Political Consultant Misrepresents Nearly Everything In Arguing That The Gov't Should Make Google/Facebook Pay News Orgs

from the that's-not-how-any-of-this-works dept

If you don’t know who Doug Schoen is, he’s a quintessential political/lobbying insider, who has worked for the Clintons and more recently for Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign. It might surprise some people to find that he also was a regular on Fox News… before switching to propaganda purveyor Newsmax, where he was hired earlier this year as an “analyst.” In previous lives he worked for political trickster Dick Morris, and was a partner with another political dirty trickster, Mark Penn, in a political consulting firm. Penn, famously, has argued that companies should attack more successful companies through political dirty tricks, and it appears that Schoen is following in those footsteps.

He has penned a truly facts-optional op-ed for The Hill to argue that it is imperative for the government to force Google and Facebook to pay news organizations (presumably including his employer, Newsmax — though The Hill fails to note Schoen’s affiliation with Newsmax). Schoen trots out a bunch of dubious points, without support, and includes a few debunked tropes. We don’t need to go through them all. But the underlying argument, as always, is that once Facebook and Google became successful, news organizations started failing, and therefore one must have caused the other. Of course, the fact that newspaper declines began before Facebook/Google became so popular should raise some questions about all this. Other research has shown that it’s not so much news aggregation or social media that destroyed the news business model, but the death of classified advertising, which was going to happen on the internet no matter what.

Schoen addresses none of this, but insists Google and Facebook are the cause. And he does this by flat out misrepresenting the data.

Indeed, despite the enormous revenue that Google and Facebook are able to generate due to their monopoly over news and information ? as these digital platforms are the main source of news for 86 percent of Americans ? current copyright and antitrust law in the U.S. does not mandate compensation to publishers. Nor does it provide any real legal basis for news publishers to be able to collectively negotiate with these online platforms.

Let’s explore that 86%. Techdirt reader EmGorse highlighted that Schoen is completely misrepresenting that 86%. If you look at what it actually says, it’s that 86% of Americans get news on digital devices (60% do so often, and 26% sometimes).

If you look at that, you realize just how bullshit the 86% claim is. First of all, it’s just about people getting their news through digital means, not just via Facebook and Google. That means that some of that 86% includes people who visit those traditional news outlets sites directly. Even worse, it does not support the claim that digital platforms are “the main source of news for 86%.” Indeed, that report shows that 60% “often” get their news from smartphones, computers, or tablets, and another 26% get it from those sources “sometimes.” Still, another 68% get their news from TV and 50% from radio. Nothing in this says anything related to Facebook or Google (let alone the wider internet) being “the main source of news” for 86% of Americans.

Schoen is completely misrepresenting this data and hoping no one notices.

In fact, if you scroll down a little further in that Pew Research article, it actually shows that Americans are more likely to get their news directly from news websites or apps than from search or social.

From that you can see that 68% of people say they get their news from news websites or apps directly (34% often, 35% sometimes), while a smaller number (65% — 23% often, 41% sometimes) say search, and an even smaller number (53% — 23% often, 30% sometimes) list social as their main source of news.

In other words, Schoen’s own link disproves the very crux of his argument. Does he care? Of course not. He’s here to push a narrative. It does not matter that the data says exactly the opposite of his own claims.

Even worse, Schoen seems to think the government should just step in and tell Google and Facebook how much they need to pay news orgs like Newsmax:

To note, in October 2020, Google parent company Alphabet created a platform, Google Showcase, which is a $1 billion investment by Alphabet in financial partnerships with news publishers. Yet, the terms of the compensation are set by Alphabet, not by the government or a third-party arbitrator, which still leaves publishers and creators subject to Alphabet?s terms and price.

So, Google is giving out a billion dollars to help send more traffic to news orgs that don’t seem to know what to do with the traffic, and Schoen’s main argument is “well the government should force them to give more”? If news orgs don’t like the traffic Google sends them, they can set up robots.txt to stop it. It’s funny (and notable) that none of them do. They seem to like the free distribution.

Also, nearly every major media organization has search engine optimization and social media people on staff to try to improve how they perform on both Google and Facebook. That kinda gives away the game, doesn’t it? Every news org recognizes that the traffic they’re getting is valuable. And now people like Schoen not only want that valuable traffic for free, they also want Facebook and Google to pay for helping to send more traffic.

The Hill should be embarrassed that it publishes this kind of garbage, and does so without mentioning that Schoen works for a propaganda outfit like Newsmax. But, alas, this is how dirty political tricksterism works.

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Companies: facebook, google, newsmax

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Comments on “Political Consultant Misrepresents Nearly Everything In Arguing That The Gov't Should Make Google/Facebook Pay News Orgs”

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26 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
bhull242 (profile) says:

Yet, the terms of the compensation are set by Alphabet, not by the government or a third-party arbitrator, which still leaves publishers and creators subject to Alphabet’s terms and price.

So what? That’s the case for most transactions between businesses (or between a business and a client or user). This is a service that Alphabet is offering of its own free will. It’s not the result of a legal dispute where the government or an impartial third party is required or even expected. Very few transactions, proposals, or deals between businesses involve any sort of mediation or government intervention.

