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Author Topic:   What Is Australia's Problem With News in Google and Facebook
Percy
Member
Posts: 20108
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 1 of 58 (884453)
02-20-2021 10:00 AM


I don't use Facebook, so let me start with Google. The only thing I know about Google and news is their Google News webpage. I scan its headlines every day. I click on an article and am taking to the news source's webpage for that article. The news source's webpage usually has ads, and I am now at the news source's website with many links to other pages of their website. Why isn't this a good thing for news sources? Why do they want compensation for an extremely widely used webpage that provides links to their site?

AbE: I just saw that Google introduced a new product called Google News Showcase in Australia late last year. A cursory search didn't turn up a link to it, so I don't know what it's like, but it looks like it mines news sites and builds what is merely a much prettier (and perhaps more configurable, let us pray) Google News webpage. I think it's still just links back to the news sources' webpages.

Since I don't use Facebook I have to speculate from a few facts I've picked up from reading news articles. I get the impression that news organizations have Facebook pages where they display some of their content and have links back to their own webpages. Again, why isn't this a good thing for news sources? Why do they want compensation for an extremely widely used social media site that provides them eyeballs and links back to home base?

It seems like the news sources want the money to flow in the wrong direction, that they want Google and Facebook to pay them for the privilege of providing them a free and very beneficial service. What am I missing?

--Percy

Edited by Percy, : AbE.


Replies to this message:
 Message 2 by PaulK, posted 02-20-2021 10:32 AM Percy has responded

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 20108
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.3


(1)
Message 3 of 58 (884456)
02-20-2021 11:18 AM
Reply to: Message 2 by PaulK
02-20-2021 10:32 AM


But news media sites also contain paid-for advertising, and Google and Facebook provide links to their content. It is advantageous to news media sites to have Google and Facebook link to news media pages. Why don't Google and Facebook just say to the news media companies, "Since you think we should pay you for the privilege of providing you a service for free that makes you money, we'll just stop providing you that free service."

If you're just saying that greed explains the news media's demands then I understand that, but in that case it makes no sense that Google caved and began negotiating deals with news media companies. And Facebook is facing efforts to characterize them as taking unfair advantage of the news industry by using the leverage of their enormous size to steal revenue from them, and what I'm missing is an explanation of how that is true.

--Percy


This message is a reply to:
 Message 2 by PaulK, posted 02-20-2021 10:32 AM PaulK has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 4 by PaulK, posted 02-20-2021 11:27 AM Percy has responded

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 20108
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 5 of 58 (884458)
02-20-2021 12:08 PM
Reply to: Message 2 by PaulK
02-20-2021 10:32 AM


The Washington Post on Facebook
I just went to The Washington Post's page on Facebook (Washington Post). It's very nice, providing the headlines for the latest news and opinion and with greater visibility to the comments section for many articles. When you click on links you are taken to the WaPo article, but without a WaPo subscription you only get a couple free articles - after that you're asked to sign up.

I can't see the justification for a news media company like The Washington Post asking Facebook for any kind of compensation for their Facebook page that acts as a conduit to The Washington Post website (and advertising) and that Facebook provides to them for free. Are Australian news companies doing anything different from what WaPo is doing that would justify the claim?

In another thread Jar mentioned that since he had power he made a power strip available on his front porch for anyone to use to charge their phone. He was providing a service for free. The news media asking Google and Facebook to pay them money for hosting links to their websites feels the same as asking Jar to pay for the privilege of providing free electricity to the neighborhood.

In the real world portion of the Internet, companies are willing to pay money to have other websites host their links.

--Percy


This message is a reply to:
 Message 2 by PaulK, posted 02-20-2021 10:32 AM PaulK has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 6 by PaulK, posted 02-20-2021 12:20 PM Percy has acknowledged this reply

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 20108
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 7 of 58 (884460)
02-20-2021 12:22 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by PaulK
02-20-2021 11:27 AM


PaulK writes:

Google, on the other hand, does need the news media, so they are trying to find a compromise. Searches for news items is a big enough part of Google’s business - not to mention Google News - that it would be painful to give up.

I still don't understand how Google providing a link to a news article does anything to the news company but provide a benefit. Google benefits, too. Seems like a win-win situation. I don't understand why Google caved.

