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HomeTechBusiness TechThe Aussie Facebook rival app enjoying growth following the news ban debacle

The Aussie Facebook rival app enjoying growth following the news ban debacle

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Australian community and digital payments hybrid app LITT has experienced a surge in its user base following Facebook’s decision to ban news content in the country last Thursday, 18th of February.

LITT reported an 83% increase in Australian users downloading the app and a 72% increase in new businesses signing up to the platform since last week’s news ban debacle. Nearly 8,000 Australians and over 170 new businesses joined, with the app’s user base now totalling almost 17,000 members and over 400 businesses.

The company’s co-founder Brent Thompson said that, despite Facebook’s announcement that it will reinstate news to the Australian leg of its platform, the social media giant’s brand suffered irreparable damage and gave Australians a much-needed reason to look for networking opportunities elsewhere.

Related: How businesses could be impacted by Facebook’s news ban

“Having received messages from loyal Facebook users and businesses it is abundantly clear that they are very eager on migrating to an alternative like LITT,” Mr Thompson said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook backflipped because they didn’t anticipate the camaraderie Australians have for each other. We look out for our mates, we support local businesses and don’t take kindly to foreigners dictating how we run our country.

“Without Aussie news on their Facebook feeds, engagement was probably haemorrhaging and time spent on Facebook was also probably down. I wouldn’t be surprised if they also saw a significant amount of people finally using this as the reason to delete their accounts.”

Peter Salom, who is LITT’s other co-founder, said he is hopeful that Australian news publishers “can continue their vital role in keeping the public informed” by shifting over to the new app.

“Don’t be held to ransom like this again. LITT is community focused, and local businesses are central to every community,” Mr Salom said.

“Australia’s media organisations are themselves local businesses that keep their communities informed. That’s why we are so passionate about offering a haven for businesses affected by this Facebook stoush.

“Australia’s newspapers, news websites, TV networks, radio stations and magazines are essential to our democracy. These media outlets provide essential public information to local communities across Australia. You will always be welcome on LITT.”

Since starting its national rollout in February, LITT has reached #7 in the charts for ‘Social Media Networks’ and #98 for all apps in the Australian iOS market.

The company said its goal is to eventually have 3 million members and 35,000 businesses and to create many positive LITT communities in Australia.

What does LITT do differently?

LITT’s owners said the app combines social media, digital payments, e-commerce and augmented reality advertising and has a strong focus on supporting local Australian businesses and organisations.

“Think of LITT like a community notice board where you share information about your favourite local hairdresser, the delicious toasties at the cafe on your street or the upcoming neighbourhood event,” Mr Thompson said.

Related: Digital customer experience: How Australian SMBs can up their game in 2021

The self-titled ‘post Trump era platform’ intends to remedy many of the issues that prevail on big tech-driven social media by pushing its community-first approach, inviting investors on board and contributing to a circular economy.

“The global pandemic has made the world realise that local community matters more than ever,” Mr Thompson said.

“Unfortunately, incumbent social platforms have done a better job at dividing our communities by pushing them in to ideological political bubbles that reinforce their existing views. As a result, social media has made our communities anything but neighbourly.”

“LITT addresses this as well as other issues we identified by focussing on the positive aspects of community and weeding out the negative, inspiring us to support local businesses, and rewarding our members with many perks.”

Member-driven moderation

One of the issues LITT hopes to address is online harassment between members, which the owners have said they “will not tolerate [in] any form.”

“LITT has introduced a member driven moderation tool that automatically and without human intervention removes inappropriate content directly from the newsfeed allowing for a more community friendly environment on the platform,” Mr Thompson said.

User rewards for viewing ads

Another of LITT’s perks is that it allows members to convert points earned from watching ads into money or vouchers that can be spent at participating local businesses or sent to friends and family.

“Supporting local businesses is at the heart of LITT’s difference – the app combines the best of social, e-commerce, augmented reality advertising and digital payments – made via its exclusive in-built digital VISA card,” Mr Thompson said.

Augmented reality advertising

LITT’s augmented reality (AR) advertising feature allows businesses to create virtual objects and place them in geofences – a move LITT hopes will drive in-store foot traffic by encouraging members to “chase” local deals.

“It’s the community noticeboard we all wish we had.  And the money our members make on Litt gets pumped back into the local economy – it’s a complete circular economy.”

Revenue to be booked onshore

Mr Salom said that LITT’s revenue will be booked onshore and taxes will be paid within the appropriate jurisdiction to ensure that all stakeholders with the community are considered.

He points out that Facebook paid only $17 million in taxes in Australia in 2019 despite Australian businesses and organisations spending $674 million to advertise on the platform that year.

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Dahlia Jovic
Dahlia is a Junior Editor and Journalist at Dynamic Business. She is an Honours student in Media and Communications at the University of Sydney with a specialisation in Digital Cultures. Her areas of interest include business, technology, entertainment and videography.