5 Ways the Canadian Media Could Be Succeeding Without Link Taxes

We talk a lot about what the traditional media gets wrong. So, let’s talk about what they could be getting right.

After analyzing Bill C-18, Canada’s link tax bill, we found it to be a total dumpster fire of a bill. It completely upends copyright law in an unprecedented way by putting a price on referencing sources – something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in any other discipline that involves referencing materials. What’s more is that it puts anti-competitive behaviour straight into law by intentionally excluding competing news sources online. It carpet bombs the existence of a free market and implements dependency on government subsidies and market intervention.

To date, there has been no valid defence of the legislation that we are aware of. As a result, the media has had to resort to flooding the news sector with false and misleading statements on the legislation. It’s basically a shotgun approach where you throw as much mud on the wall and hope something sticks. So far, non of it has stuck, but the media certainly did what it could to try. In the process, it torpedoes any semblance of neutrality in the media in the process. When the media sees something they like, they fall over each other to see who can push the best propaganda at it – regardless if there is any grounding in truth.

Of course, we here at Freezenet take a fact-based approach to what is happening and are all too happy to point out what is going wrong. What’s more, we aren’t one of those sites that simply criticizes everything all the time. That would be way too easy. As we’ve said in many other debates, it’s one thing to point out something that is bad, but it is quite another to point out what could be a positive solution. Once again, we are at it again with one of these articles. In the process, we find ourselves basically hard carrying a whole industry, but that’s not exactly uncharted territory for us.

So, with the knowledge that Bill C-18 is a terrible approach, we ask, if it’s a bad approach, what could the media be doing differently that negates any perceived need in the legislation in the first place? That’s what we aim to tackle today. Here are 5 things the media could be doing instead of pushing the legislation.

1. Stop Treating Your Website as Nothing But a Glorified PVR

One advantage that television broadcasters have is that they already have a system of gathering stories, shooting footage, editing, and airing content. The software they have already allows encoding in pretty much any way imaginable (even if the encoding system can be, well, annoying at times to put it mildly). So, having content for the web is actually quite straight forward at times.

The problem is that the perspective from some of these sources is that the only goal is to just “post it and forget it”. There’s no real strategy for how the content is presented outside of what the overall look of the site is. There’s often little to no system for sharing the content other than, at best, borrowing the social media presence of the reporters and getting them to re-post the article or video.

Basically, the problem is two fold: you have no strategy of making your presence known and you are basically offloading the work onto people whose job descriptions don’t involve social media in the first place. Unless you hit the jackpot of having a whole team of reporters that can work around management’s lack of vision, the strategy is make-shift at best.

The solution is to not look at your website as a glorified PVR, but rather, an opportunity to expand your business. Think about how users interact with the website and ask, “how can I make that experience better?” How about interactive polls? What about a place to find up and coming events? What are great ideas to move the site forward that your audience will appreciate? How about writing full articles for your video’s instead of just copy and pasting the lead from the newscast? It’s not an easy thing to figure out, but letting the website linger as little more than a glorified PVR will mean that, outside of your core audience who has already been won over because of your monopoly television presence is a recipe for under-utilizing the tools you have for success.

Why The Media Won’t Do This

So, the excuses will start coming out as to why this can’t be done. The news team isn’t built for something like that. That requires time and effort when we have better things to do. We don’t know any better is another excuse. The Internet isn’t that important for our overall business plan. Well, if you are really starved for cash, or motivated to make your website succeed, then you wouldn’t need a lecture on how to make your website succeed in the first place, now would you?

2. Actually Dropping Money and Proper Manpower Into Your News Website

Following in the same vein as the first way, let’s talk about the manpower behind the website. What kind of manpower do you have behind just the website? Is the answer nothing? Well, that may be part of the problem. A big problem is the news sources that just assume that everything is automatic on the Internet and the money should just flow in on its own. If not, then it’s the Internet’s fault and nothing to do with putting in the bare minimum effort.

We’ve seen staff setups before that are just plain awful. An example would be having someone in a completely unrelated department handle website administration in that person’s spare time. Another example is opening a website journalist position and using it as an excuse to just have another journalist on staff while getting the staff member to put in the absolute bare minimum of work on the site. It’s like a box ticking exercise. The problem here is that when you put in the bare minimum to your website, you will very likely get the bare minimum out of your website.

The reality is that running a website generally takes a team. A general setup might be a web administration to handle updating a Content Management System (CMS), patching flaws, continuously being on the lookout for malicious code and vulnerabilities, and making sure the domains or hosting doesn’t expire.

A second person would be a full time Search Engine Optimization specialist. Google is regularly updating their search algorithms, so having someone stay on top of that and making sure that all the content that is posted is optimized for search engines.

From there, a third person on staff would handle social media. Social media, at the best of times, is a tough nut to crack. Constantly having a presence on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook is a full time job in and of itself. What’s more is looking for opportunities to have a link posted on social news platforms can also be huge. While posting on social news platforms can be shared with the journalists, having someone handle this aspect exclusively is kind of a must to reach the biggest audience possible.

Finally, two or three people to handle moderation of comments. It’s a job that seems to have no return on investment, but keeping your site clean of spam and misbehaviour really helps maintain that level of having a high quality website. The bigger the audience, the more moderators you are going to need, so adjust accordingly.

Such a number of staff members to handle a website would be fairly basic, but enough to help raise the level of competitiveness for the site in question. What’s more is that the yield on return can potentially be massive.

