17 Jul 2016

Beyond Facebook and Google

From Mediawatch, 9:13 am on 17 July 2016

Spark CEO Simon Moutter recently made headlines with his call for Facebook and Google to start paying their fair share of tax. 

Moutter's concern was one of fairness but for those in the media the problem isn't that Facebook and Google are failing to contribute to the consolidated fund it's that they are gobbling up  advertising revenues that could be paying for journalism.

The Fairfax NZME merger documents estimated that in New Zealand Google and Facebook account for more than $100 million of the total online annual advertising spend of $180 million. About five times the combined digital advertising revenue of Fairfax and NZME.

Despite producing no news of their own the social media giants are increasingly the first port of call of those looking for news stories.

In fact in New Zealand it's the public purse that is subsidising Google content with the announcement last month that NZ on Air was contributing half of a new $300,000 contestable fund for creators of Kiwi content on Google's video sharing platform YouTube.

UK academic Justin Schlosberg believes it's time that Google and Facebook began making a serious contribution to generating news. He's the author of a recent report: The Mission of Media in an Age of Monopoly which calls for a 1 percent levy on Google and Facebook's turnover to directly fund long form and hyper-local journalism.

If a one percent levy was imposed on Google and Facebook in New Zealand it would raise about a million dollars -  a handy sum but not one that would radically alter the media landscape.

University of Colorado Boulder media studies lecturer Nathan Schneider says the problem with the likes of Facebook and Google is not simply that they're gobbling up the bulk of the advertising market but that their corporate structure skews the news.

And his solution to the problem is what he calls platform co-operatism. A proposal that  would see journalists and their readers becoming the owners of the platforms that disseminate news.

Full interviews with Justin Schlosberg and Nathan Schnieder