The key phrase in this New York Times article: “Google’s ecosystem of information does in some ways run on quality journalism. But its efforts to support publishers also come as Google and Facebook continue to gobble up money once earmarked for the news industry.”
In other words, Google is like the bully on the playground who eats your sandwich and leaves you the crusts.
Even worse, Google has a history of using its engagement with publishers as an argument for avoiding legislation and regulation. They point to their projects as evidence of pro-active involvement to argue that regulation is unnecessary.
The latest project, which among other things eliminates its “first click free” policy and gives publishers more say in access decisions, still does not address the unbalance between Google and news creators.
Another phrase from the same article highlights the problem: Google and Facebook “are expected to take in more than 60 percent of digital ad spending in the United States this year, according to the research firm eMarketer. And they have expanded their control over the distribution of news, even as they have come under scrutiny for their role in spreading untrue articles. Against this backdrop, both face rising regulatory and antitrust scrutiny.”
The most recent example: false stories about the recent horrific attack in Las Vegas continued to be magnified and spread, even when the stories were removed from their original sites, because the machines created by Google, Facebook and others are really poor at determining truth from fiction.
Publishers should certainly embrace initiatives from Google that are beneficial to their businesses and should encourage engagement. Quality journalism is more important than ever. Shouldn’t Google and Facebook more deeply value this contribution – not only to the companies, but to society as a whole – and provide a significant part of its advertising revenue to the creators of quality news?