Mandatory code being developed by ACCC will create ‘level playing field’ in media landscape, Josh Frydenberg says
From the original story:
Facebook and Google will be forced to share advertising revenue with Australian media companies after the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, instructed the competition watchdog to develop a mandatory code of conduct for the digital giants amid a steep decline in advertising brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
This is the same steep advertising decline that has New Zealand media companies in a tail spin. Things have been tough for nearly 20 years. Depending on which set of numbers you read, Facebook and Google take as much as 85 percent of the advertising revenue that media companies once made.
Media extinction event
Elsewhere pundits have described the Covid-19 pandemic as the extinction trigger for traditional media. The comparison is with the meteor that wiped out most dinosaurs.
Frydenberg said it was only fair that media companies that created the content got paid for it.
“This will help to create a level playing field,” he said.
The communications minister, Paul Fletcher, said the decision was about a strong and sustainable news media ecosystem.
If we are realistic, it is too late to talk about a “strong and sustainable news media ecosystem”. Today’s game is all about survival.
Level playing field
Likewise “level playing field” is a nice idea, but we’re talking about a playing field where one side has 85 percent and the other has 15 percent.
Yet Frydenberg is correct when he says it is only fair that the media companies that create content should be paid for their work. The same goes for small publishers and individual journalists.
It’s correct to say Google doesn’t take much material from media companies. Often it isn’t much more than a headline and an opening paragraph. Although that is where most of the gold sits in a news story.
Google gives something back in the way of a link to the original story. Yet often, once a Google reader has seen the head and the opening par, the incentive to click a link has gone.
It’s more complicated with Facebook. Sometimes people cut and paste entire stories into Facebook posts. That means when someone reads the story in that timeline, Facebook gets to sell the advertisement, not the publisher. It means Facebook gets rich on someone else’s work. But then that is the Facebook business model.
The flip side of this argument is that media outlets are dependent on Facebook and Google to deliver those links to help readers find stories. It’s a form of dependency that means relying on the parasite that is eating you to also continue feeding you.
Australia’s approach may not be the best way of tackling the problem. Yet it is good to recognise that there is a problem and to attempt to tackle it.
If recent history is any guide, the big social media firms will resist. They will spend a fortune on legal and lobbying attempts to overturn the decision. By the time that fight draws to a conclusion there will a quite different media landscape.