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Platforms under pressure to pay for information

There is growing pressure on tech titans Google and Facebook to pay local media to deliver their news online. Google has already struck deals with some for its News Showcase, but other big news names are still trying to make the platforms pay – and the government is hinting it could soon force the issue.

Photo: AFP

“Are you talking to them to make deals to pay for content? Are you going to legislate? News Center Nation host Simon Shepherd asked Willie Jackson last weekend, putting harsh words on the minister for broadcasting and media.

“I’m trying really hard. I told them, (in) three months, let’s see the offers on the market, ”replied the minister.

For years, local media have struggled to get very little from platforms distributing their content to large audiences – and to profit from it.

The thing most likely to persuade tech titans to pay local journalists is the likelihood that the government will force the issue with legislation – and it was the first time a government minister has publicly set a deadline of any kind. “I want to see some fairness. I want to see all of these Kiwi news organizations taken care of. . and these big players have the funding and the resources to be able to do that,” Willie Jackson said. News Center Nation.

Some of the completed deals were revealed earlier this month when Google launched the local version of its News Showcase service, now available through Google websites and apps.

The first Kiwi outlets to receive regular payments from Google for this include Herald owner NZME and its subscription subsidiary BusinessDesk, RNZ, online sites Scoop and Newsroom and the Pacific Media Network. There are also a handful of local outlets like Crux, which serves the Southern Lakes region, and Kapiti News.

“It is part of our commitment to continue to play a role in what we see as a very important shared responsibility to ensure the long-term sustainability of public interest journalism in New Zealand,” the local representative of New Zealand said recently. Google, Carolyn Rainsford, to Gyles Beckford of RNZ.

Broadcasting Minister Willie Jackson described it as “a good start, but not enough”. – while Spinoff founder Duncan Grieve was also disappointed.

He felt that was actually the Willie Jackson that Google had in mind with the launch of Showcase “to create the impression that Google is now a strong, public ally of the news industry.”

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Photo: photo/RNZ Mediawatch

So far, Google News Showcase is far from a comprehensive or compelling service for Kiwis. It doesn’t offer anything from our biggest national news producer Stuff or other big news names like TVNZ and Newshub – or smaller outlets like Allied Press and The Spinoff.

Several publishers – including Stuff – have banded together with the News Publishers Association to bargain collectively with Google and Meta (Facebook’s parent company).

Earlier this year, the Commerce Commission gave them permission to negotiate a deal for 10 years.

So how is it going ?

“We can’t comment much on the status, but we are engaging with the NPA,” Google’s regional partnerships manager Shilpa Jhunjhunwala told RNZ earlier this month.

A recent report by the Judith Nielsen Institute estimates that Google and Facebook paid Australian media companies around A$200 million last year.

How much could Google throw away at our news media, willingly or not?

“Unfortunately an interview will not be possible,” said Google New Zealand Media monitoring this week (without explaining why).

Instead, they gave us a statement attributable to Caroline Rainsford, Country Manager of Google New Zealand:

“We’re proud of the launch of Google News Showcase and our continued conversations with other local news media companies.”

“We can’t give you any kind of commercial numbers because they’re all commercial and confidential,” Google’s regional partnerships manager Shilpa Jhunjhunwala told RNZ’s Gyles Beckford earlier this month.

When pressed, she said Google’s global commitment to News Showcase was $1 billion over three years.

“But beyond that we are not able to share anything specific to New Zealand,” she said.

Why is there no agreement with other New Zealand news publishers yet?

“Those negotiations are ongoing, but neither company has put a serious offer on the table,” Stuff chief executive Sinead Boucher told Mediawatch.

She said the Australian agreements are their benchmark.

“What we produce is a very similar type of content and we operate in very similar markets. We would be looking for payments that would equate to over NZ$40m to $50m a year in the industry here,” she said.

“I think the government and Minister Jackson have made it clear that the government expects fair deals to be reached – and is prepared to legislate at short notice to ensure that happens,” he said. she declared.

“The only way to materially solve this problem is to create an environment in which we can negotiate fair commercial payment from these giant multinational corporations who have built their businesses entirely from content created by other people,” he said. she declared.

“You can think of any search term and put it into Google and look at the results and see that a new story someone created is part of the results. What we’re focusing on is negotiating a commercial payment for that content the same way you would for any other product,” she said.

“If you invested in a car and someone started using it as a taxi, you would expect them to compensate you for it — not start their own business without acknowledging your investment,” Boucher said. Media monitoring.

“Our problem is that these platforms are very reluctant to come to the table and have a fair negotiation. That’s why this kind of legislation has been needed in Australia and other countries, as well as here in New Zealand,” she said.

Storytelling across the Tasman

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Photo: ACCC, 123 RF

Rod Sims has been dubbed “the man who made Google and Meta pay for news”.

For more than a decade, he chaired Australia’s competition regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

“It was difficult at times, but we presented the report to the government in mid-2019 and they accepted the recommendation to have a media negotiation code six months later. It was legislated in February 2021. It’s quite fast in terms of policy development in Australia,” said Rod Sims. Media monitoring.

“Google has a deal with virtually every media company. Meta has only had a deal with media companies that employ 85% of (Australian) journalists. It’s crucial that . . . it’s widely shared and you need legislation so everyone has a chance to bargain,” said Rod Sims Mediawatch.

“I know for a fact that the payouts were well over A$200m – so NZ$40-50m seems absolutely the right number to spread across all media,” he said.

“Google and Meta were required to negotiate with all eligible media companies – and if they could not reach an agreement then arbitration would be initiated. The threat of this evened out bargaining power,” a- he declared.

“The second element was that if Google and Meta entered into an agreement with one media player, the law required them to enter into an agreement with all media players. So their choice was either not to have media content on their platform or to make deals,” he said.

“They chose to do deals with media companies because there is value for them,” he said.

“I’m a bit concerned that in New Zealand you don’t have arbitration at the end of the negotiation period, the negotiations fail,” he said.

A Google officer once told me that the struggling news media advocating for “compensation” were like fired carriage and rickshaw drivers who expect today’s taxi drivers pay them today.

“No, that’s completely wrong. It’s not like the car takes the place of the horse and carriage or the smartphone takes the place of Kodak film because Google and Facebook don’t produce any journalism. So they haven’t taken the place of the media, because they’re just not in the media business,” Rod Sims said. Media monitoring.

“For Google to be a good search engine, it needs to include media in its search pretty much every time. But they don’t need a particular media company. So only the Code of Trading news media could allow you to even out bargaining power,” he said.

“If we don’t get payment for media that is taken and used for free, we will have a lot less media and less media will harm society,” he said.

“It’s not for me to tell the New Zealand government what to do, but my advice would be to adopt the Australian Media Negotiating Code,” he said.