Canadian Publishing Group Says France Has The Right Idea, Presses For Its Own Google Tax

from the dividing-by-almost-zero dept

Canada is more than just a calmer, more apologetic version of the United States. It’s its own thing. But, more accurately, it’s a Britain + France thing. While Canada shares a common border with us, it’s still more Europe than US of A.

Every so often we’re reminded of its ties with the other side of the pond. This is one of those times.

French regulators recently decided Google owed French news sites for all the traffic it sends to them. It mandated “negotiations” between Google and French newspapers, but insisted the negotiations begin with Google getting out its wallet.

It appears Canadian lobbyists agree with France: Google owes them money.

A Canadian news industry advocacy group says that Canada would do well to follow France’s example in forcing internet search giant Google Inc. to pay news publishers for their content.

I guess this depends on how you define “do well.” This could backfire severely, resulting in no new revenue streams and fewer site visitors. Just ask Spain. That’s not “doing well.” If this means the group thinks it’s advisable to follow France’s example, it’s also wrong. But that’s the direction journalists are being steered by their advocates.

News Media Canada chief executive John Hinds said Thursday that the federal government will need to take a leadership role if the power dynamic between Google and publishers is to be changed.

This isn’t the first time Canadian journalists have demanded tech companies pay them for the traffic they send them. Three years ago, a Google tax was pitched to the Canadian government — one that included Facebook and Netflix in a proposal to tax companies who helped bring Canadian content to site users around the world.

Things are tough all over, thanks to a radical shift in, well… everything… since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Hinds somehow believes an advertising giant will provide for everyone during a time when everyone’s advertising revenues are down.

Hinds said the collapse of advertising rates in the face of the COVID-10 global pandemic, at a time when people are reading news sites at higher rates than ever, highlights the problem.

“I think it’s a fundamental thing: We need to be paid for our content. We need to be compensated,” Hinds said.

Fair enough. Let your readers do that. If they’re not interested, it’s really not up to a bunch of other companies located elsewhere in the world to make up the perceived difference. Everything sucks everywhere at the moment. Wringing a few bucks out of Google isn’t going to reverse anyone’s fortunes. And the more newspapers that convince governments Google should pay for sending them traffic, the less they’ll all be making individually.

A Google tax isn’t a revenue stream. It’s not even a trickle. Here’s Nate Hoffelder’s estimate of how Google’s “billions” in profit would actually pay out for rent-seeking newspapers:

Google is making under 4 cents per search, and turning a profit of around a half a cent per search.

Of course, that is an average across all of Google’s search results, and it includes search terms and even whole verticals which are not monetized (Google News, for example). And that is also a global average and not based on EU revenues, so it is not 100% applicable. (And those calculations are based on a bunch of unsupported assumptions.)

Leaving those caveats aside, the point that matters is that news publishers want Google to pay for the use of their links and snippets. This means that Google would need to take that 3.7 cents and divide it between all of the relevant links returned with each click of the search button (after taking a cut for itself).]

Efforts like this are counterproductive. They’re unlikely to reverse the fortunes of failing news concerns and far more likely to convince US tech companies to avoid providing specific services for certain countries. If Canadian publishers want what France has, they’re only going to end up splitting the disappointment.

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Comments on “Canadian Publishing Group Says France Has The Right Idea, Presses For Its Own Google Tax”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Seems to me that this isn’t the right direction to take. If the publishers want to keep CanCon funded… why not just bring back CanCon rules, but instead of tying them to the distribution channels, tie them to the advertising? After all, advertising is already localized.

The results of this would be that advertising would be more effective, and the publishers would get more of their content in front of people who actually want to see it. This means advertisers will be willing to pay more. Win all around, and all without taxing anyone new.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

At this point Google needs to make it crystal clear that the nuclear option is the only possible result for people trying to shake them down like this, as if they cave even once they will suffer the death of a thousand cuts as every single country demands to get ‘their’ share as well.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: 'Hmm, no.'

"Slightly decimating something and utterly decimating something are the same result – the thing remains 90% intact."

…and the only reason we use the word "decimation" at all as an indication of something terrible is because of the historical legacy of the word.

