NY Times Publishes Laughable Propaganda To Argue Google Owes Newspapers Like Itself Free Money

from the all-the-propaganda-that-fits-to-pad-our-bottom-line dept

Earlier this week, I posted about a silly new organization that claims it's going to "save journalism" mainly by whining about how evil Google and Facebook are. As I noted in that piece, even if you believe Google and Facebook are evil, it's not clear how whining about them being evil provides any new journalists jobs. But the news industry as a whole has been on this weird "blame someone else" kick for way too long. The "News Media Alliance" (formerly the Newspaper Association of America) has been on a weird anti-tech protectionist kick for years now, and on Monday published a "study" claiming that Google made $4.7 billion from news -- a number that was then trumpeted loudly by the NY Times, which just happens to be one of the larger members of the News Media Alliance.

There's just one tiny problem. The "study" is no study at all and basically everyone in the media business is laughing at the NY Times for publishing such a ridiculously bogus study without highlighting how bogus it was. The $4.7 billion is not based on any careful research. It's based on one off-hand comment from over a decade ago by an exec who hasn't been at Google in years, and then extrapolated forward. Really.

That study relies on a public comment then–Google executive Marissa Mayer made at a media event in 2008, when she estimated that Google News brought in $100 million in revenue. The NMA report calculates what the same proportion of the company’s revenue would be today, then further inflates this figure based on the fact that news consumption via Google’s main search is 6 times larger than via Google News (according to the NMA’s estimate of referral traffic to newspaper websites).

This is not what any sensible person would call a "sound" methodology. Oh, and I almost forgot the kicker:

...the News Media Alliance cautioned that its estimate for Google’s income was conservative

The NY Times also kinda skimmed over the purposeful timing of this study's release. The News Media Alliance has been pushing for sometime for a special antitrust exemption to allow big news orgs to collude to try to force more money out of Google and Facebook, and the study was released just a day before a Congressional hearing on the topic. Most normal reporters would recognize that, maybe (just maybe) there was an ulterior motive in releasing this "report" with such a flimsy statistic. But the Times reported it as if it was fact.

There may be plenty of reasons to distrust Google and Facebook and their role regarding journalism, but this report is not any of that. Google doesn't even put ads on most of Google News, but instead pushes visitors off to the websites of news orgs. If those news orgs are failing to monetize that traffic, it seems pretty ridiculous to blame google for that and demand more money via collusive efforts.

As Jeff Jarvis notes in his own response to the NYT's piece, if the publishers want to point the blame finger, they might want to start by turning it back on themselves:

The problem has long been that publishers aren’t competent at exploiting the full value of these clicks by creating meaningful and valuable ongoing relationships with the people sent their way. So what does Google do? It tries to help publishers by, for example, starting a subscription service that drives more readers to easily subscribe — and join and contribute — to news sites directly from Google pages. The NMA study cites that subscription service as an example of Google emphasizing news and by implication exploiting publishers. It is the opposite. Google started the subscription service because publishers begged for it — I was in the room when they did — and Google listened. The same goes for most every product change the study lists in which Google emphasizes news more. That helps publishers. The study then uses ridiculously limited data (including, crucially, an offhand and often disputed remark 10 years ago by a then-exec at Google about the conceptual value of news) to make leaps over logic to argue that news is important on its services and thus Google owes news publishers a cut of its revenue (which Google gains by offering publishers’ former customers, advertisers, a better deal; it’s called competition). By this logic, Instagram should be buying cat food for every kitty in the land and Reddit owes a fortune to conspiracy theorists.

The real problem here is news publishers’ dogged refusal to understand how the internet has changed their world, throwing the paradigm they understood into the grinder.

Yes, the world has changed. But the NMA seems to think that the government should now just force the internet companies to hand over money after their own members spent years twiddling their thumbs and squandering any attempt to build up loyal followings and sustainable business models. It's not easy to keep a media business sustainable these days, but so much of it has to do with those companies refusing to recognize how the internet was changing the business, and how to take advantage of those changes.

