Torontoverse Announces Slowdown in Light of Bill C-18/Facebook News Links Block

Bill C-18 victim, Torontoverse, has spoken out about Bill C-18. They announced a slowdown of operations.

Yesterday, I posted a vlog, discussing not only the fact that Freezenet survived the Facebook news links apocalypse, but the reasons why I think I managed to avoid the fate of so many others who have fallen victim to the implications of the Online News Act (formerly Bill C-18).

We’ve already highlighted one victim of Bill C-18’s collateral damage. That victim was the Frontenac News. For them, it wasn’t clear if they would get hit or not, but now that the link drop happened, they realized they were swept up into this after all. Obviously, they are far from the only victims of this terrible bill.

Today, we learned of another victim of the new law, Torontoverse. After getting swept up into this, the news startup announced that they will be slowing down operations. From Torontoverse:

Welp. Here we are. If you’re reading this, you found your way to the site despite increasing obstacles. Thank you for that. As always, we appreciate you coming to TORONTOVERSE and checking out what we’ve created.

But as much as it pains us to say it, those aforementioned obstacles will hinder our ability to keep operating at the level we have been for the past year. With heavy hearts, we’re announcing a bit of a slow-down period for the site.

Fallout from Bill C-18, or the Online News Act — including the banning of news links from Meta platforms Facebook and Instagram — has made it very difficult for web-based publications to find new readers, and keep them coming back.

What’s next

We wait and see, both as an industry and as a publication.

At TORONTOVERSE, we’re going to slow our operations and keep an eye on the news, hoping for some movement from the federal government that will allow a return to the way we’d been functioning, with the hope of once again building audience via news links.

We’ll still run our newsletter and publish new content, but we’re going to focus mostly on the rich, interactive data stories we’re known for.

As we said above, we’re immensely proud of what we’ve created, and we’re both sad and disappointed by what’s happened here. But we still love Toronto and hope to be back at full strength again sooner than later.

For me, the scary thing in all of this is that this could have very easily been Freezenet. Had Facebook just said “No links to news, full stop”, we would have been looking at the possibility of making a similar announcement. In fact, you can actually watch me talk about this very “what if” scenario on this vlog posting. Facebook doesn’t actually generate that much traffic for Freezenet, but Google is an entirely different matter. So, if Google decides to go a different rout and block news links from Freezenet, then we could very easily be in the same boat as Torontoverse.

At this point, the decision to continue to specialize in digital rights and technology news is what I think is going to save Freezenet here. One of my conversations with one of the few people to have helped Freezenet in the past suggested that I also start a general news site for the city. This by utilizing my knowledge of setting up websites and creating great content. It was a very attractive idea, but I said that it would be too much to split my time over two operations. I told him that I would be able to offer advice and help, but I wouldn’t be the main driver in building the site in that regard. Besides, digital rights news has always been my passion anyway.

That decision, in retrospect, probably saved my writing career. Had I gone all in with the added help and started writing about the city I live in instead, we might have been looking at closing shop at this point and I would’ve been left with trying to pick up the pieces with Freezenet.

Either way, though, I do feel awful for Torontoverse. They don’t appear to be so lucky in this scenario. With Google yet to act, there’s a possibility that the worst is yet to come for that site. Hopefully, they can make it through this difficult time. Judging by the fact that they hired out others, they have far more resources than Freezenet, so that most certainly helps things for them. So, best of luck to all the victims of the Online News Act including the Torontoverse.

(Via @MGeist)

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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