A free and diverse press is the backbone of a healthy and vibrant democracy. Yet social media and search engine giants like Facebook and Google are taking content from local newspapers – like this one – with little or no benefit to those newspapers.
But it’s readers who are really harmed by Big Tech’s patterns of content filtering and data-gathering — which ultimately undermine the production of quality journalism.
All of this is simply unfair – to readers, and especially to the newspapers that serve them. Congress must take action to address this issue by approving a fair revenue model similar to the one the music industry has fought so hard for – a model that pays royalties to content owners, which ensures that more of this content can be produced in the future.
Let’s not forget the important principles of local newspapers:
• Quality journalism is essential to support civil society, and we must ensure that those who create journalistic content are compensated for their work.
• Since freedom of the press is enshrined in the US Constitution, it is imperative that reasonable and meaningful steps be taken to protect this important institution.
• Local journalism strengthens community ties and provides essential information to communities.
• The public rightly trusts their local newspapers. A recent poll showed that nearly 75% of Americans trust their local newspaper, compared to just over half for national network and cable news. Only 17% trusted social media.
A bipartisan bill is making its way through Congress, known as the Journalism Competition & Preservation Act. It is sponsored by US Sens. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, and John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, along with two congressmen from opposite sides of the aisle, David Cicilline from Rhode Island and Ken Buck from Colorado.
The bill would allow news publishers to bargain collectively with Big Tech, returning billions of subscription and advertising dollars to the news publishers who produce good journalism in the first place.
It would also include an enforcement mechanism to ensure that negotiations result in payments, that those payments are distributed fairly between small newspapers and local newspapers, and that payments reflect investments in journalists and newsrooms. This would allow market forces – not just two companies or even the government – to determine how and at what price content from news publishers is offered.
American news publications reach more than 135 million Americans each week. Yet the revenue generated by these same publications has fallen by more than 50% in recent years, fueled by this massive – and often unintentional – distribution on dominant digital platforms like Facebook and Google.
Social media might claim that their redistribution of content actually helps newspapers grow their audience. But in reality, newspapers provide must-have content for these technology platforms that ultimately help them attract visitors. Publishers deserve fair compensation for the value they provide, and that’s just not happening with this so-called audience expansion.
Individual news publishers can’t challenge the basic terms offered by Big Tech because these platforms are too big and small newspapers can’t even get a seat at the table. And because of that, Big Tech can recoup up to 70% of every ad dollar from news publishers while not hiring any reporters. Newspapers bear all the expenses, while social media giants get all the profits.
Facebook and Google exert their dominance in the digital marketplace by setting rules for news publishers and determining how their work is displayed, prioritized and monetized. In fact, over 65% of users don’t even click on links offered by Google that would take them to paid outlets to create the very content they read in the first place.
And it’s not that readers aren’t using social media and major search engines. A study showed that 57% of New York residents get their news from Facebook.
Almost half use Google as their main source of information.
If Washington doesn’t act soon, we will continue to lose hundreds and hundreds of newspapers – just like this one – across the country, and right here in your hometown. But Congress needs to know it has your support to act.
Contact US Senator Chuck Schumer at (212) 486-4430, or US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand at (212) 688-6262.
Call US Representative Jamaal Bowman at (718) 530-7710, or US Representative Adriano Espaillat at (646) 740-3632.
Our democracy depends on local media like the newspaper you hold in your hands.
It was so important, it’s part of the first amendment in the Bill of Rights. But the local media depends on you.