In today’s social media terms, the relationship status between media companies and Facebook and Google is “complicated.” Media companies rely on these platforms to drive their audience and build their brand. However, these companies are fueled by the quality content produced by media outlets—and they aren’t paying for it.
Now, with the thirst for COVID-19 news at an all time high, media companies are suffering devastating losses in spite of huge upticks in traffic. Finally, regulators are noticing. In Australia, the government is acting to disrupt the relationship between tech giants and media brands in ways that could reverberate around the world.
European Efforts to Make Google Pay News Outlets Still Pending
Spain first tried to even the scales between media and Google when regulators forced digital platforms to pay publishers for content. As a result, Google pulled its Google News product from Spain—while still allowing news content to appear in search results.
After that, France struggled with enforcement of publisher’s content under copyright laws. Consequently, Google pulled snippets from linked articles but left links and headlines intact.
Australia Is Taking a More Direct Approach During COVID-19
Now, Australia is making moves to regulate the use of content that belongs to its publishers. The situation is moving fast, with politicians and major media companies pushing for reform. Unlike France, the Australian government is starting their fight under competition laws, rather than copyright law.
Google and Facebook argue their purpose is to serve ads rather than create news. But, as anyone in the media business will tell you, that’s not quite how it works in practice.
With Australia’s local news outlets dying at a rapid pace during the pandemic, the big concern is simple. If tech giants like Google and Facebook fail to pay publishers for content, the information they serve up will lack impactful local news reporting that benefits the lives of citizens in every area of the country.
Will U.S. Follow Australia to Help Publishers?
The outlook is cloudy when it comes to the relationship between media and big tech in the United States. Efforts like Facebook’s Community Project have attempted to provide direct funding to journalists. However, these grants are only a small fraction of the total ad revenue driven by publisher-driven content.
It’s tough to say what will happen next, but industries across the board are lobbying the government for help as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Much like Australia, the current economic situation may supercharge publishers’ efforts to be compensated for the content they produce.
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