Canadians undergoing a shift in news consumption habits amid Bill C-18 standoff: Report

A new report by Vancouver-based communications agency Talk Shop found that since the enactment of Bill C-18, Canadians have been undergoing a major shift in how they access news online.

The legislation, which passed in June, forces Google and Meta to enter into negotiations with news businesses to pay them for linking to their content. That led both platforms to end news availability in Canada.

Meta has already started rolling out the change, preventing millions of Canadians from seeing or sharing news content from Canadian and international news businesses.

That’s critical, as Talk Shop’s report shows that social media (52 per cent) is the most commonly used medium to access news for Canadians, along with news websites (56 per cent).

The report indicates that half of Canadians (51 per cent), including mostly Gen Zs and Millennials (18-34 age group), are worried about how Bill C-18 will impact how they stay informed.

“There is no question that Bill C-18 will have an unintended impact on media consumption. We anticipate consumer loyalty surrounding chosen or preferred outlets will intensify,” noted Katie Stevens, managing partner at Talk Shop Media. 

Accordingly, the report highlights that 70 per cent of those concerned plan to change how they get their news. Nearly half plan to get news from sources not impacted by the legislation, including by subscribing to newsletters, downloading news publication applications, visiting news websites directly, picking up a physical paper media, watching the news, or listening to the radio.

“What we are seeing right now is not a loss, but a realignment in how consumers access news,” said Stevens.

Amid this market transformation, she recommends that businesses take a three-pronged approach to pursue optimal exposure: invest in earned media, such as media relations; paid media, such as ads; and owned media, such as their own blog content or website.

“Canada has a strong tradition of journalistic integrity, and leveraging these traditional avenues alongside newer methods — such as newsletters, apps, and direct site visits — provides a well-rounded strategy,” added Stevens, as she advised businesses to diversify their outreach channels and at the same time strategically position themselves as trusted sources of information or thought leaders in their respective industries.

However, Stevens maintains that Google and Meta, and the government, have a role to play in fostering an environment that encourages access to quality information.

She also believes that ongoing dialogues among Meta, Google and the federal government are advancing in a constructive manner and that the discussions are informed by a shared commitment to serve public interest.

In recent developments, the government has proposed regulations to address the platforms’ concerns with the legislation, notably by establishing a liability threshold, which, however, remained unpalatable to Meta. The company’s blocking of news links has been going on for at least three months now, with no turnaround in sight.

The legislation takes effect in December.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Ashee Pamma
Ashee Pamma
Ashee is a writer for ITWC. She completed her degree in Communication and Media Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. She hopes to become a columnist after further studies in Journalism. You can email her at [email protected]

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