"Decimation" was when a roman legion had screwed up so badly the high command decided the fault lay, rather than with the commander alone, with the entirety of the rank and file.

So they’d line up the entire legion and have the men in each ten man squadron draw lots. The unlucky "winner" in every squad was bludgeoned to death by his squad mates in the open field.

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Anonymous Coward says:

New Minimum SEO Demands for EVERY News Agency

Google can give thirty days notice of new requirements applied to ALL news agencies. If a news organization wants its content indexed AT ALL, there must be a properly formed site-level robots.txt file that specifies indexing is allowed. Further, for every single page, there must be a new meta tag value employed that gives Google the authority to add the page to its search results and news aggregations at zero charge to Google. These requirements apply to all news sites everywhere and, remember, begin in thirty days.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: New Minimum SEO Demands for EVERY News Agency

Great solution – make GNews an opt-IN service.

If you don’t like it don’t opt-in, if you do then accept it is a free service and you will not get paid..

It would be interesting to see how long it is before the news outlets quietly add the opt-in file.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Wyrm (profile) says:

Re: Re: New Minimum SEO Demands for EVERY News Agency

Actually, if we work with robots.txt, most of them have already opted-in even as the concept is currently opt-out.
That is the hypocrisy that was underlined years ago when this demand was first put forward by news agency.
Check their robots.txt: many already have rules that mention Googlebot, or just allow every bot. Not a single one I checked disallowed Google entirely. Also of note: they can block access to just the Google News bot if they want. I haven’t found any that did even this.

As an example, NYTimes allows every one and just restricts GoogleBot from indexing urls that use a couple of query parameters. CNN just explicitly allows every bot.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: New Minimum SEO Demands for EVERY News Agency

"Great solution – make GNews an opt-IN service."

It already is. It’s become abundantly clear that the only way you get the media to see sense is by using the nuclear option right out of the gate. Anything less than that they just interpret as "A little more bullying with lawyers and lobbyists and we’ll own Googles money!".

I doubt Google just leaving France and Australia will harm Google. The ones suddenly turning invisible online unless they build and launch their own search engine though – that’s another story.

Doubly so as if Google leaves the next target up will be Bing. And a similar contest there is likely to leave France and Australia – and possibly Canada – without several key Microsoft services as side effect.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

"Every so often we’re reminded of its ties with the other side of the pond"

Well that’s surely not concerning language. Beware little ones! The big bad American Empire is coming to get you! But fret not! Because I’ll protect you!

As if any of these complaining "countries", read: Failed to adapt to the modern age legacy media companies, would care about the claimed "theft" if they were the ones "stealing" the links, and providing the traffic. It’s just the latest in the never ending barrage of idiots desperately trying to prevent progress in the name of profits.

The biggest take away here is just how much power and influence these legacy companies still have over government agendas. Multiple different nations backing the exact same regressive tax in a few weeks? That screams corruption. The real question is whether or not the uncaring void will actually do anything about it or wait until the internet is effectively useless before batting an eye.

Hugo S Cunningham (profile) says:

Charge reader directly?

I agree it is ridiculous to charge Google for providing a service.

Nevertheless, I would be willing to pay a modest charge (a penny?) for each article I read not covered by a subscription. Perhaps, as part of my monthly access, I would have a $20 allowance (not refundable, not to be carried over) I could allocate to non-subscription articles. Is there any way this could make economic sense?

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Charge reader directly?

Is there any way this could make economic sense?

Not really, as the administration of the scheme would swallow most if not all of your contributions.

Also, that would mean a mandatory database of all the sites and pages that you visit along with a mandatory Internet logon, so that you are identified. Do you really want to give that data to every government and advertiser in the world.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Charge reader directly?

I could see that as a subscription service, actually. Pay a monthly or yearly access fee, then have micro-transactions akin to what they’d get from Google for a link tax.

The problem is that it would likely die the way the dream of cutting cords and going to all streaming has – every media company has its own subscription streaming service that refuses to let any other service access content, so if you want to watch all the TV channels you need to pay ten times what a cable subscription costs.