Google Ads is based upon this principle. Webmasters create places on their sites where Google can run ads that companies pay them to run, and when someone clicks on one of those ads then the website running it gains revenue. Making links available to click on is a benefit to the websites linked to, and companies are willing to pay for other websites to host links (in the form of ads) to their own websites.

News companies are getting links to their websites for free. I don't understand why they think they should be paid to allow someone to provide them a service for free that benefits them.

--Percy


This message is a reply to:
 Message 4 by PaulK, posted 02-20-2021 11:27 AM PaulK has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 9 by PaulK, posted 02-20-2021 12:39 PM Percy has responded
 Message 32 by hooah212002, posted 02-24-2021 12:47 PM Percy has responded

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 20108
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 8 of 58 (884461)
02-20-2021 12:31 PM


Someone Who Thinks Like Me
From Facebook’s news ban in Australia is draconian. But it might not be wrong.:

quote:
Techdirt founder and media analyst Mike Masnick, on the other hand, thought Facebook was perfectly within its rights to do what it did. He even argued that the news ban is in the best interests of a “free and open internet,” as the Australian law will force Google and Facebook to pay a “link tax” that he feels is “inherently problematic.”

“A bunch of lazy newspaper execs who failed to adapt and to figure out better internet business models not only want the traffic, they also want to get paid for it,” Masnick wrote. “This is like saying that not only should NBC have to run an advertisement for Techdirt, but it should have to pay me for it. If that seems totally nonsensical, that’s because it is. The link tax makes no sense.”


Couldn't have said it better.

--Percy


  
Percy
Member
Posts: 20108
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.3


(1)
Message 10 of 58 (884471)
02-21-2021 12:53 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by PaulK
02-20-2021 12:39 PM


PaulK writes:

I don’t think Google exactly caved - they went to negotiations. But they obviously needed the news media enough that simply banning links was not their preferred option.

Unless the news media has a legitimate negotiating position then Google surrendered to political pressures, i.e., caved. They didn't want to be placed in the situation Facebook finds itself in now. Thinking strategically, they saw in their future congressional and parliamentary hearings on this and other matters related to their Internet dominance and decided that it was in their best interest not to add to the list of their offenses, both real and imagined. It was that they felt they didn't need more bad publicity at this time, not that they felt the news media had a legitimate gripe.

Because they aren’t making enough. And it’s no secret that newspapers tend to lose money.

News media businesses have a problem not of Google's making, and in fact Google is a net benefit to them, acting as a key resource sending eyeballs to their websites where they'll see ads that the news media gets paid for. Google bears no responsibility for bad news media financials, and in fact makes them better. If the news media thinks things are bad now, they'd be a lot worse with no Google.

The plight of the news media is partly that they're a victim of circumstance and is partly a disaster of their own making. They were extremely slow to recognize the increasing importance of the Internet in the late 90's and early 2000's, and they've been behind ever since. Many news sites plead with visitors to subscribe, and for my own part I'd like to, but I can't justify more than a few subscriptions. I'd love to subscribe to the Boston paper and my local paper and the Wall Street Journal and The Guardian and so forth, but that would represent a sizable monthly outlay.

The news media has a serious financial problem, and while going after Google and Facebook now might be politically expedient it is not a solution for the long term because Google and Facebook are not the cause of their problems.

The Australian bill also mischaracterizes what Google and Facebook do with news. The law requires companies like Google and Facebook to negotiate with news publishers on a dollar value for their content to compensate them when Google or Facebook make "content available" on their platforms. The bill defines "content available" as "if the content is reproduced on the service, or is otherwise placed on the service, or if a link to the content or an extract of the content is provided on the service."

But Google and Facebook do not themselves reproduce news content on their platforms. They only provide links, always with the headline and often with an additional tag line and image. The news outlets explicitly make this information available with <meta> tags using the "og:title" and "og:image" properties. The news media *wants* Google and Facebook to have this information to make the link/headline/image attractive enough that people will click on it.

On Facebook the egregious nature of the proposed bill is even worse, because content *is* reproduced on Facebook, but it is done by the news media companies themselves on their own Facebook pages. This is thick with irony and with opportunities for abuse. The more links and content a news media company places on their own Facebook page the more compensation they could demand from Facebook. No wonder Facebook is balking.