Filed Under: collusion, internet, news, newspapers
Companies: google, news media alliance, ny times


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  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 12 Jun 2019 @ 9:36am

    Dear NMA

    Prior to the advent of newspapers, there was a large contingent of workers in the Town Criers union. These workers were displaced by your organization. Please provide us a full accounting of how your organization supported these workers as their jobs were eliminated by your new technology.

    We will base our payments for our new technology to you on said record.

    "Big Tech"

    p.s. - you do realize that "Big Tech" invented the very presses that enabled your newspapers to be printed? and the machines to do your accounting? and the machines to set type? and the technology for your readers to directly connect to you? and the technology for you to monetize that?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2019 @ 9:38am

    Craigslist destroyed print journalism that couldn't compete with free classified advertising, as this was their primary source of profitability.

    Left to fend for itself in the digital age, the Times and other legacy media outlets have bloated overhead costs which make it very difficult for them to thrive. In its place are many blogs and independent news sources which can do just fine on what are essentially dinner table crumbs from where the Times used to feed.

    The Times could of course open its own search engine and news portal but they chose not to. Google wasn't even the first, as Yahoo! was dominant back then.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2019 @ 9:46am

      Re:

      And before Yahoo there was AOL.

      And before AOL there was Netscape.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2019 @ 10:12am

        Re: Re:

        And before Yahoo there was AOL.

        And before AOL there was Netscape.

        And those two statements mean absolutely nothing. Yes, Yahoo was a popular search engine before Google, but AOL wasn't anything of the sort. It was its own walled garden of online content. And Netscape? What the hell did you smoke today. Netscape is a browser, nothing more.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2019 @ 5:37pm

      Re:

      Nobody believes you, bobmail.

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

  • icon
    UniKyrn (profile), 12 Jun 2019 @ 9:45am

    Who?

    I'm in Washington, who is the New York Times? Oh, one of those old papers I'd never see, from a place I'd never visit, except that I see their name show up occasionally in Google News?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2019 @ 11:06am

      Re: Who?

      I block the NYT and other publications that restrict the pages to paying customers from ever showing up in my google results. If they put up their own wall, it tells me they don't want my views.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2019 @ 3:32pm

        Re: Re: Who?

        This was the predictable path. It's a service problem.

        In response to the changing business model some publications turned to MySpace as a model template, turning their newsroom into trackers and advertisement explosion of snowflakes and auto-play media content. And when that didn't work went behind pay walls. In response? People turning to adblockers to avoid malware and disruptive scripts visited less over time until not at all. When the inconvenience of finding an alternative is less inconvenient than returning, your audience is gone.

        Those alternatives I find are smaller investigative journalists. Those with a lean team leveraging hacker ethic to build new journalism tools that do more with less investment. The ones that avoided algorithm driven headlines AB testing to maximize outrage and anger to drive clicks. Those platforms are building a brand reputation in the new world, and I donate monthly to them for the quality.

        Oddly, the platforms that chased clicks-from-outrage tactics continually attack and libel growing platforms that stayed out of it.

        Recommending Subverse as a sample of the future journalism model. Less extremes. More moderate reporting. Looking forward to their team growing in the next month or two.

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

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 13 Jun 2019 @ 8:49am

        Re: Re: Who?

        I used to have Google News in my RSS feed, but it is mostly papers such as the NYT that have paywalls (read so many stories for free and then you have to pay) so I just deleted it.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 12 Jun 2019 @ 12:47pm

      Re: Who?

      The only times I've ever looked at NYT is when someone linked it to me, be that Google or some other site. As an Englishman living in Europe, I'm certainly never going to pay to subscribe to a US-centric site, but it's always interesting to get other viewpoints from time to time so I will click through. If they wish to block me because they think that the meagre ad revenue they get from the referral is less than the imaginary subscription they'd get from me, then they can settle for the more realistic $0 they will actually get.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2019 @ 9:48am

    I don’t know why the NMA seems to want to give trumps catchphrase cred with this to save the revenue stream but ITS NOT HELPING.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2019 @ 9:48am

    the Times and other legacy media outlets have bloated overhead costs which make it very difficult for them to thrive.

