Whining About Big Tech Doesn't Protect Journalism

from the not-how-it-works dept

I’ve been as frustrated as anyone by the fact that the internet advertising business models have not filtered down to news publishers, because it does seem like a real lost opportunity. However, it’s kind of weird to see a couple of laid off journalists announce a project to “protect” journalism that seems to consist entirely of whining about big tech. It’s literally called the “Save Journalism Project” but they have no plans to actually “save journalism.”

Their new project will be set up as a nonprofit, according to Eddie Vale, a Democratic consultant whose firm is helping launch the effort. Vale pitched Bassett on the idea, and the two of them brought in Stanton. Vale said initial funding had been secured from ?someone who doesn?t want to be public so Google and Facebook don?t go after them,? and the group plans to continue to fundraise. So far, the pair have coauthored testimony given to the Senate Judiciary Committee highlighting the tech giants? impact on the news industry ? ?since being laid off, we?ve made it our mission to understand how the digital marketplace works and how Big Tech is killing the journalism industry,? they wrote ? flown a plane above Google?s I/O conference, and authored op-eds.

Wow. Flying a plane over a Google conference. That’ll save journalism.

At the moment, Stanton and Bassett are more focused on warning the public and the industry about the issue than on proposing solutions.

?I do think that everyone is starting to see a need to break up and regulate these companies or something along those lines,? Bassett said. ?And with regards to how they?re going to make journalism viable again, I don?t frankly know…I think right now we?re starting with just getting this conversation out into the public and making people aware of exactly what?s going on. I do hope at some point we graduate into saying, ?here?s a list of policy proposals, here?s exactly what needs to happen.??

Even if you believe the (debatable) claim that Google and Facebook are somehow to blame for the decline in advertising revenue to news sites, I’m left scratching my head over what good complaining about big tech actually does. Also “break up and regulate or something along those lines”? Again, I think there’s a valuable discussion to be had about how best to help fund journalism. It is pretty damn key to my own livelihood. But, this organization isn’t set up to have an “open” discussion. It has already insisted what the problem is (“big tech”) without being able to support that argument, and then says “something must be done” and so far it’s just whining about big tech.

I fail to see how that’s productive. There are lots of smart, thoughtful people who have put a lot of work into a variety of arguments about how to deal with the big internet companies. Some of them I agree with and some of them I don’t, but I’m at a near total loss as to how merely whining does anything at all to save journalism.

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Companies: facebook, google

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Comments on “Whining About Big Tech Doesn't Protect Journalism”

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Rocky says:

Re: Re:

Uhm, it’s a fact that news-aggregators actually drives traffic to sites which mean more revenue.

And please tell us, who do the content creators pay? You know, like real world examples of it.

When Spain introduced the link-tax on news-aggregators, what happened to the independent sites? Did they thrive or did they die off?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The earlier comment was likely wrong to suggest people are accessing stuff via search engines rather than aggregators like Google News. It doesn’t make sense to access a significant amount of news via search engines. You’d need to know what to search for, i.e. you’d only find different articles about stuff you already know about.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Here’s an example from the top of Google News:

Helicopter crash: 1 dead as Helicopter crashes into Midtown Manhattan building located at 787 7th Ave. today – live updates
One person is reported dead after a helicopter crashed onto the roof of a building Monday afternoon in Midtown Manhattan, New York City police and fire …
CBS News
2 hours ago
Helicopter crashes into New York City building: Latest updates
A helicopter has crashed into a building located on 7th Avenue in Manhattan, fire officials said. Follow here for the latest.
36 minutes ago
New York fire department responding to helicopter crash at building in midtown Manhattan
The New York fire department is responding to a helicopter crash at a building in midtown Manhattan.
The Missoulian
3 hours ago
Helicopter Crashes Into High Rise Building In Midtown
A helicopter landed on the roof of a high rise building in Midtown Monday afternoon, causing a fire and possible casualties, according to the FDNY.
WCBS 880
4 hours ago
Local coverage
FDNY: Pilot dead after helicopter crash reported in Manhattan
NEW YORK (AP) — The Fire Department is responding to a report of a helicopter crash at a building in midtown Manhattan. The FDNY said at around 2 p.m. …
WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports | Fort Lauderdale
4 hours ago

All of the links take you directly to the actual news site. Nothing of the content is "copied" or displayed by Google. You have to go to the original source if you want to read what the headline is all about.

Is all this hysteria and demands for licensing seriously over just the headlines? And if this service didn’t exist readers would only ever see news published by their favorite site(s). Many of these news sources would see far less traffic. If anything, Google should be charging for the traffic sent to those news sources.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

And if this service didn’t exist readers would only ever see news published by their favorite site(s).

Well, yeah, that’s why the newspapers don’t ask to be completely removed. Instead, in Spain, they had the link tax made mandatory. And Google News was disabled for the whole country.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

"…it also decimated the hits to smaller sites."

If losing Google only cost them a 10% hit, I would say they are doing very very well.

Historically, to be decimated means having 1 in 10(deci) soldiers shot for the groups transgressions.

Does anyone know how decimate came to mean annihilate? Easier to remember the spelling? We let morons change meanings of words and everyone else is supposed to follow suit? Personally, I’d like to keep decimate and just create a new word to replace annihilate. Maybe something like…hmm…decamate?

Darkness Of Course (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Anonymously incorrect coward

First problem is their nonsensical claim that news aggregators includes Google. Google is a search engine (as mentioned by others). If you look at phys.org that is a news aggregator. They collect information via press releases, published papers (often through press releases about the papers) and provide them to their readers/subscribers.

