The Government Want To Prop Up Australian Mainstream Media In A Way That Breaks The Foundations of the Internet
The idea that Google and Facebook should pay to link to old media especially the Nine papers and News Corp Australia is ridiculous. For one when they link to the majority of the Nine/News Corp old media they are linking to paywalled content.
The AFR, the Oz, Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph & Courier Mail for instance have hard paywalls. Non-subscribers clicking on those links from Google and Facebook would come across a splash page asking them to subscribe. The Age and SMH allow for 5 free articles a month. May I note that number used to be 30 free articles a month. A bit too leaky of a paywall it was in the past so they’ve tightened it up.
So the benefit to these paywalled sites is not in advertising revenue because someone who clicks a link from Google or Facebook has to already be subscribed. Otherwise they will hit a splash subscribe page hard paywall. And I’m pretty sure there are no ads on those pages.
If Google removes links to all Australian news sites like Facebook plans to do and Google claims they provide $210 million worth of free traffic to Aussie news sites, Australian publishers will be begging for that traffic back just like has happened in parts of Europe. Facebook’s value in the traffic it provides would likely be around the same amount or more. So nearly half a billion in free traffic wiped out. Sounds like by asking for $600 million to a billion in addition to that free traffic the publishers are wanting to have their cake and eat it too.
The Nine papers and News Corp Australia are now majority subscription businesses. They should be investing in the journalism that attracts subscribers in the way The New York Times, Crikey and The Washington Post do for instance. To call for News Corp Australia’s papers to invest in journalism is a bit of a stretch though. And I’m not sure that’s what attracts subscribers to NCA.
The Coalition think they are so smart by including ABC in the News Bargaining Code as a concession to the left. But they seem to be using all their smarts in misguided ways because they hate investing in the ABC as it is. And I can’t see them ever setting up a fund with sizeable funds to support public interest journalism (even though it definitely should be done) as these ventures tend to end up targeting and being critical of corruption. And the Coalition hate to be held to account and answer for their crimes as we have seen with the way they treat the ABC.
The news bargaining code will break the way the spirit of the Internet works in Australia and should be abandoned. If the Coalition Government can spend hundreds of billions on non-working submarines and fighter jets surely they can set aside funds to support public interest journalism. And as someone living in a regional area they should inject some of these funds into local news initiatives. A functioning democracy demands strong journalistic institutions.
This article was adapted from a comment on Crikey.
Anthony Eales is a media, news & tech junkie from Australia. You can reach him on Twitter @ants000.