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.