There's another problem. A free and open press is essential to the workings of a democracy, but once they start seeking outside funding sources they relinquish their independence. The Australian model insures that going forward there will be negotiations over the amount of compensation (and over search algorithms for Google), giving Google and Facebook the opportunity to exert pressure for more favorable coverage. And the system is ripe for abuse. If a news company doesn't treat Google right then they might find links to their site bumping down to page two or worse and leading to arguments over search algorithms.

The news media needs to find the means within themselves to independently fund their own operations. They should not jump into bed with companies like Google and Facebook through legislative fiat. They can't set a precedent of forcing the "deep pockets of the moment" to fund them. Why can't there be an EvC law that requires payments to EvC whenever somebody links to us? If that sounds completely backwards to you that's because it is.

More and more news sources are dropping their hardcopy publications. Newsweek was the first I knew of that did this. As the news media drops hardcopy publishing and the costs associated with it and its distribution they should be doing better, not worse, yet they're doing worse. Website ads get funneled onto webpages automatically by prewritten software - news media costs of publication and distribution should have dropped dramatically, yet their financials keep getting worse. Both Google and the news media make money through ads. If ads work for Google then they should also work for the news media. And some news media, like WSJ, WaPo and NYT, also get subscription money in addition to ad money.

My state has no income tax and is always short of revenue. It needs money. Google publishes links to my state's websites. My state should go after Google for payment every time Google publishes a link to a state website. Makes just as much sense as what the Australian news media is doing.

--Percy


This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by PaulK, posted 02-20-2021 12:39 PM PaulK has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 11 by PaulK, posted 02-21-2021 1:17 PM Percy has acknowledged this reply
 Message 12 by nwr, posted 02-21-2021 1:41 PM Percy has acknowledged this reply

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 20108
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 15 of 58 (884488)
02-22-2021 10:41 AM
Reply to: Message 14 by LamarkNewAge
02-21-2021 9:36 PM


Re: Why not ban pop up blockers?
Banning pop-ups would make even more sense.

AbE: HTML used to have a <blink> tag, but it quickly became deprecated and unsupported in most browsers because it was so annoying. I had to add blink capability back in, like this:

<p class=dblink>test</p>

Which produces this:

--Percy

Edited by Percy, : AbE.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 14 by LamarkNewAge, posted 02-21-2021 9:36 PM LamarkNewAge has not yet responded

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 20108
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 16 of 58 (884489)
02-22-2021 11:04 AM
Reply to: Message 13 by PaulK
02-21-2021 2:00 PM


PaulK writes:

The newspapers generally don’t want to rely on visitors arriving via links.

Sure, they'd like to think of themselves as destination sites, but many of their sites are deficient in certain ways, such as their site organization or search facility. WaPo is a good example. Something like what happened last week is a frequent occurrence at WaPo. Early in the day at the WaPo home page I saw a headline about Fauci that looked like an article I wanted to read, but I didn't have time right at that moment, so I made a mental note to return to it later.

Later in the day the headline about Fauci was no longer on the home page, so I did a search for Fauci organized by date and could not find the article, one that had been on the home page just a few hours before. I found the article by doing a search at Google News.

The news websites have other minor but very annoying problems. The WaPo site refreshes their home page every five minutes. I have two browser windows open side-by-side. In one is the WaPo home page, and I drag/drop articles from it to the other. After scrolling down a bit five minutes will have passed, and the WaPo home page reloads and repositions at the top. I have to scroll down to get back to where I was, very annoying. Sometimes the content has changed and I have trouble finding where I was, and even worse, sometimes headlines I have seen but haven't clicked on yet have disappeared, which is especially annoying.

Even more annoying is when I'm reading the news but have to go off to do a chore or run an errand. When I return I look at the WaPo homepage which is still positioned where it was if it wasn't active, I scroll down to an article I want to read, I click on it, the WaPo page immediately becomes active and reloads and repositions to the top. I have to scroll down again looking for the article I want to read, which because of the passage of time sometimes isn't even on the home page anymore. I rate this very annoying.

The NYT has its own little foibles. The big one is that you can't drag/drop an article to another tab or browser page. You either click on it in the current browser page, or you right click on it and select to display it in a new tab or new browser window. On the plus side the NYT search facility is excellent. I once searched for an article from the Civil War and had little trouble finding it.

