On Friday, Google Australia threatened to pull its search services from the country as lawmakers introduced a ‘world-first law to make Google, Facebook and potentially other tech companies pay media outlets for their news content,’ according to the BBC.
Over the past decades, the emergence of big tech companies has devastated news media. In Australia, the government reports that print has seen a 75 per cent decrease in advertising revenue since 2005, a decrease caused both by the devaluation of print advertising and by the tech giants’ insatiable appetite for digital advertising market share.
Reliable, trustworthy news publishers are essential to both Google’s business model – Australian lawmakers have noted that tech platforms ‘gain customers from people who want to read the news,’ again according to the BBC – and to the functioning of healthy democracies. Proponents of the Australian law believe that revenue sharing is not only fair but necessary for news media’s survival. Opponents say it is contrary to the principles of free-flowing information on which the internet was founded.
But those principles were created in and for a different time. The people who created the internet and acted as its evangelists could not have foreseen the massive accumulation of power it has enabled in a small handful of companies. Neither could they have predicted the destabilizing effects it would have on democratic elections and by extension on democracy itself.
Unprecedented times call for bold new solutions. Despite Google Australia’s dramatic threats, it’s hard to imagine Australia’s new law posing a significant threat to the company’s bottom line. Google’s profits soared about 60 per cent to $11.2 billion in the quarter ending September 30, 2020… surely it can afford to pay newsrooms a fair price for their critical work.
As a Google Premier Partner digital advertising agency, GrowthEngine Media helps businesses get found online through Google and other means. Google is central to our business, just like it is to yours. However, we don’t believe that the search engine’s market superiority should come at the expense of the news media. Surely, there is a middle where both publishers and the tech giants can thrive.