Meta’s block on Canadian news content led to an increase in news app downloads and usage

  • Meta at the start of August began blocking news content on Facebook for users in Canada.
  • Major news publishers there had for over a year seen a marked drop in traffic from Facebook.
  • Now, many news outlets are seeing an increase in downloads and usage of their apps.

The decision by Meta to restrict user access to news in Canada is not entirely negative for the country’s major publishers.

The social media company began blocking Canadians from clicking links or engaging with news publishers’ Facebook pages such as CBC, The Globe and Mail, and CTV in August. In response to new legislation requiring Meta to negotiate licenses with news publishers and pay for their content, Canadians using Facebook or Instagram now see links to and posts about news stories obscured by a note that reads, “People in Canada can’t see this content.” The note goes on to say that the block is in response to “government legislation,” despite the fact that the Canadian News Act isn’t set to go into effect until December.

According to a Similarweb analysis of the country’s most popular news websites, web traffic to Canadian news sites had been flat to down for a year prior to Meta’s news ban. According to Similarweb, CBC, The Globe and Mail, and CTV, as well as Global News and The National Post, have seen a steady decline in referral traffic from Facebook since the beginning of 2022. This decrease corresponds to Meta’s decision last year to invest less in news content on its platforms and redirect those funds elsewhere.

Meta’s decision to block news content was a further, albeit more extreme, step away from news. Even as Canada faced a historic wildfire season, the company maintained the ban, which Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said demonstrated that Facebook was “putting corporate profits ahead of people’s safety.”

Despite the loss of access to Facebook and Instagram, several major Canadian news outlets are seeing an increase in downloads and usage of their own apps, according to an Apptopia analysis. CTV, Globe and Mail, and French language outlet La Presse apps saw thousands more downloads in August than in July, when content was still available on Meta’s platforms.

CTV News saw a 157% increase in app downloads and an 83% increase in daily usage in August, while The Globe and Mail saw a 98% increase in app downloads and a 27% increase in daily users. La Presse saw a 32% increase in app downloads and an 8% increase in usage, while The National Post saw a nearly 10% increase in downloads and a 3% increase in daily usage. Meanwhile, downloads and daily usage at CBC News have remained relatively flat.

Since Meta’s ban, news outlets such as CTV, which is part of the major conglomerate Bell Media, have urged people to download its news app.

“We’re letting our viewers know through television, radio, and online messages that they can continue to receive and share information and breaking news stories that will impact them, from their local community and around the world, by downloading our news apps and continuing to visit our news websites,” a Bell spokesperson said. “In recent weeks, we have seen an increase in CTV News app downloads, which demonstrates the importance of having access to online news from a Canadian perspective.”

News publishers in Europe and the United Kingdom may need to take similar steps to break readers’ habit of receiving news through their Facebook feeds. Meta announced this week that it would remove Facebook’s News Tab in the United Kingdom, Germany, and France by the end of the year. Despite the fact that the tab was launched in 2019, Meta stated that people “don’t come to Facebook for news.”

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