Whether or not it's true that news media websites would prefer direct access rather than access via link, I don't think that's a realistic expectation, not for something like news. Being able to search for news via Google News and get a list of links to a variety of news media outlets is a feature I greatly like. I can click on a WaPo link and get their perspective, then click on a Fox News link and get the lies, er, I mean the opposite perspective.

--Percy


This message is a reply to:
 Message 13 by PaulK, posted 02-21-2021 2:00 PM PaulK has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 19 by PaulK, posted 02-22-2021 2:30 PM Percy has responded
 Message 33 by hooah212002, posted 02-24-2021 1:02 PM Percy has responded

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 20108
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 18 of 58 (884496)
02-22-2021 2:21 PM
Reply to: Message 17 by AZPaul3
02-22-2021 1:15 PM


I agree. Most websites use some form of a red flag now to indicate something that needs attention or that hasn't been read yet, and I'll probably move in that direction. The only thing that blinks now are links to unread announcements.

--Percy


This message is a reply to:
 Message 17 by AZPaul3, posted 02-22-2021 1:15 PM AZPaul3 has not yet responded

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 20108
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 20 of 58 (884507)
02-22-2021 6:09 PM
Reply to: Message 19 by PaulK
02-22-2021 2:30 PM


PaulK writes:

That the newspaper’s sites have problems doesn’t change the financial situation.

Agreed, but their inability to build high quality sites argues against any likely success at turning them into destination sites, which is the issue you raised that I was responding to. The NYT has made impressive but occasional efforts at innovation, but I think most people would agree that while impressive they were superficial and inconsequential ("Whooee, animation in a news article, if that don't beat all" - sorry for the sarcasm).

I don't pretend to have the answers, but I wonder how many people are like me in that if given a choice between a hardcopy newspaper and the website would choose the hardcopy. At least I wouldn't see a lot of the same headlines I saw in yesterday's paper and the day before's, which happens a lot at the NYT and WaPo websites. I get the hardcopy National Geographic but can also read it online if I choose. I tried the online version for a few months, but it was just too much work to read compared to the hardcopy.

I think creating websites that are as good as hardcopy newspaper and magazines is proving to be a very challenging problem, and the news media is not alone in this as books are also proving very difficult to duplicate online. An online text-only book that is fiction or just relates events or history is an easy read online, unless you need to find an earlier passage or need to bounce back and forth between parts of the book. I'm reading the online version of the da Vinci biography by Isaacson right now and it's incredibly difficult because getting in and out of the images is taxing, and the text about an image often isn't near the image. Maneuvering back and forth is as annoying as all hell. When you encounter text that says, "If you compare this drawing to the one of the madonna in chapter two...", you just throw up your hands and give up. I won't try reading a digital book that has images again. Online versions of reference works like programming language reference manuals are incredibly annoying because the "bookmark" facility is so incredibly cumbersome.

So I think the news media hope to mold their online outlets into destination sites is doomed to failure, at least at present. I don't know how they solve their financial problems, but I don't think "Hey, look, they've got money, let's make up a reason and go after them" is a real solution.

--Percy


This message is a reply to:
 Message 19 by PaulK, posted 02-22-2021 2:30 PM PaulK has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 21 by PaulK, posted 02-22-2021 6:22 PM Percy has responded

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 20108
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 24 of 58 (884527)
02-23-2021 8:57 AM
Reply to: Message 21 by PaulK
02-22-2021 6:22 PM


PaulK writes:

No, the issue I raised was that newspapers didn’t seem to find adequate benefit from link referrals.

I agree that the news media are experiencing financial pressures while adapting to the Internet world, but disagree that it is Google's and Facebook's responsibility to solve them since they are not responsible for them and already provide a net benefit to the news media anyway.

The issue you raised that captured most of my interest was where you said the news media wanted their websites to be destination sites, so I quoted you saying that and then responded to it, explaining why I don't think that's in the cards anywhere in the near future.

In response to Facebook's Australian news quarantine the government has amended the proposed law (see Facebook Restores News Content After Brokering Deal With Australian Regulators and Additional amendments to News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code | Treasury Ministers), but it's full of the kind of ambiguity lawmakers love. Facebook has agreed to it (and says they will restore news media access soon), but I think they're only agreeing because the ambiguity gives them enough wiggle room to negotiate low-cost and no-cost deals, or perhaps they're just kicking the disagreement down the road to be dealt with again in the future.

