News organizations diverge over internet giants
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.