Friday , October 22 2021

Letter: Google uses news to generate revenue while leaving publishers in the cold


The American public consumes more news than ever before, with more than 200 million unique visitors consuming digital news every month. However, the economy of this consumption does not sustain the investments required for quality journalism. The news industry has seen revenues fall 54 percent since 2006, according to a Pew survey. The rise of technology platforms and their mastery of online content has played an important role in this trend.

While many may claim that the two trends are unrelated and that the news industry has not adapted to digital distribution, a new study, which contains analyzes conducted by Keystone Strategy consulting experts and written by the News Media Alliance, illustrates that the loss of the industry was directly impacted by Google's gain.

According to the study, the news content produced significant financial returns for Google:

  • 39% of search results and 40% of clicks on trend queries are news content;
  • 16% of the results and clicks on the most searched queries are news results;
  • In 2008, Google News generated approximately $ 100 million for the company;
  • Based on traffic from News Media Alliance members, news consumption on Google Search is at least six times greater than on Google News.
  • Overall, Google has estimated $ 4.7 billion in revenue from news content in 2018; this is a conservative estimate, with the actual number probably being considerably higher.

This estimate is conservative and the true value of news content is likely to be much higher for several reasons that are difficult or impossible to quantify. Google not only directs Search with news, but the company is using news content for product development, such as training its artificial intelligence services, in order to keep users in the Google ecosystem. Additional uses of news content as engagement drivers are also potentially serious drivers of data and revenue for the platform.

Most notably, AMP (mobile accelerated pages) and the addition of a "Top News" category on YouTube have enabled people to enjoy all the desired news content without ever accessing an editor's website. As a result, publishers are losing advertising revenue, brand recognition, and valuable data that could help them build stronger relationships with their readers. Google, on the other hand, is generating more traffic data and users that they can use to keep consumers in their ecosystems for even longer periods of time.

As with any business, to survive, news publishers need to be able to make money from their own product, which can be reinvested in reports. While the information wants to be free, journalists need to be paid. This requires finding common rules for a fair and equitable online ecosystem that allows publishers to thrive and maintain the quality of content that readers expect.

This is not only essential for the future of journalism, but it helps ensure informed democracy and civil society. Our local communities and public discourse depend on the availability and access to high quality news that keeps our decision makers accountable. News deserts are a growing concern, leaving many communities without access to local news. The health and sustainability of local news publishers – and our democracy – require platforms to recognize their role and engage with publishers to create a fairer digital marketplace.

This editorial was provided by the News Media Alliance, a trade association representing approximately 2,000 newspapers in the United States and Canada.

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