ICYMI: Save Journalism Project’s State of the News: Texas Exposes Google’s Serious Disregard of the Texas News Industry

To read the report, click here

Last week, the Save Journalism Project released a new report, The State of the News, Texas that highlights Google’s role in the existential crisis facing the journalism industry in Texas and across the country. It is poorly understood that the journalism industry and Google both operate the same advertising-dependent business model and are direct competitors for digital advertising revenue. Google is winning that competition not because it is better, but because it controls so much of the ecosystem on which this competition takes place. It exploits that power to gain an unfair advantage. 

As the Dallas Observer and the Seattle Times note, Texas has been one of the hardest hit states in this crisis, finding itself with 194 newspapers closed in the past 15 years, causing 21 news deserts in the state. News deserts are whole counties that have no local newspaper covering their community. Texas is also ground zero for the private equity takeover of the news business, a takeover made possible by Google’s destruction of the journalism industry’s business model. 

Excerpts from the Dallas Observer, titled “Google Has Maimed Texas Press, New Report Says”:

“Over the last decade and a half, the American press has been bloodied and battered, pushed to the end of its rope by vulture capitalism, evolving technology and economic shocks like the 2008 housing crisis. There was a time when it was hard to own a newspaper and not make money. Now the opposite is true, especially in Texas.

Across the state and particularly in rural areas, newspapers have shut down at a tremendous clip in recent years, according to a new study from the Save Journalism Project.

…Many of the journalism industry’s struggles in Texas, the report says, can be chalked up to two things: private equity firms and Google.

‘Part of the reason that we chose Texas to highlight in the report,’ said John Stanton, laid-off former Washington, D.C., bureau chief of BuzzFeed and co-founder of the Save Journalism Project, ‘is that (Google) is now being investigated by state attorneys general for their monopolistic activities. One of the lead attorneys general is Ken Paxton, who’s taken the issue up. We think it’s important that folks in Texas understand the influence that (Google’s) had and the impact that they’ve had on the news industry within the state.’

Google, Stanton said Friday, is able to control both ad revenue and traffic for media companies.”

Below are excerpts from the Seattle Times opinion piece titled, “Fourth Estate advocates fight for journalism’s life by challenging Google

“The gist of the news industry’s complaint is that social-media companies have drift-netted advertising accounts large and small without regard for the impact that has on the ecosystem of newsrooms our democracy relies on in times of crisis.

‘Google’s kind of the big gorilla in the room. They are able to control ad revenue and traffic,’ said John Stanton, the former Washington, D.C., bureau chief for BuzzFeed. He helped found the Save Journalism Project after being laid off from BuzzFeed.

During a Friday conference call with journalists, Stanton said the “State of the News — Texas” study shows newspapers’ plummeted while Google’s ad revenues tripled to $116.3 billion. Stanton asserts that’s not a misleading correlation. Instead, he said it illustrates causation: Google is exercising monopoly power in the advertising market to kick the legs from under the free press, with disastrous effects on local communities.

In the same call, citing research by the University of North Carolina, Nick Charles, the spokesman for Stanton’s group, said Texas’ recent history — the closure of 194 papers and emergence of 21 communities with no local newspaper — provides a snapshot of the threat local journalism faces nationwide if something isn’t done.”