    And thrive they (New York Times, Washing Post and Wallstreet Journal) did by becoming the propaganda and intelligence office of domestic and foreign elitists.

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

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 12 Jun 2019 @ 9:54am

      Re:

      by becoming the propaganda and intelligence office of domestic and foreign elitists

      Citation needed? What - You heard it on Infowars while discussing the secret sex ring that was run out of the pizza place?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2019 @ 3:33pm

        Re: Re:

        while discussing the secret sex ring that was run out of the pizza place?

        Hey now, leave Ars Technica's DrPizza out of this.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2019 @ 10:08am

    Thats the logic behind article 13 in europe,
    google, facebook will have to pay for any link to any news article,
    It might be sued for using any image or video or image it shows that
    it has not licensed from the ip holder .
    We will erase fair use and diminish free speech if it means we can get more money from big tech companys ,
    Its obvious how to make money on the web,
    connect with your audience, provide a service they want,
    allow user comments and pay attention to your customers .
    I think the wall st journal thrives by offering extra content
    and info reporting that is revelant and that users will pay for
    because its of value to them .
    The publishers in europe are like the music industry in the 90s,after 2000
    maybe we can use legal threats to force are customers
    to licence or pay for our content .
    IF only steve jobs was still alive to tell them how to provide
    good content and sell their content at a reasonable price
    in the online market place .

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 12 Jun 2019 @ 10:32am

      Re:

      Its obvious how to make money on the web,
      connect with your audience, provide a service they want,
      allow user comments and pay attention to your customers .

      But that's WORK! We just wanna sit back and tax other people's efforts.

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

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 12 Jun 2019 @ 10:08am

    That's some great investigative journalism

    Sort-of related: if this is what passes for investigative journalism at the New York Times, then I'm cancelling my subscription.

    If they take one comment made 10 years ago as "proof" of a "study", then what other stories are they publishing that are bending the truth or flat-out lying?
    Or do they only investigate sources and studies when it benefits their cause?
    Either way, that's not good journalism.

    What's next- a "study" proves the moon is made of swiss cheese because someone made a comment 10 years ago?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2019 @ 10:14am

      Re: That's some great investigative journalism

      What's next- a "study" proves the moon is made of green cheese because someone made a comment 10 years ago?

      FTFY.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2019 @ 10:28am

      Re: That's some great investigative journalism

      Whenever I see any news article from any source, I just remember the Newspaper paradox. Here it is.

      Take a look at any newspaper. What you'll notice is that the more you know about the subject being described, the more the article looks like bullshit. But if you don't know much about the subject, then the more authoritative the article sounds. Hand the newspaper to someone else and you'll find out the exact same thing regardless of subject. If the reader knows a lot, the article sounds like bullshit. If the reader knows little, the more authoritative the article sounds... Regardless of the actual subject.

      Conclusion?
      The newspaper is bullshit about any subject.

      Why is this?
      The newspaper reporters are trained to effectively describe concepts and ideas. They write in an easily understood manner on virtually any subject. However, having the ability to easily and describe what they're thinking doesn't mean that they actually understand what they're writing about. So if they don't understand the actual subject, but have an extremely mistaken concept of the reality, that doesn't matter. They're still capable of describing their mistaken version of reality in a manner that clear and easily understandable, even though it's total bullshit.

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

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 12 Jun 2019 @ 11:57am

      Re: That's some great investigative journalism

      I mean, this is the same NYT that 10 or 15 years ago was widely know to be literally publishing fake news, that is it had at least one prominent reporter who made up everything he wrote.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 12 Jun 2019 @ 3:21pm

      'Well, the truth isn't conductive to our position, so...'

      Exactly. If they're willing to just make shit up simply because it helps them here, then there is no reason to trust anything they say, because there's no reason to assume they won't do it again the second it becomes beneficial to them.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2019 @ 3:34pm

      Re: That's some great investigative journalism

      Probably a study showing that being cruel to old white men is actually a good thing. Sarah Jeong is still employed, if you can call it that.