Why the Media Won’t Do This

The same old excuses will start flooding in for such an idea. Specifically for this, news management will no doubt sit there and say, “well, we could do that, but, you know, that costs time and money. We really are stretched thin as it is and we just don’t see how having staff like that helps us.” To that, we say, “There is a reason why Google is successful. Do you think Google got to be a multi-million dollar global corporation by just coding a simple search engine, then resting on their laurels and watching the money roll in? No. They experimented. They have a huge array of products. Not all experiments are successful, but some are and those experiments paid dividends.”

Personally, though, I don’t mind this attitude for the simple reason that it allows me to build a website by myself that can run circles around their popularity (as is the case now, actually) with ease. So, by all means, sit and pout with that “woe is me” attitude, I’ll just keep growing in size because I’m not a lazy bum in all of this.

3. Foster a Community On the Site (Comment Sections Open, Web Forums)

This problem generally goes for medium and large news websites out there, but can very easily also apply to smaller sites as well. when you have a collective audience, the first thing you want to do is capitalize on this and get all of the benefit wherever possible. Set up a comments section on your news articles if you haven’t already. Some larger sites actually shut down their news comments section for the really dumb excuse of it being more trouble than its worth. The reality is that having that user interactivity fosters not only community discussion, but interactivity with the website that goes above and beyond what a simple static news article can offer.

When some of the largest US news sites shut down their comments section, it was met with howls and ridicule for a very good reason: they were shooting themselves in the foot in doing so. Nevertheless, they went ahead with this and saw their traffic go down.

In a number of instances, that discussion didn’t actually go away. Instead, it was offloaded to sites like Facebook – who were all too happy to swallow up all that ad traffic in the process. The likes of Facebook look at these sites that shut down their comments section and basically say, “Hey, thanks for the free traffic! Appreciate it.”

For larger news sites, it is also worth looking into trying to implement a full fledged web forum. This would allow people to interact with each other and allow the news website to get some extra ad revenue in the process. What’s more is that such a community can be a hotbed for getting news tips in the process. It’s an excellent initiative that can really pay dividends.

Why the Media Won’t Do This

The suggestions would, once again, get executives eyes rolling and sighs before the excuses start flying. The big one would be that they don’t want to be bothered with the trouble. Even with something like Disqus, they don’t want to constantly moderate comments or hire the manpower because that might cost money. What’s more is that something like this probably would never get approval from the board of directors. Also, no one on staff has the expertise to set something like that up and, yeah, nothing but excuses – anything to avoid lifting a finger in the end.

4. Offer Secondary Ways for Users to Support the Web Operation

Another way that is common to get people involved is to offer methods of supporting the website. If you are a fan of the website, then there are opportunities to support it. It can be Patreon or a special subscription service. This allows you to make some cash on the side to improve the overall web presence. As incentives, offer some extra features not otherwise available on your site. For instance, offer a system so that users can have a gold star next to their name when they comment on a news article. You know, stuff like that. It taps into that crowdfunding side of the Internet.

Why the Media Won’t Do This

Chances are, the excuses would boil down to no expertise to implement such idea’s. What’s more is that it would take time and effort to implement and management wouldn’t be willing to invest in something like that.

5. Stop Paywalling Everything

On the opposite side of the spectrum to the 4th idea is to dissuade websites from literally paywalling everything. Nothing is more irritating to users than to click on an article that sounds interesting only to get a notice asking them to subscribe for a flat fee. For your average casual user, the response is almost always an annoyed groan, a quick click of the back button and a search for an article that looks similar. At that point, you are literally turning away potential consumers to your sites content which is exactly what you don’t want to be doing.

What’s more is that you hurt your presence on the Internet. Search engines are reluctant to use you as a source because the content provided isn’t actually available. People click on the link, then click on something else. Typically, that tells search engines that the content is no good and encourages down-ranking in search results. The only news service that even had remote success with this is the New York Times – and even then, not everything is paywalled anymore. So, probably a sign that such a concept is a bad idea.

For me, I don’t mind it when other sites do this. It’s because, then, that traffic goes to my waiting arms in the first place. Is that other site completely paywalled? Well, you can read my article instead. It’s free. This increases my odds of returning visitors. So, basically, these news organizations just hand me free gifts all the time when they do that.

Why the Media Won’t Do This

For these sites, the excuse is probably going to be how they set up their own way of doing business and anyone knocking it “just doesn’t understand the news business.” Well, if your website is successful after implementing it, all power to you. At the same time, you also forfeit your excuse that your site is being hard done by Google and Facebook and your business will fail without those sites handing you free money. It really is that simple. Either your paywall is successful and you have no reason to complain or the paywall is a failure and you brought the problems on your self.


There are a lot of things that Canadian media websites could be doing with their time and money to be successful. Lobbying the Canadian government to get an insane link tax for the excuse that your industry is dying is probably one of the worst lines of thinking I can think of.

What’s more is that the common threads throughout every idea of innovating gets shot down because management doesn’t want to lift a finger to improve their standing on the world wide web. Many perceive risk of any kind not worth the money put into it. Instead, they would rather do things that worked some 50 years ago and continue on as business as usual and expect success to keep coming anyway. Honestly, the world is passing by many of these media companies and it’s not the worlds fault that you refused to move with the times.

At the end of the day, the way a number of these organizations are run is typically the reason why so many of these organizations fail in the first place. If management is incompetent enough to let a business with a monopoly fail, that’s not on Google or Facebook, that is on management. The world shouldn’t be bent and warped to suit the needs of incompetent management of these news organizations. The Canadian government has already thrown lots of money towards these media outlets. At some point, you have to ask where the limit is before you just let the business fold.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top