The Daily Aus on Meta, international expansion, and remedying ‘Fontgate’

Zara Seidler the daily aus

Zara Seidler tells Mediaweek that Meta’s decision is “a bit of a distraction … we didn’t foresee this happening.”

Social-first news publication The Daily Aus will continue to diversify its revenue streams and push into international markets, co-founder Zara Seidler tells Mediaweek in response to the uncertainty of news’ future on Meta platforms.

The business launched on Meta-owned Instagram and has 530,000 followers on the platform, putting The Daily Aus in a “complex” position, Seidler says.

The government and publishers alike have condemned Meta for pulling out of future News Media Bargaining Code agreements. The government now faces the option to “designate” Meta, which would force the tech giant into arbitration with publishers.

We never benefited from any of those commercial deals, so there’s not a direct hit to revenue in that sense. Our concern lies with whether the government chooses to designate Meta, and then it follows what’s happening in Canada and decides to remove news from its platforms. That will have a direct consequence for us and our revenue,” Seidler says.

Canadians cannot access The Daily Aus‘ Instagram account. But while Instagram is still central to The Daily Aus’ platform and revenue – the team has brand partnerships that take the form of Instagram Stories and on-platform polling – the last couple of years have seen the brand work to diversify its offering.

Seidler says the brand’s strategy for the current financial year has been ‘from an Instagram page to a media company.’

Our fastest-growing revenue channel is actually newsletters at the moment. We’re really going to be pushing as much as we can to strengthen those numbers and those commercial partnerships in the newsletter space, so that we aren’t in a position where we can suddenly have it taken away from us.

“We’re going to continue to push for newsletters, a push for podcasts, and building out our website and YouTube presence. I think it’s really important to continue to meet people where they’re at, and we never want to go down a singular stream. We always want to be platform agnostic.”

When Meta’s decision was announced, The Daily Aus asked its Instagram audience to subscribe to its newsletter. Seidler tells Mediaweek that the daily newsletter has 180,000 subscribers, with a 53% open rate.

Starting the business as an Instagram page “was a risky strategy, because it meant we were reliant on a third-party,” the team wrote.

“For the last two years, we’ve been trying to build a more direct relationship with you through the newsletter.

“We’re in this for the long run… we hope you are too.”

the daily aus logo

The Daily Aus has also been planning to expand the brand into the UK and USA. Seidler says Meta’s decision won’t have “a direct impact” on the expansion plans, however, they do create an unanticipated hurdle. 

“Our priority needs to be on our biggest newsroom and the Australian market. It’s a bit of a distraction, but it doesn’t change the commercial reality of us wanting to expand. Priorities are always shifting and we didn’t foresee this happening, so we just need to reevaluate and just make sure that we’ve got all our ducks in a row.”

Outside of the impacts on the brand itself, Seidler adds she is “quite horrified by the prospects” of Meta’s decision when it comes to consumers.

All we’ll see is moving from trust in brands, to young people looking at influencers or creators to give them news and commentary. That is going to be void of any fact-checking or any kind of evidence-based claims, and I think that it’s a huge issue that needs to be taken seriously. 

See Also: ‘No one can tell brands how they should react’: Will advertisers punish Meta for exiting news deals?

“The bottom lines of big media companies need to be taken into consideration, but so do consumer habits. They’re not going to change how they get their news tomorrow, so what will come and fill that void? That’s my concern.”

On LinkedIn, Seidler added: “The Daily Aus engages young Australians who didn’t read any news before us, and won’t read any hard news if we disappear. It’s no accident we’ve grown to be one of the biggest news pages in the country – we serve a new generation of news consumers who see Instagram as a key, irreplaceable source of news.”

Former Meta staffer Jenni Ryall – currently at Bastion helping news organisations on transformation projects – agrees: “Your take is an important and intelligent one based in reality of younger and new consumption habits. A collaborative model is going to benefit consumers that want access to news and information — and digital news providers that rely on a healthy distribution ecosystem. Collaborate for fair revenue shares and models, platform priority, data sharing and a sustainable funding model.”

Ending Fontgate

In January, The Daily Aus launched a brand refresh via agency Hatrik House, with the goal of reflecting that the outlet was ‘growing up’. This rebrand came with a new font, which didn’t prove overly popular with readers, who flooded the comments thread of Instagram posts complaining.

Two days ago, an Instagram post reading, “We hear you. The old font is back for our front covers” marked the end of what quickly became known as ‘Fontgate’.

“It was definitely a checkered journey,” Seidler laughs when asked about the return to the old font.

“We were really united and really happy with the rebrand – obviously, there was some strong feedback there, but we wanted to not give up anything too early. We’ve always thought that you need to give something a real shot to understand if it’s just an aversion to change, or if it’s something deeper.

Audience is king, and we always want to be responding to and wholly transparent with our audience. We decided to change it and get back to the news, because that’s what we do best – not fonts, clearly.

“It’s really nice to have such an audience buy-in for our brand identity, I think it shows that we’ve established a close relationship with our audience that hopefully remains on Meta and beyond.”

Top Image: Zara Seidler

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