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.

Filed Under: big tech, journalism, save journalism
Companies: facebook, google


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2019 @ 11:59am

    news aggregators are parasites who siphon revenue from the industry.

    People go online to see content, yet the content creators have to pay the tolltakers first.

    Lots of independent sites are doing fine btw.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rocky, 10 Jun 2019 @ 12:12pm

      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?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2019 @ 12:21pm

      Re:

      Who are the news aggregators? You certainly aren't talking about Google which is merely a search engine to help drive traffic to the news sites.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2019 @ 12:24pm

        Re: Re:

        They get first crack at the traffic they "drive" that then goes back to the search engine.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Gary (profile), 10 Jun 2019 @ 12:31pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Who are "They"?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            R,og S/, 13 Jun 2019 @ 8:59am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: #MEE 2

            Right.

            Who are “it?”

            Or, Ich, and Du, for that matter.

            My money is on "none of "them ” ”are named Ngoc, Basset, Dumbrowski, Finnegan, !Nding ’a! or Oduwale.

            But Ive been wrong before, just not about this.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Matthew Cline (profile), 10 Jun 2019 @ 12:31pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          How are people who don't already visit a news site meant to find articles on that site, if not for search engines?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2019 @ 12:56pm

            Re: Re: Re: 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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2019 @ 3:25pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.
              CNN
              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.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2019 @ 5:07pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  Gary (profile), 10 Jun 2019 @ 5:24pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  in Spain, they had the link tax made mandatory. And Google News was disabled for the whole country.

                  This caused all pagecounts at news sites to plummet - unfortunately, it also decimated the hits to smaller sites. (A few larger news orgs pushed the bill against the wishes of the smaller independent sites.)

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Matthew Cline (profile), 10 Jun 2019 @ 12:35pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          ... that then goes back to the search engine.

          If the person wants to find something on the web, then yes, they'll go back from the news site from to the search engine, because search engines and news sites fulfill different purposes.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Darkness Of Course (profile), 10 Jun 2019 @ 3:02pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2019 @ 5:08pm

            Re: Re: 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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 12 Jun 2019 @ 5:23am

              Re: Re: Re: Anonymously incorrect coward

              So what? To learn more about the crash than the headline and a snippet they have to click through to the site.

              I don't like clicking on links without knowing where they're going to.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2019 @ 12:29pm

      Re:

      Parasites, eh? Maybe that flight over a google conference was to do a little cropdusting.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 10 Jun 2019 @ 1:21pm

      Re: BAD COMMENT

      “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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 10 Jun 2019 @ 3:37pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2019 @ 12:29pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Jun 2019 @ 6:44am

      Re:

      When an industry is famously unprofitable but remains in service, does this imply there is some sort of funny business in their books?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Jun 2019 @ 6:55am

        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.).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2019 @ 12:38pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chris-Mouse (profile), 10 Jun 2019 @ 1:07pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2019 @ 1:35pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2019 @ 1:38pm

    The flailing our of legacy media as they chase outrage driven clicks for short-term gain at cost of long-term brand and reputation is a sight to behold. Keep a mind toward ethical codes of conduct, 'do no harm'. Could not have less sympathy for those who have abandoned that ethic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2019 @ 2:43pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2019 @ 3:47pm

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tom a sparks (profile), 10 Jun 2019 @ 10:21pm

    they are complaining to the wrong cloud

    Complain to BIG NEWS, not Big tech

    How many news reports are carbon copies that are downloaded off the news wire?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jun 2019 @ 3:10am

    Wrong target

    Try whining about the prosecution of Julian Assange. Its not big tech, its the DOJ.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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