News or­ga­ni­za­tions di­verge over in­ter­net gi­ants

Newspapers & Technology Magazine - - Sponsored Content - ▶ BY MARC WILSON COLUMNIST p

Two of the na­tion’s ma­jor news or­ga­ni­za­tions are at odds over how to deal with in­ter­net gi­ants Google, Face­book and Ap­ple.

In one cor­ner is the News Me­dia Al­liance, which is call­ing on Congress to en­act leg­is­la­tion that al­lows the news me­dia to work to­gether to ne­go­ti­ate bet­ter eco­nomic terms with what the NMA calls the “dig­i­tal du­op­oly” of Google and Face­book.

Says the NMA: “Be­cause of this dig­i­tal du­op­oly, pub­lish­ers are forced to sur­ren­der their con­tent and play by the rules on how news and in­for­ma­tion is dis­played, pri­or­i­tized and mon­e­tized . . . News or­ga­ni­za­tions are lim­ited with dis­ag­gre­gated power against a de facto du­op­oly that is vac­u­um­ing up all but an ever-in­creas­ing segment of ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue.”

In the other cor­ner is the Lo­cal Me­dia Con­sor­tium. Con­sor­tium Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Rusty Coats says the NMA’s “po­si­tion ig­nores the LMC’s work dur­ing the last four years forg­ing part­ner­ships es­sen­tial to us as providers of qual­ity lo­cal con­tent and lo­cal busi­ness so­lu­tions. Those part­ner­ships align the news in­dus­try – print, broad­cast and ul­ti­mately dig­i­tal – with tech com­pa­nies in a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship.”

David Chav­ern, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the NMA, wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Jour­nal sup­port­ing his as­so­ci­a­tion’s call to re­vise anti-trust reg­u­la­tions that pre­vent news­pa­pers from work­ing in con­junc­tion to set prices.

“Chav­ern’s op-ed,” ar­gues Coats, “sug­gests a lack of knowl­edge of the tens of mil- li­ons of dol­lars our (LMC) part­ner­ship with Google has net­ted the in­dus­try, or the in­roads we have made in­flu­enc­ing in­no­va­tion with Google, Face­book, Ap­ple and Ya­hoo.”

Coats added: “… I fear these mixed mes­sages will have a chill­ing ef­fect on our re­la­tion­ships with ex­ist­ing part­ners and those on deck, in­clud­ing Face­book, Ap­ple and Ama­zon. Our part­ners may look at these mes­sages as the pro­tec­tion­ist re­ac­tion of an in­dus­try that lacks co­he­sion.”

Some of the heav­i­est hit­ters in the news­pa­per in­dus­try have come out in sup­port of the NMA po­si­tion.

New York Times CEO Mark Thomp­son told his own pa­per’s re­porter: “…(T)he tem­per­a­ture is ris­ing in terms of con­cern, and in some cases anger, about what seems like a very asym­met­ric, dis­ad­van­ta­geous re­la­tion­ship be­tween the pub­lish­ers and the very big dig­i­tal plat­forms.” He added that The New York Times sup­ports the NMA ac­tion for the good of the en­tire news in­dus­try, not just the Times.

News Corp. – owner of the Wall Street Jour­nal, Dow Jones and the New York Post – said it sup­ported Chav­ern’s ef­forts as a means “to fo­cus the pub­lic and Congress on the an­ti­com­pet­i­tive be­hav­ior of the dig­i­tal du­op­oly, es­pe­cially as it ad­versely af­fects the news and in­for­ma­tion busi­nesses.”

Mike Klin­gen­smith, pub­lisher of the Min­neapo­lis Star Tri­bune and chair­man of the NMA, said Google, Face­book and Ap­ple are “talk­ing to us (the news in­dus­try), but there hasn’t been a lot of ac­tion yet.”

Klin­gen­smith added that mid-size dailies can’t “go as a one-off com­pany and ne­go­ti­ate or even get an ap­point­ment with these com­pa­nies.”

Google, and to a lesser ex­tent Face­book, have tried out­reaches to the news in­dus­try. Google es­pe­cially has worked closely with Coats’ con­sor­tium.

Iron­i­cally, at the NMA’s last na­tional con­ven­tion in New Or­leans, both Google and Face­book were ma­jor spon­sors. Both Google and Face­book say loudly that they want to pro­mote and pro­tect lo­cal jour­nal­ism, and both have in­tro­duced pro­grams to do so.

The Ar­ling­ton Va.-based News Me­dia Al­liance says its rep­re­sents al­most 2,000 news or­ga­ni­za­tions.

The Lo­cal Me­dia Con­sor­tium calls it­self “a strate­gic part­ner­ship of lead­ing lo­cal me­dia com­pa­nies rep­re­sent­ing more than 1,600 daily news­pa­pers and hun­dreds of ma­jor lo­cal broad­cast out­lets in the best mar­kets in the na­tion.”

From my perch on the out­side, I think both the NMA and the Con­sor­tium make good points.

The con­sor­tium has worked long and hard – and with suc­cess – at the root level try­ing to form a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship with the in­ter­net gi­ants, es­pe­cially Google, which has been a fairly good partner.

But from the 30,000-foot level it’s clear that Google, Face­book, Ap­ple and oth­ers in Sil­i­con Val­ley are gob­bling up au­di­ences and ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue.

It’s NOT a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship be­tween Sil­i­con Val­ley and the news in­dus­try. Google, Face­book and Ap­ple are the dis­rup­tors. The news­pa­per and news in­dus­tries are the dis­rupted.

I won­der if even an act of Congress can change the re­la­tion­ship.

Marc Wilson is ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of TownNews.com. He can be reached at mar­cus@townnews.com.

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