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

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 12 Jun 2019 @ 10:39am

    " a "study" claiming that Google made $4.7 billion from news -- a number that was then trumpeted loudly by the NY Times"

    And by CNN on one of their internet news clip shows.
    I posted this:
    https://news.google.com/
    Then asked how they made money from a page with no ads while providing direct links to the respective news service(s). [Crickets]
    Of course.

    What happened to the day where sites were glad to receive the traffic from Google? I have yet to understand where this "logic" is coming from. Maybe G needs to not link to anything NYT related for a day or 2. Scrub them from all searches. Then they will cry about that too.

    I heard the CNN talking head mention how many little news papers have gone under and all I can think about are Buggy makers. Yeah they still exist along with saddle makers but not like they did. We can all guess that the skilled labor found another profession in which they could use the talents they acquired making buggies.

    They dug their own hole. Not one of them can be trusted wholeheartedly. You have to take every interview and everything they say with a grain of salt and check and double check if it's the truth.

    Oh and why is it everyone acts surprised to find out that Fox "News" is just a Republican mouth piece? I have video of Murdoch admitting he used the news's influence to sway public opinion of the Iraq war. This should have been obvious to everyone.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2019 @ 2:17pm

      Re:

      The reporters, and editors even, could probably make money on the Internet as Independents. It is all the corporate management above them that will have trouble finding new jobs.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2019 @ 10:47am

    "NY Times Publishes Laughable Propaganda" .. Is all you needed to say. And, we know.

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

  • icon
    virusdetected (profile), 12 Jun 2019 @ 11:13am

    Unfortunately, the imbeciles in Congress believe this nonsense

    That was the entire perspective of the Congressional hearings this week, and there was no one to dispute this twisted interpretation of history. "Big Tech" gave us what we wanted, and we kept asking for more, so they gave us that, too. They also gave us "live" news, as it's happening, and from multiple perspectives. Yes, we paid for this by revealing our interests and our connections, and we did that willingly (although, perhaps, naively). I get today's news today, not tomorrow morning, I don't have to hunt in the bushes for the newspaper, and I can hit one key and skip the stuff I don't care about. I do have a concern about the loss of local investigative reporting, but the con jobs have become so big and complex that a local reporter would be unlikely to unwind them. (Think FCC+Verizon+AT&T+Comcast, who each represent a particularly noxious form of "Big Tech" but don't seem to be in the spotlight.) Amazon and Google represent successful business strategies that produced sufficient products to expand into other lines of business. Facebook may have crossed a line when they promised privacy and didn't deliver, but the popularity of Facebook demonstrates a demand for the service.

    [The Congressional inquiries remind me of a similar witch hunt back in the dark ages, when Congress went after A.C. Nielsen for cancelling someone's favorite TV show. Nielsen only counted viewers; advertisers and networks cancelled shows, but Congress couldn't understand that. If anything, Congresscritters are even less knowledgeable today, and that should scare all of us.]

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2019 @ 1:23pm

      Re: Unfortunately, the imbeciles in Congress believe this nonsen

      They believe what they are paid to believe in far too many cases unfortunately.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2019 @ 7:11am

        Re: Re: Unfortunately, the imbeciles in Congress believe this no

        Well, at least they promised to no longer hand out the checks on the congressional floor before taking the vote.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    David Longfellow, 12 Jun 2019 @ 11:30am

    No one to blame but themselves

    I might care about the NYT if I thought they were an actual unbiased news source instead of a bunch of Democratic party shills.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2019 @ 11:54am

      Re: No one to blame but themselves

      I might care about the NYT if I thought they were an actual unbiased news source instead of a bunch of Democratic party shills.

      Watch Fox news much?

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

  • identicon
    Glenn, 12 Jun 2019 @ 3:30pm

    That's something you don't often see out "in the wild": fake news.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 12 Jun 2019 @ 3:42pm

    'We here at the NYT hire only the best reporters. Promise.'

    You'd think a major newspaper would have had someone research how well it's worked out the last few times some greedy newspaper tried to shake down Google because said newspaper wants the kind of money Google has and thinks they are owed it.

    Or perhaps they did, saw that while it decimated reporting in spain across the board the smaller outfits/sites were harmed more, and figure it will make a handy way to kill off the competition.

