News Media Unite for Collective Bargaining with Tech Titans

The difficult relationship between Google and Facebook and traditional journalism outlets is based on the fact that the former has control over digital advertising and distribution, disempowering the latter. Now, the News Media Alliance, that industry’s main trade group, is working to win collective bargaining rights with the digital titans they are forced to depend on, asking Congress for a limited antitrust exemption to do so. Experts give the effort long-shot odds, but news media industry is determined to proceed.

The New York Times reports that the News Media Alliance has “buy-in across the spectrum of its membership, bringing together competitors like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, as well as scores of regional papers like The Star Tribune of Minneapolis.” News Corporation, “which oversees The Journal, New York Post and Dow Jones, also supported the effort in a statement.

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“The temperature is rising in terms of concern, and in some cases anger, about what seems like a very asymmetric, disadvantageous relationship between the publishers and the very big digital platforms,” said The New York Times Company chief executive Mark Thompson.

At the heart of their concern is “the endurance of quality journalism” in the face of “false, cost-free” news. “If you want a free news model, you will get news,” said News Media Alliance chief executive David Chavern. “But it will be garbage news.” Facing the possibility of regulation, “Google and Facebook don’t want to be seen as undermining real journalism.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that the News Media Alliance blames “antiquated antitrust laws” for having “the unintended effect of preserving and protecting Google and Facebook’s dominant position.” A limited waiver would allow news media to “seek stronger intellectual-property protections, better support for digital subscription models and a fairer share of revenue and customer data.”

According to eMarketer, this year Google and Facebook “are expected to receive more than 60 percent of U.S. digital ad spending,” and last year, these two companies “captured more than 77 percent of the nearly $12 billion in additional spending on online ads in the U.S.”

Meetings between the tech giants and publishers have been “very heated” in the past, say attendees, and “publishers have had mixed reviews about Facebook’s understanding of their needs.” More recently, Facebook head of news partnerships Campbell Brown said that, “it’s imperative the news industry has sustainable business models, and we want to play a part in helping that happen.”

Related:
Google Is Funding the Creation of Software That Writes Local News Stories, TechCrunch, 7/8/17