Hello Digital looks at the highlights from the week that was.

It’s been a big week in digital news, but you won’t be able to read about it on Facebook. Undoubtedly the most significant piece of news this week was Facebook’s ban on news content in Australia. We take a closer look at this in our Weekly Wrap, as well as the latest update to Google Search Ads and the successful landing of the rover Perseverance on the surface of Mars. 

Keep reading for more…


Facebook Australia bans sharing or viewing news content for publishers and users

Australian’s woke up on Thursday morning to find their ability to access and share news content on Facebook had been blocked. Facebook made the decision “with a heavy heart” to stop allowing news content on their services in Australia in response to the proposed media bargaining code. 

Facebook Australia & New Zealand’s Managing Director, William Easton, stated in a blog post on Thursday morning: “The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content…It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia.”

They made the decision to go with the latter, effective immediately. 

The restriction covers sharing or viewing Australian and international news content on the platform. For a full rundown of what this means, take a look at Facebook’s blog.  

Criticism of the decision came in quick and fast, with many complaining about how the broad sweeping change wrongly affected many pages, including health departments, charities and even Facebook’s own pages. Facebook responded quickly to the mistake, with some pages restored by midday on Thursday, including those run by the Bureau of Meteorology and the state health departments. 

The Australian government has been firm in its stance on the media bargaining code and were quick to comment on Facebook’s decision. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters on Thursday that “Facebook was wrong. Facebook’s actions were unnecessary, they were heavy-handed, and they will damage its reputation here in Australia”.

Data compiled by Nielsen showed that the ban had an immediate impact on publishers. Several metrics for measuring audiences declined almost straight away when compared to data from the past six weeks. Nielson tracked the total sessions and total time spent for the Current Events & Global News category on Thursday and found that sessions fell by 16.1%. Total Time Spent was also down by 13% compared to the average of the past six Thursdays.

They also looked at how Australian media publishers in the news and information category had their content consumed in 2020. They found that on average, 22% of their audiences consumed their content exclusively on the Facebook app. That’s a massive percentage of your audience to lose in one day. 

While international opinion has been mixed about whether Facebook made the right decision, it’s already clear that the restrictions will have a massive impact on publishers. It’s also clear that it will drastically change the way Australians consume news content. 


Responsive search ads now the default in Google Ads

Google has announced further changes to Search Ads, with Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) now becoming the official default ad type. Users can still create expanded text ads, but Google is clearly pushing for people to favour RSAs in their campaigns. 

The update also occurred on the same day that Google officially started rolling out big changes to broad match modifier and phrase match modifier keywords in Search Ads. 

RSAs give advertisers the ability to input multiple headlines and ad copy variations, then Google Ads uses machine learning to decide which variations to use based on what kinds of search queries people are using. Variations of the headlines and descriptions are tested to determine which combinations perform best. Advertisers can then consult the Ad strength score to understand how to improve their RSAs for increased performance. 

While it might not make a big difference to most advertisers, some marketers say that implementation of RSAs versus ETAs is often a lot harder in organisations with rigorous legal and stakeholder approval processes. 


Rover lands safely on Mars and sends back first images of the surface

NASA celebrated the successful landing of the rover Perseverance today, after a tense descent to the surface of Mars. The team had to pick a landing spot just moments before making a rocket-powered sky-crane landing. 

Almost immediately, the rover sent back its first image of Jezero Crater, which it will spend its mission exploring.

There were a few brief but expected communication blackouts between the rover and NASA, largely caused by the superheated air surrounding the craft as it entered the thin Martian atmosphere. But the lander sent back a continuous stream of updates to the team on Earth, although considerably delayed by the distance to the other planet.

Take a look at TechCrunch’s article for some of the images from Mars’ surface.