the number of people using Facebook News in Australia and the US last year, with news making up less than 3% of what people around the world see in their Facebook feeds. According to Meta, people don’t come to Facebook for news and political content, but rather “to connect with people and discover new opportunities, passions and interests.”

In a masterful display of gaslighting, Meta also stated that news organizations can “still leverage products like Reels and our ads system to reach broader audiences and drive people to their website”. So essentially Meta encourages news organizations to keep publishing their content on Meta’s platforms for free (oh, and please use Reels!), and then pay for Meta’s ad network to get any kind of traffic to their websites. Which is pretty insulting when you consider how news organizations are imploding because of the lack of organic traffic they get from social media platforms and the loss of advertising revenue because of… yep, the same social media platforms (and Google, online classifieds, ‘safety’ conscious advertisers, streaming and even retail ad networks, to be fair).

Why it’s important: News publishers are seeking ways to stay profitable. While a few like the New York Times are finding success with direct revenue from subscriptions, others are struggling with layoffs and closures. In Australia, Meta pays up to $200 million per year to news publishers. This represents up to 9% of annual net profit for the three major commercial media players in the country. The public broadcaster ABC used the money to fund 60 regional journalists. The federal government has a legislative mechanism to force Meta to negotiate, which they said will be invoked in coming weeks. Such confrontation did not go well in Canada, with Meta (and Google) removing all news content in June last year after their government introduced new legislation there forcing payment for links to news content. Meta did the same thing in Australia when the current agreement was being negotiated there in 2021.

This is all happening while more people are turning to social media platforms for their news, not fewer. Half of US adults get their news at least sometimes from social media, while Gen Z turns to social media first for breaking news. Meta stated this announcement doesn’t affect their “commitment to connecting people to reliable information on our platforms.” You have to admire their chutzpah saying this when they’ve removed news from entire countries and will be treating content from news organizations as equivalent to any random person’s content on their platforms.

End Of The World Oops GIF by The Gregory Brothers

Newsrooms everywhere nowadays…

⚡️ Social media quick bites

Meta (Facebook / Instagram / Threads)


Twitter (X)



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🤖 AI

When AI creations fail to match up to human reality

What happened: Parents were left fuming after paying £35 per ticket for their children to attend ‘Willy’s Chocolate Experience’ in Glasgow, Scotland. Advertising for the event had promised a “celebration of chocolate in all its delightful forms.” Except there was zero chocolate for anyone. Not even to look at, let alone eat. Just a measly jelly bean and a pitiful amount of lemonade for each child. The organizers had decided to use AI-generated images in their promotional posters, showing a chocolate river and marvellous Willy Wonka inspired creations everywhere. But the event was held in a warehouse which unsurprisingly looked like a warehouse, or perhaps a meth lab, with only a few very sad looking props and decorations including AI-generated background posters breaking up the dullness. Two poor souls had also been roped into playing an Oompa Loompa type character (who did her absolute best) and the supposed chocolatier himself.

Why it happened: The director of the company responsible for the fiasco has issued an apology on social media and promised to process refunds for the 850 people (!) that bought tickets. There wasn’t really an explanation, but he did state that he needed “a bit of time to process everything that has happened” and that he intends “to learn from this experience.” Clearly these lessons will revolve around the proper use of AI tools. Mind you, apparently he also uses AI to write vaccine conspiracy books for sale on Amazon.

Why it’s important: You should never just use AI-generated text and images without reviewing and editing them first. Otherwise you may find yourself advertising “a pasadise of sweet teats” or giving an actor “15 pages of AI-generated gibberish”. Showing images of things that simply do not and will not exist in reality is similarly a very bad idea. AI tools are simply that - tools. They can definitely help with content ideation and planning, analysis of data, and some simple generative tasks. But they still require a skilled person providing direction, revising the outputs, and adding the skill, knowledge, and experience of an actual human. Although legal repercussions have likely been avoided in this case, Air Canada found out what happens if you use AI chatbots without proper oversight.

😂 Be amazed: Somehow the offical website is still live. And here’s an extended tour from the day. Enjoy!

💫 AI quick bites


Microsoft / OpenAI

  • Mistral AI announced a “strategic partnership” with Microsoft, including their latest AI models being available to Azure cloud customers.

  • OpenAI and Microsoft are being sued by three more media organizations, accusing ChatGPT of reproducing their news content.

  • OpenAI accuses the New York Times of ‘hacking’ ChatGPT to generate anomalous results to provide evidence for its lawsuit.


✍️ The best reporting last week

Making pretzels part of the conversation on social media

How Auntie Anne crafts viral content: Bari Rosenstein Tippett, Auntie Ann’s senior social media manager, explains exactly how they do it in Adweek.

Today shows how broadcasting can evolve into digital brands

Leveraging off its website and social media platforms: Natalie Korach from The Wrap talks to the VP of content strategy for the show to discover more.

Inside TikTok’s money machine

The company is making millions, but some users are suffering: ABC (Australia) reports on how live streaming is turning some users into addicts.

The dark world of influencer forums

A site dedicated to hating others: Alice Porter from Mashable reveals Tattle Life, a space on the internet where malicious gossip about influencers rules.

Chinese TikTok experts teach Americans how to sell

The livestream shopping boom in China provides lessons: Caiwei Chen from Rest of World takes us inside the studios where US influencers are trained.

🧠 Resources to level up

Figure out pricing as a creator

Learn from an expert how to craft your pricing strategy: Tamilore Oladipo from Buffer enlists Justin Moore from Creator Wizard to share his insights.

How to handle negative PR

Béis responded to commentary about dirty bags: @thebrandblueprint breaks down how and why their response was perfect.

Check what’s trending on the platform: TikTok provides a monthly breakdown of the key trends and how to replicate them for your business.

Discover best practices for paid search in 2024

Drive more targeted traffic for a better ROI: Carlos Silva on the Semrush blog lists the 14 best practices in paid search for you to follow this year.

Maybe don’t worry about those ‘toxic’ backlinks after all

Why those backlinks you've been stressing about don’t matter: Joshua Hardwick from Ahrefs explains what we should and shouldn’t worry about.

😲 Really?

Let them eat cake cereal

Not great optics for food companies: First we have Kellanova CEO Steve Cahillane channelling his inner Marie Antoinette by explaining the company’s messaging in response to cost-of-living pressures is for low-income families to eat their Kellogg’s-branded cereals for dinner. Look, I know people with professional jobs who love eating cereal for dinner when they can’t be bothered cooking. Of course, that’s by choice and not economic necessity! He somehow appeared even more out of touch by claiming that a bowl of cereal with milk and fruit costs less than a dollar in the same interview.

Meanwhile new Wendy’s CEO Kirk Tanner mentioned in a conference call to their franchisees that they would be testing dynamic pricing. The socials lit up with how people will have to pay more for their products at times of peak demand, like when a train cancellation or wet weather causes Uber fares to increase. The company had to release a statement clarifying they were referring to planned digital menu boards that will allow them to more easily change menu items and offer discounts, especially during slower times during the day. Which actually makes a lot more sense for everyone!

These examples demonstrate how brands can easily lose control of the narrative when clumsy wording delivered to a specific audience is picked up by social media commentators thirsty for content and distributed to everyone.

Thanks for reading! 😄 

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