    Idiots or malicious fools, neither of those is a good look.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2019 @ 4:23pm

      Re: 'We here at the NYT hire only the best reporters. Promise.'

      It's much easier to push their agenda in the climate created first by Trump's cadre and now bolstered by his opposition. It's popular among the uneducated to hate on the big tech companies. NYT's message was probably swallowed hook, line and sinker by most who read it and will likely see more success this time around than the last. No more of a win but still more successful.

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

  • icon
    Discuss It (profile), 12 Jun 2019 @ 4:17pm

    This is going to piss off a lot of folks

    Mike says the NYT getting no profit from others repackaging their content is bogus. And since the NYT posts it in public, I kinda agree with that. But as a content creator myself, I sorta see the point from the NYT.

    Mike will correctly point out that you have to find ways to monetize your content. The NTY says it's not their job to do that, which I disagree with. They say "In the old days, people paid subscriptions and we got ad money." which is WAY off base. Using that argument, I should set up a buggy whip and whale oil lamp business and demand that Ford and ConEd pay me because people don't use those anymore due to innovations.

    But to give the NYT their due, they do provide a valued resource, the problem is how to monetize that. To be frank, I don't see any news outlet of any kind doing a good job of that. Perhaps I'm just unaware of them. I do see news papers trying to go to a subscription model, but all that seems to do is swiften their demise. Perhaps we should shift the conversation of "X is being dumb" to "X should do THIS".
    Last, if NYT doesn't want google to scrape their web site, it's as simple as adding a robots.txt entry to tell them not to do so. It works.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2019 @ 7:29pm

      Re: This is going to piss off a lot of folks

      It would be interesting if media outlets did use robots.txt, as this would put the question to Google regarding the value of the content.

      It should at least be tried first. Perhaps this would motivate Google to make some type of offer.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 12 Jun 2019 @ 10:11pm

        Re: Re: This is going to piss off a lot of folks

        It should at least be tried first.

        That assumes that they don't want the traffic that Google sends them, when in fact they very much do, they just also want to be paid for it too.

        Perhaps this would motivate Google to make some type of offer.

        'Hey, when you realize how insanely stupid that was, just remember you can be re-listed whenever you want by dropping the robots.txt thing.'

        Google has, and would have, no reason to 'make some type of offer' just because a media outlet was an idiot and cut itself off from free traffic. While both sides benefit from the current relationship if they tried to turn a symbiotic relationship parasitic they'd quickly find that they need Google way more than Google needs them, as history has made very clear when various newspapers tried to play chicken with Google in the past.

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

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 12 Jun 2019 @ 4:41pm

    Gray Lady Down

    NY Times Publishes Laughable Propaganda To Argue Google Owes Newspapers Like Itself Free Money

    How do we earn our money?

    The old fashioned way - we steal it.

    Mayhap, NYT should try journalism again?

    Printing rank propaganda under the guise of factually reporting the news tends to turn your readers/subscribers off.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2019 @ 4:13am

    Stop Playing

    Compose a boilerplate statement describing the situation...

    1) Put Up Your Dukes NYT

    Due to blatantly dishonest, inflammatory defamation of Google by the NY Times, we infer that the NY Times peddles fake news. Until such time, if ever, that Google can be convinced to revise its estimation of the honesty of the NY Times' so-called "reporting," Google News will no longer risk subjecting its visitors to the NY Times' fake news.

    2) More in Sorrow Than in Anger

    The NY Times feels we're treating them unfairly. They claim we should be paying to send them web traffic. We disagree, but since they are trying to bring legislation to force us to pay, we will simply refrain from forwarding traffic to them. For Google News, there is no NY TImes.

    3) Logical Solution

    The NY Times insists that Google News must pay to send them visitors. Logically, if we send no visitors, we can't be claimed to owe payments.

    4) Low-key Humor

    <a href="https://www.google.com/Why-a-NYTimes-Story-Did-Not-Go-Here" > Missing Link </a>

    Insert one at every place the news aggregator would have listed a URL for a NY Times article.

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


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