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Future of Media: Facebook's news truce, should you fake a billboard? New innovation column


By John McCarthy | Opinion editor

February 25, 2021 | 9 min read

This is an extract from The Drum’s Future of Media briefing. You can subscribe to it here if you’d want the full thing in your inbox once a week.


John McCarthy (Twitter, Linkedin, email) with a final reminder to enter The Drum Online Media Awards and get your work and your teams the recognition they deserve.

Now to the stories.

Media Innovation Round-Up

I'm pleased to welcome new columnist Marek Wrobel, head of futures at Havas Media to The Future of Media coverage. Yes, there are a lot of futures and medias in that sentence. In his regular video newsletter, Wrobel sniffs out innovative media tech like AR, VR, gaming, phygital, QR, whatever you can think of, and analyses its utility to marketers.

For The Drum, once a month, he'll round up cool activations you need to know about (if you want to be at the cutting edge of media that is).

In his debut, he goes deep on a Lego music video app, an Alexa tour of Abu Dhabi and the NFL's experience in Fortnite. I can't recommend it enough, read it here.

What does OOH dooh?

The out of home advertising industry hit the gym while we were locked away accumulating more digital screens, better buying software, and a slew of clever dynamic campaigns as a result.

So when an out-of-the-box billboard (Marmite) and poster (KitKat but not really KitKat) went 'marketing viral' last week, it was clearly time to study the changing nature of the medium.

One ad ran in the real world, and the other didn't, yet both had the same online plaudits. This raised two questions: can you use custom OOH builds and great ideas to drive real PR fame? And do you need to incur the cost of running the ad in the real world?

The advent of the smartphone and social media sharing, a famine of digital creativity, and the very real nature of OOH have all contributed to the OOH PR springboard effect. Learn more here.

Facebook again

Facebook time. It's been a bit more WTF than usual.

Facebook's Australia new blockage was a spit-take moment.

First I thought: 'Good, Facebook would be better without news right? And maybe the news would be better without Facebook.'

Then I read that about 40% of Australians use Facebook for news. That's a lot of good people getting a lot of good information from the social network... maybe. We know the algorithm (or human engagement patterns), favours outrage and divisiveness.

So then I saw publishers buying Facebook ads telling readers to visit their sites direct. Even at war, the newsfeed addiction couldn't be broken. We had a clumsy law trying to shake some more coin out of Facebook, and the stand-off would have no winners, as UM's Adam Morton wrote for us. I'm very much in the big tech should probably pay more tax camp but I think he was right.

The publishers could smell blood. Facebook had urged them to build huge audiences on its platform, then strangled the organic reach. It told them that video was the future, which clobbered good journalism in favour of not-so-good social-friendly chaff. Then shock horror, Facebook's metrics weren't up to scratch, which is actually pretty common in any analytics dashboards, but most don't merit a court case to hide them right enough.

Then Facebook reached a truce with the government after News Corp reached a deal with it. This doesn't necessarily help smaller publishers who are still struggling. Australia wants Facebook to acknowledge this, and efforts are underway for reimbursement. There are further deals coming in Canada.

Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs, is a busy man. And the ex-UK deputy prime minister is in full-spin mode. He shared 'The Real Story of What Happened With News on Facebook in Australia'. Take 'real' with a pinch of salt, but also understand that publishers blatantly misrepresented the practicalities and worst implications of the Oz law now there's a profit to be made.

Clegg said it sent "5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407m to the news industry".

I wonder what content benefited from these big numbers. Was it stuff with utility to society or the clickbait, or worse yet, clickhate, that seems to perform admirably on Facebook? Anecdotally, some Australians seemed to prefer Facebook without the publishers, a reminder of the time, long ago, when the social network was an intimate place to talk to, and poke, friends. That seems quaint now.

In somewhat related news, in the UK, the CMA is making more noise about the ad duopoly, and it appears that Facebook kicked the Myanmar military off of the site after a military coup.

Other Stuff

I've now hit my word count (thanks Facebook) so here are some great links I think you should check out. And I mean that. So do it.

That's all for this week. If you missed the last issue, read it here. And you can subscribe to our other briefings here.

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