Unless you can articulate a specific problem with Google Showcase and/or the terms and/or price Alphabet is setting for Google Showcase themselves—rather than just who is setting the terms and price—this claim is meaningless. You haven’t claimed that Google Showcase is unfair or anything; just that Alphabet decides the terms and price. Since the terms and price for most goods and services are ultimately set by the one selling them, this is entirely unremarkable. The same thing happened with YouTube’s ContentID and advertiser policies: those weren’t the result of the government intervening or mediation with a third-party mediator setting the terms or price but Google entering negotiations for a compromise with certain parties and ultimately setting the terms and prices itself.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s not only a groundless complaint it’s also a grossly hypocritical one as well as you can imagine the absolute screaming fits they’d have if someone wanted to advertise on their papers, didn’t like the terms they offered and started demanding that the papers pay them for those advertisements, hinting that if the papers refused to ‘negotiate’ then they’d get the government involved to force them to do so.

ECA (profile) says:

And

There is no mention of the overlap?
about 200% total?
Local news is local and seldom Spreads very far, so you goto local TV or papers and in many cases the Local internet.(Not cable TV)

Then there is the thought that TV, cable TV, Papers, radio FROM WHOM/Where? The major news orgs. So Most of their news is aggregated for another source. Google and FB can just pay the Source, and NONE of the rest can do anything about it.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Nor does it provide any real legal basis for news publishers to be able to collectively negotiate with these online platforms.

The article covered how the 86% claim is dishonest garbage but I feel it important to highlight this particularly dishonest line as well. The newspapers aren’t looking to ‘negotiate’ they are issuing demands, ‘pay us money because we tell you to’, and they’re throwing tantrums because they aren’t able to force the likes of Google and Facebook to fold on their own as quickly as they want.

They’re demanding to be paid for a valuable service that those platforms/companies are providing them for free and while I’ve no doubt at this point that if they keep pushing Google and Facebook will fold and start paying them that won’t have made their demands legitimate.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Facebook and Google already have folded. In Australia.

And they were either idiots or playing the long game in doing so, banking that while they can afford those ‘fees’ smaller platforms and services that might have otherwise competed with them won’t be able to and will therefore die before they can grow.

Whatever the reason though they’ve made clear that for all their protests and resources push hard enough and they will cave, ensuring that newspapers around the world will be demanding ‘their cut’ in ever growing numbers.

As for the rest of your comment gonna need you to be specific there, exactly what are you suggesting that people do there since voting ‘has failed everyone’?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

They didn’t exactly fold – they got the law changed at the last minute which gutted it’s stated purpose (but not it’s real purpose which was to hand money over to Murdoch’s Empire).

The last minute change means they only need to pay enough news companies to make the regulator happy rather than the initial wording that required them to pay all registered news companies if they wanted to carry any news content.

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

Re: Re:

Craigslist’s free classifieds destroyed print media, and while you might agree, it seems to support the notion that one cannot compete with free.

Lol wut? It does nothing of the sort. No one ever said that "free always loses." Indeed, the point is you can compete with free but you need to actually compete. The problem the newspapers had was that they didn’t even try. They just whined or disparaged the internet.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

That’s the primary purpose of this site, right? To limit business opportunities to those rich enough to offer products for free. Your purpose is to stifle innovation by individuals, to promote big business, to make it impossible for new low income authors, inventors, and designers to ever compete with big businesses with deep pockets.

You know the kind of businesses I mean. The ones that pay you to focus on "free" software so the Chinese can rip us off and take our jobs while stealing "open source", to focus on Police as "Evil" so criminals can rip us off, and to disrupt and disband the incentives and protections that made America the greatest center of invention and progress that the world has ever witnessed.

That’s your purpose, right? You want a new country with new rules that makes lying legal-dropouts sacks of shit like you in charge of everything, while honest hard working citizens get their homes burned down by BLM fanatics advocating for the destruction of the traditional American family life.

You’re mostly foreigner communists here, right? Or lunatics, criminals, traitors to their country, military, race or sex, traitors to American society. Perverts, mental cases and deviants for the most part, rolling in their own filth and shit and calling it a news site. Or as you put it, the "Streisand" effect. That’s your one invention you an be proud of, and you display your pride every day, over and over. A huge stinky pile of shit with the same falsely named ignorant pigs rolling around in their own fecal matter day after day.

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

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Thanks for the update. It’s always nice to have an update as to how far your fantasy world differs from the real world, and it helps calibrate our bullshit detectors for when you accidentally deal with reality and could be mistaken for a sane, honest person.

Although, as I often mention – wouldn’t it be easier for you to just deal with the real world? You’d be a lot less angry and exhausted if you didn’t base your worldview on half-baked fan fic.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You’d better go tell the bottled water industry(among many others) that as they’ve been operating under the mistaken impression that you can in fact compete with free and I’m sure they’ll feel all sorts of silly to find out that they’ve been wrong so long.

charliebrown (profile) says:

An Idea I Had

What if …. and hear me out first …. What if there was a newspaper where the owner, editorial staff and reporters all shared any profits equally? If it sells well, everyone makes a ton of money. And if it sells badly, everybody makes hardly any money. Like any other business. OK, maybe work out a contract where the reporter covering a building collapse might get paid more than the reporter covering the flower show, but those details can be worked out when you set it up. And you get the idea, right?

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