Big Tech’s Reckoning Needs to Include Help for Local News
As we watch local news vanish before our eyes, we can point to the culprit — Big Tech’s abuse of the marketplace that has led to 2,100 newspapers disappearing since 2004, many in vulnerable communities struggling economically and isolated without news. The question of who should pay for the news has been one of the key battles between Big Tech and traditional news publishers.
In a recent editorial by Financial Times, the Editorial Board noted that Big Tech’s increasing power has disrupted the business models of traditional publishers and led to a huge revenue loss. In 2000, newspapers and magazines hosted half of all advertising spending worldwide, which amounted to approximately $530 billion. Two decades later, that share has fallen to less than 10 percent and total ad revenue for news outlets now is less than it was in 1980.
Regulators and news publishers are now looking to level the playing field, with the Australian government proposing a code of conduct that would force Google and Facebook to pay for news. Yet regulators also must examine the stranglehold Google and Facebook have over the digital ad marketplace and how their unilateral decisions are preventing news outlets, and particularly local news outlets, from monetizing their content online.
The following is a statement from Laura Bassett, former Senior Politics Reporter for HuffPost who was laid off in January 2019, and co-founder of the Save Journalism Project:
Big Tech’s monopoly over the digital ad market is destroying the journalism industry, and we now know the tech giants didn’t reach this level of domination by playing by the rules. A coalition of state attorneys general has accused Google of rigging ad auctions, manipulating prices and entering into a secret price fixing scheme with Facebook. The transition to digital media was always going to be hard for the journalism industry, but now we know we’ve never had a fair shot at competing in this marketplace. The only viable solution to this problem is regulation through antitrust and competition policy. If we don’t act now, we will not only see the loss of reliable national news sources, but also of quality local papers that are essential to providing communities with life saving information — especially during the pandemic. As the movement to regulate Big Tech keeps gaining momentum, we need to remember to look out for these local news sources, not just the big outlets.