Darkness Of Course (profile) says:

Part of the issue is adtech itself.

Not Google, but ad placement firms. They deal with thousands of ads, and use simple scripts and keyword lists to sanitize the placement of ads.

Check out what they’ve been pushing lately, avoiding sites that have COVID news. Yep, that’s going to impact every news service. And google is helpless here, the adtech/placement crews are between Google and the companies placing ads themselves.

Sure, getting Google to hammer the entire country’s news websites será fabulosa (will be fabulous). Let us know how that turns out for you, because we won’t be seeing it via Google.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sheesh! Just what do these countries think they’re doing? Spain tried doing this, passed laws, and Google News pulled out of Spain. It devastated smaller news outlets and forced Google to delist those media websites from their search engines.

IN an effort to try and grab some extra money from Google, they are cutting off their nose to spite their face.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

At Some Point

At some point, it will no longer be worth the trouble. Google will simply shut its offices in countries like France; if you want to deal with them, you must come to the States and be subject to US law. Naturally, no taxes will be paid to frog governments, unless an entity in one of those countries desires to do so.

The result of such departure may mean that frog sites are no longer indexed or returned in search results, particularly if the robots.txt says not to. I cannot see this working out well for the frogs.

Alternatively, it may mean that such sites are indexed and returned, but that return and its placement is deemed U.S. commentary upon the site. This is a softer result, in that the sites do not lose visibility, but yet a result entirely beyond the reach of the frog governments.

If Google were nice people, they could even provide a rule that a frog site will not be indexed without an express mention in its robots.txt file. They could do the same, I suppose, for all sites: no mention, no index.

If Google does not follow this path of avoidance, then its operating costs, including foreign attorney and accountant fees, are sure to increase. They will need a legion of accountants because the demands will but multiply, as the governments of Berzerkistan and Zambonia see that it worked for France and hope for similar results.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"I bet you’re one of the people who took that whole “freedom fries” thing seriously."

Not unlikely.

That said he has multiple points. Both in the analysis of what Google will have to do…and in his slurs against the french, because it surely is hard to muster much respect for the french government.

There’s a reason why the french raise their children to circumvent and bypass their neo-feudal regime in the assumption that anything coming out of the Palais Bourbon is going to be arrogant, impractical, and downright insulting.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I bet you’re one of the people who took that whole “freedom fries” thing seriously

I bet you are one of those people who took seriously the whole idea that frog law ought to cover the entire internet. Including, no doubt, a right to be forgotten'' and a right to collect alink tax”.

My argument was, and remains, that such schemes are ultimately unworkable due to the large number of states which would follow such an example. Your argument gives me little to suggest that mine is incorrect, silly food renamings being to me somewhat unpersuasive.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I bet you are one of those people who took seriously the whole idea that [French] law ought to cover the entire internet.

Two things.

  1. I’m not; I despise both concepts you named in the sentence after the one I quoted.
  2. I can tell you’re a “freedom fries” person because you keep referring to French people — and yes, they are people, no matter how much you’d prefer they not be — as “frogs”. I’ve no real strong feelings about the French government in general, but if you want to be a hateful bigot, I’m sure Stormfront will be more than happy to have you.
Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I laughed at freedom fries'', but at the same time I did not develop any added respect for the frogs. Even after it turned out that the basis for the war which France failed to support was entirely made up, I did not suddenly develop added respect for France. Nor did I start orderingfreedom fries” at any point in the debacle.

You may start ordering them now, if you like. The Iraq war does not appear to be over despite display of a large mission accomplished'' banner. So you can still have yourfreedom fries”. As a hateful person, I will suggest that yours should be cooked in Crisco instead of lard or peanut oil.

I observe that gaulish persons have been known as frogs for years, even among friends (e.g. U.S. troops during WW2). Not very hateful bigotry, and certainly less so than referring to northern persons as yankees'' (distinguishdamnyankees”, who arrive and stay).

In this case, however, I have to admit that the main visible source of problem is the frog govt, and the general public that might otherwise be offendable do not really have much visible involvement. It is more a matter of coin-operated govt, much as we have stateside.

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