--Percy


This message is a reply to:
 Message 21 by PaulK, posted 02-22-2021 6:22 PM PaulK has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 26 by PaulK, posted 02-23-2021 9:21 AM Percy has responded

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 20108
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 25 of 58 (884528)
02-23-2021 9:01 AM
Reply to: Message 23 by LamarkNewAge
02-22-2021 9:53 PM


Re: We need a worldwide "First Amendment" in a truly universal fundamental unrevokable co
LamarkNewAge writes:

The recording of all information shall always take place. Conversations shall be made public no later than 20 years after the event, and made accessible in electronic media that is the most readily available for the general public for all future research.

Gee, this sounds great. What could possibly go wrong? "Congratulation on your 50th wedding anniversary. To celebrate let us play this recording of a conversation with your paramour 40 years ago."

--Percy


This message is a reply to:
 Message 23 by LamarkNewAge, posted 02-22-2021 9:53 PM LamarkNewAge has not yet responded

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 20108
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 27 of 58 (884549)
02-24-2021 9:43 AM
Reply to: Message 26 by PaulK
02-23-2021 9:21 AM


PaulK writes:

quote:
The issue you raised that captured most of my interest was where you said the news media wanted their websites to be destination sites, so I quoted you saying that and then responded to it, explaining why I don't think that's in the cards anywhere in the near future.

I didn’t raise that as an issue. As I have already told you.

What you said that I thought was a reference to a news media desire to be destination sites was this: "The newspapers generally don’t want to rely on visitors arriving via links." What was it that you really meant?

--Percy


This message is a reply to:
 Message 26 by PaulK, posted 02-23-2021 9:21 AM PaulK has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 28 by PaulK, posted 02-24-2021 10:27 AM Percy has responded

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 20108
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 30 of 58 (884554)
02-24-2021 11:26 AM
Reply to: Message 28 by PaulK
02-24-2021 10:27 AM


PaulK writes:

Percy, my point was about the finances, as should have been clear from the context.

PaulK, I agreed with your point about finances, as should have been clear when I said, "Agreed."

The first sentence of the short paragraph you refer to:

But I will note that the preference for subscriptions argues against links being a major benefit to newspapers

(Message 13)

I also explained this in Message 19 and briefly again in Message 21

Got it?

I understand but don't agree that there's a "preference for subscriptions" because requiring subscriptions has a mixed record of success. It works best for Goliaths like WaPo, NYT and WSJ, and for those that offer unique content, but not so much for many smaller and/or less prestigious outlets.

A not uncommon result of raising a paywall is a precipitous drop in web traffic - our biggest local paper will likely fail in the not too distant future for this reason. Last year they dropped their print edition except for Sunday and then they raised a paywall, not even allowing a few free articles. We used to go to their website regularly (and see their ads), but now we never visit because we're not willing to pay for yet another subscription. There are other smaller local outlets that we now get our local news from.

So if ads aren't enough and subscriptions don't work well for too great a proportion of them, then how are they to survive? Obviously they need to find other revenue streams, but again, going after search engines and social media sites because they have money is not a legitimate answer.

--Percy


This message is a reply to:
 Message 28 by PaulK, posted 02-24-2021 10:27 AM PaulK has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 31 by PaulK, posted 02-24-2021 11:49 AM Percy has responded

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 20108
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 34 of 58 (884560)
02-24-2021 1:25 PM
Reply to: Message 31 by PaulK
02-24-2021 11:49 AM


PaulK writes:

quote:
PaulK, I agreed with your point about finances, as should have been clear when I said, "Agreed."

The issue is not your agreement with the point. The issue is that point IS the point in the sentence you chose to quote.

You're making a couple absurd claims. One is that if your overall point was about, in this case, finances, then every single other thing you said must also have been about finances. The other claim seems to be that people are not permitted to agree with your overall point while disagreeing with one or more details, that one can only agree with the whole of it or none of it. These are both ludicrous, but that seems the corner you're trying to box me into.

I responded only to the part where you claimed that "The newspapers generally don’t want to rely on visitors arriving via links" because I had a different view on this side issue and thought it deserved comment.

--Percy


This message is a reply to:
 Message 31 by PaulK, posted 02-24-2021 11:49 AM PaulK has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 35 by PaulK, posted 02-24-2021 3:10 PM Percy has responded

  
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