Sunday, May 22, 2022

Facebook and Google are the reason so many small Australian publishers have fallen silent today

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Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

When the News Media Bargaining Code was introduced by the federal government last year, forcing Facebook and Google to pay media companies for news, it was hailed as a game changer for the industry.

Twelve months later, the game has changed, but tech giants Google and Facebook have created a more skewed playing field for local media.

That is why today across Australia more than 30 media outlets have stopped publishing news for 24 hours in a collective freeze to fight for the future of local news media.

The news freeze is intended to highlight that while Facebook and Google have made deals with the country’s largest news platforms, including News, Nine and The Guardian Australia, the tech giants have been ghosting smaller and medium-sized news publishers.

The unintended consequence is that uncontracted independent news companies face a significant competitive disadvantage. Already lean companies, Facebook and Google continue to benefit from their work without compensation.

Those publishers are protesting Facebook’s passivity with #WaitingForZuck to pay for journalism and content that appears on the Facebook platform.

Startup Daily has repeatedly approached both Facebook and Google about closing a deal based on the code. Those approaches are either ignored or kicked into the road. Pinstripe Media, publishers of Startup Daily, as well as Kochie’s Business Builders and Flying Solo, is far from alone in this area.

Twelve months ago, the Australian federal government enacted the News Media Bargaining Code, led by federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

This code aims to reduce the imbalance between Australian news media companies and digital platforms, especially Facebook and Google. Under the code, the digital platforms are legally obliged to engage in commercial negotiations with local media companies.

Facebook has made deals directly with the major media networks; however, they have been unable to negotiate with most of Australia’s independent publishers.

If you think back 12 months, you’ll remember Facebook summarily blocking Australian media companies from its platform as part of its battle with the federal government. The astonishing and clumsy move also blocked and removed posts from hospitals, arts organizations, charities, ASX-listed companies and essential services, among others.

It came after howls of outrage from major tech who warned the internet that we knew it was going to end, that YouTube would be wiped out and threats that Google would disable its search.

Startup Daily is not participating in today’s #WaitingOnZuck campaign – Tuesday is the busiest day of the week for startup news – but is supporting the initiative.

The independent news outlets, including Broadsheet, Pro Bono Australia, Concrete Playground, Urban List, City Hub, Star Observer, Australian Jewish News and Australian Chinese Daily, have frozen their news feed for the day and replaced it with a direct message for Meta CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. .

These publishers – small and medium-sized businesses, many of the companies we write about – and their millions of readers are currently waiting for Zuckerberg (and his companies) to come to the negotiating table and negotiate commercial deals that are transparent, fair, and paying for quality independent journalism.

A year later, the federal treasurer is currently evaluating the impact and effectiveness of the code. The Code requires designated technical platforms to:
make commercial deals with Australian publishers; but Facebook and Google are not designated.

If the tech giants don’t come to the table, smaller new publishers – who exist thanks to a new tech era – will want a designation for both
platforms to hold them accountable to support smaller news channels.

Pro Bono Australia founder and CEO Karen Mahlab said the current situation is untenable.

“Whereas the purpose of the Media Bargaining Code was to support public interest journalism. I don’t believe the goal will be achieved if small to medium-sized publications that represent an enormous diversity of opinions and views are disregarded,” she said.

Nick Shelton, founder of Broadsheet Media, said independent publishers face unprecedented competition from our publishing colleagues who have struck deals with the tech giants.

“With millions and millions of dollars now being spent on talent, marketing, technology and audience building, independents find it impossible to compete,” he said.

“Facebook and Google are in a position to pick the winners and losers in Australian media, something the Australian public should be very concerned about. The only way for independent media to survive is to designate the platforms.”

More about the campaign is available here

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