Media publishers break ‘collective silence’ over Google, Facebook control of advertising revenues

by WorldTribune Staff, March 2, 2018

The digital advertising dominance of Google and Facebook and their ever-changing algorithms are putting independent publishers at a severe disadvantage and U.S. regulators should step in, News Corp. Chief Executive Officer Robert Thomson said.

News Corp. Chief Executive Officer Robert Thomson

“It’s fair to say I have algorithm angst,” Thomson said. His concerns have been echoed by other online publishers who until recently have remained silent to avoid offending the social media giants, according to a Bloomberg report.

Among those who agree with Thomson, Bloomberg noted, are BuzzFeed co-founder Jonah Peretti, New York Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson and Martin Sorrell, CEO of advertising giant WPP Plc.

“We have seen sharp decreases in online advertising revenue despite rising traffic in recent years every time Google and Facebook made major changes in their algorithms,” said founding editor Robert Morton.

In a Bloomberg profile published on March 1, Thomson said he believes Facebook should pay publishers for their content, the same way a cable TV company pays Walt Disney Co. to carry ESPN.

“Too many publishers have been patsies,” Thomson said. “What you are seeing, at last, is more publishers are prepared to be more vocal and that eerie collective silence has been broken.”

Thomson told Bloomberg he sees no difference between Facebook acquiring the rights to stream professional surfing, as it did in January, and licensing the rights to quality journalism.

“They would have rights to publish, to share,” Thomson said. “We’d work with them so the experience is the best it can possibly be for Facebook users.”

Thomson has called people who think everything online should be free “Net Neanderthals.”

David Chavern, president of the industry trade group News Media Alliance, said Thomson was instrumental in persuading Google last year to change its “First Click Free” policy that had led publishers with strict online paywalls to appear lower in search results.

“What movement you see from the two tech platforms is due in large part to his willingness to call them out and ask for a better deal,” Chavern said.

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