Neither phys.org, or google.com, or contentcreator.whoever is paying anyone for any of these actions. The only money changing hands is miniscule amounts for any clickthroughs to ads placed by advertising agencies. Who, btw, make a percentage of the advertising revenue, including the cost to produce the materials use in sales/promotion as well as the cost of the promotion if used in … newspaper or magazines for instance.

Second issue with the post is this particular AC apparently knows nothing about how the internet works. Even less about how much of it is funded. And will no doubt be resilient to any attempts to educate them to the reality.

So it goes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Anonymously incorrect coward

Google is a search engine

Google operate a search engine, and a news aggregator… and an email service, a bunch of data centers, an app store…

Google Search is unlikely to send more traffic to news sites than Google News. Sure, someone may use Google Search for "nyc helicopter crash" and see the headlines listed above, but more likely they didn’t know about the crash until they saw it on Google News.

ECA (profile) says:


“since being laid off, we’ve made it our mission to understand how the digital marketplace works and how Big Tech is killing the journalism industry,”

  1. lets go ask why they got laid off..

Its fun how aggregators work..they Get the news from the Major/World news agencies, and Most time they pay for it..(yep they do)(you really think the Big News corps Wouldnt charge? How do you think they get their money?)
Google and FB, are more Linkers, then aggregators, they just link to the stories from all the Sites, I dont think they have their OWN section for news.
The Problem here is Aggregation, and competition. Why goto Local news sites when you can Go direct to the Major reporters and sites…I KNOW…They CHARGE for access..

Google and FB arnt paying much for whats being posted BECAUSE they are not publishing anything. They are linking to all the sites With the Aggregators..

Its the same as a person asking you where are all the stores in town, and you start pointing to Every Mall, and every Shop in a 20 miles radius.. They ask for a specific shop and you point to the 3 Nearest to where you stand, Then tell them how to get there..

and If I were FB, I wouldnt Show the news unless they Paid for the service to Send the news to Local Citizens.. Or if someone FRIENDED the news section they wanted.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Only one parasite in that relationship...

Which of course is why when Google removed snippets if not outright delisted news sites from their aggregation services the news sites saw an immediate rise in traffic and were celebrating about the huge win they’d just scored.

… wait, no, they saw traffic plummet with profits also dropping, and were crying about how unfair Google was being and begging to be relisted.

Anonymous Coward says:

Wow. Flying a plane over a Google conference. That’ll save journalism.

Hmm… it might, actually. The aviation industry has managed to lumber along despite airlines being famously unprofitable. "Historically, air travel has survived largely through state support, whether in the form of equity or subsidies. The airline industry as a whole has made a cumulative loss during its 100-year history." (Wikipedia)

So, turn your newspaper into an airline, transfer the investigative reporters to the "in-flight" magazine department (which has ground subscriptions as a "side" business), and figure out how to get some government money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Strictly speaking, no. Everyone knew the airlines were subsidized from the beginning—e.g. train operators had to pay for their own stations while airports were often government-funded. So it wasn’t necessarily "funny business" at first, but maybe is now (i.e. losing money on flights and making it up on arbitrary fees, bets on fuel prices, etc.).

Anonymous Coward says:

made it our mission to understand how the digital marketplace works and how Big Tech is killing the journalism industry,”

Uh… it was your employers’ job to figure out how the digital marketplace works and then monetize their product, which no one seems they can be arsed to do. Whatever, dumbasses.

A Democratic consultant

Oh, yes, good, good. Excellent first move.

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

Newspapers still haven’t figured out that they are not, and never have been in the business of ‘selling news’. The newspaper business has always been about aggregating reader attention, and then selling that attention to advertisers.
For the better part of a century newspapers pretty much had a monopoly on advertising. Even Radio and Television didn’t put much of a dent in that.
For most of that time, the big cash cow was the classified ad section of the newspaper. Page after page of ads at ten cents per word adds up to a lot of money, way more than the subscription fees.

That cash cow is now gone. It’s not Google and Facebook that killed the newspaper business model, it’s Kijiji, eBay, and Craiglist.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well stated. Watching the flailing of Comcast media entities such as Vox trying to harm individual content creators and destroy the internet is a frustrating experience. The internet happened. Business models that once enjoyed protection, are disrupted. A little late to arrive to the party and not like what you see.

Anonymous Coward says:

Big Tech has done much to protect journalists and keep their gravy train running. YouTube has identified a long list of wrongthinking content creaters and recently changed its recommended videos that viewers of such content would be fed, diverting viewers toward approved mainstream media sources. Youtube’s search results were similarly tweaked, with popular Wrongthink channels being severely de-ranked and rarely-watched MSM channels moved to the top of the list for numerous search terms. This could evolve into a situation in which practically all of YouTube’s search results and recommended videos are corporate media channels, which would be a huge gift to Big Media.

In another, but mostly symbolic, gift to the journalism profession, Twitter banned people for mocking laid-off journalists by saying "learn to code" and rubbing in their faces the same advice and lack of sympathy that journalists had offered to laid off blue collar workers in numerous articles over the years.

Anonymous Coward says:

Call Us "Freedom Fighters" NOT "Self-Serving Backstabbers"

"…someone who doesn’t want to be public so Google and Facebook don’t go after them…"

Damn you, Masnick – show some pity, man! These people are facing the kinds of massively orchestrated character assassinations only Facebook can foster, and as for Google…the drones, oh, my god, the drones!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Call Us "Freedom Fighters" NOT "Self-Serving Backstabbers"

"…someone who doesn’t want to be public so Google and Facebook don’t go after them…"

Jhon Smith

Couldn’t find another job as journalist so is running a scam.

What was flying around in a plane supposed to accomplish(obviously, I am not a journalist)? Was it a Big Tech plane? Did the plane use Big Tech? Are the "journalists" using Big Tech?

They should conduct their research using old tech and not support Big Tech, or is that why they were laid off?

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